Title - ‘Back Row in the Stalls (Expanded Edition)’
Artist - Graham Bonnet
Graham Bonnet is quite rightly best known for fronting the melodic hard rock of Rainbow, MSG and Alcatrazz, with a career going back to the 1960s. His initial breakthrough as part of The Marbles was in 1968, where his style and tastes were originally geared more towards pop and R&B orientated music. Recording a number of obscure, but now highly collectable 45s in the early 1970s, before releasing his solo albums, Bonnet is still as much revered today as he was in his heyday.
With the brilliant Cherry Red Records (UK) having just released Graham Bonnet‘s Graham Bonnet / No Bad Habits: Expanded Deluxe Edition as a brand new, digitally remastered and expanded 2CD set, they have also brought out alongside it this highly recommended Back Row In The Stalls expanded CD.
Back Row in the Stalls was actually meant to be Bonnet’s debut solo album in 1977, but never made it out of the musical starting gate (for whatever reason at the time). Having languished, almost forgotten for over 40 years, the master tapes have since been discovered, this truly worthwhile “new” D of previously unheard work a joy to behold.
Indeed, furthermore, it as actually a cassette tape taken from the master tape which was found, and transferred for release. Although the more pop orientated material may be a surprise to fans of the man that brought us ‘All Night Long’ and ‘Since You Been Gone’, it certainly paved the way for his actual debut solo LP, 1977’s Graham Bonnet, 1978’s No Bad Habits, and then 1981’s powerhaus (and my personal favorite) Line-Up - an album that produced the top ten hit, ‘Night Games’ and the radio airplay hit ‘Liar.‘
The album begins with the young, fresh-faced vocal pitch of ‘Here Comes The Rain,’ and is backed by both the spoken/sung ‘What's This 'Ere Then,’ the swing, fast-paced piano vibe of ‘Private Eye,’ and both ‘Ghost Writer in My Eye’ and ‘Saturday's Over.’ The (show tune) title track, ‘Back Row in the Stalls’ is a true stand out track, and highlights Bonnet’s vocals and musical knowledge of tones and notes. That’s followed by a fun and vibrant ding-a-ling of a track, ‘She May Be Not Much to Look At (But She's Certainly Got a Heart)’, with the ballad Ade's Song,’ the rocker ‘Mamma Mine’, the show tune ’Relaxae,’ and then the powerhaus ’Don't Drink the Water’ all following along thereafter. The mid tempo ‘Dreams (Out in the Forest)’ is next, and the album rounds out with the Doo-Wop vibe of ‘We’re Free.’
The expanded portion of the album comes in the form of six (6) bonus tracks, that kick off in fine style with the dusky piano ballad ‘Whisper in the Night (Single A-Side 1972)’, the Speakeasy vibe of ‘Rare Specimen (Single B-Side 1972)’, the pop-rock of ‘Trying to Say Goodbye (Single A-Side 1973)’, the ballad ‘Castles in the Air (Single B-Side 1973),’ and then both the childish fun of ‘Dog Song (Single A-Side 1973),’ and then finally, joined again by Adrienne Posta (as he was on ‘Dog Song‘), ’Express Yourself (Single B-Side 1973).
Including new liner notes from Classic Rock’s Malcolm Dome based on new interviews with Bonnet, what makes this rare collection an extra treat is the inclusion of all those aforementioned bonus tracks taken from the A and B-Sides of the singles he released at that time. Oh, and this Adrienne Posta that gets mentioned in the last two songs, she was Bonnet’s then actress wife!
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