Joe's Live British Blues

Bruce Von Stiers

Joe Bonamassa has collaborated with people like Beth Hart and been part of the rock super-group Black Country Communion and the funk group Rock Candy Funk Party. At his core, Joe is a bluesman. And he pays tribute time and time again to the blues greats.

A little twist on his blues tribute came a couple of years ago. Back in the late ‘60's, it seemed that some of Great Britain's hottest blues and rock stars were touring across the U.S., treating concert goers to a hipper, rocking sampling of the blues. The stars included Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimi Page. Then in 2016 Joe flipped things around by doing the blues of Beck, Clapton and others in a concert series in Great Britain.

One of those concert venues was Greenwich Music Time at The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London. This is one of the premiere London area concert events and spotlights artists like Seal, Nile Rodgers and Ray Davies.

The concert at Greenwich Music Time was recorded. That became the album that Joe released about two months ago. The album is titled British Blues Explosion Live.

As the concert was fairly long, the album is actually a two CD set. The first CD has eight songs and play-time of forty-eight minutes. The second CD has six songs and also has a play-time of forty-eight minutes. The album was produced by Kevin Shirley. The executive producer was Roy Weisman, who is Joe's manager and co-partner in Joe's production company, J & R Adventures. The album was released on the J & R Adventures label.

Joe did the lead vocals and played guitar. Michael Rhodes was on bass. Reese Wyans played the keyboards. Anton Fig was the drummer. And Russ Irwin was on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. Michael has played on albums by numerous country artists such as Toby Keith and Carrie Underwood as well as Buddy Guy and British blues sensation Joanne Shaw Taylor. Reese was a member of Stevie Ray Vaughn's Double Trouble band and has worked with country greats Trisha Yearwood and Martina McBride along with Buddy Guy and Ana Popovic. Anton was in David Letterman's Tonight Show house band. He played on a couple of KISS albums and provided drums for a who's who of artists across several genres. Russ has worked with Sting, Aerosmith, Foreigner and Cheap Trick among others.

Beck's Bolero / Rice Pudding is up first. If I've heard one song that could kick start an album, this one would be it. There is fantastic guitar, killer keyboards and drums that resonated throughout the song. It is strictly an instrumental piece and at over nine minutes long is plain kick ass.

Next up is George Terry's song Mainline Florida. Joe does a great job on vocals. The band holds pretty true to most of the song's original music. But there is a killer keyboards solo in the song along with a guitar one.

For the Led Zepplin song, Boogie With Stu, Joe and the gang bring more of a New Orleans styled piano boogie to the song. It is definitely a toe-tapping, head bopping tune.

Buddy Guy had a hit with the Willie Dixon song Let Me Love You Baby. Joe blends some tough rock sound into his rendition of the song.

Sometimes I forget that Rod Stewart once rocked out with Jeff Beck. Their song Plynth (Water Down The Drain) was a tough, rock piece with killer guitar and vocals. Although Joe doesn't have the raspy vocals the Rod had on the original, he makes do very well. And the guitar on the song is smoking. Not to mention, great keys and drum.

Joe tackles another Beck /Stewart tune with Spanish Boots. I kind of like Joe's rendition better than the original. It has kicking guitar and real solid vocals.

Joe digs down into some great blues by the way of Eric Clapton with the song Double Crossing Time.

The final song on the first CD of the album is Motherless Children. This is another Clapton song that Joe does exceedingly well. They kept the most of the same styling as Clapton's original.

Cream had a lot of out there songs. One of those was SWLAB or She Walks Like A Rainbow Beard. Joe and the band add a lot of extra music to the song, taking it from two and a half minutes to six and a half. It is a guitar, keys and drums extravaganza.

Moving into a strictly blues mode, Joe does a fantastic job with Tea For One/ I Can't Quit You Baby. This is a combination of Led Zepplin and Willie Dixon songs.

John Mayall and the Blues Breakers had a lot of great songs. One of the best was Little Girl. It featured Eric Clapton in his days after the Yardbirds. Joe and the band capture the essence of the song.

I am a huge fan of Eric Clapton. One of my very favorite Clapton songs is Pretending. Joe flat out does a monster job with his rendition of the song. I can't even begin to describe the tough and ultra cool guitar in the song.

Joe added an original composition to the set list for the concert that night. It is Black Water / Django. It is a six minute guitar piece that has Middle Eastern bits, solid late ‘60's rock bits and a whole bunch of other stuff thrown in. You can become immediately immersed in the heady sound.

The final song for the two CD album is How Many More Times. This is another great Led Zepplin song that Joe and the band take charge of and do an excellent job with.

For me, this is one of the best live albums I've ever heard. I am a huge fan of Joe Bonamassa, and the songs on the album reflect his homage to not only rock legends but blues legends as well.

In addition to the two CD album, Joe has also released a Blu-Ray of the concert. The disc features the concert in its entirety, which is just under an hour and forty-five minutes. The viewer also has the option of watching specific songs being performed. There are a few bonuses on the disc as well. Joe is honored with “a brick in the wall” at the famed Cavern Club in Liverpool. His brick joins others from people who've performed at the Cavern Club such as The Kinks and Bad Finger. Another bonus segment is Joe performing Taxman at the Cavern Club. There is also a segment with British journalist Mick Hall, explaining the phenomenon of the British Blues Explosion. And the disc features a photo gallery from the tour.

British Blues Explosion Live is available at music retailers everywhere.

For further information, visit Joe Bonamassa's official web site at

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© 2018 Bruce E Von Stiers