Music Appreciation: Alcatrazz
My first brush with guitar legend Yngwie Malmsteen was in the Campbell Tower Records, where one of the staff was playing an album titled "Live Sentence" aby a band called Alcatrazz. At the time I was learning to play guitar, and was gravitating to hard rock/heavy metal techniques, and I was floored. I bought the LP on the spot, and proceeded to wear it out, then replacing it on CD.
At the time, it was the pinnacle of the "Bach and Rollers", the neoclassical metal that dominated much of my listening in the 1980's, and Yngwie was the top practitioner.
That album, Live Sentence, has been in my rotation of playing ever since, several tracks in my monster playlist that I call "Daily Grind" and has almost 500 tracks, and at times I will spin up the album and listen to it cover to cover, and just jam (that was great fun when I was commuting by train to work, the album is just about the exact time to get to/from the office.)
At the time, and several times since, the album was critically panned as poorly mixed, muddy, and in general a "shitty" live album.
I didn't care. I still loved it, weird mix, and all. It was raw, yet precise, and a showcase from when Yngwie played a lot more rhythm styles than his later music, the vocals of Graham Bonnet were fun and quirky.
A couple weeks ago, on the Amazon Music app, I was recommended to check out the 2018 release of "Live in Japan 1984 - Complete Edition" and holy shit, it is the stuff. Clearly recorded on the same tour, and I suspect that some of the recordings were identical to the ones from the original Live Sentence, but far better mastering from the tapes of the era. The audio is superb, Yngwie's guitar work is impeccable and because there is no 25 ish minute album side length limits (it is 2 CDs on physical media) you get many additional tracks, all of which are completely kick-ass.
Graham Bonnet is his usual flamboyant self, just having fun, theatrical, playing the audience up (and any metal fan knows that the Japanese fans are die hard) and having a blast.
Malmsteen's axe work is clear, crisp, and blistering. The tones, sounds, and absolutely supernaturally fast runs are genre defining. Damn fine stuff.
One last note, the original Live Sentence album, as well as this newly released version, is the first time I heard the quintessential "Evil Eye" that Malmsteen released on his first solo album "Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force", a genre defining instrumental piece.
Other bright spots include "Desert Song" that was also recorded by one of my other favorite axe slingers, Michael Schenker during the one album where Graham was MSG's vocalist. A treat when you can compare two iconic guitarists (Malmsteen and Schenker) on the same song.
Additionally, Bonnet was the vocalist for one of the Rainbow albums, and this recording has covers of "Since you've been Gone", and "Lost in Hollywood" where Yngwie does a fabulous job of rendering Richie Blackmoor's guitarwork. Chef's Kiss all the way.
If you enjoy 80's vintage speed metal, neoclassical music, I can highly recommend spinning Live in Japan 1984 - Complete Edition. I liked it so much, I am buying a CD of it to support the artists, instead of just streaming it.