Frustrated with Bonamassa Live CDs

Several years ago the wife heard and liked Joe Bonamassa, and then we saw him in concert -- a talented guitar player with a solid band. We are very partial to live recordings and have his (i) Live at the Beacon in NYC and (ii) Live at Royal Albert Hall (the CD not DVD). Both are very good performances, but unfortunately both CDs sound bad in our system. Almost no separation of instruments, overall veiled and muddy, etc. Basically (and disappointingly) they sound like the many crap rock/pop recordings that just do not qualify for high-end listening. To be clear, great quality live CDs (e.g., Allmans, Pink Floyd, various Big Swing Bands) sound awesome in our room. Are these two Bonamassa CDs' just examples of a high-end system highlighting poor recording? Anyone else experience this with these two CDs? Alternatives or recommendations appreciated.
Sadly, you are experiencing the reality of modern recordings. We first saw Joey Bonamassa when he was 12 years old at the Beginning II in Fremont NY during one of his dad's gigs. We have Driving Towards the Daylight on CD along with the Albert Hall and Vienna Opera House BDs. They all sound over-saturated and distorted. Most unpleasant. This was also true during the Vienna cover show he did in the Cleveland State Theater last year. Way too loud with a lot of digital artifacts.

We had noticed this phenomenon on some Todd Rundgren, Adele, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and other recent recordings, live and studio, CD and vinyl. During a Todd show a few years ago, we looked over the PA and realized he was using CAT-5 cable in the snake. That means the signal was already digitized from the snake, mixed and sent back to an active PA system with Class D amps. Could explain a lot. Other shows we've seen over the same time period (Adrian Belew, Carl Palmer, Dwezil Zappa, Return to Forever, Stanley Clarke and Tony Levin) did not exhibit this effect. They were all using traditional balanced mike cables with passive mixing board, separate amplification and passive PA speakers.

The son of a close friend runs a recording studio in Syracuse (The Square Studio - shameless plug here). He constantly complains that his clients (mostly younger hard rock and alternative acts) insist on this kind of sound. They all seem to think that more is better; overly full arrangements and nothing but sound. They claim it is necessary to get recognized by the larger labels and that it sounds better on portable devices. We do not agree with either of those contentions. Witness St. Vincent, Snarky Puppy, Nine Inch Nails and others. None of that stuff, neither when they were getting started nor now.

From our perspective, we just buy the music we like. If the recording is up-to-snuff, we sit down to the high-end rig and really get into it. If not, CDs get burned and played in the car or RV. Bad vinyl mostly just gets to look pretty in the collection. Since jazz acts seem to have a better track record on sound quality, that is where our purchase history skews. It is the compromise that usually works for us.

Know this wasn't the kind of information you were looking for, but hopefully you find it useful background. Good luck & happy listening!
I too am a big fan and have bought his live cd's and they sound terrible, almost to the point of being impossible to listen to. The Royal Albert Hall cd is very compressed and a big disappointment.
It's amazing that so many musicians put out poor recordings. Most of it is due to over compression to the point of distortion. They are hung up in the loudness wars where there is not a distinction between the loud and soft passages. I hear it all the time and just laugh at total lack of care in the mastering process. It's not usually the fault of the mastering engineer, but the artist themselves. Perhaps they need to get their checked!
Can I assume that his vinyl offerings are just as bad ?
This brings up the eternal audiophile question. Are you in it for the music or the sound? Joey B. is the reigning guitar god of this generation, bar none. So even though the records may sound inferior, to not get them is to miss out on some fantastic work by a major talent. I'll always opt for the music!!
I like Chazro's take: "Are you in it for the music or the sound?"

We're big JB fans, and see him live every chance we have. His shows are always a good time, but he can rock you back on your heels.

I agree that the recordings are not nearly optimal, but they always remind us of his performances. We'll spin him if we're out on the back deck or working in the kitchen -- his music has "reach" -- but for critical listening, umm... not so much.

Doesn't keep us from appreciating what he does, though. He shreds.
Try "Live from Nowhere in Particular". I have the two LP set. There is also a 2 LP set with the same title. I think it sounds good, but I can't comment on the CD as I only have the vinyl pressing. Nice rendition of Slow Gin on the album.
And the eternal answer is both.
Well , here is where I am coming from ...
I have several of his concerts recorded on my cable box , and for so-so quality I am happy with them .
But , for some nice quality recordings I would be willing to spend some cash which would give Bonamassa some royalties .
Most everything that he has done is available somewhere for free to the end user , meaning he is not receiving any royalties ! Sure he made something for the performance that is being recorded . But he is not getting anything for all of the individuals listening to it outside of the original venue !
So what is the smarter decision , make a recording that everybody will enjoy and revere or make a recording that only a part of the market will enjoy ?
Good recordings are accomplishable because others do it !

