Alcatrazz: Dangerous Games (expanded reissue)
Losing one great guitarist is unfortunate, but losing a second? That's plain careless. Steve Vai following Yngwie Malmsteen out of the Alcatrazz exit door after just one album apiece. However as confirmed in the Malcolm Dome liner notes (which feature contributions from singer Graham Bonnet and bassist Gary Shea) for this post Malm-Vai Dangerous Games reissue, the circumstances behind the departures couldn't have been more different. While Malmsteen had let his 'guitar god' status go to his head to the extent that the band punted him, Vai went with their blessing. A big bucks offer from freshly departed ex-Van Halen singer David Lee Roth to help him form a solo band, too good for the guitarist to turn down.
With Capitol, their label of the time, breathing down their neck for a new record, ex-Alice Cooper and Rick Derringer guitarist Danny Johnson was quickly drafted into the fold. Capitol also wanted Bonnet and co. to incorporate outside songwriters for what would go on to become Dangerous Games, but the band resisted and instead agreed to include, for the first time, a couple of covers. Therefore the album opens with a good, if unspectacular, version of The Animals "It's My Life", while also seeing the band beef up (a little anyway) "Only One Woman", a UK hit Bonnet had with The Marbles many years before. In truth neither really set the heather on fire, still leaving Johnson with the pressure of providing the bulk of the material. The title track, which the guitarist wrote single handedly, is undoubtedly a highlight, while his co-writes with Bonnet and keyboard player Jimmy Waldo on "Undercover" and the moody "The Witchwood" don't let the side down. However with the band moving in a more commercial direction, the standard does slip slightly from their two previous studio albums and without either the flash of Malmsteen or innovation of Vai, Johnson's deeper, bluesier style was seen as a step back. In all honesty it's a lack of enough truly killer songs that's this album's undoing, leaving Dangerous Games to become just another decent stab at commercial rock; albeit with a well above average singer.
A few live shows were played, but with the label losing interest, Shea and Waldo were, in a twist of fate, wooed away by Eddie Van Halen's proposed female fronted outfit that never actually took off. Bonnet, Johnson and drummer Jan Uvena did bring in some new talent and record demos, but the bubble was burst and the band's third guitarist soon legged it to Private Life, leaving the end in sight for Alcatrazz, who promptly folded.
Alongside the excellent liner notes, as with the previous era Alcatrazz reissues, live in concert bonus recordings are included. Although this time in the form of an audio only 'audience recording' (read, bootleg) from Long Island in November 1986. In truth it's not even great by bootleg standard and with Bonnet announcing, because of their late arrival (he says they got lost...), the show only runs for eight songs and two of them are the Rainbow standards, "Since You've Been Gone" and "All Night Long". Add in that it's all squeezed onto the same disc as the main event and nice though this show is to have, it adds little value.
Better than many would have you believe, Dangerous Games is a good melodic hard rock album and does stand the test of time reasonably well. However if you've never heard Alcatrazz before, then start with the also recently reissued Vai infused Disturbing The Peace or the more Rainbow-esque Malmsteen led No Parole From Rock n Roll to really hear what all the fuss was about. By comparison, Dangerous Games is actually a pretty tame pastime.
1. IT'S MY LIFE
3. THAT AIN'T NOTHIN'
4. NO IMAGINATION
5. OHAYO TOKYO
6. DANGEROUS GAMES
7. BLUE BOAR
8. ONLY ONE WOMAN
9. THE WITCHWOOD
10. DOUBLE MAN
11. NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING STAR
BONUS TRACKS* LIVE AT LONG ISLAND, NY, USA 29TH NOVEMBER 1986
12. ISLAND IN THE SUN
13. IT'S MY LIFE
15. GOD BLESSED VIDEO
16. DOUBLE MAN
17. WIRE AND WOOD
18. SINCE YOU BEEN GONE
19. ALL NIGHT LONG
*PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED AUDIENCE RECORDING
Added: August 7th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Dangerous Games at Cherry Red
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