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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Joe Bonamassa

Royal Tea

Review by Gary Hill

This new album from Joe Bonamassa might be his best release to date. The opening track, which definitely leans toward progressive rock in a big way, could well be the best song he's ever done, too. Everything on this disc works so well, and it never feels repetitive. It changes nicely from song to song. If you've never given Bonamassa a chance, this might be the perfect introduction to his music.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
When One Door Opens
Symphonic elements brings this into being. The cut has a dramatic orchestral introduction. Then the rocking blues guitar climbs in to bring the song to fruition. The layers of sound over the top are great. It drops to a rather proggy mellower arrangement for the entrance of the vocals. This really has an early 1970s vibe to it. This is powerful and an unexpected way to start the album. It is very much a blues rock based prog piece. There are some great shifts and changes here. There is a full symphonic prog movement later that turns decidedly metallic as it continues. It turns into more of a Led Zeppelin thing as it pounds into more pure blues rocking zones later. After that section peaks we are brought back into mellower modes for the final vocal movement. This piece is just amazing and such a great way to start the album.
Royal Tea
This comes in with more of a standard blues rocking sound. It definitely calls to mind Led Zeppelin in some ways. The backing vocals bring more of a traditional blues arrangement. This is a powerhouse rocker that works well. It pales a bit in comparison to that opener, but most songs would.
Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye
The introduction to this powers in with a hard rocking jam, but it drops to a classy balladic approach from there. The track is evocative and beautiful. This makes good use of the contrast between the mellower and more powered up. It's a particularly effective blues rock song.
Lookout Man!
The bass starts this with a real classic rock riff. The other instruments and backing vocals join, and this becomes a serious hard rocking bluesy number that's on fire.
High Class Girl
A classic blues grind is on display here. This is another powerhouse tune. It's also much more of a traditional sounding piece. This gets intense and driving. It has some incendiary guitar soloing, too.
A Conversation With Alice
High energy blues rocking sounds bring this stomper into being. It drops to a mellower classic rock sounding arrangement for the verse. There is a bit of a southern rock element at play. This is another classy number.
I Didn't Think She Would Do It

A powerhouse rocker, this still has plenty of blues built into it. It's a screamer. I love the fiery guitar soloing along the road.

Beyond The Silence
A more laid back number, this has a bit of a country edge to it, but is really firmly set in the blues rock of the classic variety zone. This is evocative and dramatic and powers up into harder rocking zones at times. The short keyboard interlude is classy.
Lonely Boy
Here we get a swinging and swaying old school bluesy rocker. There is plenty of jazz in the mix here. This is very retro in sound. It's a classy nod to eras long gone. I love the pounding piano solo.

Now this is a huge change. The cut has a real country meets southern rock vibe to it. Mandolin and organ reinforce that connection. This more of a melodic, almost ballad-like tune. It's also particularly effective and accessible. It makes for a good closing shot.

 

 
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