JOE BONAMASSA – YOU AND ME

Joe_Bonamassa_-_You_&_Me

Out now on Mascot/Provogue
Original review published in 2006

Joe Bonamassa, a household name in the blues community, was recently elected as the youngest member of the board of directors of The Blues Foundation, the USA’s largest and most respected blues music organisation – quite an honour, yet give the quality and quick turnaround of his last five albums you can see why. “You and Me” is Bonamassa’s sixth studio CD and contains 11 brand new tracks and is home to a monster backing band in Jason Bonham on drums (yes John’s son) and Carmine Rojas on Bass Guitar and Rick Melick on Organ and Tambourine.

Bonamassa is clearly in music for one reason – the music. This shines through his relentless non stop touring (always on the road) or recording new material when not on tour. Bonamassa is taking blues back to the people and at his tender age don’t be surprised if this guy really hits in the next couple of years – much as Stevie Ray Vaughan did.

What Joe has going for him, more so than many other US blues players is a strong British vibe in his work, you can hear the influences the like of Clapton, Page and Beck have had on him and the majority of his material reflects the heavier guitar side of blues – albeit with more tradition and soul than Gary Moore has shown on his last few “through the motions” blues releases.

Stylistically this is a great mix of tunes from the traditional opener “High Water Everywhere” to the blistering blues rock of “Bridge To Better Days”, the slow blues of “Asking Around For You” and the musically rich instrumental “Django” . The album even features a faithful cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Tea For One” (one of their often overlooked gems), really the guitar playing is faultless, the song writing top notch and performances superb. My only real gripe is Kevin Shirley’s production which to these ears has added an overly dark edge to Bonmassa’s raw tone (I prefer the production on the previous ‘Had To Cry Today’) but this is a minor niggle.

Overall “You and Me” is another quality release from this blues hound which is as good as the previous release ‘Had To Cry Today’.

Rating – 90%

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JOE BONAMASSA – A NEW DAY YESTERDAY LIVE

BONA_NEWLIVE

Out now on Mascot/Provogue
Original review published in 2005

This live recording from Joe Bonamassa, a guitarist that has the potential to be the next mega guitar hero is actually from a gig back in 2001. Recorded at Ft. Wayne, Indiana, USA this originally cropped up as a bonus DVD on a ltd edition version of Bonamassa’s “So, Its Like That” album, this has since become a collectors item (incidentally this disc will see a DVD bonus disc for a ltd edition Europe – pick it up – it smokes!).

In short “A New Day Yesterday Live” showcases Bonamassa in the live arena and not only features his immense guitar work, tone and taste, but also that of the rest of the power trio and indeed Bonamassa’s vocals. We have a mix of original and cover material (such as Jeff Beck’s “Rice Pudding”) and there is not a duff moment in sight. Album closer “Don’t Burn Down That Bridge” is the highlight with its sublime riff and blistering lead work from Joe.

Overall, this is an excellent addition to any fan of smokin’ guitar work and live energy.

Rating – 85%

JOE BONAMASSA – HAD TO CRY TODAY

bona_cry

Out now on Mascot/Provogue
Original review published in 2004

You want blues? You got them and you also have probably THE best blues album for some years (or at least since the last Bonamassa release). For the uneducated this Bonamassa is in his early 20’s yet has the vocabulary of a player that has absorbed all the blues has to offer and then turns into his own recognisable style. Forget Kenny Wayne Shepher, Johnny Lang, heck Stevie Ray Vaughan, this is the new voice in blues and boy can the kid play.

If you have a penchant for Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck (rough and ready era), the blues side of Led Zeppelin mixed with hints of Allman Brothers then Had To Cry Today is an essential purchase. Had To Cry Today sees a collection of new Bonamassa originals and covers. Opener “Never Make Your Move Too Soon” opens the album is fine style with its upbeat rocking pulse before the delta blues slide of  “Travellin South” is perfect for cruising in the car. Every track has merit yet the title track and cover of the Blind Faith track “Had To Cry Today” takes pick of the bunch. Here Bonamassa makes the song his own and the 2 solos here are so full of taste, aggression and plain exuberance that any guitar fan will lap this up.

“Had To Cry Today” is a must have purchase for anyone with a liking for blues rock guitar.

