Joe Bonamassa continues with his quest for world domination with an instrumental album made up of a series of tracks drawn from right across the board. Prolific is a word which doesn’t do justice to Joe Bonamassa as, despite being only 42, this is his fortieth album and it follows on from his other projects, including his tenure with Black Country Communion. This album sees Joe paying homage to Danny Gratton, a man he describes as a mentor, a friend and one of the greatest guitarists ever.
From the outset, I’ll freely admit to having no idea as to what lay behind the selection of tracks making up this album. To say some of these choices are bewildering, given a guitarist of Bonamassa’s standing and ability, is to understate. On many of the tracks, Bonamassa takes a back seat while either the sax or another instrument leads the way, such as opening track ‘Fun House,’ and on ‘Move’ and ‘Hawaiian Eye,’ there isn’t too much evidence Joe’s even playing.
‘Ace of Spades’ (no, not Motorhead’s classic) is the Link Wray song and, given the power of the riff and the driving beat Link Wray put into the original song, this version by comparison is tame and limp. It isn’t until the track ‘Ha So’ where Bonamassa the guitar man finally steps up to the plate and offers up some quite exquisite bluesy guitar playing. Similarly, on the slow bluesy track ‘Blue Nocturne,’ where Joe again gets to show some of the licks and touches which made his name a decade ago, and when it’s just guitar and keyboards, this track excels. But the longer the album proceeds the more baffling the choice of song becomes. Why he chose to record the Bond theme from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and offer such a feeble version, despite the inclusion of the kind of guitar break John Barry never envisaged, is anyone’s guess.
Tony Joe White’s swamp blues tune ‘Polk Salad Annie’ is drowned in a big band treatment and I’ll wager Frank Sinatra never envisioned one of his signature tunes, ‘It was a very good year,’ being played like this. There are flashes of the real Joe Bonamassa on ‘Ha So’ and ‘Blue Nocturne,’ but in the overall, this is an album where Joe’s just rounded up a few friends to play some songs they like, and it’s one for Bonamassa completists only.