September sees Joe Bonamassa release his latest live recording ‘Live At The Greek’ in tribute to ‘The Three Kings’ – Albert King, B.B. King, and Freddie King; Three of the finest bluesmen to precede Bonamassa, and inspire many a great blues player for years to come. Their music was instrumental in shaping modern day blues as we know it today, so this concert is a truly fitting homage to their legacy, a beautiful collection of some of their finest tunes, interpreted by a modern day great.
Available on 2CD / 2DVD / Blue ray and 3xLP you can choose your weapon of choice, I was fortunate to have the DVD to review, which allowed me the benefit of the visual, alongside the audio to appreciate. I feel I’m almost running out of superlatives for Bonamassa, Each and every time I hear his latest release, I cant help but be impressed at the quality, consistency, and delivery of this truly diverse artist. So how did Bonamassa get so good? Well his recipe is a very simple one, start playing guitar at the age of 5, start playing live venues by the age of 9, befriend one of the true greats of blues music B.B.King, and practise 6 or 7 hours a day, simple, right? Part of me wonders, do we really know how good Bonamassa is? Or have we just become numb to the rapid pace at which he delivers new music, with each studio album, live release and artist collaboration, is there a possibility that this great of the modern day blues is simply “going over our heads”?
Live At The Greek again emphasizes Joe’s unwavering attention to detail, surrounding himself with only the finest musicians to convey his vision for The Three Kings tribute, to name a few – the amazing Anton Fig on drums, Reese Wynans Ex Double Trouble / Stevie Ray Vaughan keyboard player, and you can see why, from the delivery of the 1st note right through to the very last, the quality of musicianship is simply, second to none. There are many stand out moments on this live show, the first which grabbed me was his cover of Freddie King’s ‘Sittin On The Boat Dock’ between the stunning vocal delivery and vicious solo, you also get the best of Reese Wynan and beautiful vocals from Joe’s backing trio, Mahalia Barnes, Jade McRae, and Juanita Tippins, followed by another stunning rendition of Freddie’s ‘Love Her With A Feeling’ and the classic ‘Going Down’ delivered the only way Joe knows how, Full force and in your face ! There are some beautiful visuals on the DVD, as JB rips his solos and the beautiful backing vocalists are rocking in motion to the rhythm, it’s a blistering rendition of this piece of rock history.
As the band progresses from Freddie to Albert King, you get the most amazing version of ‘Breaking Up Somebody’s Home’ where the soloing just goes stratospheric, as Joe unleashes his heart and soul into this solo with every bend, scale and attack of the string is measured and delivered like a studio recording. I am immediately transported to a small venue in Dublin this summer, were I was lucky enough to capture Joe doing his homage to the ‘British Blues Explosion’ and I witnessed one of the finest live performances I have ever seen to this day. only for being at that gig could prepare me for the intensity, consuming and almost violent delivery of ‘Angel Of Mercy’ it is simply breathtaking. You get your fix of old time classics like ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ and ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ before Joe delivers one of many fine vocal performances, ‘Ole Time Religion’ for me is a timely opportunity to talk about Bonamassa’s vocal ability. Many guitarists weakest link in their chain can often be their vocals, but not Bonamassa, often sharing a stage with the world’s best, Paul Rodgers and Glenn Hughes, for example Bonamassa can more than hold his own and its quite often a fact overlooked. Wrapping up with three classics, ‘Hideaway’, ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ and ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ is a fitting way to end a stunning tribute to the ‘Three Kings’.
I cannot recommend this release highly enough, it is a stunning performance by Joe and this meticulously arranged band, delivering an outlandishly polished performance unlike anything you will see this year. Joe Bonamassa is simply one of the greatest bluesmen of our time, just how good? Only time will tell, but don’t take him for granted folks, whatever your poison, CD, DVD, LP enjoy this breath taking recording and its modern take on established blues arrangements. 22 songs and over 2 hours of music is value for money in anyone’s books.
Joe will also be back in the UK early next year for two shows at the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday 20th and 21st of April 2017.
Words By Mark McGrogan
1) See Baby See
2) Some Other Day, Some Other time
3) Lonesome Whistle Blues
4) Sitting On The Boat Dock
5) You’ve Got To Love Her With A Feeling
6) Going Down
7) I’ll Play The Blues For You
8) I Get Evil
9) Breaking Up Somebody’s Home
10) Angel Of Mercy
11) Cadillac Assembly Line
12) Oh, Pretty Woman
13)Let The Good Times Roll
14)Never Make Your Move Too Soon
15) Ole Time Religion
16) Nobody Loves Me But My Mother
17) Boogie Woogie Woman
19) Hide Away
20) Born Under A Bad Sign
21) The Thrill Is Gone
22) Riding With The Kings