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Black Country Communion

Black Country Communion

Review by Mark Johnson

Kevin Shirley’s inspiration to bring together Glenn Hughes, vocals and bass, and Joe Bonamassa, lead guitar and vocals has provided one of the best rock/blues bands and albums of the year. Add Jason Bonham playing drums and Derek Sherinian on keyboards and you’ll understand why many people are talking about this band as the next supergroup.

For me, it’s easily the best debut rock/blues album of the year. These guys lived up to the “supergroup” label. Every note is a gem and every moment is one you want to enjoy completely. Blistering guitar with original themes and solid, dynamic vocals with full range are featured along with the full power of bass. Bonham’s drumming brings back memories of his father’s work. Sherinian’s keys fill in all dimensions of the sound. These are all the makings of a great band. Black Country Communion is bringing back the power and glory of the best of rock and blues from both sides of the Atlantic.

This album was recorded almost as a “live in studio” album within one take. I don’t know how they could have done any better.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Black Country
Hughes’ heavy bass opens this one before Bonham’s rocking drums blast through, followed by Hughes’ screaming voice, “I am a messenger, this is my prophecy / I’m going back to the Black Country!” This one jumps out and grabs you by the throat and says, “Remember when bands used to rock?” Bonamassa’s blistering guitar licks roar the piece into a blazing inferno that just brings back all those memories of Bonham’s father’s band. This is a blistering anthem to begin the story for this band. You will be thankful Kevin Shirley put these guys together. The candle is lit and the slow burn is about to begin.
One Last Soul
This is a song written by Hughes specifically for Black Country Communion. It’s the first single and one of the best songs off the album. Hughes opens this one with great vocals supported by Bonham’s drums and Bonamassa’s axe, “You were born in a jet stream down in South Caroline / Got a roll in the big scheme / Now you’re ready to shine / You’re the one last soul who can win it / You’re the one last sole if you try.” This catchy hook will have you singing along long after the song ends. Hughes still has the power to lift those high screams and does a great job feeding the fire of this song.
The Great Divide
A clever guitar riff from Hughes opens this one as Bonham keeps great pace.  Hughes’ voice is powerful as he continues to lift the level of each song to a new high with those screams and yells. He also balances it with a good mix of solid delivery when he is not screaming. “So let me ride the Great Divide / It’s beautiful.” So is the guitar work on this piece. It features picking that reminds one of all the great guitar masters of the 70s.
Down Again
We get power bass like it used to be played. Then Hughes roars through, “I left my house in the south of the city and they call me a vagabond.” The keys from Sherinian will bring back solid memories of the best of Deep Purple. I’m talking about those cool sweet blues keys you remember from some of rock’s best hard rock and heavy metal bands. This features solid bass and power lead riffing with Bonham slamming the skins. This is rock like it used to be. I wish the keys and Bonamassa’s lead playing at the end of the song would have gone on even longer.
Beggarman
Heavy fuzz lead guitar picking, ala Hendrix, just blows this one open, along with Hughes’ bass and Sherinian’s keys filling in the spaces. Bonham’s pounding is perfectly timed to provide the rhythm behind this cool rock/blues mix. Besides “One Last Soul,” this is my favorite blues/rock number of the first six of the album. Bonamassa’s lead work is simply out of this world. This song is an “animal.” Hughes’ vocals really drive this along with Bonamassa’s picking. You can tell these guys had fun with this cut and the entire album. The love of music shines through.
Song of Yesterday
This is my favorite song on the album and it may be my favorite song of the year. It brings back so many memories of Paul Rodger’s greatest songs with the Firm and Bad Company. This is an epic like “Midnight Moonlight,” “All the King’s Horses,” and, of course, “Live in Peace.” Although the memories are there and the title harkens back to the past, this is original and Bonamassa’s voice sounds grittier than Rodger’s. This song was written by Joe Bonamassa. The lyrics are deep and all members of the band fire like a perfect eight cylinder engine. This is an epic eight-and-a-half-minute song which slows everything down after five solid rockers full of fire. The lead guitar is supported perfectly with bass and cymbals before Bonamassa reaches out, “I hope, true passion, after many years / I will listen / A heavy weight, upon my chest, like a wailing wall.” His singing brings the feeling through to the listener of that long grueling ride up and down the highway of rock and roll. Strings, flutes, the sound of pipes and a small orchestra are added to bring the full soundscape. Did I say “epic?” The mood is set perfectly. Then there are those blasting drums and guitars. The orchestration is wonderful, but the guitars and drums really bring this one home. Bonamassa’s lead work stands out and mixes perfectly with Bonham’s drums and Sherinian’s keys, supporting in the background. You just don’t want this one to end.
No Time
We’re back to that funked up rock with heavy bass, drums and slithering lead guitar. The opening drums almost made me think we were going to roll into the song “Rock n’ Roll” from Led Zeppelin’s fourth album. “There’s no time my brother / There’s no time to make it right.” That funky guitar riff just hooks you and never lets you go.
Medusa
This is the song that captured Kevin Shirley’s imagination. When you first hear it you understand why. There are dreamy guitars, synths and cymbals before the full drums enter. This is another one of my favorites on the album. The guitar chords and riffs are some of the best on the album. A good solid slow blues rock melody builds with all guns firing before Bonamassa blasts open the soundscape with a rocket lifting guitar piece that will bring back many memories from some of your favorites from the 70s. Behind "Song of Yesterday," this is one of Hughes’ best vocal performances on the album. It is so nice to hear all of these powerhouse musicians firing off some of their best material on the same tune. 
The Revolution in Me

Rough bass and lead guitar grind through the soundscape and slam this one into your ears. Bonamassa roars, “Like the fields of Dunkirk / Still a revolution in me,” bringing back the spirit of the 70s revolutionaries to the power thud of Bonham’s drums and Bonamassa’s fiery lead jams. . Then Sherinian’s cool keys drive home his best section on the album before dropping off in support of Bonamassa’s screaming lead. It sounds like these guys have been working together for years not months.

Stand (At the Burning Tree)
Heavy slamming lead coupled with bass and Bonham’s power drums gets this one off to a quick start. This has the most Paul Rodgers sounding lead vocals yet, but Hughes adds his own character to the sound as strings, keys and that heavy bass just rock you. Then Sherinian lets loose with those cool organ tones, and Hughes’ bass and Bonham’s steady drums work in tandem. Bonamassa’s blistering guitar soars in and out of the mix.
Sista Jane
There’s an almost AC/DC Back in Black opening to this one with Bonamassa and Bonham blasting the speakers. Bonamassa and Hughes share the vocals on this one. The guitar riffs and keyboard support are stellar. An almost Cream sounding guitar riff turns into a Townsend, Who inspired spectacle. This is just awesome! It’s nearly seven minutes of lightning jamming and thunder drums. The keys bring back some wonderful Who highlights at the end.
Too Late for the Sun
This one opens with a heavy influence of Cream with keys supporting. It’s the album’s epic at almost eleven and a half minutes in length. The drums are solid. Sherinian’s keys just bring back so many memories. Hughes and Bonamassa again share vocals here to drive home the power of this epic. Bonamassa’s guitar riffs are original and ring throughout, but when he starts jamming around the middle, he, Hughes and Sherinian do some spectacular work along with Bonham’s hammering drums. I can’t wait to see this live someday. This is another song that, despite its length, you do not want to end.
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