Late last month Joe Bonamassa released his latest album ‘ROYAL TEA’. I won’t lie, I was very eager to hear this one! Recorded in the legendary Abbey Road Studios it was bound to be good! Let’s dive in….
The opener ‘When One Door Opens’ starts with an orchestral piece that’s actually pretty cool.
Then it fades, drum fill and WE ARE IN! A lot of bands go for the big punchy track to open an album, but Joe has done the opposite. The song is quite subdued and it’s over seven minutes long.
The guitar work is quite minimal but still very nice, accompanied throughout by that orchestral sound! A brave move to open an album with this but it paid off! I want more …
Next, we have the title track ‘Royal Tea’, and we get to hear a bit more of that Bonamassa sound that we have come to know. The crunchy guitar licks and breaks really carry the tune and the use of female backing give it a kind of Motown edge on top of the blues.
We then move on to what I can only describe as a BREATHTAKING number! ‘Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye’ took me away for 6 minutes. Just the right amount of reverb on his voice, the sublime guitar tone, the melody, the lyrics, everything is there.
I had to listen to this several times before I could move on. Bonamassa is a modern bluesman but in this ballad, I can hear AOR elements in the hooks and that really floats my boat.
Halfway through it then changes into this build (not so different from Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’). I ask, where are we going now Joe?a crunchy guitar break that’s where….an epic solo that’s where.
Then he takes it back to that chorus which I completely and utterly adore! Now and again a song comes along and hits me like a ten-ton truck. This is one of those songs!
‘Lookout Man’ is the heaviest so far which is a nice change. A dirty groove in this one with some gospel backing vocals to go along with the loosely religious lyrically content.
Then its ‘High Class Girl’ which is a typically classic sounding blues track. The walking bass line, the tongue and cheek lyrics, stops in all the right places and a crunchy solo! A fun track.
‘A Conversation With Alice’ picks up the tempo a little and when the vocal came in, I thought this could very easily have been a Bad Company number and Bonamassa really sounds like Paul Rogers here.
It’s a classic blues rock song and again with hooks all over the place, by the end I had picked it up.
‘I Didn’t Think she would do it’ …GIVE ME WAH WAH !! I was wondering where it had been but that’s JB isn’t it. The guy can play like a demon and sing so damn well but there is no ego.
He’s serves the song like a true pro and this is where he really gives it some welly. A guitar solo that shows what he can really do and a vocal that brings so much soul!
Two thirds of the way through we hit ‘Beyond the Silence’ THAT INTRO!!! WOW! It’s like he’s saying, “Take a walk with me through this dusty and barren land, I’m going to sing you a song” and I reply “YES PLEASE!” It’s hard to look at this song from an analytical perspective because if you connect with music like I do, this is moving! His best vocal on the record in my humble opinion.
The verse sections completely captivate you and the choruses leave you on your knees! The Instruments on this track are flawless, it’s a masterclass in how you make someone hold their head in their hands and say a word I will not repeat! Pure class!
Number 9, ‘Lonely Boy’ a very straightforward, throwback jiving number that is again great musically and fun. Rounding it off, we have ‘Savannah’ and the use of banjo.
It’s a nice sing-along, almost country vibe. I really like the laid-back approach on the vocals here but never losing that tone that I can’t get enough of.
All in All there are some filler tracks this album, which is always to be expected, however a few tracks blew my mind and I will look forward to seeing Joe when it is possible as I cannot wait to hear this album live ! Wonderfully written, arranged and produced …A great modern blues record!
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Review by Luke Short for MPM