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Black Rock is the much anticipated blues rock album released by Joe Bonamassa in 2010. Following 'The Ballad of John Henry' and a fantastic live album in 2009, Bonamassa had a lot of pressure on him to continue creating great new inovative music last year. Having released an album a year since 2000, he really did have to be a genius not to find himself repeating past guitar styles and phrases this time round.
1. Steal you're heart away
2. I know a place
3. When the fire hits the sea
4. Quarry man's lament
5. Spanish boots
6. Bird on a wire
7. three times a fool
8. Night life
9. Wandering earth
10. Look over yonder's wall
11. Athens to Athen
12. Blue and evil
13. Baby you gotta change your mind
The album opens with a classic guitar riff and sound in true Bonamassa style. 'Steal you're heart away' really sets the scene for the album and gives the listener a taster of what's to come. It's only when the guitar solo comes in that you realise yet another new style of play has been adopted by the blues legend. Its a broken sound of clicking guitar strings and rough notes, sending out a shock wave of genuin blues feeling and emotion.
'I know a place' appears at first listen simply more of the same. the main riff is reverbed and beefy, spilling back and forth from solo to verse to chorus to verse. Bonamassa's voice is quite possibly slightly too typical here, and as mentioned in my review of 'Dust Bowl', it sounds very similar to all his previous albums, only in Dust Bowl its self does the sound evolve.
The third track keeps up the tempo and intensity of the album, with no sign of a traditional Bonamassa slow and sad edition breaking the ranks. The solo of 'When the fire hits the sea' returns to that broken sound of the first track, but with a slightly softer feel. perhaps a different guitar was used here, or the effects were at least changed.
'Quarry man's lament' is without doubt the best song of the album and perhaps Bonamassa's blues career. It's far-east mixed with rock sound and fantastic opening chorus lirics and intensity, sung with so much passion, are truely inspirational. An acoustic sound is introduced to the album here, and it fits so well with the theme and aura of the playlist. "I'm gonna leave my own, I'm gonna see my baby... yes I will" despite seeming pritty generically written on paper, is sung so well it's untrue. A lightly echoey guitar solo wraps up the track well and the whole delivery of the song is just incredible.
Back to beef with 'Spanish boots', and some traditional Bonamassa lirics and sound. This is one for cranking up and singing along too. The bass and lead guitar follow notes and chords through the chorus and verses adding to the songs overall strength.
'Bird on a wire' takes the album down a needed notch. This Leonard Cohen cover is opened with a soft guitar sound and string backing. It's conveyed passionately and almost respectfully of its original writer. The song is layered to death with score after score of fantastically well communicated sound. Drums, all measure of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, strings, bass and voice. A very, very deep, moving sound.
'Three times a fool' forces some 12-bar blues down your neck in predictable fashion, but don't let that put you off the track, because I believe it comes at just the right stage of the album, heightening tempo and intensity. It's also very short, leaving room for more songs.
'Night Life' features the world renowned B.B .King, but rather embarrasingly he's shown up on this track by a more powerful guitar and vocal performance by Bonamassa. King's voice is still very well pitched and performed, but you do get the sense that his ability ahead of his intentions have been depleated.
Track 9 and 'Wandering Earth' has the album slow and subdue to a lower pace. Its one of those more predicatable, but still highly entertaining songs with maybe slightly too high a ratio of guitar solo to rest of track.
'Look over yonder's wall' and find a quick paced traditional blues song with typical lirics. "I'm looking out your window, here comes your man" and other phrases appear, but it has to be said that by this stage of the album you're kind of hoping for something a little more interesting! - saying that the solo is great.
'Athens to athens'... thank you, there we go, this is it, this is that something different.
The track is well balanced in pace and sound - not too many layers of instrument, but with the welcomed introduction of new exciting instruments to keep your ears entertained. Mainly based around acoustic sounding stringed guitars and the like, this is the type of experimental sound we need today!
'Blue and evil' has a really rich sound and hard hitting chorus which repeats the phrase "Blue and evil, gonna make a reck of me" just the right amount of times. Oddly, some of the chord changes actually remind me of The White Stripes early albums. all in all though, this song is great, and the solo's complex formation tops it off perfectly.
'Baby you gotta change your mind' is not the way I would have ended this album. It's a jumpy, quirky sounding acoustic entity perhaps designed to lighten up your day, but it doesn't leave you wanting more from Bonamassa like it should. Saying that, it really is inventive with complex guitar patterns and unusual chord changes - and for that it earns my vote.
All in all a very well put together album from the American singer/player/song-writer which is well worth a listen and a buy. It must be said that if you fancy a bit less of a classic blues album, read my review on 'Dust Bowl' and purchase the download/disk!!! In fact, don't read my review, why would you when you could be listening to Bonamassa's blues?
When it comes to child music stars for every Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder there are plenty of artists who have disappeared into obscurity, One artist who has also bucked the trend is Joe Bonamassa who was performing with the likes of BB King aged just 12 and has built a career as one of the most prolific artists in Music today. This is the eighth studio release in ten years. He has become one of the most highly rated musicians by his peers and has worked with a huge array of top blues artists around today and as well as being a prolific recording artist he also tours a lot in his native US and also Europe.