Rating – 90%

KARL DEMATA – CROSS THE MOUNTAIN

Released September 12th 2011 on Green Lizard Records

An Italian native but after a period of travelling now a UK resident, Karl Demata steps up to the plate to release his debut album of blues powered rock.  Inspired by the late sixties British and American blues rock scene Karl has a playing palette that covers numerous genres yet its his love of the blues that if featured here.

With a style not a million miles away from vintage sounds ala Cream and the Allman Brothers, “Cross The Mountain” is a power trio offering which at times also has hints of Joe Bonamassa’s earlier work and from a heavier side of things the Stoney Curtis Band.  With some tasty guitar work and pleasing songs this is an enjoyable listen, nothing groundbreaking but Karl’s guitar work will you’re your interest throughout the 11 tracks. Also for blues fans out there the album features guest performances from percussionist Hugh Flint (from John Mayall Bluesbreakers ‘Beano’ fame).

Highlights to these ears come in the guise of the laid back “Until The End” with its moody slide parts, the upbeat  groove of “Looking Through You”  and the mid-tempo waters of “Failing Design” which its Bonamassa style groove and creamy lead lines creates an intoxicating sound.  On the downside the production is rather basic and lacks some excitement in the final mix but as this is self financed its more than acceptable and still perfectly listenable. Also Karl’s vocals don’t always sit well with some of the material, on the moodier numbers they work well and have an almost Bob Dylan meets Johnny Winter drawl to them which is likeable enough, but for the most part Karl does tend to stay within a comfort zone m which does come across as a little monotonous after a while.

That said this is a pleasant enough debut release and worth a check out for blues rock fans out there.

Rating – 75%

PUSHKING – THE WORLD AS WE LOVE IT

Released February 28th 2011 on Edel/earMusic.

Pushking are one of Russia’s biggest rock bands having released 15 albums to date, but then without the exposure of the like Gorky Park got in the late 80’s how are we to know?  But with  “The World As We Love It”; and thanks to producer Fabrizio Grossi that may well change for band have scored one hell of a guest list for their new album which sees selected cuts from the bands previous releases re-recorded each with a special guest or two on each.

As for the guest list how do the likes of Billy Gibbons, Nuno Bettencourt, Alice Cooper, John Lawton, Steve Stevens, Paul Stanley, Steve Salas, Steve Vai, Graham Bonnet, Glenn Hughes, Jeff Scott Soto, Joe Bonamassa, Eric Martin, Udo Dirkschneider, Dan McCaffery, Joe Lynn Turner, Jorn Lande and Steve Lukather grab you?

Musically this is competent hard rock nothing truly spectacular but a pleasant enough listen from start to finish.
 
Highlights come in the guise of the Alice Cooper led “Troubled Love” which is a nice mix of Cooper’s 70’s rock and late 80’s commerciality.  The melodic minor blues of “Tonight” with Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa is touching and classy whilst Hughes also sounds great on “Private Own”.   Bluesy hard rock fans are well catered for with the Joe Lynn Turner led “Head Shooter” and Paul Stanley leads the commercial rocker “Cut The Wire” with his usual flare and panache.  Steve Vai plays with more emotion than normal on the excellent “My Reflections After Seeing The Schindlers List Movie” and its another highlight.

Its not all good though, Udo Dirkschneider will always be an acquired taste and “Nature’s Child” is quite laughable in places thanks to his pneumatic drill delivery, likewise Graham Bonnet has delivered better than what is heard on “God Made Us Free” although the song itself is not too bad.

Musically the Russian band are competent players with nothing flashy or overly original to either annoy nor dazzle but they can pen a good tune as it evident from the majority of this release.

Overall a nice addition to the collection for fans of the assembled guest list.  The production is perfectly fine and there is a nice pace to the 19 tracks on offer. 

One to look into further.

Rating – 83%



JOE BONAMASSA – BLACK ROCK (REVIEW)

Out now on Provogue Records

Yet another bold, confident, masterful release from “the future of blues rock”. Joe and Kevin Shirley retreated to Santorini Greece to seek new inspiration and to break in a brand new studio set in the cliffside. The result is the very mature “Black Rock” which comprises 5 Joe penned originals and 8 cover tunes. Four tunes include traditional Greek instrumentation, best of those is “Quarryman’s Lament” which is one of Joes best riff compositions yet, you will be humming this one; a lot.

