Bonnet; Graham: Line Up (remastered/expanded)
Quickly following up their reissue campaign of the Alcatrazz back catalogue – the band singer Graham Bonnet would form with Yngwie Malmsteen after his ill fated stint fronting the Michael Schenker Group – HNE/Cherry Red delve further back into the singer's history with the album Line Up. First seeing the light of day in 1981, just after Bonnet had parted from Ritchie Blackmore in Rainbow and before his tie up with ex-Scorpions/UFO man Schenker, the singer's knack of working alongside big names and reputations wasn't about to end any time soon. This album, Bonnet's third solo outing, taking its name from the fact that the line-up for this record's sessions is absolutely stellar – the triumvirate of current and soon to be Whitesnake men, Micky Moody (guitars), Jon Lord (keyboards – also ex-Deep Purple) and Cozy Powell (drums – also ex-Rainbow) joined by Gary Twigg on bass. While the producer of the album's first single was none other than Status Quo's Francis Rossi, who also guests on the album. Add in contributions from Russ Ballard, the Quo pair of Andy Bown and Rick Parfitt and amongst others, Whitesnake bassist Neil Murray, and the talent on show, when you factor in Bonnet's stunning vocals, is beyond doubt.
The album opens with the Rossi produced "Night Games", the song which started the whole process of this album coming into being a dead wringer for the sort of poppy rock Bonnet had specialised in during his time in Rainbow (something the album's colour scheme was keen to play up!). In truth, it's no exaggeration to suggest the song actually betters most of what Blackmore's band came up with. Three and a half decades later and "Night Games" may well be the only song still well known from this album (as regular air time on UK radio station Planet Rock will attest). However through the pop-rock meets prog lite of "Liar", beefed up rock n' roll of "Anthony Boy", or, and no surprise considering it was written by the Quo songwriting duo Andy Bown and Bob Young, very Quo sounding "Out On The Water", the class runs deep.
Personally the faux-steel drums of "Set Me Free" are one step too far in the dated stakes, while the heavied up cover of The Ronettes "Be My Baby" hasn't aged well either. However the slow slide of "I'm A Lover" is still a sassy slap, while the urgent vibrancy of "S.O.S." still hits hard to this day, even if it does remind of Jefferson Starship's "Jane" in places. As if all that wasn't enough, four tracks on this excellently remastered reissue find their way on to CD for the very first time. The single-edits of "Night Games" and "Out On The Water" a nice touch for completists, although it's their respective b'sides, the bouncing bluesy shuffle of "Don't Tell Me To Go" and anthemic "Bad Days Are Gone", which really show the depth of quality material Bonnet had at his disposal.
Considering the charismatic singer had not long before fronted Rainbow's headline performance at the inaugural Monsters Of Rock at Castle Donington, and that this album's lead cut, "Night Games", rose to number six in the charts, it really is something of a surprise that Line Up didn't make a stronger impact upon its release. Or that history hasn't held it up as a long long classic. In truth, other than a couple of cuts, that's exactly what Line Up is and put simply, it's 80s rock near its very best.
1. NIGHT GAMES
3. I'M A LOVER
4. BE MY BABY
5. THAT'S THE WAY THAT IT IS
7. ANTHONY BOY
8. DIRTY HAND
9. OUT ON THE WATER
10. DON'T STAND IN THE OPEN
11. SET ME FREE
12. DON'T TELL ME TO GO (B-SIDE)
13. BAD DAYS ARE GONE (B-SIDE)
14. NIGHT GAMES (SINGLE EDIT)
15. OUT ON THE WATER (SINGLE EDIT)
Added: March 28th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Line Up at Cherry Red
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