Appearing as if from nowhere, Slow Gin brought this brilliant artist to my attention, and I have thoroughly enjoyed building up my collection with his back catalogue. I've only had the chance to listen to this the whole way through once and it hits you immediately in the solar plexus, just how good a guitarist this guy is, how well produced this album is and most strikingly for me, what a good singer he is. Often underrated that, and I am looking forward to the Royal Albert Hall gig all the more now.
One further point in Joe's favour is that my 11 year old lad has declared him his favourite "band" (I know!) and anyone who can turn a boy of that age away from all that hip hop rubbish has to be a good thing. The RAH gig will be his first ever gig as well and I can't help thinking that it will be hard act to follow.
Anyway, enough of this self-serving stuff, the bottom line is that this is blues rock of the highest calibre and deserves a wider audience.
on 28 February 2009
Many Bands produce their best work in the early days - U2/Bon Jovi/Clapton etc but we think that they'll then progress further which is often not the case. However to play the blues with such maturity of tone and texture must come through time yet with JBM he seems have torn the rule book up here. This is whats makes it so refreshing that we have a young head who still has the bite for creativity and daring to not conform but with the class of an elder blues statesmen.
His own tracks and covers are well put together and the album has very deep gritty feel to it with JBM throwing himself 100% into tracks you thought no one would dabble with. His voice and music complement each other very well.
The feel of the album feels so natural and is not overworked. Jockey Full of Bourbon and the soulful happier times to me are the stand out tracks but generally there all up there.
The blues just flaws effortlessly and the guitar work sways from moody deep chords throught to blistering licks.Never overworked or overstated.
We've been blessed with 2 greats this year with albums and tours JBM and Gary Moore however....Been Honest - This will give the technically brilliant Gary Moore (but becoming predictable)more than a good run for his money and will hopefully drag him out of his comfort zone and get him to become creative (again)as this is the type album I have craved from him for some time.
A very good album and... if this guy can perform live... this album/tour will put JBM in the arenas next time around...Watch this space.
on 2 February 2010
Firstly let me say this review is not a JB vs. Gary Moore comparison as so many other writers seem to promote. They're very different players and I've always thought Bonamassa was far closer to Robben Ford in style and tone. You can also dismiss claims that Joe is the new Stevie Ray - they've little in common.
I don't see this as a 5-star album because (a) all the tracks that are on both this and his live DVD sound far better in the concert setting - this has to be an indictment of the production and arrangements used in the studio; and (b) Bonamassa's voice becomes slightly monotonous if you listen to the entire album in a sitting. In particular the singing style (constantly bending up a third at the end of lines) in the more overtly blues numbers hardly varies. This is a pity as his voice is very distinctive and some of his own compositions have quite good melodies.
His guitar playing is very accomplished (MUCH better live) but it's obscured in many places by what I consider to be overproduction, too many fx and a "slickness" that doesn't sit well with blues music. The title track and "Last Kiss" are live stormers but here they sound too repetitive. "Stop", "Jockey full of Bourbon","Lonesome road Blues" "Happier Times" and "Story of a Quarryman" are terrific songs but this album is not any better than "You & Me" or "Blues deLuxe" and I would recommend going for the Albert Hall DVD as a better option or his Rock Palast DVD (as a 3-piece) both of which are 5-star releases.
OK, I'll 'fess up. In the past I have found a lot of Joe Bonamassa's output on the lumpen side. There, I said it. I feel a whole lot better now. So I wasn't overly excited about this, the follow up to 2007's Sloe Gin. But I'm delighted to say that this is an absolute belter, and the best album Mr Bonamassa has ever produced. I can now consider myself converted to the cause.
Featuring twelve tracks, it consists of seven originals alongside five cover versions, including a Tom Waits tune, "Feelin' Good" as covered by just about everybody (including John Coltrane, Muse and George Michael), the fabulously titled "Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter" (previously recorded by Nina Simone and Ike & Tina Turner, amongst others), a Tony Joe White tune, and most peculiarly a turn at "Stop!," originally a hit for Joe Brown's daughter Sam, and later covered by UK soul/pop singer Jamelia.
His last album went straight in at Number One on the US Billboard Blues chart and even got into the Top 50 in the UK, so the pressure is definitely on, especially with Bonamassa hailing The Ballad Of John Henry as "my strongest work to date." And, for once, that isn't mere hyperbole as the working class hero title track kicks things off in tremendous style before the Sam Brown tune is transformed into a slow blues, brass punctuated gem.
