Review: Joe Bonamassa – Time Clocks
Provogue/Mascot Label Group (October 29th 2021)
Reviewer: Peter Scallan
Jo Bo seems to be the kinda of guy that you either love or hate. To be fair, most nae-sayers tend to be pissed at the exorbitant ticket prices and endless live albums as opposed to the quality of what he offers up. Me? I just love what he does personally, while recognising the gripes of the moaning masses! This album is being hailed as a transitional album and some sort of milestone in the lengthy career of this still relatively young man – well young compared with me anyway! So let’s delve in…
‘Pilgrimage‘ opens the album as a short prologue with an almost Arabic feel, although it may be some didgerdoo in there, before cross-fading into the first song proper, namely ‘Notches‘. This also opens with Arabic overtures with chanting and what sounds like a sitar before a walking-style riff kicks in and we are off and running. Coming in at over seven minutes it’s a slab of serious rock with a blues edge and holds your attention for its duration.
Next is ‘The Heart That Never Waits‘ which opens with the feel of an opening set number before slipping into a seriously melodic bluesy number. As soon the riff kicked in, I struggled to put my finger on the familiar groove, until Mrs S pipes up, ‘That sounds like King King!’ And the more I listen to it, the more I hear one of the Nimmo brothers singing this song, probably more so Stevie Nimmo, singing this melodic slice of blues-tinged rock. Next is the title track ‘Time Clocks‘ which opens all guns blazing almost AC/DC style and then drops in a Page-esque country-style guitar breakdown. The song lifts spectacularly with the chorus with some superb female backing vocals. In the middle it picks up pace and power for the middle eight and guitar solo, before breaking back down and returning to the opening pattern. This is followed by the quirky ‘Questions and Answers‘ with the opening section sounding like we should be doing an Argentinian Tango to it – maybe too much Strictly viewing with Mr S influencing this! For me, this song shows Jo Bo’s Tom Waits influences as I could imagine that rough Wait’s drawl singing this one – great variation in feel and style.
‘Mind’s Eye‘ slows things down opening with piano and tasteful guitars with the verses carried on an acoustic riff with some subtle electric piano and organ thrown in for good measure. The song slowly builds in the chorus again with backing vocals reinforcing the melody before breaking down again. A real slow burner that has a great guitar solo too. Next up is quite possibly my favourite track, namely ‘Curtain Call‘. Opening with an almost military drum beat with orchestral accompaniment, it has an instantly recognisable epic Zeppelin feel to it. And it doesn’t disappoint with the riff and orchestral arrangement and a superb chorus for my money. A thoroughly spectacular seven minutes and thirty one seconds! The feel completely changes with the opening of ‘The Loyal Kind‘ reminiscent of Jethro Tull with flute and acoustic guitar. The chorus kicks in around a huge guitar chop with the backing vocals being used to great effect again.
‘Hanging on a Loser‘ moves back into more familiar blues/funk territory for Jo Bo and is one of only two songs around the four minute mark. It bounces along on a upbeat bass line with some funky guitar riffing over it and a killer chorus. The tenth and final track of the album, ‘Known Unknown‘, opens as another powerful slab of blues-rock and then breaks back down into a subtler verse and is the track where Joe lets rip on lead guitar on latter half of this song.
So what’s the verdict? Transitional as hailed? Not for me it’s not! For me it builds on the harder, edgier feel of ‘Royal Tea‘, with some of those influences on that album coming to the fore again. If anything, ‘Royal Tea‘ was the transition album full of original material and no covers like many of the previous albums. This album takes that edgier feel and builds on that with a quite superb selection of songs and some excellent vocals. Throw in the superb recording band including Lachy Doley on keys and the ever-present Anton Fig on drums, with the mixing talents of Bob Clearmountain and what you have is another bona fide Jo Bo classic. Maybe I will try to get some tickets for those shows after all…