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In ancient times when music was considered a tangible possession, music lovers placed their prized vinyl albums in wooden or plastic milk crates. Guests could enter your living room, look through your albums, and find out who you are, and what you’re about. With this idea in mind, I present to you a series of articles about guitar records from the past titled: Albums From The Milk Crate.
Disturbing The Peace
Producer: Eddie Kramer
The year was 1985 and Swedish guitar virtuoso Yngwie J. Malmsteen wasn’t quite working out with Alcatrazz. Vocalist Graham Bonnet, bassist Gary Shea, keyboardist Jimmy Waldo, and drummer Jan Uvena had grown weary of the Phrygian mode, guitar heroics, and face palming personality conflicts. The band’s debut album No Parole From Rock ‘N’ Roll did well with heavy guitar fans thanks to Malmsteen’s Nordic fury, but mainstream success eluded them. They needed a band member they could get a long with, who could write good songs, and who would not turn them into sidemen for guitar clinics.
Unbeknownst to Malmsteen, Steve Vai entered the camp fresh from Frank Zappa’s band and was writing songs for Disturbing The Peace while he was on the road with Alcatrazz on the 1984 Ted Nugent tour. At the end of the tour, Malmsteen was fired, Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Kiss) came in as producer, and recording began.
The ear catching alternating left and right panning of Vai’s guitar on “God Blessed Video” starts things rolling, and continues with a driving beat and classic 80’s era two-handed tapping. It’s an entirely different style of music compared to the first record. Vai dominates as a composer in the same way that Malmsteen did on their debut, but this version of the band displays broader ideas, fresher arrangements, and slicker production. “Mercy,” “Will You Be Home Tonight,” and “Wire And Wood” are all full of Vai trademarks including triple tracked harmonies, whammy dips, flutters, hiccups, and quirky Zappaisms. Graham Bonnet sings his ass off, often times scraping the very top of his vocal range.
On “Desert Diamond” Vai whips out the electric sitar and shines in a guitar solo that loops, bends, arcs, and goes to all kinds of interesting places. This was early Steve Vai before he figured out his signature sound. Hear him go berserk on “Stripper” with all the patented techniques he would later make a part of his regular arsenal. “Painted Lover” grooves with wacky guitar work, and clever evocative lyrics from Bonnet.
The instrumental “A Lighter Shade Of Green” was Vai’s solo spot ala Van Halen’s “Eruption.” Its forty-nine seconds of flawless technique that makes use of Vai’s musicality, legato, and liquid two-handed tapping. “Sons And Lovers,” “Skyfire,” and “Breaking The Heart Of The City” round off the record. It truly rocks with a fresh and imaginative approach to lyrics and melodies.
Disturbing The Peace is a great record with Graham Bonnet at the top of his game. Legendary producer Eddie Kramer gave the record a clear and ballsy sound without succumbing to mid 1980’s production clichés. For guitar freaks this album represents the out of the box coolness of a younger, hungrier, and rawer Steve Vai. The album didn’t do as well as No Parole From Rock ‘N’ Roll so Vai split to join The David Lee Roth Band. Alcatrazz recruited guitarist Danny Johnson for the Dangerous Games album; the band broke-up, and the rest…is history.