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Ah, the last Alcatrazz album. It took me over three years to secure myself a copy of this CD, as it's one of the rarest albums I've ever sought for (With Alcatrazz's "Live Sentence" album also being close to near impossible to find on disc). Though I don't know if it's really worth the money I paid for, might as well fill up the collection right?
Well, let's get to the review. Compared to Alcatrazz's first two albums, this is complete shit, and totally irrelevant. The first album having traditional metal with a neo-classical twist, the next being slightly more melodic but just as brilliant, but this.... is completely 80's pop rock! Well, at least for the most part. But the album has SO many things going for it!
The vocals are obviously brilliant, it's Graham Bonnet for gods sake! His performance is about the ONLY reason why I gave the album such a high rating. He never sounds dull or let's up in the range department, and you can tell in each song he's giving it 110%. Take a listen to the track "Double Man" for example, easily one of the best tracks on the album. He gives it that classic Alcatrazz sound that is mostly missing from the album. A couple other good vocal tracks are "Ohayo Tokyo", (especially in the chorus), and the infectious chorus melody of "Blue Boar". Probably the best tracks on the whole album.
The guitar is lame as fuck, but what could they do? First it was Yngwie, then Vai, how could lightning strike three times? So in comes Danny Johnson, who came from Alice Cooper, I believe. Through most of the album all he does is basic rock riffs and a solo here and there, nothing special, especially compared to what was offered on the first two albums. The only time he really "shines", if you can call it that, is on the track "Double Man", which is the only true heavy metal song on the album. At the end of the song, there are some pretty cool shred licks he pulls off, and with Bonnet in the back, it makes for a good listen. But that's about all he's good for, that one damn song.
A lot of the album is comprised of ballads. First being "Only One Woman", which is a cover of an old 60's "Marbles" song (Which Bonnet also fronted). Great vocals, but it wasn't necessary at all. If they replaced this track with a hard rocker, the album would have benefited much from it. "Witchwood" is another ballad, but it's fucking great. It's quite poppy, but not in that overbearingly "sell out" way (like the way the Tygers of Pan Tang went with that shit fest "The Cage"). Their are some GREAT vocals by Bonnet, and some really atmospheric keyboards and guitars. It has a shit lead of course, but the vocals make it great.
The rockers on the album, are quite dull. "It's My Life" is a foot stomper, but those stupid keyboards kind of ruin it. "Undercover" is gay as hell, with a stupid as fuck chorus. Probably the worst track on the album, with no benefiting factors. "That Ain't Nothin'" is ok, it sounds a lot like "It's My Life", but decent enough. Too much keyboards though! "No Imagination" is decent as wll, but still not up to Alcatrazz's usually brilliant standards. "Ohayo Tokyo" is actually pretty awesome, it sounds like it could of been on Disturbing the Peace. Great chorus too! The title track is typical 80's pop rock, nothing too special, but it has a nice solo. "Blue Boar" rocks, with Graham in top form, with a great melodic chorus. "Double Man" as mentioned, kicks ass, and "Night of the Shooting Star" is some 50's inspired doo-wop jingle...what the fuck? Anyways, its pretty stupid, and definitely not necessary.
So, overall, the album is nowhere near the previous two, but it has its moments. It may be really poppy, but it's done RIGHT. Great melodies and excellent vocals save this album from joining "The Cage" in the shit pile, but it could have been much better, much MUCH better.
Alcatrazz is known primarily for two reasons: Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. Each of these men played on one Alcatrazz release (No Parole From Rock And Roll and Disturbing The Peace, respectively) and then went on to become a mega-successful solo artist. But lightning rarely strikes twice, and when it does, it virtually never happens a third time. Enter Alcatrazz’s third attempt at a lightning bolt: Danny Johnson.
Ever heard of Danny Johnson? Most people haven’t, and there’s a reason for that: he isn’t very good. And while this band’s first two albums showcased their guitar players, this one chooses to focus more on keyboards and bass, keeping this player (who they must have known just wasn’t that good) off in the background. Banal tracks like “Undercover,” for example, go absolutely nowhere because Johnson’s ability is so limited that the band is relegated to inane 80’s pop territory led by Jimmy Waldo’s keyboards. “Blue Boar” starts off promisingly but, again, is unable to capitalize on potential because of the empty, poppy sound the band takes on.
The band’s vehicle only seems to go two speeds here: slow and slower. While past albums featured tracks like “Jet To Jet” and “God Blessed Video,” this one crawls along like a dying slug making no attempt to speed up whatsoever. The band seems relatively content going at a snail’s pace the entire time, but there is no energy whatsoever in this album, which makes it very difficult to listen to in one sitting. Whether the band was attempting to have commercial success or simply compensate for its new lack of talent is unclear, but either way it does not make for a very compelling album.
The bland production and weak songwriting really only give rise to two decent tracks, “Ohayo Tokyo,” and the title track, and even those are somewhat subpar—frustrating, in fact, because they could have been downright excellent if simply done correctly. The rest are essentially throwaways, and sad reminders of Alcatrazz’s forgotten past successes. The guitars are buried and the keyboards are not nearly enough to make this listenable. Graham Bonnet does sound as good as ever, but good singing can only take you so far when the songs you’re singing are inane. The rest of the band simply sounds tired and lethargic, and by the end of the album, it sounds as if Bonnet has joined them in their lethargy.
In short, this album is too hard to find for it to be worth seeking out. For the average metal fan, this album should be a nonentity, having more in common with 80s pop (and terrible 80s pop at that) than anything having to do with metal. Alcatrazz’s first two albums are representative of their true abilities, and it’s unfortunate that they made this one before mercifully breaking up for over 20 years.