Alcatrazz: Live Sentence

Graham Bonnet and Yngwie Malmsteen: the final act.

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In the mid-80s, Alcatrazz were a rock’n’roll league of nations, based in the US. British singer Graham Bonnet had starred in Rainbow; he then exited the Michael Schenker Group in disgrace after drunkenly waving his dick at an audience.

Swedish guitarist Yngwie J. Malmsteen was a young prodigy who played like Ritchie Blackmore on speed. The other three guys were American. And the band was big in Japan, where this live album was recorded in January 1984.

By the time it was released, Malmsteen had quit to launch his own group, Rising Force. And although Alcatrazz would continue until 1987, making one album with Steve Vai (an upgrade on Malmsteen) the band’s potential was never fulfilled.

The new deluxe edition of Live Sentence includes seven bonus tracks and a DVD. What it records is the tug of war between the famous singer and the upstart guitarist. This was Bonnet’s band, his show. Along with key songs from the debut Alcatrazz album No Parole From Rock ‘N’ Roll – catchy pop rock number Island In The Sun, sombre ballad Hiroshima Mon Amour – the set-list included Bonnet’s hits with Rainbow, Since You Been Gone and All Night Long, his solo single Night Games and the MSG classic Desert Song.

But while Bonnet sang them powerfully, Malmsteen was continually overplaying, attempting to upstage his boss. The guitarist had two solo spots in this show, but for such a showoff even that was not enough. “He was widdling through all my songs,” Bonnet later said. “It was awful.”

Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”