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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Joe Bonamassa

Now Serving: Royal Tea: Live From The Ryman

Review by Gary Hill

I reviewed the video version of this album in the previous issue of Music Street Journal and promised the CD review for this time around. I really like Bonamassa pretty much all the time. His blend of blues and hard rock is great. On this album it borders on progressive rock. In fact, for the closer he does a couple prog rock covers. However you label this, though, it's a particular effective live album.

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Track by Track Review
When One Door Opens
Keyboards bring this piece into existence, and a real symphonic prog concept rises upward from there. After that introduction, the piece explodes out into killer blues-infused classic rock sounds. It drops from there to a mellower motif that is again prog based. The song continues by punctuating those progressive movements with more blues rock based powered up stuff. Overall this is a decidedly progressive rock oriented tune. It's also so strong. I think this is probably my favorite song from Bonamassa, and this live version really does it justice. Parts of this are purely on fire, and I love the guitar solo.
Royal Tea
A blues powerhouse tune, this comes in with a real smoking hot style. I dig everything about this, but the soulful female backing singers bring something special to it.
High Class Girl
More of a standard blues sound is all over this. The cut has a great electric blues vibe and groove. The organ lends some retro texture, but the whole arrangement makes me think of classy electric blues from the previous decades. This is mean and tasty.
Lookout Man!
Another smoking hot blues rocker, I love the bottom end of this tune so much. The harmonica is a great touch, too. This makes me think of what you might get if Led Zeppelin were just a bit more pure blues and had Bonamassa as a lead singer.
Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye
I love this cut, too. It's part power ballad with plenty of classic rock built into it. The powered up sections are really hard-edged and soaring. The extensive guitar soloing later is so expressive and powerful.
A Conversation With Alice
Another killer rocker, this has a lot of 1970s classic rock sound to it. It has a great balance between mellower and harder rocking sections, too. The instrumental break on this makes me think of The Allman Brothers to some degree.
I Didn't Think She Would Do It
Fast-paced and rocking, this is more of the 70s classic rock styled stuff. It's a real powerhouse tune. There are some cool effects on the guitar on this one.
Beyond The Silence
Dramatic balladic sounds start this cut. It grows out gradually from there. This is another with a great balance between the mellower sections and more rocking ones. This is also another with plenty of classic rock sound in the mix. There are hints of The Allman Brothers and of progressive rock here.
Lonely Boy
A fast-paced blues shuffle is on the menu here. This is much more traditional blues based. It does have some Allman Brothers hints, though. The harmonica brings something special to it, and I love the piano work. In fact, the piano solo is stellar. That guitar soloing later is magical, too. Then again, what else do you expect when it's Bonamassa? The whole extended instrumental section is all class, though.
Cradle Rock
The killer hard rocking guitar solo intro on this borders on heavy metal. The band eventually join in on this screaming hot blues rock tune. The guitar solo section on this again makes me think of The Allman Brothers, as does the bridge that takes it from there.
Walk In My Shadow
The introduction on this seems to have some hints of The Beatles. The cut works out to a more traditional blues sound that has some more of that Allman Brothers thing at play.
A New Day Yesterday / Starship Trooper - Wurm
This comes in with a rather metallic take on the Jethro Tull classic. It's an interesting twist on the tune that I think the Tull guys would appreciate. After that tune works through, the guitar comes up with the familiar Yes strains that build into the powerhouse jam at the end of "Starship Trooper." As a Steve Howe and Yes fanatic, I have to say that I like Bonamassa's interpretation of the piece.


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