Black Rock was the follow up to his 2009 release "The Ballad of John Henry" which was a success both critically and also commercially. Black Rock is a collection of covers and original tracks and was released on 23rd March 2010 and was produced by Kevin Shirley. Artists covered on the album include the likes of Jeff Beck, Willie Nelson and Leonard Cohen. BB King appears on the cover of Willie Nelson's "Night Life". The album was released on the J&R Adventures label.
1.) Steal Your Heart Away
This is a cover of a track by Bobby Parker who I am not particularly aware of, This is an excellent opener which exudes a gritty Blues Rock style which Bonamassa does so well. There's some excellent guitar work on offer here and Bonamassa's vocals are on form. This track sets up the album very well indeed. Wait until the last part of the track for an example of his guitar ability. Superb.
2.) I Know A Place
This is another cover, this time of John Hiatt. This is another strong opener, It has the same style as the first track and again features some superb guitar work from Joe Bonamassa. The band provide the ideal backing for his fantastic guitar work. If you like these two openers then you should be very excited to hear the rest of the album.
3.) When The Fire Hits The Sea
This is an excellent track which shows off Bonamassa's excellent use of slide. This is the first of the original tracks on the album and continues with the gritty Blues Rock feel of the first two covers. There's some fine piano work on this track which works well with Bonamassa's guitar tones. This track has a great toe tapping feel which runs through much of the album. Good stuff.
4.) Quarryman's Lament
I think this was the first track I heard from the album, It's style is more mellow than much of the album and features gentle vocals from Bonamassa. I like the way he experiments with the instrumentation on this album and this track is a clear indication of that. There's a fine guitar solo that's worth waiting for towards the end of this track which showcases his passionate guitar playing. Great stuff.
5.) Spanish Boots
Back to the covers for the moment and this is an excellent cover of a Jeff Beck track from his "The Jeff Beck Group" with Rod Stewart as singer and Ronnie Wood as rhythm guitarist. This song was co written by the trio and is covered superbly well here. One of the best covers from the album. It showcases Joe Bonamassa's fine vocals and awesome guitar playing. Superb guitar work.
6.) Bird On A Wire
This is a very good cover of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on the wire" which was recorded on 26th September 1968, Bonamassa's version is superbly laid back with gentle guitar to open things with and his emotive vocals really shine alongside the gentle instrumentation. If you didn't know the original you could see it being Joe Bonamassa's original as he really makes the song his own.
7.) Three Times A Fool
This is the shortest song on the album at just a shade over two minutes. It's an excellent Otis Rush cover which brings the sound of that era to the modern day with a fine Bonamassa twist. Some excellent guitar work on this one, It could be even better with a minute or so more.
8.) Night Life - Bonamassa, Joe & B.B. King
A fantastic cover of Willie Nelson's track, Joe is joined by BB King here and they really work well together. Both guitarists performing some great guitar work on this catchy Blues joint. A superb collaboration between the two, There's a great horn section which really adds to the feel of the track. Great stuff.
9.) Wandering Earth
This is one of the original songs from the album and is a superb track which goes along the lines of ""Quarryman's Lament" In terms of structure and style but is even better thanks to some breathtakingly good guitar work towards the end of the track, where Bonamassa just lets loose with some awesome guitar work which for me takes this to one of the top songs on the album.
10.) Look Over Yonders Wall
This is a vibrant cover of Freddie King's track although the original was called "Get Ready to Meet Your Man" and was originally released in 1945 by James "Beale Street" Clark. Either way Bonamassa brings the track into 2010 with an excellent up beat blues rock feel. An excellent reworking.
11.) Athens To Athens
This track has a British folk/blues feel with it's gentle feel compared to other tracks on the album. This shows that while he is so adept at Blues stompers he can also do the more gentle moments too. This shows the variety of both his music and his musical tastes as he brings in material from other styles.
12.) Blue And Evil
When I mentioned "Wandering Earth" as one of the top songs on the album I was saving the title "best on the album" for this track. It's a superb original from Joe Bonamassa and with a Led Zep feel it really hits the spot, Catchy music and strong vocals set you up for the fine last part which comes in the way of a superb guitar solo which gathers pace around the middle of the track and is just superbly topped off. Arguably the most dramatic sounding on the album. Superb stuff.
13.) Baby You Gotta Change Your Mind
This is a cover of a "Blind Boy Fuller" track. The guitar playing reminds me of electro acoustic Eric Clapton and the flow of the song is very reminiscent of early Blues which would make sense as Blind Boy Fuller was born in 1907. This version is done well and tops off an impressive album.
Black Rock is one of the best Blues albums of 2010 and goes further in enhancing Joe Bonamassa's status as a great Blues artist. The mix of covers and original songs really works well on the album and is something I am sure Bonamassa will do again with another fine mix. Kevin Shirley does a fine job with Production and this is a very good album indeed which in my view is another indication of Joe Bonamassa's talent and why he should be thought of so highly by Blues fans. If I had a gripe it would be that it doesn't have as many stand out tracks as some of his other albums and therefore I drop a star.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Steal Your Heart Away
2 I Know A Place
3 When The Fire Hits The Sea
4 Quarryman's Lament
5 Spanish Boots
6 Bird On A Wire
7 Three Times A Fool
8 Night Life - Bonamassa, Joe & B.B. King
9 Wandering Earth
10 Look Over Yonder Wall
11 Athens To Athens
12 Blue And Evil
13 Baby You Gotta Change Your Mind