Supergroups rarely last a long time. The combination of various egos usually leads to burnout pretty quickly. In the case of Blackthorne (featuring Graham Bonnet along with members of Quiet Riot, House of Lords and Skull), there wasn’t really anything you’d call genuine longevity, but their course ran a little longer than most. Formed in 1991, they released their debut ‘Afterlife’ in 1993 which led to some success in Japan. Work on a second album was undertaken in the mid-90s, but the band called it a day before the record was ready for release. The tapes remained unreleased until HNE Recordings unearthed them as part of their extensive (and excellent) Graham Bonnet reissue campaign. It’s a shame Blackthorne’s proposed second album couldn’t be heard in 1995, as at least half of it was an improvement over their first release.
Having already released ‘Afterlife’ with a handful of bonus tracks and finally gettiing ‘Blackthorne II: Don’t Kill The Thrill’ out to the fans in 2016, you’d expect that Cherry Red/HNE Recordings would have nothing more to give from Blackthorne’s all too short career, but this compilation (released in October 2019) actually adds a lot more to the band’s recorded legacy. Not so much a career overview with a few unreleased trinkets, this set is actually a vault of demos and alternate takes, peppered with a few album cuts to give a fairer overview of their short life span. Presented among the 44 tracks in this set are 30 unreleased cuts, a couple of which go right back to the band’s origins when the rhythm section featured White Lion men James Lomenzo and Greg D’Angelo. In other words, there’s a huge amount for fans to get their ears around.
In 2016, The Graham Bonnet Band released ‘The Book’, a brilliant release that managed to look forwards and backwards simultaneously. Its first disc presented a selection of brand new hard rock numbers – many of which represented Bonnet’s best work for a long time – and the second celebrated his past by offering re-recordings of songs originally released by Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group, Alcatrazz and more. The record didn’t especially care for being fashionable, but it was a timely reminder – at least for some – that Bonnet could still deliver the goods when backed by the right musicians.
After leaving Rainbow in the mid-80s, keyboard player David Rosenthal began writing songs with a budding AOR singer named Mitch Malloy. The sessions produced some fantastic material, but circumstances changed and recording sessions for a proposed album were abandoned. Malloy subsequently recorded a solo album (a self-titled release, it was soon considered a melodic rock essential) and Rosenthal set about forming a permanent band. The new band, Red Dawn, saw David drafting in a familiar face in drummer Chuck Burgi – a trusted friend from his Rainbow days – and ex-USA vocalist Larry Baud. For those who heard it, their one and only album, 1993’s ‘Never Say Surrender’ would ultimately change the landscape of 90s melodic rock forever.
At the midpoint of the decade, 1974 appeared to have no definite dominant genres, but that allowed for a very varied singles chart. 1975 very much follows that trend, but pushes some of the focus back to great albums.
Graham Bonnet is one of the UK’s hardest working rock vocalists. In the past, he’s fronted big name bands, been a voice for hire for several widdly guitarists and even found time in between for a hit and miss solo career. When on good form, Bonnet can be terrific (as evidenced on Rainbow’s classic ‘Down To Earth and his own ‘Line Up); when he misses the mark, he has the ability to do so in a devastating way (the Blackthorn debut is pretty nasty, and somehow his solo LP ‘No Bad Habits’ from 1978 ended up being one of the worst albums ever recorded). Despite these inconsistencies, the Skegness born singer has reached legendary status.