On into "Last Kiss," and Bonamassa finally cranks up his guitar for all the fretheads out there. I'm still not wholly convinced that Aerosmith, Journey and Iron Maiden producer, Kevin Shirley, is the right man for the production chair, as there is still the occasional stumble into generic rock, but there's considerably less of it than on earlier releases.
There really isn't a weak track on offer here, with even Tom Waits' "Jockey Full Of Bourbon" transformed into a grubby musical delight. If you're looking for some hard rock, then try "Story Of A Quarryman;" if it's the blues you crave, then head for "Lonesome Road Blues." The aforementioned horns also add some nice touches to Ailene Bullock's "Funkier than a Mosquito's Tweeter" and, best of all, "The Great Flood," which has a remarkably inventive arrangement. It helps that he's got an all star backing band including ex David Bowie/Rod Stewart bassist Carmine Rojas, former Joe Cocker and KISS drummer Anton Fig and one-time Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin on rhythm guitar.
He seems to have made a wilful, if graduated, move away from the mainstream Seventies blues-rock vibe he'd been mining for a while prior to the more acoustic based Sloe Gin; and it's the increasingly adventurous musical statements that has lifted this album head and shoulders above anything he's done before. Whether it's the slide drenched "Feelin' Good" or the funky swamp blues of "As The Crow Flies" (as previously covered by Rory Gallagher), this is an album Mr Bonamassa can be justly proud of.
on 17 April 2009
From the very first track which happens to be the title track to the last this album delivers sheer class. I predict it will be a future classic or there's no justice in this world. Bonamassa's vocals are excellent as is his guitar playing, where he captures the very essence of every song. John Henry is sung as though he was telling someones life story, Stop is played with sheer genius where the notes just mesmerize. And then there's the Last Kiss which rolls on a melody which does not fail to get your foot tapping and leads up to the wonderful Jockey Full Of Bourbon with it's bar room piano and gut wrenching lead. At this point you are not even half way through the album and I just wanted more and more. The recording quality is excellent with crystal clear presentation and good sound stage when listening on stereo speakers or headphones. I recommended this album prior to it's release to a work colleague who heard a few tracks and went and bought the album even before I did. It will be a hard album to follow up on for Joe.
on 25 February 2009
I was already a fan, but when the man himself says "its his best work to date", then take a deep breath. For many fans his best work is done live but the music is born in the studio and this time he has both stepped out, and stepped up.
Vocally better than ever, creative production, great performances. The guitar playing is a given,of course, and any covers songs are always both imaginative choices and intelligently developed,so what is so special about TBOJH? Well, for me, the depth and quality of HIS writing is striking. The whole album has a real sense of purpose. We've known he has been developing his talent but he has come a long way in quite a short time. At what point does an artist stop being great and become GREAT? This album goes a long way to answering that question. His next tours are going to be incredible events. I doubt John Henry himself could have hit harder..
on 10 March 2009
Well here we are with album seven of Joe collection. Probably this has been the most eagerly awaited of them all due to Joe's growing popularity over the last three or four years. Possibly it's his best yet. Sloe Gin got a great response when it came out in 2007. While some may wish for a little more acoustic guitar on this album, I think for the most this album beats it in every way, with a greater variety of songs. I welcome the fact most of the tracks were written by Joe (without co-writers) and the covers for the most part also enhance the album. Here's a quick track by track consideration.
The Ballad of John Henry - A great stomping opener, indicates Joe is keen to drive on with new album with this tribute to the working man. Instrumental midsection recalls Kashmir.
Stop! - Here's a surprise a slow song, so early in the album, it works though, a great slow burner that reaches a great crescendo - two tracks, such variety already.
Last Kiss - A stopping song with a heavy variation of the Rollin n' Tumblin riff, this is Joe and the band direct. With some airplay, I can see this being a track to introduce fans of acts such as the Black Keys.
Jockey Full of Bourbon - Cover of a Tom Waits song, which is different territory for Joe, yet Joe makes very much his own
Story Of A Quarryman - This is more of a rocker and recalls some of Joe's heavier work before You & Me, the continuing saga of John Henry?
