Safe to say this has to be one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year. BORN INNOCENT is the first full studio album from this iconic outfit since DANGEROUS GAMES way back in 1986.
Made even more special with founding members JIMMY WALDO and GARY SHEA joining the voice that is GRAHAM BONNET making BORN INNOCENT even more vital.
The thing that struck me regarding this album is the list of special appearances from various musicians, including Chris Impellitteri, Bob Kulick, Steve Vai, Dario Mollo, Don Van Stavern, and Jeff Waters, to name just a few.
The actual full band line up is.
GRAHAM BONNET / Vocals
JOE STUMP / Guitars
JIMMY WALDO / Keyboards
GARY SHEA / BASS
MARK BENQUECHEA / Drum
With a band that has always prided itself on super talented technical guitar based rock, with previous guitarists YNGWIE MALMSTEEN and STEVE VAI having long departed the line up, it’s up to JOE STUMP who is a professor of guitar from Boston based Berklee College of Music in the USA, to shred the living daylights of this new release.
So with so much riding on this album it’s on with the action with the title track “BORN INNOCENT” kicking things off with a barrage of drums and straight away it’s a quick flurry of high pitched guitar before those unmistakable vocals of BONNET loom large, and I mean large.
Not exactly a foot to the floor high speed opener this song consists of a slower tempo with BENQUECHEA offering up a rock solid double bass beat with some well-placed slower sections that gives the song more than one dimension.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeXkDPwjuGw&w=560&h=315]
“POLAR BEAR” is the first single from the album and this is just vintage ALCATRAZZ an interesting song with interesting lyrics regarding life as an Eskimo and the struggles that it brings. This track benefits from WALDO’S nice keyboard touches that add another nice twist along with some back up harmony vocals.
“FINN McCOOL” is nothing short of a head down full speed ahead rocker with the added bonus of Japanese guitar maestro NOZOMU WAKAI making a guest appearance and weaving his magic all over the track. This has a nice chorus and when BONNET sings, the whole group back down before joining in and more insanely fast riffs rip the song into a million different dimensions.
LONDON 1666” has the best vocal on the album with more great story telling and a less frantic approach. There is a classy simple solid drum beat and in my opinion this is when ALCATRAZZ really shine when they throw a curve ball into the mix.
DIRTY LIKE THE CITY” is a song that STEVE VAI wrote and yet another cracking slow to mid-tempo track with that famous BONNET throaty growl losing none of its punch after all these years. More nice keyboard flurries and a guitar that just wails with distortion and sounds like it is having the life strangled out of it but in a fabulous way.
SOMETHING THAT I AM MISSING” displays a 1970s’ DEEP PURPLE vibe with Hammond organ stabs and exchanges between the organ and guitar. They certainly throw in a melodic touch to this song and it works a treat.
Personally, I love this twist to proceedings and it’s refreshing to have a song where WALDO’S impressive keyboards take centre stage over everything else. The overall arrangement and musicianship on this song alone is worth the price of the CD.
PAPER FLAGS” introduces another guest in ANNIHILATOR’S, JEFF WATERS who not to be outdone rips out a guitar solo on this face melting 4 minutes of hard rock mayhem. With BONNET singing about Union Jack Flags and stupid parades it’s anyone’s guess as to what the full subject matter may be. Let’s hope we get a lyric sheet with this release as lyrically this sounds an interesting track.
BODY BEAUTIFUL” with its chunky main riff is a solid rock track with a pounding bass line and another well placed chorus and huge traditional sounding classic guitar solos. Everything I have grown to love about this genre of music is evident in this rabble rousing track.
WARTH LANE” – well talk about save this best until last! with lyrics regarding setting the Christmas tree together when a knock on the door from a man in uniform telling the tale of a young man hanging himself. Although a depressing and all too familiar tale of suicide, this certainly hit home listening to such heartfelt lyrics.
The beautiful wailing guitar solo that gives the impression of someone crying enhances the emotion. What a dramatic way to close the album and one that has totally surprised me, I just was not expecting anything like that on this album it really is such a triumphant hard-hitting finale, which was written by and features the guitar work of ITALYS DARIO MOLLO.
With a line-up of so many guest writers and performers it’s also important that RIOTS bassist DON VAN STAVERN gets a mention because his solid musicianship was on display on no less than 6 tracks.
So rounding off the long awaited new ALCATRAZZ album it’s an essential purchase for any guitar loving fan, but more importantly this is a hell of a solid rock release, with many twists and turns and contributions from others and sits nice and comfortably next to the other ALCATRAZZ albums. Great stuff indeed.
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Review by Steve Bruty for MPM