Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Live From Nowhere In Particular
Review by Nightwatcher
The history of rock has had quite its share of incredible live albums. Back in the 70's, it seems that almost every great band had one. Deep Purple's 'Made In Japan,' The Who's 'Live At Leeds,' The Allman Brothers' 'Live At The Fillmore East'...Hell, even Peter Frampton had his breakout success after many years spent building an audience with 'Frampton Comes Alive,' an album which, to paraphrase Mike Myers in 'Wayne's World 2', was "issued to everyone in suburbia along with samples of Tide". Such was the pervasiveness of the live album back in the day. Especially double live albums, for as was the conventional wisdom, if one album is good, then two are even better.
In the world of blues, or blues rock for that matter, the double live has been virtually non existent.Yes, there were 1971's aforementioned Allman Brothers classic, Ten Years After's 'Recorded Live' and Stevie Ray Vaughan's somewhat lackluster 'Live Alive', but those have been the exceptions rather than the rule. Even B.B. King's 'Live At The Regal', which ranks among the finest live blues discs of all time, was only a single.
So leave it to "The New King Of The Blues" as coined by the UK's Guitarist Magazine, Joe Bonamassa to put out what must be regarded as one of the crown jewels of the double live oeuvre for the blues with 'Live from nowhere in particular,' a stunning tour de force which serves to solidify the guitarist's position as being on top of the heap in terms of today's blues rockers.
Although Bonamassa's studio albums are exceptional, there's nothing like experiencing him live. Full of fiery, impassioned guitar work and powerful,soulful vocals, there's a reason why fans will travel literally thousands of miles to see him live - that being one can be sure to see some of the most fantastic playing in the blues rock idiom, past or present. Recorded in the fall of 2007, while riding high from the fact that the just recently released studio offering 'Sloe Gin' was spending over 10 weeks at #1 on Billboard's Blues Album Charts, this is an artist in triumph, captured doing a victory lap around the globe from "nowhere in particular".
It's astonishing as to how easily Bonamassa can switch gears, moods and locales musically speaking and do so convincingly. From the chunky riff rock of the opener, "Bridge To Better Days" to taking the Free classic "Walk In My Shadows" back to its roots, sounding like it was recorded in a smoky South Side of Chicago blues club, to making Otis Rush's "So Many Roads" suitably Madison Square Garden era Zeppelin-esque right after. And that's just the first three songs."India/Mountain Time" switches the mood to an eastern one, the exoticism of the almost raga like intro giving way to an epic Southern rock feel. Stretched out over ten minutes, it's one of the cornerstones of the disc and one which showcases his prodigious abilities both on vocals and guitar perfectly. When you round off a disc with a rousing cover version of John Mayall's "Another Kinda Love", the smoldering slow blues that is "Sloe Gin" and the Ten Years After by way of "Layla", "One Of These Days" and you end up with a perfect start.
The second disc is a bit more laid back, devoted at first to more acoustic based fare, but it doesn't mean there's not more than enough firepower present. Beginning with the invigorating cover of the late Chris Whitley's "Ball Peen Hammer", Bonamassa then turns Warren Haynes' "If Heartaches Were Nickels" into almost a bluesy dirge. In contrast to the guitar intensive version on his previous live offering 'A New Day Yesterday : Live', the guitarist highly suggests that since that time he's lived through a few more heartaches in the interim, making the feel even more authentic at 30 than at 24, when the earlier version was recorded. "Woke Up Dreaming" showcases fleet fingered steel string acoustic playing which may inspire Al DiMeola to again go racing with the devil down that Spanish highway again, and the majesty of "Django" gives way to the classic ZZ Top tune "Just Got Paid" in an extended almost 18 minute trek which features snatches of Led Zeppelin's "Dazed And Confused" and Frampton's "Do You Feel Like I Do" interloped amongst the boogie, leaving one pleasantly drained afterwards. After the swampy "High Water Everywhere" and the soulful "Asking Around For You", Bonamassa then lays bare his prog rock influences, ending with a stirring medley of Jethro Tull's "A New Day Yesterday" stripped back to its heavy blues roots before launching into the Yes classic "Starship Trooper/Wurm" to end things on a particularly high note.
While most of the attention is focused on Bonamassa, it would be remiss to not give notice of the stellar band he has assembled around him. Featuring former David Bowie bassist Carmine Rojas, ex Kenny Wayne Shepherd drummer Bogie Bowles and Australian keyboardist Rick Melick, these three add the textures and support only talented, experienced musicians can give, and allow the guitarist the freedom to explore sonically without having to keep the attention held single handedly.
Produced to perfection courtesy of producer Kevin Shirley, whose alchemy manning the boards for Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes and Aerosmith makes him extremely familiar with blues being presented with rock power, the sound here is amazing. Crystal clear with plenty of deep bottom end, Bonamassa's guitar and vocals literally leap out the mix while at the same time allowing the rest of the instruments to be heard clearly as well. Virtually devoid of crowd noise by design it's almost like listening to a studio recording. While uncharacteristic of a true live Bonamassa show where it's quite difficult to keep the ecstatic crowd from shouting out even during the quietest of moments, it does offer a rare sonic glimpse of the musician in a live setting without any distraction. Even without the sounds of a cheering throng though, the excitement shines through.
Just as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Peter Green and Johnny Winter in the late 60's, Alvin Lee, Jimmy Page and Rory Gallagher in the 70's and Stevie Ray Vaughan in the 80's were the cream of the crop in terms of blues rock guitarists, such is Bonamassa today. Once again, witness a legend in the making. If you've never experienced the power, fury and grace that is this amazing musician this is an excellent way to start. There's an old adage which says a live recording is great if it makes you wish you were there...with "Live From Nowhere In Particular" even if you were there, you'll wish you were again. 10/10 www.jbonamassa.com http://www.myspace.com/jbonamassa