Friday, August 12, 2016

Joe Bonamassa - So, It's Like That (2002)

1. My Mistake
2. Lie #1
3. No Slack
4. Unbroken
5. So, It's Like That
6. Waiting For Me
7. Never Say Goodbye
8. Mountain Time
9. Pain And Sorrow
10. Takin' The Hit
11. Under The Radar
12. Sick In Love
13. The Hard Way

This is perhaps most likely to be rated as the worst album in Joe Bonamassa's discrography - although I don't dislike listening to it, and it might not by my least favorite. But even Joe himself, on his former weekly podcast The Pickup, once mentioned that he likes to use this disc as a coaster for his drinks. It's his sophomore album, and it's a drastic change from his debut, with more of a mainstream, pop-oriented sound (relatively speaking - if it's "pop", it's still guitar-heavy blues pop). No doubt, this was before Joe figured out his business model, and realized he could be successful just playing what he loved.

As such, it's an interesting - if largely forgettable - experiment in a career that has thrived on Joe's willingness to push the boundaries of the blues. I think it's fascinating to contrast this album of all original songs with Joe's more recent turn towards songwriting. This album proves that in his early years, Joe was a stronger cover artist - although he is beginning to prove that wrong now, with the maturity and sophistication he's earned over the more than ten years since this album was released. But I think it's fairly safe to say that, back in 2002, his attempt to break into the songwriting business was largely a failure.

That having been said, there are a couple of notable tracks on this album - diamonds in the rough, if you will. The highlight for me is the long, jamming Pain And Sorrow, which has a long buildup, and almost sounds like prog rock. Takin' The Hit is another good track, a straight-up hard rocker that Joe used to good effect as a set opener in concerts around that time (including the first time I saw him live). One could be forgiven for forgetting that this album also features the studio version of Mountain Time - which would go on to become one of the highlights of Joe's live show. But like Ten Years After's I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes, the studio version pales significantly to the majesty of its live alternative.

So, It's Like That is probably the most traditionally bluesy song on the album, yet it distinguishes itself mostly by being one of the few title tracks in Joe's discography that is not one of the clear standouts on the album of its name. Sadly, it falls into step with a long list of samey, mediocre tracks that are hard to differentiate and make little impression on the listener. Nevertheless, some of the lyrics are genuinely fun ("you said you weren't a good liar - that was lie number one"), and a couple of the tracks - like Sick In Love, and The Hard Way, which opens with a riff that is suspiciously reminiscent of Mountain Climbing, from Joe's current latest album - swing fairly hard. And there's a hidden bonus track that, despite sounding almost like rap, is actually very good. So, all in all, if it's not one of Joe's best albums, I wouldn't call it a painful listening experience, either.

Rating: 💿 Rare Spin

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