Happy Tunes
Saki70 -- Perhaps that's why Joe is "Always on the Road." Could be his business model.
The best news re: Joey B. is last week I read a post by Randy Brecker that he's busy writing horn charts for the new Rock Candy Funk Party record! RCFP is Bonamassa's Funk/Fusion band (my favorite project of his! Their 'Live At The Iridium' is killa!). Holy shades of The Brecker Bros. Heavy Metal Bebop Batman!!!;)
JPerry- It has been a while since I listened to "Live from Nowhere"- my recollection is that the vinyl was three LPs, not two. Perhaps I am wrong. (On the road right now, so can't check).
I used to go hear JB a number of years ago, before he achieved his deserved success. At that time, he was playing a more blues-oriented program, and though he obviously mixed it with hard rock, some great cover versions of things like Zep, ZZ Top and Yes, he added a very high level of playing skill to the mix.
However, it seemed like he shifted to a hard rock vein and at least in concert, became too loud. I like dynamic shading and contrast, and at a certain point, though his voice improved and he still pulls off some wonderful blues-oriented stuff ('Stop' was great), I sort of lost interest. I do wish him the best, and am glad to see that he has continued in his success, given how hard it is to make a living as a performer.
It does appear, based on discogs listings, that many of his earlier records have now been released on vinyl, presumably taken from digital masters (not that I'm against that, but note it).
Whart, great memory and interesting you should mention the three record set.

A friend of mine has that set, and hearing it at his home was my motivation for buying it. When I went to look for a copy the only one I could find was the two record set.

Discogs indicates the 3 LP release was in 2008, with a 2012 release of the 2 LP set.

I wanted the 3 LP set, but couldn't find a copy when I was looking.
Wow , just checked Amazon for a used copy of Nowhere in Particular ... $199.99 plus shipping ! New are $249.98 !
I'll stick with my downloaded video's !

Happy Tunes
Saki70, if you want a copy, check on discogs. None of the 3 LP sets are available, but there are a number of the 2 LP sets listed for sale, and for far less than the price on Amazon. No relationship with any of the sellers.
Saki70, if you want a copy, check on discogs. None of the 3 LP sets are available, but there are a number of the 2 LP sets listed for sale, and for far less than the price on Amazon. No relationship with any of the sellers.
Jperry ;
Thanks , I ordered it today .
Happy Tunes
You are welcome. Let me know what you think of the sound after you get the records. Happy listening.
Whitecap - no expert on JB live sound quality and this is a bit off topic but gotta say thanks for your post. It prompted me to check out some of his live stuff on-line. I hadn't ever gotten in to him that much. Only owned Sloe Gin and probably listened to that to death but didn't explore much beyond. Just got done listening to A New Day Yesterday LIVE (Spotify Premium through headphones). Maybe SQ could be better but as for the music? All I can say is YEEOWWW! Lately there doesn't seem to be much that grabs and holds my attention all the way through. This one did. He's got a great band too...the bass soloing about 4 min in on "Don't Burnt that Bridge...." is just killer. Thanks again. Got a whole lot more of him live to listen to now.
Ahhh, another convert!
How true, Joe has so much awesome music and is outstanding to see live but the cds all sound like garbage. Same with Warren Haynes and Gov't Mule my other favorites. I have all of Joe's Blu-ray concerts and they are the only way I can listen to him. Invest in a high end TV and sound system and you will feel like you are at his concerts. The sound and video on his blu-rays is outstanding. I do it every weekend and love it. Just hoping the cds all come out in SACD or SHM someday.
Interesting, so you think the audio of the same performance is different between the CD & DVD? I'm not saying it isn't, I'm just asking. My DVD player is part of my system, I've recorded music from DVD's onto CD via my CDR recorder. I'd do a test if it didn't entail having to get the CD and the DVD versions, maybe I'll check my library to see if they have the DVD. I already know they have a bunch of his CD's!;)
Chazro, all I know with absolute certainity is the audio recordings on Live at the Beacon and the first Live at Royal Albert Hall concert cds that were made into blu-ray concerts are night and day compared to the sound of the cds. I have the blu-rays of the Tour de Force concerts, An Acoustic Evening, Live in Amsterdam with Beth Hart and Black Country Communion as well and they are all to die for audio and video wise. How most of these great artists allow such inferior cd production is beyond me. PS: I'm not saying all blu-rays are great they're not but everyone of Joe's without a doubt are stellar and a feast for the senses.
The point is a good recording is so much better than one that is not. I just listened to vinyl of SRV today and it was just outstanding. Yeah, good music is still good if the recording isn't good. But, if the recording is great also then WOW. We should be demanding both and be willing to pay for it which is the real problem. We screw the artists and ourselves when we want music for free.
Hey Effischer - I am from Syracuse, NY and used to see this '' kid '' at local music outings and bars. I will admit the kid has/ had talent and I have seen him as an adult here in Syracuse as well. I have some of his music but the harder edge he has taken since his early days of - straight up blues has pushed me away. I agree his recordings are not the greatest .....I am just wondering if it is just that his huge ego has gotten in the way of the recording process ! Still enjoy some of his stuff ......
Garebear, I'm not into this type of music generally, but will buy some now as over my long life I have learned that folk from Syracuse generally have exquisite taste !
Syracuse has had some great jazz and blues acts over the years. We think it's because of all that snow. Kind of like the Italian food and pizza there, nothing else to do in the winter. We go back at least once a year, usually at New Year's, to remind ourselves what real food tastes like and what really bad winter weather looks like.

