CD Reviews

Joe Bonamassa - 'An Acoustic Evening At The Vienna Opera House' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     July 04, 2013    
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Another week, another Joe Bonamassa album. Does this guy ever sleep? As the ridiculously prolific guitarist continues to keep the albums coming, there's always a danger of over saturating your market. While most would say there hasn't been a dip in quality in terms of studio releases, the thought of a full concert of acoustic renditions sounded a little bland. Then I watched the DVD and listened to the album and completely revised my opinion.

Originally Bonamassa planned to go out alone play one man shows, one voice, one guitar, no frills. While I have no doubt it would have been very good, a full double album of that would not be something I would return to again and again over his other work. However, the equally prolific producer Kevin Shirley stepped in, suggesting Joe keep the idea of playing acoustically, but instead go out with a band backing him with all manner of weird and wonderful instruments.

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This release is the result and I have to say I was severely impressed. Backed by a phenomenal quartet of musicians in the form of Gerry O'Connor, Mats Wester, Arlan Schierbaum and Lenny Castro, Bonamassa stays seated front and centre with an array of guitars and his voice clear and strong. Listening to this with a much more subtle backing, I was even more impressed with just how good a singer and guitarist he is. There is nowhere to hide in this show and he is faultless throughout. From the more recent material of 'Dust Bowl' and an amazing 'Slow Train', to older cuts like the glorious 'Mountain Time' or the amazing guitar work on the 'Blues Deluxe' cut 'Woke Up Dreaming', every song is given a new treatment while still resembling the original. With backing in the form of fiddles, banjos and accordions, along with makeshift percussion like the clanking chain in 'The Ballad Of John Henry', the sheer variety of musical flavours freshens up a collection of already great songs. Mats Wester even plays a Nyckelharpa which sounds fantastic – how many albums do you own with one of those on?

The result is engaging and excellent – at times it's almost in Blackmore's Night territory. From originals like 'Sloe Gin' and 'Driving Towards The Daylight' to well chosen covers like 'Stones In My Passageway' and Bad Company's 'Seagull', every track is a winner. If you had asked me beforehand "Does the world need an acoustic Joe Bonamassa record?" I'd have said no. Now I've watched the DVD and listened to the album, I'll say yes, absolutely yes. Brilliant.

James Gaden


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