Following in the footsteps of various archive solo releases by Graham Bonnet – ranging from his unreleased solo debut to a three disc anthology of unreleased recordings from his time in Australia – this six disc box set from Hear No Evil Records gives Bonnet’s fans another reason to celebrate. ‘The Official Bootleg Box Set 1983-1986’ does exactly what it says on the tin. It presents three different live shows from Texas on the ‘No Parole From Rock ‘N’ Roll’ tour – featuring Yngwie Malmsteen on guitar – alongside three discs’ worth of rehearsals and demos culled from a four year period.
In 2017, Salvation Jayne released ‘Moves That Make The Record Skip‘, an EP that captured a selection of enjoyable (if not particularly original) hard rock tunes with a bluesy slant. Between some smart slide playing and a solid lead vocal from Chess Smith, Salvation Jayne appeared to be one of the better blues-inflected hard rock bands on the UK circuit.
The landscape of hard rock music in 1988 looked very different, in comparison, to that of a decade earlier. When Saxon began their recording career in the late 70s, rock and metal were solely the reserves of the readers of Sounds magazine, the devotees of the Radio One Friday Rock Show and festival goers. By the late 80s, it was no longer considered such a niche genre: bands like Europe and Poison had scored chart success on both sides of the Atlantic; Def Leppard‘s ‘Hysteria’ was one of the biggest selling albums of the era and Guns N’ Roses were on their way to becoming a worldwide, stadium filling phenomenon. Whitesnake‘s ‘1987’ was selling by the bucketload to a broad demographic and even Metallica – a band that only a couple of years earlier seemed entirely marginal – were on the cusp of UK singles chart success, and yet Saxon, in terms of commercial success, appeared to be floundering.
As 1984 drew to a close so, too, did Saxon’s contract with Carrere Records. The past few years had been good to them, though: in a little over five years, they’d released seven albums for the French label, which scored six top twenty UK chart positions. That year’s woeful ‘Crusader’ aside, it represented an impressive body of work, one of which any classic metal band could be proud. Obviously, with Saxon being one of the decade’s biggest metal acts, a new deal wasn’t hard to secure and Biff Byford and the boys subsequently signed with giants EMI for a three album deal that would last the rest of the decade.
Graham Bonnet is the epitome of a hard working vocalist. Active since the 60s, whether solo or part of a band, by the beginning of 2018 he’d contributed lead vocals to a staggering twenty three studio albums. As with any artist with such a long career the results are variable, ranging from the essential (his own ‘Line Up‘, Rainbow’s ‘Down To Earth‘ and the Graham Bonnet Band’s ‘The Book‘) to the workmanlike (most of the 90s releases) to the flat out awful (Blackthorne, Impelliteri’s ‘System X’). Whatever the result, it’s almost impossible not to be impressed by Bonnet’s work ethic and tenacity.