Friday, 19 May 2017

"Graham Bonnet/No Bad Habits" by GRAHAM BONNET (2016 Cherry Red/HNE Recordings Ltd 2CD 'Expanded Edition' Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...It Ain't Easy When You're Going Down..."

Hindsight can be a great thing - or in the case of Lancashire's Graham Bonnet - a little bittersweet too. Before he joined the ranks of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow as Lead Vocalist for their 1979 "Back To Earth" LP on Polydor Records (following the departure of Ronnie James Dio) - Skegness Hard Rocker Graham Bonnet made a failed bid in the late Seventies for the White Soul Boy market with two albums  - "Graham Bonnet" from 1977 on Ringo Starr's Ring O'Records and "No Bad Habits" – a 1978 Euro LP on Mercury.

Virtually ignored in Blighty – the albums and several singles off them were big however in Australia and Europe and in a very roundabout twist of fate - his rocked-up cover of The Shirelles hit "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" got him the Rainbow audition (and subsequently stints with hard rock bands like The Michael Schenker Group and Alkatraz). Blackmore wanted the singer to "Only One Woman" – a Bee Gees tune sung in 1968 on Polydor Records by Marbles. Bonnet was that vocalist. And that's where this twofer CD Reissue on HNE Recordings Ltd (part of England's Cherry Red) comes stomping in...

It has to be said that neither record is a gem by any stretch of the wildest imagination - and the while the new Andy Pearce Remasters for both LPs 'Rock' (as all his transfers do) - the bonus cuts on this double suffer from truly crappy sound never mind their utterly dismissible musical quality. The presentation is top notch though - so a case of oranges and lemons I'm afraid. Here are the habitual details...

UK released May 2016 - "Graham Bonnet/No Bad Habits" by GRAHAM BONNET on Cherry Red/HNE Recordings Ltd HNECD968D (Barcode 5013929916821) is an 'Expanded Edition' 2CD Reissue and Remaster offering two albums and 12 Bonus Tracks that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (63:09 minutes):
1. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue [Side 1]
2. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
3. Tired Of Being Alone
4. Wino Song
5. It Ain't Easy
6. Goodnight And Goodmorning [Side 2]
7. Danny
8. Sunday 16
9. Rock Island Line
10. Soul Seeker
Tracks 1 to 10 are his debut LP "Graham Bonnet" - released September 1977 in the UK on Ring O'Records 2320 103.

11. Heroes On My Fortune Wall - Non-album B-side to "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue", a UK 7" single released June 1977 on Ring O'Records 2017 105
12. Goodnight And Goodmorning (Single Edit) - A-side to a UK 7" single released November 1977 on Ring O'Records 2017 110. The full album version is 5:31 minutes; the 7" single edit is 3:21 minutes
13. I Who Am I
14. The Loving Touch
15. Do What You Gotta Do (Demo)
16. It Ain't Easy (Demo)
17. You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling (Demo)
Track 12 is Previously Unavailable on CD
Tracks 13 to 17 are Previously Unreleased

Disc 2 (63:22 minutes):
1. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight [Side 1]
2. Won't You Join Me
3. Warm Ride
4. Is There A Way To Sing The Blues
5. Can't Complain
6. Givin' Up My Worryin'
7. Pyramid [Side 2]
8. Only You Can Lift Me
9. Stand Still Stella
10. High School Angel
11. Cold Lady
Tracks 1 to 11 are his second studio album "No Bad Habits" - released in the Netherlands in late 1978 on Mercury 6304 504.

12. 10/12 Observation - Non-album B-side to the 7" single for "Warm Ride" - UK released March 1978 on Ring O'Records POSP 002 (2017 114)
13. Only You Can Lift Me (Single Edit)
14. Such A Shame
15. Warm Ride (12" Long Disco Version)
16. Warm Ride (12" Long Version)
Tracks 13, 15 and 16 are Previously Unavailable on CD

The 16-page booklet is packed with rare 7” single picture sleeves, period photos and typically great liner notes from noted writer MALCOLM DOME that include new interviews with Bonnet and Producer/Songwriter Pip Williams. The Remaster is carried out by one of my favourite Engineers ANDY PEARCE and MATT WORTHAM and the albums are great. But something's gone horribly wrong with the Bonus Tracks most of which sound like they were taken off a stretched cassette tape - horrible sound. You wouldn't mind if they were worth your time - they're not. Let's get to the core albums...

"Graham Bonnet" is seriously top-heavy with cover versions with only the weedy "Wino Song" and "Soul Seeker" being originals. Ring O'Records tried the Bob Dylan cover of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" as a UK 7" single in June 1977 before the album's release (it's non-album B-side is one of the Bonus Tracks on Disc 1 but in crap sound quality). It didn't take in England but became a huge hit in Australia. Some of the covers work - the amazing orchestration on the Soul-Rock of "Goodnight And Goodmorning" (a Hall & Oates song) and his rocking version of Ron Davies fabulous "It Ain't Easy" - a song Three Dog Night covered and called an album after and a tune most people know through David Bowie who covered it on "Ziggy Stardust" in 1972. It's one of the few places Snafu guitarist Micky Moody gets to shine. "Danny" first showed in Presley's "King Creole" movie in 1958 - but far better would have been Conway Twitty's version in the Sixties that changed the title (not the music) to "Lonely Blue Boy" - a song used to end a Mad Man episode (a sure sign of cool). Bonnet hams up the Rock 'n' Roll elements of "Danny" but his return to cod Rock 'n' Roll on Lonnie Donegan's "Rock Island Line" doesn't far any better either. The John Kongos track "Sunday 16" isn't anything memorable ("Jubilee Cloud" would have been better) and despite a fairly good Sax solo in Al Green's "Tired Of Being Alone" - his version just feels opportunistic rather than inspired. Perhaps with better song choices - the LP "Graham Bonnet" might have tapped into that Robert Palmer market but instead he comes across as a weaker version of Steve Gibbons. Still - those good tunes are great.

The second LP opens strongly on a radically re-worked "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" - a funky Rock jaunt through another Bob Dylan classic. His vocals are stronger too. "Won't You Join Me" begins a run of three John Kongos covers - the other two being "Pyramid" and "Only You Can Lift Me". England’s hottest hitmakers in 1978 The Bee Gees provided "Warm Ride" - but it's a turgid Disco-Rock song that's best left in Hades from whence it came. "Is There A Way To Sing The Blues" is the big ballad that half works. English eccentric John Otway becomes the unlikely recipient of a cover with "Can't Complain" - but it feels like badly recorded Elvis Costello. The Quo even get a look in on the identikit-sounding "Givin' Up My Worryin'" and Pip Williams rocks the LP to a close with "Cold Lady" - another love me or leave me alone tale of male woe.

Despite my reservations about those dreadful-sounding hissy extras (most should have been left in the can because they detract rather than add to this otherwise good reissue) - fans of the albums and Bonnet's great voice will want it. But for all others I'd advise a listen first...
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