JOE BONAMASSA — Royal Tea (review)

JOE BONAMASSA — Royal Tea album cover Album · 2020 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
snobb
American blues rock guitarist and vocalist Joe Bonamassa is probably one of the known blues-rock artists of his generation. Different from previous generations of American bluesmen, his influences were the British blues-rock of John Mayall and Cream, as well as early bluesy prog rockers (Jethro Tull, etc). Starting his recording career in 2000, Bonamassa jumped up right to the forefront of the modern blues rock scene, combining American blues and r'n'b roots with British rock energy and prog complexities.

Still it took two decades before he did the next step in the same direction-recording a British blues rock album at Abbey Road studio in London with some of the genre's leading legends on support. The result is as great as one could expect.

"Royal Tea" sounds as if it had been recorded in the early seventies, or late 80s, in Britain. Nothing strange - almost all of the song's co-authors are Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden and former Cream lyricist Pete Brown. Marsden participates as backup vocalist as well as another British celebrity, Jools Holland (co-author/piano on one song).

The opener, "When One Door Opens", is a big sound high energy hard rock hymn recorded with The Bovaland Symphonic Orchestra. Rest of the songs are all perfectly recorded in a fashion of Cream's early albums - full bodied soft clear sound. Most important thing is Bonamassa doesn't try to copy or imitate his heroes, he just plays original music that could be created in England during the late 60s. His band's drummer, Anton Fig, (who played on tours/recordings with Madonna, Mick Jagger and Kiss among many others) does a fantastic job creating an atmosphere of the stadium rock era.

Album's first half is all winners with the heavy ballad, "Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye"(influenced by both Cream and Whitesnake), groovy rocker "Lookout Man!", and the album's trade mark "Royal Tea". When listening, seasoned rock fans can easily recall late 60s/early 70s period of time, when almost any new album was a collection of fresh and extremely high quality songs, no fillers.

The album's second half is strong enough too, but is less influenced by British blues rock and sounds mostly as just another Bonamassa typical "American" album. "Lonely Boy", a Jools Holland influenced rockabilly, sounds quite strange and is out of the place here. The closer, "Savannah", is a Southern rock piece, which looks like it's added just to complete the album's space since there were not enough original material.

Still, the whole album sounds fresh and really inspired, it's material alone could build a strong tour program, which will be released soon (and recorded on Bonamassa's next, live album).
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