Good Guitar, Pretty Miserable Material
Robin C. Smith | Westchester County, NY, United States | 12/21/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Joe Bonamassa seems to be everyone's current guitar hero. I bought this to see what the fuss is about. My comments below.
It was a bit worrying to see so many cover versions on a first album, all the more so when two of them are (to me) real duds - Cradle Rock and New Day Yesterday - neither of them a patch on the originals. If you can't at least match the originals why bother? I do, however, enjoy his cover of Free's Walk In My Shadow (what a classic Free track that is though isn't it?)
To save verbiage and to cut to the chase: what do I think?
Guitar playing - excellent throughout - he has really mastered "the solo" and manages to get some great sounds with great melodic input.
Vocals - a bit harsh to my ears - alright I suppose. Sounds rather whiskey-drenched which I don't think is really good as he is such a clean-cut young fella-me-lad.
Material - this is his real Achilles' heel. To me good guitar playing is not enough, you must have good material and his material is pretty poor - rather clichéd lyrics and although the arrangements are interesting and unexpected at times the melodies are very ordinary and not memorable.
Band - workmanlike but nothing special. Sounds like a band assembled for the recording. Doesn't have much personality, rhythm or swing to my ears.
Recording; Typical over-enhanced digital recording - sometimes I do yearn for the good old analog days - but this is not really Bonamassa's fault.
SRV had quite a few tracks on his albums that were retreads and dull, but in general he showed a more sparkling "personality" a much more lively, together, band and better material.
I also find Bonamassa leans to much on the compressed distorted heavy-rock side à la Gary Moore, which after a while rather begins to wear on the ears. Lets have some more subtle playing! Even Jimmy Page and Richie Blackmore understand that heavy overdrive is not always interesting - variety is the spice of life.
Bonamassa has issued more CDs than just this one and I have not heard them yet, so I don't want to be too harsh. He is a very tasty player indeed, but from this offering he needs much better material and a much more subtle touch. This is a common complaint of mine about guitarist's albums - they seem to be designed only to appeal to other guitar players. The warning signs went off in my head when I looked at the track information for this CD - minute detail about what guitar was used for each solo with details of amplification etc etc. This kind of information is food for guitar geeks (I'm one of them by the way) but for more normal people it is a serious warning to keep away as it suggests an album by someone who cares more about the instruments than the actual music.
This review sounds rather too negative. On a positive note. I like his playing (if not much else)- I hope that his other albums are better and I will now sample them carefully to see.