ALCATRAZZ: NO PAROLE FROM ROCK'N'ROLL (1983)
No account of 1980's rock would be complete without a proper lambasting of the impressive
Alcatrazz was put together by Graham Bonnet, ex-lead singer of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow; this alone should have raised suspicions, since Bonnet was pretty much a so-so singer in comparison with his predecessor, the illustrious Ronnie James Dio, not to mention coming from a primarily R'n'B background — not exactly the best pedigree to serve as the basis for a new hard rock group. On the other hand, his sole album with Rainbow, Down To Earth, was a best-seller, and it could be hoped that Alcatrazz would be at least a commercially, if not artistically, successful proposition. (Un)fortunately, it wasn't.
Most of the songs are credited to Bonnet and his young guitarist, Swedish prodigy Yngwie Malmsteen; supposedly, Bonnet takes care of the lyrics, while Yngwie is responsible for most of the musical side. There are only two problems to this arrangement: (a) although Bonnet has a fine singing voice, he is a thoroughly pathetic lyricist, and (b) although Malmsteen is as technically accomplished as his legend goes, he is about as good at songwriting as Ed Wood at directing. Other than that, No Parole From Rock'n'Roll is a damn fine record.
At this point, I have to confess an allergy: I belong to the category of people that finds it almost impossible to find any sort of personal pleasure or overall artistic merit in combining «hard rock» or «heavy metal» with «soul». To me, the combination is rotten a priori. Hard rock should put you in an aggressive mood; soul music should mellow you out. How is it possible to be mellow and aggressive at the same time? Imagine saying, "I'll assfuck any bastard that even dares to suggest I'm gay" — think on this for a while — then come back to this album.
Occasionally, the combination might still work somehow — but only if accompanied by meaningful melodies. The ones that Malmsteen writes, however, do not have any meaning that I can discern, other than the general idea of «look at me, here I am soaring towards the sky, but God help me if I know why I'm actually doing it». And whenever he does succeed at finding a groove pregnant with a sincere impression (usually stolen, e. g. 'Hiroshima Mon Amour', which pockets the riff of 'You Really Got Me'), up comes Bonnet with his silly, pompous vocal tone to run it into the ground — and then Yngwie plays a hollow set of flashy solo licks to bury it once and for all. And have I mentioned the corny early-Eighties keyboard sound yet?
There is not one single track on this record, be it a fast thrasher, a mid-tempo rocker, or a slow ballad, that would tug at one single string inside me — a rare occasion indeed. All the more surprising, since the closest thing this Alcatrazz sound can remind one of are similarly structured Gary Moore records of the early Eighties, and those definitely had their share of excellent songs next to absolute stinkers, even though
Well, only thing left to suppose is that Mr. Moore just had a bit of God's gift in him, or, to be precise, invested some of that gift into the art of songwriting; Mr. Malmsteen, unfortunately, put all of it on the Zero of technical accomplishment — and won, to the world's utmost sorrow. No Parole From Rock'n'Roll? Come on, guys, this isn't even a good internal rhyme. And this isn't rock'n'roll, either. Thumbs down.