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Joe Bonamassa ROYAL TEA.jpg

Recipes can seem very simple but it is only when you’ve taken some good ingredients and made a complete dog’s dinner that you realise things aren’t always as simple as they seem, and that without the correct application and skill, disaster results. On the other hand, sometimes a couple of well-matched ingredients can produce what seems like genius, which is what has resulted on this occasion with the well-seasoned vocal talents of musical legend Dion paired with a plethora of your favourite guitarists and some other very special guests. The results are superb and like a classic dish, you’ll be wanting to return to this tasty fare again and again.

Personally, I love to see musical collaborations; those encore guest spots when “wow, is that so and so…” comes out to rock out with your favourite band. It’s generally good fun, however, on recordings, collaborations can sometimes be a little disappointing. You can find yourself asking yourself why they bothered. Happily, that is not remotely the case here. There are probably two reasons for that: firstly, these are all great songs that would sound good recorded with a bunch of anonymous session players – Dion has written this collection over a period of 3-4 years (with long time co-writer Mike Aquilina) and they reflect writing skills honed over six decades (in one case revisiting the title number for non-released 1965 album ‘Kickin’ Child’) - and secondly, rather than being the dreamchild of a business exec’ looking to cash in, the collaborations began in an organic, non-planned manner, with happy results.

One of Dion’s neighbours in Florida is none other than a certain Mr. Joe Bonamassa, with whom the singer had previously worked, on the title track to JB’s ‘Redemption’ album. After Dion played a demo to him of what would become the album’s opening track, ‘Blues Comin’ On’, the guitarist wanted to play on the recording, which set the ball rolling and he was soon followed by other friends joining the party. It goes without saying that Bonamassa’s slide guitar playing on this number totally sizzles and lays the icing on top of a cooking track that rattles along nicely.

There aren’t many musicians that Bob Dylan would bother to write sleeve notes for (they go back a long way, starting from when Dion was signed to Columbia in the early sixties) and as he notes “Dion knows how to sing and he knows just the right way to craft these songs”. It’s surely a mark of the respect for the singer that all of the collaborative performances on this collection are excellent and really add to the listening enjoyment.

I’m not going to list the merits of each song, trust me they are all really good, but some of my personal highlights are: ‘Uptown Number 7’ is an ear worm of a jaunty rocker that features sensationally hot guitar playing from Rockabilly wizard Brian Setzer; ‘Can’t Start Over Again’ is a beautiful ballad that could have come from the 50’s but is completely contemporary with the blissful complimentary guitar work of Jeff Beck (with a sublime solo that is a masterclass in itself); ‘Bam Bang Boom’ is as good as anything by any current bunch of Blues Rockers and Billy Gibbons stirs the pot nicely on this.

Sonny Landreth is the slide remedy to take ‘I Got the Cure’ to another level. Samantha Fish plays some very tasty straight Blues licks throughout ‘What If I Told You’, which is another excellent track that, like many others on the album, is, I’m sure, going to end up in the live sets of pro and amateur performers alike. Alongside the guitarists there are contributions from other notables such as Van Morrison and Paul Simon; the album ends with the powerful ‘Hymn to Her’ featuring Patti Scialfa and husband, Bruce Springsteen.

If this was on vinyl, the record would have been worn down already with some irritating crackles no doubt appearing throughout, given its heavy rotation. Producer Wayne Hood has, as well as playing pretty much all the backing, done a great job to produce what is easily going to be one of the Blues albums of the year; definitely the best Blues album by a legendary performer. The good news is that Dion is still bursting with creative energy and a follow up album with the same format could be in the offing.

Simon Green

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