Having discovered Graham Bonnet at the same time as most rock fans, through Rainbow's Down to Earth album, which I actually heard before their predecessors with Ronnie James Dio, I have to confess surprise to discover that he had a number five hit in 1968 with the Marbles. Given that it's now fifty-four years later and he's putting out his third Graham Bonnet Band album at the age of seventy-four but sounding as strong as ever, the excellent opener about waking up and seeing an older version of yourself in the mirror kind of makes sense. Maybe It's Just a Frickin' Song is about getting old too, instead of the more obvious subject of writer's block.
Imposter is a strong opener with Bonnet's voice as strong as ever, though I have to say he doesn't vary his trademark emphasis almost at all here. He's either on and delivering at full volume or he wandered off somewhere so guitarist Conrado Pesinato can strut his stuff for a little while, with a fast shred technique. There's not a lot of nuance here until we get to the rather out of place Suzy that wraps up the album with a dose of orchestral musical theatre. I'm not a particular fan of that style anyway but this does nothing to convert me.
I appreciate the more traditional rock material more, even though some of it took a while to reach me and some of it is frankly just there, capable but hardly spectacular. After Imposter, Brave New World and The Sky is Alive stand out as highlights. The former is a little more subtle than Imposter and features a very nice guitar solo, while the latter trawls in the Rainbow textures through both keyboards and guitar that I was hoping might show up somewhere. I have zero clue what it's about but the former is about a gentleman having horizons broadened by a rubber fetishist girlfriend.
It has to be said that the lyrics here captured me, even though they're hardly poetry. There isn't a theme, though there are a couple of songs about getting old and a few more about bizarre things happening. At least I think that's what The Sky is Alive is about because, if it's preaching about an awareness of environmental catastrophe, it's pretty obscure. Certainly the title track is about an incident in Russia where Bonnet apparently drove through the Twilight Zone. Quite a few focus on sexuality, but in completely different ways, David's Mom (or Brave New World) and Uncle John not alike in any other way than sexual urge.
Musically, it's relatively unsurprising. Uncle John thinks about power metal early but chooses not to actually go there. Pesinato occasionally displays a willingness to go full on Malmsteen shred but he never really does. This isn't early Alcatrazz. While the occasional solo feels like it's there just to insert a solo, he does a good job and so does everyone else involved, even if that may just be Beth-Ami Heavenstone on bass because the drums are played by a succession of guests and I don't think keyboardest Alessandro Bertoni is actually in the band.
If you've followed Bonnet's career, there's a bit of everything he's done here, that one song with a Rainbow feel accompanied by heavier songs that remind a bit of Alcatrazz and lighter, commercial ones that approach Forcefield. There's a neat drop into piano late in the title track that works as a tie to the lyrics and as a musical device. The heaviest the album gets is Jester, featuring the guitar of Jeff Loomis of Sanctuary, Nevermore and Arch Enemy—though he's also in Alcatrazz nowadays—and Kyle Hughes of Bumblefoot.
And so, while some of these songs wouldn't be missed if they just vanished off future versions, this is another solid and reliable effort from the ever-consistent Graham Bonnet and his current band.