Album Review: Joe Bonamassa’s ‘British Blues Explosion Live’

By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa

Album Review: Joe Bonamassa’s album Joe Bonamassa-British Blues Explosion—May 18th via Mascot Label Group—Europe and J&R Adventures in North America.

Two-time Grammy Nominated artist Joe Bonamassa was greatly influenced by the 60’s Brit-Blues bands while honing in on his blues guitar skills during his formative years. He is now paying homage to many of his favorite artists by releasing a double-CD on May 18th called Joe Bonamassa-British Blues Explosion Live. The CD will also be released in vinyl and DVD & Blue-ray since it was recorded during may live performances in Great Britain in 2016.  Bonamassa’s support band included Michael Rhodes (Bass), Reese Wynans (Keyboards), Anton Fig (Drums) and Russ Irwin (Rhythm Guitar & Backing Vocals).

Looking at Bonamassa’s choice of songs, one can see he truly admires Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jack Bruce, since many of the songs include Led Zeppelin, Cream, and The Jeff Beck Band.  The first thing I noticed immediately was the selection of songs on the album are not the most well-known so it does comes across not as a “cover album” or “greatest hits” but genuinely unique, especially for a listener who is not familiar with the original tunes.  Actually, I may even like “Mainline Florida” (not because I reside there) more than Eric Clapton’s version, which was featured in 461 Ocean Boulevard. I really like the tone of Bonamassa’s guitar, the groovin’ riff, and his baritone singing. Bonamassa’s version of “Motherless Children” from the same album totally rocks with his flawless playing, organ accompaniment, and pretty cool drumming of Anton Fig.

Led Zeppelin fans will appreciate “Boogie With Stu” which features the honky tonk piano of Reese Wynans. Lots of fun here!  Not exactly Brit Blues but fits into the album nicely is Bonamassa’s version of Buddy Guy’s “Let Me Love You Baby.”

Bonamassa certainly pays homage to Jeff Beck with songs like “Spanish Boots”, “Plynth”, and “Beck’s Bolero/Rice Pudding.” Pure magic!   Another really dirty, sexy blues song is Bonamassa’s version of father of British Blues, John Mayall’s “Double Crossing Time.”

Being a fan of Cream, the choice of the song “SWLABR” on the album was a welcome surprise. I have always appreciated the late-great Jack Bruce. I have a suggestion!  It is not exactly blues but I would love Bonamassa to play “Tales of Brave Ulysses” on an album. What do you think, Joe?

Possibly my favorite song on the album is “Black Winter/Django” which is not only technically difficult but emotional and just plain stunning. The song is very Spanish and Middle-Eastern flavored—and Django would approve!  The song features plenty of very interesting minor key runs on the neck as well as subtle arpeggios, which meld into almost six minutes of sheer beauty.

Overall, if one really enjoys Brit Blues songs, the revisiting of these classics is a breath of fresh air.



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Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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