Joe’s vocal performance is also his best yet, and as always, plenty of snarly classic tone guitar riffage is evident, primarily on killer tracks like “Blue & Evil”, Bobby Parker’s “Steal Your Heart Away” and the great cover of Jeff Beck’s “Spanish Boots” . The highlight for Joe on this album is the participation of B.B. King on the Willie Nelson standard “Night Life”, and a great guest spot it is too, B.B. still rocking hard in his eighties and perhaps left just a little out of breath by tunes end. The most surprising inclusion however, is Joe’s take on Leonard Cohen’s poignant “Bird on a Wire”, replete with traditional Greek instrument embellishment.

Overall, this is another positive step in Joe’s steep developmental process. Only qualm is that perhaps the production is perhaps just a tad too clean, not enough dirt left under the fingernails for a big rock small blues production. The guaranteed success of this offering will once again have the blues purists cringing, but Joe’s popularity continues to grow in leaps and bounds and rightly so. Well done Joseph….. I eagerly await the as yet officially unnamed “suppa groupa” project from Joe, Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian later this year, should rock hard.

Rating – 85%
Review by Mike Blackburn

BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION – BLACK COUNTRY (REVIEW)

Released 20th September 2010 – Mascot Records
 
On the strength of some simpatico vibes generated by a Glenn Hughes guest vocal appearance at a Joe Bonamassa concert, and probably fuelled somewhat by the commercial success of the Hagar/Satch Chickenfoot project, the genesis spark for this “super group” was struck. There are precious few of these amalgamations that have generated much critical success (including said ‘Foot) and so it was with great trepidation that I cracked open this offering. The main concern was the quality of the 60 plus vocal chords of one Glenn Hughes. A few live YouTube videos exacerbated that concern……

Well then, there was no need for concern was there? Glenn sounds magnificent, Joe slashes and burns throughout; Derek adds timely keyboard flourishes and Jason whomps down a solid backbeat his dad would be proud of. This is one heavy slab of majestic top drawer rockness . The sucker takes three or four songs to get off the ground and then soars through the following onslaught, masterfully engineered by Joe’s maestro of choice these days, Kevin Shirley. “Sista Jane” is as close as you will ever hear Glenn and Joe to AC/DC territory. The compositions are surprisingly strong, given the short time frame utilized to produce this sucker.

I have but one slight qualm. Joe, when noodling for his own pleasure, or shredding, has a tendency to rely on this really cool Eric Johnson phrasing riff. We get to hear that riff, however flawlessly performed, a tad too often here. Regardless, Joe’s performance here on six string, and vocally I might add (the fact that Joe can hold his own with an in form Hughes speaks volumes as to his emergence as THE premier rock-blueser on the planet) is superb. This, should they choose to make it so, IS a super group and this CD is a must have. The Trapeze standard “Medusa” is a thing of beauty to behold.

Thanks guys for sticking to your guns as this slab almost did NOT see the light of day…..

Rating – 90%
Review by Mike Blackburn

KEN’S DOJO – REINCARNATION (REVIEW)

Out Now – Metal Heaven

Ken’s Dojo is a project by Ken Ingwersen. A glorious unknown to me. Apparently he’s worked with several illustrious names over the years. Chesney Hawkes however? You’d get more street cred working with Aqua… In recent years Ken has been part of a production team that allegedly scored major successes in Europe and Asia. He’s also a member of Ken Hensley’s touring band.

For this, his first solo album, Ken has opted for the rock approach. A gentle mix of prog and AOR with obvious pop influences. “Keeping The Flame Alive” gives a firm nod in the proggy direction, while ballad “I Surrender” could very well be a hit if only the mainstream media could pull their heads out of their asses for long enough.

There are several guest musicians implicated, not all of whom will ring a bell.
Glenn Hughes (excellent on “I Surrender”) and Ken Hensley are the biggest names. Ken is an accomplished guitarist who manages to steer clear of the clichés yet come up with interesting lines. Not all songs are equally strong (some, like “Come Alive”, could have done with a bit of careful editing), but there’s precious little potential for embarrassment.

Rating – 80%
Review By Sancho