Cherry Red's Hear No Evil Recordings imprint has returned to the catalogue of Graham Bonnet with a pair of recent releases. Before stepping into the role vacated by Ronnie James Dio in Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, the big-voiced Bonnet had cut a number of records in a pop/R&B, rather than a hard rock, vein. HNE has reissued and expanded the vocalist's never-before-released 1974 DJM album Back Row in the Stalls on one CD, as well as Graham Bonnet (1977) and No Bad Habits (1978) on a two-fer.
In addition to his considerable accomplishments, Graham Bonnet experienced a number of might-have-beens in his career. He was approached to join Electric Light Orchestra in 1970, then Stealers Wheel in 1972, then Hawkwind. But none of those potential gigs panned out. Neither did his first album, Back Row in the Stalls. Bonnet had experienced some success with his early band The Marbles when the group's recording of The Bee Gees' "Only One Woman" made the U.K. top five. After The Marbles broke up, he recorded solo singles for RCA before publisher Dick James' label DJM signed him to record his first long-player. To bring Bonnet's original songs to life, Kaplan Kaye was engaged to produce. He also played percussion on the album. Bonnet handled guitar (joined by Chris Gray) and bass, and Barry De Souza took on drums. Though Mike Moran played most of the keyboards, virtuoso Rick Wakeman of Yes guested on one track as did Philip Goodhand-Tait.
As Bonnet was recording Back Row, however, Dick James was pursuing his cinema dreams. James produced the musical comedy film Three for All which stared Bonnet's then-wife Adrienne Posta and featured the singer in a small role. Five tracks from the Back Row sessions were siphoned for the soundtrack album of Three for All, credited not to Bonnet but to the fictional band he fronted in the movie, Billy Beethoven. A subsequent single under Bonnet's own name plucked two more tracks form the sessions, but neither the film nor soundtrack album nor single performed well. Bonnet and James ultimately parted ways.
Flash forward to the present day. Bonnet has personally overseen this first-time reissue of Back Row in the Stalls on HNE. Though the master tapes were unable to be located, the CD reissue has been remastered from a pristine cassette copy of the final, mixed album retained by producer Kaye. HNE's first-time presentation of Back Row adds six bonus tracks: his four RCA non-LP tracks and both sides of a single by Adrienne Posta including a rendition of Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody's "Express Yourself."
Bonnet took a different approach for his next album. With producer and multi-instrumentalist Pip Williams, he assembled an eclectic batch of covers on which he could make his mark. They were joined by musicians including Mike Garson and Micky Moody, and recording commenced before Bonnet was actually signed to a label. The material was strong enough that it attracted one: Ringo Starr's Ring O'Records, distributed by Polydor. Graham Bonnet was preceded by the 45 RPM release of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" b/w "Heroes on My Picture Wall," but the single didn't make much commercial traction in the United Kingdom. Yet the single took off in Australia, and propelled the subsequent album to a Gold certification there. The album arrived on Ring O'Records in September 1977, featuring a number of eclectic covers including the Dylan track: Carole King and Gerry Goffin's "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," Daryl Hall and John Oates' underrated Whole Oats track "Goodnight and Goodmorning," Al Green's "Tired of Being Alone," John Kongos' "Sunday 16," and the traditional "Rock Island Line" among them. The material wasn't hard rock, but Bonnet's muscular delivery added edge and attitude to these R&B and pop melodies.
The album didn't sell well in the U.K., and Ring O'Records soon folded. But Bonnet persisted, remaining at the label's successor, Mercury. He reteamed with Pip Williams and John Eden for 1978's No Bad Habits. The LP featured another Dylan cover ("I'll Be Your Baby Tonight") and another three songs by John Kongos, but it also brought Bonnet full circle with its inclusion of a Bee Gees song. The disco-flavored "Warm Ride" was written by The Bee Gees but not released by the group until 2007. Instead, the song was introduced to listeners in versions by Rare Earth and youngest Gibb brother Andy - and Graham Bonnet. "Warm Ride" didn't make much of an impression in the U.K., but the recording went to No. 1 in Australia.
Soon after No Bad Habits, Bonnet was enlisted into Blackmore's Rainbow. It turns out Blackmore had been a fan of The Marbles' "Only One Woman," and at the same time, Rainbow's bassist Roger Glover had been enjoying Bonnet's "Will You Love Me Tomorrow." Bonnet was invited to join Rainbow, where he would leave the pop and R&B of these albums behind. Now, both of these enjoyable LPs can be enjoyed with numerous bonus tracks including single edits, B-sides, 12-inch mixes, and demos of other covers such as an offbeat, uptempo version of Jimmy Webb's "Do What You Gotta Do" and a rock take on Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector's "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling."
Both of HNE's releases have been mastered by Andy Pearce and feature detailed liner notes by Malcolm Dome in the thick, generously illustrated booklets. You can order both titles at the links below!
- Here Comes the Rain
- What's This 'Ere Then
- Private Eye
- Ghost Writer in My Eye
- Saturday's Over
- Back Row in the Stalls
- She May Not Be Much to Look At (But She's Certainly Got a Heart)
- Ade's Song
- Mamma Mine
- Don't Drink the Water
- Dreams (Out in the Forest)
- We're Free
- Whisper in the Night (RCA single 2230, 1973)
- Rare Specimen (RCA single 2230, 1973)
- Trying to Say Goodbye (RCA single 2380, 1973)
- Castles in the Air (RCA single 2380, 1973)
- Dog Song - Adrienne Posta (DJM single DJS 286, 1974)
- Express Yourself - Adrienne Posta (DJM single DJS 286, 1974)
CD 1: Graham Bonnet (Ring O'Records 2320, 103, 1977)
- It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
- Will You Love Me Tomorrow
- Tired of Being Alone
- Wino Song
- It Ain't Easy
- Goodnight and Goodmorning
- Sunday 16
- Rock Island Line
- Soul Seeker
- Heroes on My Picture Wall (Ring O'Records single 2017, 105, 1977)
- Goodnight and Goodmorning (Single Edit) (Ring O'Records 2017, 110, 1977)
- I Who Am I (previously unreleased)
- The Loving Touch - Graham Bonnet and Victy Silva (previously unreleased)
- Do What You Gotta Do (Demo) (previously unreleased)
- It Ain't Easy (Demo) (previously unreleased)
- You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling (Demo) (previously unreleased)
CD 2: No Bad Habits (Mercury 6304,503, 1978)
- I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
- Won't You Join Me
- Warm Ride
- Is There a Way to Sing the Blues
- Can't Complain
- Givin' Up My Worryin'
- Only You Can Lift Me
- Stand Still Stella
- High School Angel
- Cold Lady
- 10/12 Observation (Ring O'Records single 2017, 114, 1978)
- Only You Can Lift Me (Single Edit) (Ring O'Records single 2017, 114, 1978)
- Such a Shame (Mercury single 6001,115, 1978)
- Warm Ride (12-Inch Long Disco Version) (Ring O'Records POSP 002, 1978)
- Warm Ride (12-Inch Long Version) (Ring O'Records POSP 002, 1978)