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Alcatrazz is one of those bands that is unfortunately missed by many metalheads. This is the band that Yngwie's name was first heard in, and they were showing the world just where the music was going through their early music. I had heard of Alcatrazz for years after getting into Yngwie Malmsteen, and when I found in a local music store an LP of No Parole From Rock 'N' Roll I was very pleased and immediately purchased the record on the spot.
What you can expect from Alcatrazz is this. You can get a very nice vocal performance from Graham Bonnet, some ripping guitar solos from Yngwie Malmsteen that are probably some of the best work the egotistical swede has put out on an album before, and a generally sold 80s hard rock. That's right, this is not really much of a metal album so much as it is a hard rock album, a very hard rock album but not a heavy metal album for the most part. The album has it's metal moments, but mostly it's a hard rock album and at that No Parole From Rock 'N' Roll is one of the unsung heroes in it's class.
Probably the coolest thing about this album is that for once, Yngwie does not seem like an egotistical control freak and actually sounds like he's having a lot of fun working with this band for once. That, and the fact that the guy really does not take charge all the time and when he does take charge you're in for a wild ride. Yngwie's solos are blisteringly fast but highly melodic and have a nice, rocking feel to them all while being technically proficient and classically based just like Yngwie is known for. It only takes one listen to songs like Jet to Jet and Hiroshima Mon Amour to get an idea for what Yngwie's playing is like on this album. He also cranks out some rocking hard rock riffs on No Parole, which is something I didn't know the guy could do but he did it here and did it very well. While hardcore Malmsteen fans may not like that Yngwie doesn't shred from beginning to end, I surely enjoy his performance on this album and think it is one of the best the Stratocaster wielding Swede ever did on a record.
Graham's vocals are pretty awesome, sounding like a tough rock and roll singer with a nice range that has some grit to it but not very much. He has some higher up vocals that sort of go into the falsetto range but these vocals are not too prevalent. He's quite melodic and his vocal patterns are very catchy, standing out in front of everything else in the band and making sure he is known as the frontman of Alcatrazz (and not Yngwie Malmsteen). You can't help but sing along with a guy through a number of the songs. The choruses are very catchy and the verses are sung with incredible prowess. Bonnet is definitely an unsung hero among rock/metal singers and it is a bit of a pity that the guy does not get more recognition
Songwriting is fairly solid, and Bonnet and Malmsteen really are quite a good team when they worked together. Too bad that the two did not continue to write songs together because I bet some real rock anthems could have been wrote if the two had continued to partner up. All the songs are straightforward melodic hard rock but they do very well at what they are. My personal favorite song on the album is Jet to Jet, but Island in the Sun and Too Young To Die Too Drunk To Live are very close seconds. All the songs on the album are enjoyable, though sometimes they can get drawn way out of proportion and get rather pretentious. This is especially prevalent in the song Kree Nakorie, which is the longest and probably worst song on the album. It just drags on for way too long and is way too Malmsteen centric, sort of like a bad prototype of what was to come on Malmsteen's solo efforts. The only other one that really does not need to be there is the boring instrumental track Incubus, but it's not that bad. Otherwise, the songs rate from average to great.
Other then the fact that the songs are drawn out, No Parole From Rock And Roll does have problems that really hamper the album. For thing, other then Bonnett and Malmsteen the musicianship is absolutely mediocre. Bassist Gary Shae just keeps the time with drummer Jan Uvena and does not really do a great job at it. Sure, he never goes out of time but his bass playing is downright simple and only utilizes root notes. There is really nothing else to his bass playing and that is just boring. Sure yeah, I'm not asking for another Steve DiGiorgio but the guy does nothing that really stands out. Jan Uvena is a bit more talented on the drums, always is in time, but he's still nothing special. No real great fills or anything out of the ordinary or even exotic here. Jan just uses some slightly accelerated standard hard rock beats for most of the album that do not show much energy at all and that gets downright boring. Sure, Alcatrazz was not known for being a very technical band so to speak (other then having Yngwie Malmsteen), but it would have helped if the guy at least tried a bit harder to be more skilled and had some energy.
The keyboards are also completely unnecessary and just get in the way of the listening experience. I cannot believe that Jimmy Waldo was allowed to play on this album. In fact, it always surprised me that Alcatrazz even bothered to have a keyboard player anyway. The band would have been much better if they just had Malmsteen and had a more guitar oriented sound. Instead, what you have here is a really messed up sound that his half keyboard oriented, half guitar oriented and the two just seem to clash at each other rather then blending together at all. The songs that are more guitar oriented (like Jet to Jet) are the better ones on the album, and the ones that are more keyboard centric while being average can be annoying at times. The best of the keyboard oriented songs is Island in the Sun, but other then that the others can get annoying even though they are overall rather well crafted.
The mix sort of brings down the album. Yngwie's guitar tone could be a bit fatter and is rather then, as are Jan Uvena's drums which sound sort of like hard pieces of plastic (especially the snare). You can hardly hear Gary Shae's bass other then some small frequencies in between the guitar and drums. Too much attention is given to the keyboards and that was unneeded. However, Graham's vocals are pushed right out in front and are crystal clear. The mastering could have been better and that probably would have helped this album a lot.
Lyrics are kind of lame but I do not really blame them. They're just about partying, love, living your life to the fullest, typical late 70s early 80s stuff. It's alright, nothing I'm really disappointed by. They're kind of fun and it's helped along by the extra catchy song structures. So nothing special to look for in terms of lyrics and you're better looking for later metal material to find more thought provoking lyrics.
For a hard rock/early metal album, you cannot really go wrong with Alcatrazz's No Parole From Rock 'N' Roll. It's a rocking and fun affair for one looking for an album with an old school edge that just plain rocks. Seek it out and give it a run. You will not regret the buy.