During their original run, Alcatrazz weren’t especially stable. They recorded three studio albums with three different guitarists, and went from humble beginnings to imploding within five years. Given how short-lived the band’s time in the sun actually was, it’s absolutely staggering how many bootleg recordings were made. In terms of popularity, they never managed to reach the heights of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, and yet someone pushed the record button surreptitiously whenever and wherever the band appeared.
In 2018, fans were treated to a wealth of these unofficial recordings in an official capacity when HNE Recordings released a 6CD box set made up of various live tapes and studio rehearsals. The quality was often rough, much like old bootlegs you might have sourced from record fairs back in the 80s and 90s, but the historical value of some of the material just couldn’t be ignored. Surprisingly, there was enough material – and seemingly enough interest – for a second volume, and this 5CD set offers fans much more of the same.
1973 was a fantastic year for rock music. Pink Floyd released a world beater with ‘Dark Side of The Moon’; Led Zeppelin offered ‘Houses of The Holy’ – one of their most varied and adventurous works to date – and Queen introduced the world to their mix of pomp and pop with a confident, if flawed, first album. With other superb albums by Paul McCartney & Wings (‘Band On The Run’ and ‘Red Rose Speedway’), two great works from Elton (‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and ‘Don’t Shoot Me’), two from future megastar Bruce Springsteen, the Stones’ branching out on ‘Goat’s Head Soup’, and Yes disappearing up their collective backsides on ‘Tales of Topographic Oceans’, the year offered the discerning music fan something interesting at every turn.
Somewhere among the noise, US hard rockers Montrose made their breakthrough. Their self-titled debut album is as powerful as the Van Halen debut from ’77, with riff after riff on a filler free, half hour slab of plastic. As raucous as New York Dolls, and as groove laden as the best Johnny & Edgar Winter tomes, decades on, it remains a near perfect example of American hard rock. In the UK, neither Montrose or their debut album get talked about as often as they should be, but ‘I’ve Got The Fire’, a 6CD box set from Cherry Red certainly aims to change that by shining a massive light upon an all too short time at the top, bringing together pretty much everything the band recorded during a very prolific four years.
When thinking about 80s AOR, there are a few bands that immediately spring to mind: Journey, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, and Survivor. Legends all, but rock’s most radio-friendly subgenre spawned a truckload of other great bands, and during the 80s, this most American sound even influenced a few British musicians. FM remain one of the best known and most successful exponents of the UK contingent; much has been said about Magnum’s most commercial period from 1986-90, and at the end of the decade, Little Angels scored chart success by taking an AOR core and injecting it with a couple of rockier influences. For all the hitmakers, there are several great bands that aren’t mentioned anywhere near as much. And the greatest of those? That, without doubt, would be Scotland’s Strangeways.
If you think Cherry Red had been spoiling Al Stewart fans with their reissue campaign, think again. The UK label’s 3CD/DVD box sets of both ‘Year of The Cat’ and ‘Time Passages’ were very smart, and a massively expanded ’24 Carrots’ appeared to be fairly comprehensive, but they’ve got nothing on the planned box set that’s due for release in June 2022.
Classic rock legends Wishbone Ash are set to unveil a lavish box set of live material on May 27th 2022.
Coming from the Madfish label, ‘Living Proof (Live Recordings 1976-1980) finally gives fans a vinyl version of a great set that was released on CD from 2018.