Reviews roundup ~ Joe Bonamassa ~ Chris Gill ~ Porcelain Shards ~ Form and Chaos ~ Page 99
Now Serving: Royal Tea Live From The Ryman
If it’s Thursday then it must be time for a Joe Bonamassa live album. But hang on! Don’t run off now. Like most live things Mr Bonamassa does this is a wee bit different.
Those of you with memories may recall that last year Joe Bonamassa put together a one-night-only show at the iconic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville to be livestreamed for his fans, which involved a live presentation of his brand-new album “Royal Tea” before it was even released. And now folks who saw it and folks who didn’t can experience it on CD, DVD, Blu-Ray and Double LP. Nine out of the ten tracks on “Royal Tea” appear here, slightly rejigged in running order. After that the show closes with three tunes from “A New Day Now”.
As you would expect from someone whos quality control is exemplary the sound here is fantastic. The studio album was recorded at Abbey Road with Bonamassa writing material alongside former Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden, so it’s the heavier side of blues rock that’s represented here. Which makes me very happy.
His band is in sparkling form and, if anything, I think I prefer this to the studio version. When he heads off into some of the solos there seems to be an extra spark flying through his fingers. The opening track, the moody ‘When On Door Opens’, is a fine example. After the moody opening things slowly ramp up until he heads off into space on the solo. The title track, ‘I Didn’t Think She Would Do It’ and the divine ‘Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye’ are also sprinkled with additional fairydust while from the closing trio the Rory Gallagher tune ‘Cradle Rock’ is always welcome via Mr B. After all, yer man Rory was one of the main reasons this Scotch fella got into blues in the first place. Add in a Free song and a Jethro Tull / Yes hybrid you may recall previously getting the live treatment on “Live from Nowhere in Particular” and this odd conceit ends up a real winner.
Between Midnight and Louise
Blues guitar of a different kind as Chris Gill, a blues guitarist / vocalist from Mississippi, takes us off into the world of finger picking acoustic, resonator and cigar box.
He’s got a warm and inviting voice which brings to mind sitting in a circle round a storyteller while he relates songs of yore. Seems he learned at the feet of masters like Jack Owens and Bud Spiers while incorporating his own style as well as nods back to the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Rev. Gary Davis and Elizabeth Cotten.
He has the knack of making a new song sound like something you’ve been listening to all your life but the material is all original bar a couple of songs from the pen of his friend, the late Virgil Brawley. He’s at his best when he’s in full storytelling mode as he is on the two Brawley songs, ‘I Fell In Love With The Blues’ and ‘Walking Through Eden’, but there really isn’t a duff note or tune to be heard here.
Guitar freaks will have a field day here listening to tunes like ‘Rolling Man’ with its Baritone Mule guitar and the 1930s Supertone that colours ‘Fleas and Ticks’. It’s a fantastic record and if you have even a passing interest in acoustic blues then you really don’t want to miss out on this. It might be just one man and his guitar but it’s full of depth, feeling and passion. A damn good one.
Porcelain Shards is basically Slovakian musician and songwriter Martin Schwarz.
He trained as a classical guitarist but has hired studio musician Tomáš Raclavský to play all the instruments here. It’s a concept album about a musician and his quest for fame, with the usual trials and tribulations surrounding failure, drugs and demons along the way.
How much you enjoy this record will depend on how much you like the vocals. Schwarz is a member of the RockOpera Prague choir, singing in their rock operas and he has a very musical theatre approach to things. So prepare yourself for that.
Musically, it’s predominately classic metal with a few power / progressive moments especially on ‘Hour Of The Wolf’ and ‘Tony & The Starship’. That’s when things work best as it’s where the vocals and music work best together.But he gets more extreme on ‘Claws and Talons’ and even goes a bit indie rock in places. It’s a decent album but I’d be trying before buying.
FORMS AND CHAOS
Forms and Chaos is basically Jeremy Strachan who has been recording under that name since 2018 and who describes his music as Alternative-Instrumental-Psychedelic-Rock.
I’m not going to argue with that but I do feel compelled to lift a paragraph directly from the press release. “Everything in the universe exists in the balance between form and chaos. All that’s created inevitably meets its entropic demise. Everything that we know and love and cherish exists in this very precarious balance and Jeremy sees music and art as a tribute to our success at navigating this balance. Every song or work of art manifest into our 3D reality and interacts with other people as if it were a living entity. Music makes us feel a certain way and FORM AND CHAOS is Jeremy’s way of reaching out to the others.”
So now you know. To these ears it leans heavily on the alternative side of things with lots of post rock influences. Which makes sense as he has done a shift in a post rock band. What lifts it from that world of dirge is the keyboard work which bubbles away underneath giving a lighter feel to what otherwise might be a grey world. There is a lot of melancholy here but the keys make a huge difference.
I must admit to being surprised by the brevity of the tracks on offer. Just when I’m getting into the groove of the title track or ‘Swim. There Are No Lights In Sight’ things come to an end. Most of the tunes barely break the three minute mark which is probably why the album highlight is ‘The Long Days and Nights of Higher Timing’ which actually lasts the course. More like that and my fondness for what’s on offer may have went higher up the scale.
There is definitely talent on offer here but I’d like him to have the courage of his convictions and just go for it.
Hello songs! Where you have been recently? It’s nice to meet you again.
This is just a delight. Well it’s a delight if you have a penchant for Michael McDonald, Alessi Brothers, Orleans and all the other purveyors of smooth, soft rock. And if you don’t you’re a fool.
Page 99 (named after Richard Page -Pages, Mr. Mister and the Toto song ’99’) is largely the brainchild of John H. Nixon (drums, keyboards, synthesizers, rhythm guitar, vocals, arrangements, production) and Russel David Fitzpatrick (vocals and vocal arrangements) along with some extremely accomplished session musicians.
And they really have achieved their mission as the songs here are just a delight. It’s melodic in the extreme with some splendid arrangements which sometimes go all jazzy around the edges. But in a good way. You can tell you’re in the company of quality when you don’t notice that the three covers from the pens of the likes of David Foster, Kenny Loggins, the aforementioned Richard Paige and Steve Porcaro have come and gone without you noticing any difference in class. Well played!
Granted, you’re not coming here if you’re looking to rawk out but on a rare sunny day in Scotland, ‘Sunrise on the Water’, ‘September’ and ‘While the Music’s On’ are just balm for the ears. It’s wonderfully produced with the layering of the vocals and instrumentation an absolute joy. A record that deserves to be hear.
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