When we saw Joey in Cleveland in 2012, his ego didn't seem to be in the way of anything. He didn't talk much and most of the three sets he played had tons of improvisation. Seemed to really feed off the guys he was playing with, especially during the acoustic set. We had special seats we got through our local PBS station (WVIZ), so were right on top of the left PA stack. Won't do that again - way too loud.

Don't have an issue with his more rock-oriented material, but it can be a little much in a 3 hour show. You may recall the band Stroke from back in the day. They usually played Shifty's on Friday nights several times a year. Those guys were a great local act and had the blend of blues and rock just right to our ears.

Another real treasure (and a friend) is Jeff Stockham. He is seriously into Civil War reenactment music now with the Excelsior Coronet Brass Band, and got tagged by Steven Spielberg to do the band sequences in Lincoln. Does Gettysburg every year and has since the 90s. He's played with T.S. Monk, Stan Colella, Little Georgie, Marcia Rutledge, Syracuse Symphony and many others. Check him out if you get a chance.

One of the things we miss about Upstate was all the serious music and audio people like Tony Levin, Doyle-Whiting, 805, Dave Belles, the Gows, Steve Rowell and more. Have fun in the 'Cuse and happy listening!
I've lived ALL over the country, north , south, east and west.
Nicest people I've ever encountered in USA were during my time in Syracuse.
The 'cuse is like a flop eared puppy from the pound, not much to look at but with a heart of gold.
Shubert and Effischer...thank you for the kind words and looking at -5 today and there is some real good pizza here in Syracuse. I still go see Doyle and Whiting every chance I get and they are still good....Joe and Mark are still putting out recorded music that is just amazing ...think you can find them on Amazon. Dave Hanlon is still around and great with his own band ...and Stroke still play and Shifty's keeps a rockin ! Then you may remember this...the fist time I saw Joe Bonamassa was at the Party in the Plaza and he was 12 ......I turned my back to listen to him because I had an issue with looking at a kid who wasn't even hitting puberty, play licks as good as Eric Clapton and BB King ....! You knew the kid was going to be great and he is ......just love that '' old '' Delta and Chicago Blues sound. Stay well and we were probably at these same places together at one point in our lives and we didn't even know it !
Thank you, Garebear & Shubert. You can take the people from Syracuse but you can't take Syracuse from the people!
AMEN, Effischer !
This thread had me scrambling to pull out the only Joe Bonamassa live album/cd I have to listen again. I never remembered it sounding inferior. The version is "An Acoustic Evening at The Veinna Opra House" (2 cd set) In my system it sounds very good. His voice seems reassessed as if standing several feet back from edge of stage. Guitar strings are precise, dynamic. Bass is prominent, but; not muddy or sounding compressed. Excellent separation of instruments and good staging.

Maybe I just got lucky on this one. Shame the others mentioned are inferior, as his music is fantastic.
I so wanted the "Joe Bonamassa Live From New York's Beacon Theater" Blu-Ray to be sonically good, but was quite disappointed. One of the poorest recorded DVD's I own.
Just checking back with my take on his LP " Live From Nowhere " .
This was recommended as the best LP recording . It is very clear and clean but ... it appears , to me , to be cut from a digital source . This recording left me wanting more , turning it up made no improvement . I noticed a lack of extension on both ends as well as no drama ! What I would say is the lack of life that I seek from LP's as opposed to CD's ! Everything is there but it just lies flat . It lost that boogy factor . Oh well , live and learn !
Hopefully the Blue Ray's are better .

Happy Tunes