Lonesome Road Blues - Light hearted blues song written by Joe a long time ago, we're on more familiar ground here, but it's great, how could it have stayed hidden for so long!
Happier Times - This is a standout song, a beautiful slow blues song about relationships. Very personal to Joe of course, it could be the second best song he has ever written.
Feelin Good - A cover that runs very close to Nina Simone's version with obviously more guitar prominence. While the track is inessential Joe sings it really well, I doubt several years ago he would have had the courage to tackle this track, he manages it superbly.
Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter - This is the song where the horns are most prominent, and it works, really well! We've never heard Joe like this before but doesn't it sound good, another track that could break boundaries.
The Great Flood - I think this is the best song Joe has written. Another great blues song, which again features great vocals and guitar work and an AC Reed style sax solo. Bonamassa's guitar is more subtle and restrained in this song than any other and the song does benefit from it.
From The Valley - Nice acoustic instrumental that could have closed the album well, sadly it doesn't.
As The Crow Flies - Does anyone remember the cover of Howlin' Wolf's Killing Floor done by Electric Flag? The way it was recorded completely misplaced the feeling and emotion of the original song. I'm afraid that's what happens on this track. A song about longing and absence from a loved one, played to a feel-good riff. Sorry Joe, but this does not work, listen to Aynsley Lister's version instead!
So all in all a great album with some great rocking orginal tunes, some good covers. My only gripe is that there could be a little more subtlety and restraint on some of the slower tracks and that the feel of As The Crow Flies more lonesome. It's worth considering purchasing this as a double with Aynsley Lister's new album Equilibrium to see what I mean.
on 15 June 2009
Having heard JB on 'Later with....', I took a flyer and bought the album, and literally had my socks blown off! It may be a throwback to the '70's of Free/Bad Co with a big dose of delta blues, but anything Eric Clapton says should be taken seriously!! The opening title track sets you up for things to come, and is as good a driving track as you will hear. His versions of Sam Brown's 'Stop' and Nina Simone's 'feelin' good' does them proud, and his self penned tracks are no less impressive. If you like your rock to be well crafted and a little nostalgic Joe will not dissapoint. Check him out on 'You Tube' - you'll also want to see him live!
on 21 March 2009
Joe himself has hailed the Ballad of John Henry as his best piece of work yet. I'm not fully in agreement with that (I belive that Blues Deluxe will take some beating by anyone!) - but it is a cracking album and I have had it on repeat in the car ever since it arrived!
Once again, Joe shows that he is anything but a one trick pony as he belts out his blues rock style on tracks such as Last Kiss, Story of a Quarryman and the title track BOJH.
Joe hits top form with cracking blues guitar and vocals on his cover of the Tom Waits "Jockey Full of Bourbon", the old smokin' blues classic "Feelin' Good" and his own compositions "Lonesome Road Blues" (has a Sonny Landreth feel to it) and the acoustically adept "Happier Times".
Where Joe really shows all his versatility is in my two stand out tracks "The Great Flood" which is a guitar masterpiece and the final track - his take on Tony Joe White's "As the Crow Flies" which he carries off with such a funky rockin' style that you are compelled to start from Track 1 all over again.
Another fantastic chapter in the brilliant Joe Bonamassa career. Already established as the best guitarist of this generation Joe continues to build up his growing reputation with BOJH.
on 4 March 2009
Despite this guy having been in the business for 20 years now - and yes, he's just 31! I only got switched on to him just three years ago. Yes I'm a fan, and I connot describe how much better he is live than on disc - suffice to say he is the hottest ticket in town if he is coming your way, do anything, pay anything, just go see him and be prepared to lift your chin off the floor. This album, on first listen, I was a little disappointed, but my listening was fragmented by business calls. However, on a start to finish listen with the volume cranked high this album delivers in waggon loads. There are some exceptional covers, something that Mr Bonamassa excels in, but his own songs, tainted by a bitter sweet relationship ending last year tipped him over into a being songsmith of unique proportions - Such feeling, such depth, such playing. He is, without doubt one of the finest guitarists of the present age. Having seen him live, I can only say that his studio work has been helped enormously by the production of Kevin Shirley, someone who Joe Bonamassa really holds in high esteem and rightly so. If you don't have this album - get it, you will not be disappointed, more importantly go see him live - if you can get a ticket!