TWO-TIME GRAMMY-NOMINATED – BLUES-ROCK ICON JOE BONAMASSA
CELEBRATES 20th ANNIVERSARY OF CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED DEBUT ALBUM
A NEW DAY YESTERDAY
Some of my favourite artists seem hell-bent on making me feel old…I mean, it was fifty years ago in June that Deep Purple in Rock was released and now Joe Bonamassa is contributing to my age awareness by reminding me it is twenty years since his superb solo debut, A New Day Yesterday (called A New Day Now in a revamped form) came out…granted it was only after hearing his 2003 opus (Blues Deluxe) that I became a helpless fan and I bought and continue to buy, everything he releases including BCC RCFP, guest appearances, and collaborations…so Mr. B, you not only cost me a fortune for all of the ‘super bundles’ (I don’t need any more picks/tins/mugs/t-shirts, etc. but what the hell, it’s a tradition) you now make me feel old as well!
Anyway, Joe has decided the time was right and, aided and abetted by long time producer Kevin Shirley, he has remastered, remixed, and, controversially perhaps, re-recorded the vocals. I adore the original album and so it was with a little trepidation that I began to listen to each track…first the original then the new version all the way through. First thoughts are that the sound quality is indeed way better although that is mainly down to technology rather than anything lacking in the original’s producer, helmed by the skilled and experienced Tom Dowd.
The new vocals? well, there is no doubt that JB’s tone and style has matured and it is an improvement but, to me, that sort of takes away the true rawness and naivety of the younger man that was and is so appealing.
The music is, as far as I can tell, un-doctored (apart from a couple of the guitar sections..I think) and so retains the feel that drew me to his work in the first place and there is no doubt that Dowd helped nurture the then untapped, vast talent that resided in JB’s awareness and knowledge of the blues, which we’ve seen blossom into the genius we enjoy today. My big moan is that nearly every track is actually shorter! It’s worthy of note that some distinguished guests must also have recognised the talent…see the tracklisting for details.
On to the music….
… it’s a measure of his courage as well as ability that he opened the album with a cover of a Rory Gallagher song; Cradle Rock. No one is as good as Rory but, by God, JB does a cracking version and he manages to combine the essence with his own style. The slide is wonderful behind the verses and the solo is majestic.
The second song, second cover, and an equally brave cover of a true blues classic by Free…Walk in My Shadow. Credit that he doesn’t try to emulate the unembulateable (if that’s a word) as Paul Rodgers is one of the few vocalists who can sing a ‘phone book and make it sound good (hah! ‘Phone book…remember them!) Anyway the youthful JB puts his mark on this great song without sullying Rodgers or, for that matter, Kossoff. It’s not Free…but it is bloody good: especially the way he has taken the original melodies and neatly played them into and around his solo. The bass of Creamo is also memorable as he takes the very harmonious style of Andy Fraser and puts a similar feel and emotion into it.
The title track, A New Day Yesterday, is the Jethro Tull song…another brave decision which he pulls off with aplomb. Again he manages to keep a feel for the Tull version and put some weighty blues into it: especially the crafted solo, and I didn’t miss the flute!
The first JB composition, I Know Where I Belong, shows the inherent understanding the young JB had and this song has a funky riff backed with deep blues origins. The short wha’d solo is inspired and the second solo more than makes up for it and they both lift this clever song: as does the totally audible, but not, intrusive bass and drumming that also shows that Joe ‘knows how to pick ‘em’…then and now. Miss You, Hate You is another original with a slight country blues lilt to it…still a crowd favourite, it’s easy to see why…and the extended solo is delicious. The penmanship of Al Kooper comes next with the clever reading of his Nuthin’ I Wouldn’t Do (For A Woman Like You) and has Rick Derringer sharing the vocals and supplying the first guitar solo. I always thought that it would have been better to leave the vocal work to JB, although rick does deliver a steaming and very good solo…as does Joe.
