Royal Tea album review by Chris High
Provogue / Mascot
October 23, 2020.
If you’re going to fulfil an ambition and record at Abbey Road, you’d best be sure and make it a good one! With Royal Tea, blues rock maestro Joe Bonamassa has served something unforgettable and more.
From the opening strains given by the orchestral overture opening track of Royal Tea, When One Door Opens, you get the sense that this is going to be quite a different offering from Joe Bonamassa. Ripped through with energy, spiced up with a sense of awakening and some intrumentalisation that is steeped in the extraordinary, Bonamassa delivers on each and every level with this his latest, much anticipated studio release. Here, the ‘Bolero’ section is something to simply die for, by the way!
It’s been two years since Redemption hit the streets. In the meantime there have been a plethora of other offerings – live albums, collaborations with Beth Hart and Black Country Country, guest appearances with Walter Trout et al – and many a mention from the man himself that he doesn’t believe his song writing to be up to snuff.
Nonsense. The Bonamassa classics are that for a reason. Yet Bernie Marsden’s contributions are never going to go a miss and Royal Tea more than guarantees ten tracks sure to become live standards for many a year hence. Not least of which being the title track. Smooth as silk, as punchy as an overwrought boxer and as catchy as, well, you can guess, this is a song certain to have you reaching for the replay and volume buttons.
Dropping down a gear with Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye, Bonamassa is back on familiar ground with a genuinely heart-wrenching blues anthem filled with aching reminiscence and masterful melody, before blasting into overdrive during the mid-section.
In the safe hands of Kevin Shirley’s production, the richness to the tracks is that of Ali Baba’s cave, particularly with the use and recognition of the backing singers. There are also signature lines that are instantly recognisable as to being down to Marsden’s talents. This is one such track that would not be out of place on any Whitesnake album, but here is given the ‘Full Joe’ inasmuch as the guitar almost becomes another vocalist.
There is no question Bonamassa is at the top of his game. Continuously looking to develop and improvise on that which continually works so well, each track is as fresh and arresting as its predecessor. Lookout Man is a fierce rock offering that demands volume. Anton Fig’s drums are so pumped here, the speakers visibly throb, while Michael Rhodes bass playing thumps and grinds out the sublime underscore of what is, arguably, the track of the album.
High Class Girl exudes jazzy-funk class, A Conversation With Alice places the man’s guitar work firmly front and centre, with a slice of 80s AOR vibe thrown in for good measure, while Lonely Boy has Jools Holland’s contribution stamped all over it. A Hootenanny hurrah if ever there was one and, with Savannah the feel good track on which to close, the feeling is as close to heaven as you could wish to be musically.
Royal Tea is without question a Joe Bonamassa tour de force. A sumptuous smorgasboard of song- smithery and mystical musicianship that is certain to delight all those who come across its joys forever and a day.
When One Door Opens
- Royal Tea
- Why Does It Take So Long To Say Goodbye
- Lookout Man
- High Class Girl
- A Conversation With Alice
- I Don’t Think She Would Do It
- Beyond The Silence
- Lonely Boy
Joe Bonamassa’s new album “Royal Tea” is released by Provogue/Mascot Label Group on Friday October 23rd.