Bonnet, Graham: Flying Not Falling 1991-1999 (3CD remaster)
With the recent HNE/Cherry Red Graham Bonnet reissue campaign having already taken in his early solo work, time with both Alcatrazz and Blackthorne and a wider reaching best of collection, Flying Not Falling 1991-1999 moves on to the three solo albums the ex-Rainbow and MSG singer produced during the decade in question. Unusually the album's actually run back in time, newest to oldest, so, just to be obtuse, let's start with disc 3, Here Comes The Night.
Listen to Bonnet's early work and you'll discover that much though it's heavy rock he's known for, at his heart the man is a good old fashioned rock n' roller. Hence the 1991 album, Here Comes The Night, which saw the singer flanked by guitarist Ray Fenwick and keyboard legend Don Airey, harks back to that sound. Unfortunately it chooses to do so through an 80s spectrum, cheesy keyboards and 'smooooooth' vibes the order of the day. The results, while not awful, take things in a strange direction that sounded dated even when this album was first released and time has only deepened that issue. Bonnet is in fine voice, taking on his own early Marbles hit "Only One Woman" with real verve, while also beautifully handling covers such as "Here Comes The Night", "Eyes Of A Child" and "Don't". However the Fenwick, Jo Eime co-written, "Please Call Me" illustrates the album's weaknesses, parping keyboards, chacka-chacka-ing guitars and boinging bass all reminding of the faux-funk the charts were awash with some ten years or so before this album's release. Four bonus tracks merely compound the issue, demos of some songs that made the album and some that didn't presented through keyboards, drum machine and vocals. It's good to hear them, but these are completist only pieces.
Thankfully disc 2, Underground, which arrived five years later is much more in keeping with what Bonnet's fans would expect, the singer making a surprise reunion with the third man to play guitar in Alcatrazz, Danny Johnson; Cinderella/Shadow King drummer Kevin Valentine completing the core trio. Guests show up in the shape of fretless bass monster Tony Franklin and keyboard man Pat Regan for what proves to be a much more memorable set. From the off the title track surges with a darting riff, underpinned by enigmatic keyboards that remind of Blue Murder's debut output, while, if anything, "Whiplash" ups the intensity, Bonnet howling and baying for blood as he really lets loose. The bass is funky, but unlike on the previous album, the threat here is real and the results much more exhilarating. "Cajun Pink" pushes and shoves with a gleeful intent, as Bonnet reveals the smooth but deadly voice he's long been known for. From "The Strange" to "Winter Skin" everything here hits the mark, although with the standard of the new material written especially for this album being so strong, that it closes with a cover of Rainbow's "Lost In Hollywood" and the Hendrix standard, "The Wind Cries Mary", is a missed opportunity. An Alcatrazz heavy seven track live show (read bootleg) from 2000 is added at the disc's tail and it has to be said turns out to be rather special. Bonnet bang on the money and his band on top form; tracks such as "Island In The Sun", "God Bless Video", MSG's "Dancer" and Rainbow's "All Night Long" sounding fresh and energetic. Something that can also be said for what is a hugely underrated album in the shape of the unfortunately prophetic Underground.
Leaving disc 1 to be 1999's The Day I Went Mad. Why an album bristling with big name star guests, a top notch vocalist and a convincingly metallic attack seems to have been roundly ignored at its time of release, I'm not sure, but looking back now, this really is an under appreciated little belter of an album. Johnson and Valentine were back but with the likes of Franklin, Tim Bogart and ex-Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick providing bass, the surprise is that the real big name stars were Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard/Whitesnake/Dio) on the raucous "Killer" and GnR man Slash, who adds his unmistakable tone to the upbeat slap of "Hey That's Me". However the album doesn't stand or fall on those cameos, the song that gives this whole set its name, "Flying Not Falling", the sort of insistent heavy rock Bonnet provided alongside Michael Schenker, while the album's title track actually nods back to Alcatrazz, both in its melodic bite and John Thomas provided guitar solo. But really you could highlight pretty much everything from the heartfelt "This Time" to frantic "Spiked!" and find they come across remarkably well. The Day I Went Mad actually stacks up against anything that Bonnet has recorded over the years and when you consider the amazing catalogue he's amassed, that's not a claim you make lightly. A further six live cuts are added this time, a mix of covers like "I'm Down/Lucille" and "Oh! Darling" rubbing shoulders with Rainbow's "Since You've Been Gone" and, quite refreshingly, three tracks from this album, "Spiked!", "Killer" and "Don't Look Down" transferring well to a live setting, even if the sound quality is hardly cutting edge.
With interesting liner notes from Malcolm Dome, which unlike the rest of this reissue series is unfortunately light on input from those involved, and coming expertly remixed and housed in individual card sleeves featuring the original artwork, all in a clam shell box, not only is this a great looking set, it also contains some excellent, under the radar music. Or at least, as a certain Mr Loaf once said, 'two out of three ain't bad!'
DISC ONE: THE DAY I WENT MAD (1999)
1. THE DAY I WENT MAD
3. FLYING NOT FALLING
4. HEY THAT'S ME
5. LOLITA CRUSH
6. THIS DAY
7. MODEL INC.
9. GREENWICH MEANTIME
10. DON'T LOOK DOWN
11. OH! DARLING
12. I'M DOWN/LUCILLE (LIVE EASINGTON ROCK GARDEN 22ND NOVEMBER 2001)
13. KILLER (LIVE COCONUT TEASER 23RD SEPTEMBER 2000)
14. SPIKED! (LIVE CULVER CITY, 12TH MAY 2000)
15. DON'T LOOK DOWN (LIVE CULVER CITY, 12TH MAY 2000)
16. SINCE YOU BEEN GONE (LIVE CULVER CITY, 12TH MAY 2000)
17. OH! DARLING (LIVE CULVER CITY, 12TH MAY 2000)
DISC TWO: UNDERGROUND (1997)
4. MOVIN' ON
5. SAIL ON
6. CAJUN PINK
7. THE STRANGE
8. WINTER SKIN
9. LOST IN HOLLYWOOD
10. THE WIND CRIES MARY
BONUS TRACKS LIVE AT CULVER CITY, 12TH MAY 2000
11. ISLAND IN THE SUN
13. ONLY ONE WOMAN
14. GOD BLESSED VIDEO
15. WILL YOU BE HOME TONIGHT
16. ALL NIGHT LONG
DISC THREE: HERE COMES THE NIGHT (1991)
1. SOMETHING ABOUT YOU
2. HERE COMES THE NIGHT
3. LONG TIME GONE
4. ONLY ONE WOMAN
5. PLEASE CALL ME
6. A CHANGE IS GONNA COME
7. I'LL GO CRAZY
8. I GO TO SLEEP
9. LOOK DON'T TOUCH
10. EYES OF A CHILD
12. WHAT SHE SAYS, YOU HEAR IT MEANS
BONUS TRACKS INSTRUMENTAL DEMOS
13. GONE IN A MINUTE
14. A HOLE IN MY SOUL
15. PLEASE CALL ME
16. GREENWICH MEANTIME
Added: December 16th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Flying Not Falling at Cherry Red
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