This is an occasion when I am reviewing a blues legend, and it can be daunting! I mean this guy opened for BB King in 1989, he did 20 shows (to the best of my knowledge) as a 12 year old and picked up the nickname ‘Smokin Joe Bonamassa.’ The legend continues, and this is a live album, “Tales of Time,” released by Provogue/ Mascot Label Group on 14th April.
Joe has been very busy recently, we have details of his upcoming concerts at the end of this review, and a few months back I reviewed Marc Broussard’s “Blues for Your Soul” album that he worked alongside Joe Bonamassa for.
So, how do I review a three time Grammy nominated artist who sits at the top of the blues charts? I think a little background first! The live album was recorded and filmed at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, where Joe performed the entirety of his album “Time Clocks,” plus seminal tracks from his back catalogue. It is another masterclass by Joe in blues school guitar playing, he says of the album:
“This live show represents our most progressive and largest production to date focusing on my most ambitious studio album to date “Time Clocks.” The iconic Kevin Shirley once again has produced both wonderful music and a wonderful visual. My band was a force of nature on this show and it truly was a special night.”
So onto the album, the review is for the ten track CD version. Many of the songs will be familiar to fans, and I do hold that a live album has to add something to the original to make it more than a “Greatest Hits” package under another label. For my money there are not that many live albums that really make the cut, for that reason. However, there is an energy pulse and freshness to this release that shows the desire from Joe to deliver the goods for the fans that were there, and those of us who weren’t.
Picture by Jenise Jensen
“I got miles under my wheels
Notches in my walking cane
Miles under my wheels
Notches in my walking cane
Still winking at hard times
Smiling at the pouring rain” (lyrics by Charlie Starr / Joe Bonamassa / Kevin Shirley)
This opener comes from the album “Time Clocks” (2021) and at just under ten minutes it invites the listener to join the journey. I loved the panther steps of the drum sound that open the track and the smooth guitars welcoming the listener to the live experience. It’s a strong opener, rock n’ blues fuse in an exciting mix.
2. “The Heart That Never Waits”
Another from “Time Clocks,” the live version has the slightly rougher vocal sound and it has a nice sway to it that got me moving! Some pleasing vocal harmonies make the track live.
3. “Curtain Call”
Track seven on “Time Clocks”, “Curtain Call” moves up the playing order here.It has this BIG sound, and is a bluesy rock lament to the mess the environment is in. The highlight in this one is that wonderful guitar riff and an (almost) Eastern style adding to the sound.
4. “Mind’s Eye”
A dreamy number from “Time Clocks.” The guitar style here reminded me of Hank Marvin, it is late night music that I am sure opened up to the arena, with those vocal harmonies rising in a way the life version showcases.
5. “Questions And Answers”
Halfway house with the CD, and we have a fine rocking number from “Time Clocks.” It has this great vocal swagger that aces it, and it works really well live.
6. “The Loyal Kind”
We have the video for this one, below. It is a track that seems to open up live, it runs at just over six minutes, and live, it provides its own energy. It’s a good one! I love the background vocals as well, they add to the immediacy of the show.
7. “Known Unknowns”
This is a commercial sounding blues track, it is again given some great guitar melodies, and it slots into the album fine.
8. “Time Clocks”
A track full of light and shade, contemplative vocals, and the passion of live instrumentals and a band giving their all.
9. “Just ‘Cos You Can Don’t Mean You Should”
This one departs from “Time Clocks” and is pulled from “Redemption” (2018), which the fans love and has this terrific punchy chorus.
10. “Evil Mama”
The album closer also comes from Redemption, where we have the whole band rocking away with “Evil Mama” and closing the album in style.
It’s really good, I loved the listen, and I can’t wait to give it a play while I am on the motorway! It will no doubt storm the blues charts, and it totally deserves to.
There are still tickets left for the UK in May.
By Stevie Ritson
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