Named for the working-class industrial area of England wherein both Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham grew up, Black Country Communion is: guitarist Joe Bonamassa, who has released ten successful bluesrock related albums over the past decade. With a talent that’s comfortable in both the traditional and contemporary music, he has toured the world extensively and played alongside greats like Eric Clapton and B.B. King.
Though Joe sings lead in a few areas on the CD, the actual lead singer is veteran bassist-vocalist Glenn Hughes, who really doesn’t require an introduction to true rock fans. Since the ’60s, Glenn has been thrilling fans with his vocal and bass work in numerous bands, from his own Finders Keepers and Trapeze to Deep Purple and Black Sabbath.
Though drummer Jason Bonham must be getting tired of hearing journalists mention that he’s the son of John Bonham, the percussive hammer of Led Zeppelin, the fact remains the same. And the old saying that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree comes into play again, as his talent is truly phenomenal. Besides his involvement in the 1988 Zeppelin reunion show, in celebration of Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary, Jason has recorded and toured with his own bands Air Race and Bonham, as well as with Jimmy Page, Paul Rogers, Healing Sixes, Foreigner, UFO, and many more. He also pounded the skins throughout Joe Bonamassa’s 2006 “You And Me” album, which contains a nine and a half minute killer version of Zeppelin’s “Tea For One.”
Last but not least, keyboardist Derek Sherinian fills in the spaces with tasteful melodic additives and rhythmic proficiency. Aside from his work with the likes of Kiss, Billy Idol and Alice Cooper, and although a bit of an estrangement from the typically progressive mode he was into in Dream Theater and Platypus, Derek sheds much of the Korg and Roland synthesizer sounds for more of a traditional Hammond B3 resonance. And it’s all good. Veteran rock producer Kevin Shirley made it happen.
In talking styles that personify the entire CD, the music embodiment of each performer moves to the forefront in different places. This is a nice aspect within supergroup recordings, as it brings individuality and uniqueness to each song. The characteristics that standout consistently are the high-energy level and the rocked up, metallic mode that most of the songs are in. But since Hughes is blatantly prominent in most of the recordings, atmospheres reminiscent of Deep Purple and Sabbath reign throughout.
Not to say that it ends there, because Joe Bonamassa’s sundry guitar playing soars off in almost any and every rock ‘n roll direction. Joe performs an amazing array of lead and rhythm configurations throughout the album. And being that the quartet is made up of two Brits and two Americans, an ideal balance of solid rock influence prevails in the music.
Often a defining feature in quality rock songs, lead and bass riffs played in unison are widespread throughout the album, beginning with the energetic opener, “Black Country.” A recurring rapid-fire bass line from Glenn Hughes makes way for Bonamassa’s lead guitar and Bonham’s solid percussion to intensify the arrangement. Hughes’ gigantic voice enters to prophesize about returning to the Black Country.
Though intense energy makes it a good choice to start the album, the follower, “One Last Soul,” diverts in another direction. Much like the brilliant rock singles of the ’70s and ’80s, a classic melodic sound and feel encompasses this one. Instrumentation, as amazing as it is, takes a back seat to the song’s strong vocal presence, giving it an ideal pop-rock feature.
“The Great Divide” is in that vein as well, as it highlights Glenn Hughes’ vocal range and emotional intensity, and confirms that he hasn’t lost much ability over the years. Joe’s brilliant yet effortlessly executed lead work has the right amount of subtle intensity for the song.
“Down Again” flaunts that aforesaid riff magic at the onset, as both bass player and guitarist get into a catchy lick, a la Cream or Trower. With that said, it soon becomes the band’s own tune when the melody intensifies. Joe and Derek get into some interesting interaction to close the song. Next is “Beggarman,” in which Joe inserts an air of Hendrix into the intro. He then segues nicely into the song’s powerfully resounding riff.
And just as with catchy riffs, any self-respecting hard rock album isn’t complete without epic excursions, BCC being no different in that respect. “Song of Yesterday” has Bonamassa and Hughes alternating emotion and power in the vocal department, and it features a two and a half minute lead-guitar voyage that builds to an incredible group finish.
The legend of the Greek Goddess whose eyes turn her adversaries to stone comes to life in the surging rocker “Medusa.” Bonamassa and Hughes trade off vocal lines again in “Too Late For The Sun.” Almost twelve minutes in length, everyone stands out in this tour de force that completes the album in a strong funk and hard rock groove. Sherinian’s Hammond B3 resonance is reminiscent of Deep Purple’s Jon Lord here.
Black Country Communion is a strong debut release from the band of the same name. The musicianship throughout is brilliantly executed; and the music is potent, hard, funky, energetic, and ambitious. Though a few tracks stick out in a catchy and memorable way, much of the music takes a few plays to sink in, as there’s a lot to the arrangements and musicianship. This is hard rock for 2010, and it’s powerful and progressive. These four guys are at the top of their game here, a trait that’s blatantly noticeable in every song.
- Black Country
- One Last Soul
- The Great Divide
- Down Again
- Song Of Yesterday
- No Time
- The Revolution In Me
- Stand (At The Burning Tree)
- Sista Jane
- Too Late For The Sun