Three originals follow with Color And Shape; a neat bass-driven song that is a lovely acoustic and electric blues of unbelievable quality bearing in mind this was his debut. Then comes the great title, Headaches To Heartbreaks with Dave Bordens keys warming the backing and possibly led to the full-time inclusion of keys on subsequent releases. A great bass intro leads into a Free feeling blues-rock track as JB puts very Kossoffy phrasing behind the riff. Once the vocals cut in it gains a bit of the soulful but never looses the true blues that underpin it and the solo…is just fabulous as it’s played with restraint, emotion, and skill. Trouble Waiting is a co-write with husband and wife team, Steve and Stephanie Tyrell, and features JB’s Dad on guitar too. It’s an archetypical blues but still has a freshness in the father and son’s deft fingers.
The blues sensibilities of Warren Haynes is next on If Heartaches Were Nickels on which man Mountain himself, Leslie West, adds his grit to the vocals as well as the first solo. (I still adore his solo album ‘As Phat As It Gets’ which shows his formidable talent.) Another typical but brilliant rereading of a standard blues structure by Warren and kept true by JB as Greg Allman does a fine job adding some swirling organ subtly in the backing. Leslie West adds his sensitive reading of the song with a crafted, clever and stunning solo as, indeed, does Joe. The vocal contributions of the guests seem to have been edited out and I miss Leslie’s impassioned, gruffness, and Greggs warmer tones…the new version lost 1 minute 48 seconds and that is the version that will remain on my iPod (yes, I still use that old fashioned thing…streaming means I don’t own the songs or get to hold the product plus the artists get two-tenths of not a lot from those services!)
Current Situation is a JB composition and has a bit more of the Free influence behind this excellent piece of blues. The solo…well, guess what? it is superb with a sort of Albert King meets Paul Kossoff meets Eric Clapton. Don’t Burn Down That Bridge closes the very first release (my Provogue label, 2004 reissue has unedited Miss You, Hate You as a bonus) with a cover of this Allen Jones, Carl Wells song made his own by Albert King. It has Creamy feel to it and is just great blues from the first note to the last.
The bonus tracks were apparently written with Steven Van Zandt, the guitarist from the E-Street Band in the 90s, although I don’t know their definitive origins but the sound lacks the clarity of the rest.
Hey Mona is unlike today’s JB…more of a slightly watered-down version of him harmonising with, I guess, Steven and sounding like an attempt at Beatle-esque commercialism; still he does pull off a very good rock guitar solo. I Want You is actually a punk song that clashes (pun intended) with all that we know of JB and it isn’t him singing. The guitar solo is a melodic contrast with the rest of the attitudes and makes it worth having. Line of Denial starts louder that the other bonuses and its basic riff is very like Black Velvet Stallion by the wonderful Budgie. Still not JB singing lead but the guitar, as usual, that he contributes is pure majesty.
In case you’re a guitar nerd like me, bearing in mind this is early Joe, he only uses six different guitars and five different amps!
In summary the, the new one will be the preferred version I listen to, purely on sound quality and clarity and for the indispensable (to a fan like me) bonus tracks which sound more like Joe guesting on SVZ songs rather than true JB songs. I will never desert the original but there is no doubt that, heavy editing of running time apart, this is a better sounding disc.
If you don’t already own a copy of this remarkable work, then you really need to correct that oversight and buy the shiny new one and then source the older version for all of the missing bits!
Bluesdoodles rating: A Wonderful update of a wonderful debut from a blues genius then and now…or, if you’re a fanboy (fan old man?!) like me, then it is actually Stupendous.
1. Cradle Rock
2. Walk In My Shadow
3. A New Day Yesterday
4. I Know Where I Belong
5. Miss You, Hate You (Jeannie and Annie Burns: vocals)
6. Nuthin’ I Wouldn’t Do (For A Woman Like You) (Rick Derringer: vocals and first solo)
7. Colour And Shape
8. Headaches To Heartbreaks (Dave Borden: keyboards)
9. Trouble Waiting (Len Bonamassa: guitar)
10. If Heartaches Were Nickels (Leslie West: first solo: Greg Allman: Organ)
11. Current Situation
12. Don’t Burn Down That Bridge
13. Hey Mona
14. I Want You
15. Line Of Denial
Joe Bonamassa: guitars, vocals
Tony Clinton: drums
Creamo Liss: bass
(The iTunes run on track was, inevitably loads more JB wizardry, but in the interests of diversity, I let it run to the 1930 song, Traveling Mama Blues by the relatively unknown Joe Calicott…yet another example of early acoustic blues to which we owe everything.)