Updated: Jan 23
Guitar hero gives his debut album a makeover
In the last two decades since his debut, blues guitar supremo, Joe Bonamassa, always seems to be unleashing something creative into the world: studio albums, live albums, singles, collaborations. His recent convey-belt approach to releases is impressive by anyone's standards. His fans are showered with new material with such regularity that must make the saintly patience of Kate Bush's fans green (we're still waiting!) Output envy aside, Bonamassa's latest release is a spruced-up version of his 2000 debut. A New Day Yesterday has been remixed, retitled and remastered by long time producer Kevin Shirley and includes bonus tracks and new vocals recorded by Joe, which certainly add more maturity to the work.
Shirley has revitalized the album in his unique sonic style: it's more punchy and the sound balances have been altered to come in line with much of Bonamassa's other work. Cradle Rock now jumps out of the stereo in a way that only Rory Gallagher could equal. Miss You Hate You, like most of the tracks also benefits from Shirley's gloss. But the question is, was all this work necessary?
Aside from releasing the album to mark the anniversary, this makeover seems to stem from Bonamassa's insecurity and dissatisfaction with his debut. Ever the perfectionist, Joe felt unworthy of legendary producer Tom Dowd's input on the original album and felt his talent was just too nascent to reach the bar.
With two decades worth of experience behind him, Bonamassa wanted to redress the balance and pay tribute by re-recording vocals to prove that he has become the musician that Dowd always knew he could be. In some ways the album shows the bluesman's humility in finally feeling worthy of the producer's skills; yet, there's an underlying hubris about this release. It's correct to say that Bonamassa's vocals were underdeveloped, but he's also best known for his guitar work – which makes this release puzzling. Surely in the last twenty years, his guitar playing has improved and consequently, he could record those parts better 20 years later too?
Even more baffling is the album appears to eradicate his history and progression as a musician in one move and then adds three bonus tracks from a 1997 demo. The inclusion of the grungy, post-punk bonus tracks (produced by Stevie Van Zandt), showcase Bonamassa's early talent. Yes, the very same talent that he appears to be unhappy with while revisiting his debut album.
If Bonamassa wants to prove something to himself or anyone, he only has to look at the trail he has left in the last twenty years to know that he is already the musician Tom Dowd knew he could be – and that should be the real tribute.