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Alcatrazz: Breaking The Heart Of The City 1983-1986 The Very Best Of Alcatrazz

It's hard to know what to make of this latest Alcatrazz box set from HNE/Cherry Red. With the label already recently reissuing the band's three studio and one live album with bonus DVDs, demo collections and bootleg live shows – and there already being various best of collections and box sets new and old from other labels already on the shelves – is there really that much left to say? As the unwieldy title alludes, Alcatrazz only stood for four years (although they have reunited to some extent), the band formed by ex-Rainbow and MSG frontman Graham Bonnet, one-time New England duo Jimmy Waldo (keyboards) and Gary Shea (bass), and drummer Jan Uvena going through guitarists at the rate of one per studio album; 1983's No Parole From Rock 'N' Roll and 84's Live Sentence featuring the uber-talent of Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985's Disturbing The Peace utilising the skills of Steve Vai, no less, while 86's Dangerous Games saw Danny Johnson fill those unenviably large sets of shoes with varying degrees of success.

With three discs and fifty tracks, there's no denying that this clam-shell box set is comprehensive, as it takes seven songs from Yngwie's studio album and six from his live effort, a further seven from Vai's time in the band, and rather surprisingly given how off-hand the main three guys (Bonnet, Waldo, Shea) are about his time in Alcatrazz, eight from Johnson's era. Where things get somewhat muddled is with the inclusion of twenty-two demo/rehearsal recordings. Four 1983 instrumental demos which were also included on the recent No Parole reissue, being tacked on to the end of disc one, six previously unreleased Johnson demos from 1985 closing out disc two, while disc three contains no full studio cuts, instead featuring a further twelve, previously unreleased rehearsal tracks from 1983, featuring Malmsteen. Somewhere along the line – and in fairness, possibly in an effort to ensure value for money – somebody really muddled the pot, this 'best of' darting from studio songs to live cuts via demos and back again, while jumping from year to year and guitarist to guitarist. In the end it makes for a hugely disjointed listening experience.

Arguably the draw here will be for the die-hard Alcatrazz-Bonnet-Malmsteen-Vai-New England fans (Bonnet acolytes beware that he features on very little of the exclusive content in this box) but whether they really needed twenty-eight songs from albums they already own – although to be fair, the version of "Undercover" from 1986's Dangerous Games is the first time the 12" remix has been released on CD – and four recently released demos sitting alongside the exclusive content, is open to debate. Although the issue maybe arises when, in truth, the eighteen exclusive recordings included prove to be the sort of thing we all used to excitedly buy at record fairs on bootleg, before listening to them a couple of times and filing them away to forget about them. Hence to release them on their own would have been something of a stretch, even in a time when the quality of the countless 'officially unofficial' live and demo CDs some labels are pumping out is questionable at best (and I'm not aiming that specifically at HNE).

In fairness this box comes with the full cooperation of Bonnet, Waldo and Shea, the trio all interviewed for Malcolm Dome's (he writes so many of their liner notes, I'm pretty sure Mr Dome has been locked in the HNE stationery cupboard…) different take on the band in the booklet. Acknowledging that the Alcatrazz history has been thoroughly taken care of through the four recent reissues, he instead asks the three main players for their thoughts on key moments and events during their time together, as well as each others strengths and weaknesses. It makes for interesting reading and at least ensures we know the band approve of their fans hearing this stuff. While it is also worth mentioning, that while everything in the exclusive sections is of debatable sound quality and undoubtedly were works in progress, "Set Me Free" and "Rider" from 1985 and "I'm Not Down" from 1983 didn't actually make their parent albums in this guise. That however doesn't stop Breaking The Heart Of The City from being a confused collection. However, and a little hypocritically, I must admit to being more than happy to have the demos and rehearsals included. Whether I'll listen to them often, or choose to play anything else in this set over the recent Alcatrazz reissues, well that's much less certain.


Track Listing
DISC ONE
NO PAROLE FROM ROCK 'N' ROLL 1983
1. ISLAND IN THE SUN
2. JET TO JET
3. HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR
4. KREE NAKOORIE
5. TOO YOUNG TO DIE, TOO DRUNK TO LIVE
6. STARCARR LANE
7. SUFFER ME
LIVE SENTENCE 1984
8. NIGHT GAMES
9. SINCE YOU BEEN GONE 10. DESERT SONG
11. EVIL EYE
12. ALL NIGHT LONG
13. LOST IN HOLLYWOOD
NO PAROLE… DEMOS 1983
14. GENERAL HOSPITAL (INSTRUMENTAL DEMO)
15. INCUBUS (INSTRUMENTAL DEMO)
16. BIG FOOT (INSTRUMENTAL DEMO)
17. S.O.S. (YNGWIE MALMSTEEN AUDITION)


DISC TWO
DISTURBING THE PEACE 1985
1. GOD BLESSED VIDEO
2. MERCY
3. WILL YOU BE HOME TONIGHT 4. WIRE AND WOOD
5. DESERT DIAMOND
6. PAINTED LOVER
7. SKYFIRE
DANGEROUS GAMES 1986
8. IT'S MY LIFE
9. UNDERCOVER (REMIX)* FROM 12″ TBS
10. OHAYO TOKYO
11. DANGEROUS GAMES
12. BLUE BOAR
13. WITCHWOOD
14. DOUBLE MAN
15. NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING STAR
PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED DEMOS 1985
16. SET ME FREE (LIVE REHEARSAL VOCAL TAKE)
17. NO IMAGINATION (LIVE REHEARSAL VOCAL TAKE)
18. JIMMY WALDO (INSTRUMENTAL)
19. BLUE BOAR (INSTRUMENTAL REHEARSAL DEMO TAKE 4)
20. DOUBLE MAN (INSTRUMENTAL REHEARSAL DEMO TAKE 2)
21. RIDER (INSTRUMENTAL REHEARSAL DEMO TAKE 3)


DISC THREE
PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED REHEARSALS 1983
1. INCUBUS (TAKE 1)
2. INCUBUS (TAKE 2)
3. KREE NAKOORIE (TAKE 1)
4. KREE NAKOORIE (TAKE 2)
5. I'M NOT DOWN
6. BIG FOOT (TAKE 1)
7. BIG FOOT (TAKE 2)
8. JET TO JET
9. KREE NAKOORIE (TAKE 3)
10. STAR CARR LANE
11. TOO YOUNG TO DIE, TOO DRUNK TO LIVE
12. GENERAL HOSPITAL

Added: October 21st 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Breaking The Heart Of The City @ Cherry Red
Hits: 237
Language: english

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