One remarkably diverse and hugely entertaining record that is turning forty years old in 2021 is Graham Bonnet’s Line-Up, which was originally released by Vertigo in November 1981. While many lovers and adherents of classic hard rock and heavy metal probably associate Bonnet with Rainbow’s marvellous Down to Earth (1979), Michael Schenker Group’s fiery Assault Attack (1982), and the kick-ass Alcatrazz records from the 80s, Line-Up is one of those underrated outputs that this writer believes warrants closer study and inspection by you, our dear readers, as there is a lot to enjoy here. As stated before, it is a rather varied and memorable opus that is full of excitement and Graham is firing on all cylinders throughout.
Featuring a stellar line-up consisting of such legendary and influential musicians as Jon Lord (Deep Purple, Whitesnake), Cozy Powell (Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Whitesnake), Andy Bown (Pink Floyd, Status Quo), Neil Murray (Black Sabbath, Whitesnake), Micky Moody (Whitesnake), Francis Rossi (Status Quo), and Rick Parfitt (Status Quo) among many other notable figures, it should come as no surprise that Line-Up is a rather impressive and superbly executed affair in all aspects. Recorded at various studios in and around London, the album’s material covers a lot of musical ground in that it ranges from melodically rich hard rock to blues and soul-influenced tracks, and further on to boogie rockers and 50s rock ‘n’ roll tunes.
However, there is a great flow to the thrilling compositions and the record lacks neither coherence nor atmosphere. From the moving ballad, ‘I’m a Lover’ to the sharp, barnstorming ‘Out on the Water’ and further on to the good-time rendition of ‘Be My Baby’, this LP truly displays the vocal talents of Mr Bonnet. Two of its greatest and most well-known gems are ‘Night Games’ and ‘S.O.S.’ with the former pretty much being Graham’s signature tune whenever he performs and tours with his solo outfit. When speaking to renowned music critic and author Martin Popoff about replacing Graham Bonnet in Rainbow, Joe Lynn Turner praised Line-Up and opening track ‘Night Games’ in particular: “I think Graham’s got a phenomenal voice, very stylized voice, but phenomenal nonetheless. I think his work with Rainbow, with Malmsteen…and I love Night Games. I thought his solo album was great!” (Sensitive to Light, 188). In the words of Classic Rock’s Stephen Dalton, “The thrusting lead single, Night Games was smartly pitched at Bonnet’s new legion of post-Rainbow fans, landing at No.6 in the UK chart. But the rest of the album is a broader showcase for his diverse tastes and talents, covering everything from vintage 1950s rock’n’roll to slick 80s synth-funk. Indeed, the muscular groove-rocker Liar isn’t far removed from Queen circa Hot Space.”
In summing up, Line-Up is essentially a riveting collection of catchy songs where things are gelling on all fronts, and it certainly sounds as if all parties involved are having a blast. In terms of its sound and production, it is neither stiff nor rigid, and the mix is a well-balanced one that possesses warmth and dynamics. With some songs being uplifting and others coming across as slightly melancholy, it evokes many different moods, and it is a thoroughly classy LP that oozes charm, charisma, and power. Sadly, it is also overlooked, so do me a huge favour and look it up online or pay your local secondhand record store a visit and obtain a copy of the vinyl and check it out – you will not regret it.
On a final note, I just love the whole aura and vibe of the album artwork and cover – Bonnet looks like a hard rock version of James Dean, I think.
Tracklist (this one pertains to the 2004 re-issue by Cherry Red Records / Lemon Recordings):
- Night Games
- I’m a Lover
- Be My baby
- That’s the Way It Is
- Anthony Boy
- Dirty Hand
- Out on the Water
- Don’t Stand in the Open
- Set Me Free
Recorded at various London studios namely Red Bus, Marquee Studios, The Glade, RAK Studios, RAMP Studios, and Roundhouse Studios. Produced by John Eden and Francis Rossi.
Popoff, Martin. Sensitive to Light: The Rainbow Story. Power Chord Press, 2019.
Dalton, Stephen. Album review of Line-Up, https://www.loudersound.com/reviews/graham-bonnet-line-up, April 15, 2016 – accessed online June 19, 2021.