The Alcatrazz story is much deeper than Malmsteen’s and Vai’s brief appearances.
Like a lot of other bands in the 80’s it was a pseudo supergroup of musicians. You had a 20 year old guitar hero in Yngwie Malmsteen, a 30 year old experienced bassist in Gary Shea, a 33 year old experienced drummer in Jan Uvena, a 24 year old keyboardist in Jimmy Waldo and a 35 year old vocalist with major label experience in Graham Bonnet.
The story starts with bassist Gary Shea and keyboardist Jimmy Waldo. After their band “New England” lost their singer, they moved out to L.A to work with an unknown guitarist at the time, called Vinnie Vincent and a new band called Warrior. Vinnie Vincent also had a deal in place to co-write songs for Kiss. ‘Boyz Gonna Rock” and “I Love It Loud” actually appeared on the first Warrior demo.
On the strength of that demo and the songs that Vinnie had written, he was of course asked to join KISS.
And from the ashes of Warrior, Alcatrazz was formed. With a dodgy manager on board, who took royalties meant for the band into his own pocket, Alcatrazz was a go. Shea actually reckons Malmsteen lost a lot of money when he left due to the thievery of their manager.
Alcatrazz – No Parole from Rock N’ Roll
I dubbed this album on cassette from a former co-guitarist and eventually purchased it via a second hand record shop.
Today we would be classed as pirates for sharing but back then music was expensive and if someone had the opportunity to share music, they would.
Island In The Sun
It’s the opening track and an underrated Malmsteen classic with a E major riff full of open string palm muting, legato lines, slides and single notes.
Jet To Jet
That Bm riff which kicks the song of is a perfect example of Malmsteen referencing his Blackmore roots. Think “Burn” and “Highway Star”.
In the verses I also like how he chromatically goes down from a “B” to a “B flat” to an “A” to an open “E” and building it up again via a “F sharp”, “G” and “A”.
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Bonnet was inspired by the 1959 French film Hiroshima Mon Amour, which he had seen in school.
When you read about the fall out and the cancers still happening today, you get to understand the gravity of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and how generations of people have been affected.
The riff is heavy, switching from Bm to F#m, as it references the “Lights Out” riff from Michael Schenker in his UFO days.
Too Young To Die, Too Drunk To Live
It’s a brilliant riff by Malmsteen which again references his Blackmore influences.
Blackmore is renowned for picking a root note and then playing its octave. Then again so was Jimi Hendrix and this riff is in F#m, the same key as “Foxy Lady”. Then again so was Jimmy Page, especially in “Immigrant Song” which is also in F#m. It’s how music is written. By being influenced.
Alcatrazz – Live Sentence
I picked this up on vinyl at a record fair in the 90s. I enjoyed listening to it and hearing Malmsteen before he became the fury.
Musically, Malmsteen brings it.
There are a few Rainbow songs like “Since You’ve Been Gone”, “All Night Long” and “Lost In Hollywood” plus a cool cover of Michael Shenker’s “Desert Song”. The last two mentioned songs are not on the vinyl version.
And of course, Malmsteen is the star here, so he gets to introduce “Evil Eye”, an instrumental song which would appear on his debut album.
I also had “Disturbing The Peace” on vinyl, however the same mystery disappearance that befell “Permanent Vacation” from Aerosmith has befallen “Disturbing The Peace”.