What does it sound like?:
Not even a global pandemic can slow down the blues answer to the Duracell bunny. Just 8 months after his last studio album “Royal Tea”, Joe releases yet another live set, somehow not called “Another Pot of Tea, Vicar?”. 9 of the 10 tracks from the “Royal Tea” studio release appear here, and other than a tactical shuffle in midfield, in the same order. Bolted on at the end are cover versions familiar to JoBo fans – “Cradle Rock”, “Walk In My Shadow”, and “A New Day Yesterday” – all of which resurfaced last year when Joe issued a re-recorded version of his debut album.
This release and the accompanying DVD are drawn from a live stream broadcast Joe made last year, before the studio album had been released, in aid of Joe’s “Fuelling Musicians” initiative. The live set was recorded at an empty Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, just round the corner from Joe’s house, which had been “filled” with 1,700 cardboard cut-outs of JB fans. Joe’s mum and dad still got front row seats.
The conundrum of recording a live album without a live audience has been tackled head on by editing in applause from previous gigs. The year and location of the applause are shown on the DVD. It’s an artifice that might escape those who only listen to the CD, but it strikes me it’s nothing to get excited about given the number of cut & shut live albums released in the past (let alone the reliance on over dubs), although editing in the orchestral intro opener “When One Door Opens” does push things a step or two further.
“Royal Tea” was Joe’s best studio effort to date, and so this makes for a strong live album. The real issue is that there’s really very little difference between the two. The live cuts last a tad longer, are a smidgen looser and there are some different contributors – Greg Morrow steps up from percussion to replace Anton Fig on drums, Rob McNelly provides second guitar. Beyond that it takes some back to back plays to spot the difference. Not entirely surprising given the gig came before the studio release but as standalone new release it’s a missed opportunity – no re-interpretation of the songs, even the additional tracks are already strongly represented in Joe’s back catalogue. There’s not even a new cover version.
If you already have the studio release there’s not much reason to buy this. The best bang for your buck here is the DVD as not only do you get to see the band play, there’s a long play out where each “cardboard” fan is credited with name and picture, and accompanied by a bonus track “You Do Me No Favours” plus the belated inclusion of “Savannah”, the only track from the studio release not played live. All of this is absent from the CD as well as the closing gag of final song being greeted by silence, captioned “Ryman Auditorium, 2020”.
What does it all *mean*?
There’s a strong ring here of this being something to pull in the cash from the Bonamassa fan base. Joe’s often described as over exposed, but work to date has always mixed studio work with a variety of different live projects. No question here about the quality, just the necessity.
Goes well with…
The studio version. Or possibly even better without it.
Might suit people who like…
One for the hardcore JB completists.