ALCATRAZZ (1982–87; 2007–PRESENT). Classic lineup: Graham Bonnet (vocals), Yngwie Malmsteen (guitar, 1982–83), Jimmy Waldo (keyboards), Gary Shea (bass), Jan Uvena (drums), Steve Vai (guitar, 1984–85), Danny Johnson (guitar, 1985–86).
Alcatrazz is perhaps best remembered as the group that launched shredmeister Yngwie Malmsteen into international prominence. Formed in 1982, the band featured ex-Rainbow and Michael Schenker vocalist Graham Bonnet, bassist Gary Shea, and keyboardist Jimmy Waldo—both formerly of the band New England, and drummer Jan Uvena, along with Malmsteen, who had been playing with the L.A. band Steeler. Their debut album, No Parole from Rock ‘n’ Roll, released in 1983, was similar in style to the music of Bonnet’s former group Rainbow, guitardriven melodic hard rock featuring keyboards and occasional classical touches, albeit with a more high energy approach. The album was a solid affair, combining the classical overtones of Rainbow and Malmsteen’s primary inspiration, Ritchie Blackmore, and proved an apt vehicle for the establishment of the Swedish guitarist’s reputation. Songs such as “Hiroshima Mon Amour” and the scorcher “Jet to Jet” established the band as a formidable contender in the sweepstakes of rock, and Bonnet and Malmsteen as an effective songwriting team. Unfortunately, the album itself performed poorly, and after a hastily released live album, Malmsteen departed for a solo career.
The band next hired ex-Frank Zappa guitarist Steve Vai in 1984, who quite ably filled Malmsteem’s shredding shoes and went on to play up a storm on 1985’s Disturbing the Peace. Missing, however, was the songwriting element, and the album soon tanked, with Vai departing shortly after.
The band soldiered on with ex-Derringer and Axis guitarist Danny Johnson taking over guitar duties. Unfortunately, the resulting album, Dangerous Games (1986), did no better than its predecessors, and the band packed it in after a short tour.
In 2007, vocalist Bonnet put together a new lineup under the Alcatrazz banner and toured Japan, and were said to be recording a new album.
Discography: Live Sentence (Grand Slamm, 1984); No Parole from Rock ‘n’ Roll (Grand Slamm, 1984); Disturbing the Peace (Capitol, 1985); Dangerous Games (Capitol, 1986); Best of Alcatrazz (Tokuma, 2007).