Joe Bonamassa - Different Shades of Blue

Provogue Records
Produced by Kevin Shirley

It's been two years since Bonamassa's last solo studio release in the shape of Driving Towards The Daylight. For most artists that's a seemingly ordinary amount of time between releases, but by Joe's standards it's quite a lengthy spell. The reason being is that Different Shades of Blue is the first release in a while from the blues rock virtuoso to feature all original material, with the writing credits being shared between the impressively talented array of Jonathan Cain, James House, Jerry Flowers and Joe himself. With that in mind, Different Shades of Blue could threaten to be a hit.

Ironically however, the album does begin with a 1:20 cover of Hendrix's Hey Baby (New Rising Sun). It is a slightly questionable inclusion given that it's neither complete, nor strictly necessary, but that's a minor niggle considering that it actually stands as more of a trailer or teaser to the album, before it leaks into the real opener. In fact, if anything, it probably just says a lot about Joe's sense of humour.

Oh Beautiful! is the real opener of the album; it starts as a dark and haunting a cappella, with a titanic riff and middle section reminiscent of Zeppelin, a flaming solo and no chorus. Another stand-out follows immediately in the form of the funky Love Ain't A Love Song, a track that could maybe even pass for a James Brown number with it's infectious horns and hooks. In the past year both of these tracks have featured heavily in Joe's live sets, and rightly so, given that they're up there with some of the best songs to brandish the guitar players' name.

Living On The Moon is a smoky run-of-the-mill blues number with a superb groove that's again accentuated by a horn section. Heartache Follows Wherever I Go is equally as good with its heavy, grinding ZZ Top like riff and energetic solo. In the past, Joe's voice has perhaps been an area for improvement, and although it's slowly been doing so over his career Different Shades of Blue is probably his best performance yet as a vocalist, as is evident on the aforementioned track.

Along with Oh Beautiful! and Love Ain't A Love Song, Never Give All Your Heart is amongst the album's finest. It's a huge, wide and epic sounding track that's highly reminiscent of Free, and with a guitar tone to die for too. I Gave Up Everything For You 'Cept The Blues is a classic blues number in the style of Jimmy Reed and adds some nice diversity to the album. In fact, the way in which Joe has approached the album is actually rather intelligent, as the more generic blues tracks used to supplement the more adventurous songs are all unique and original in their own way. It's certainly a positive in the sense that it leaves the album feeling fresh and interesting, as opposed to many albums in this genre that seem to rehash old ground on a regular basis.

The title track is a nice centrepiece to the album. It's full to the brim with feel and features a classically Bonamassa-style solo. It almost has a touch of a pop song in its format, but at the same time thematically and audibly it's very much blues-orientated. Get Back My Tomorrow is swampy and growling, and sounds like something that's crept up from the deep South, while Trouble Town is another funky burst. Finally, So, What Would I Do is the softest song to feature here. It's a heartfelt, piano-accompanied piece that wraps things up both gently and perfectly.

Different Shades of Blue is the kind of album that begs the question 'why hasn't Joe done this earlier?' It's diverse and colourful in it's vocabulary, and also features some of the best songs Joe has written to date. In the accompanying book to the deluxe edition of the album producer Kevin Shirley states that Different Shades of Blue "Isn't even in the same league" as previous instalments, whether that's true not, it's certainly fair to say it's one of the best releases from Bonamassa to date.

“ probably his best performance yet as a vocalist ”

Tracklist: Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) / Oh Beautiful! / Love Ain't A Love Song / Livin' On The Moon / Heartache Follows Wherever I Go / Never Give All Your Heart / I Gave Up Everything For You, 'Cept The Blues / Different Shades of Blue / Get Back My Tomorrow / Trouble Town / So, What Would I Do

Photo(s): Rick Gould

Written by James Abel
More: 2014, Albums, Blues,

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