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Black Country Communion

Black Country Communion 2

Review by Larry Toering

After nine months, the modern day super group returns with its second release. It’s quicker than most artists do things, but this is BCC. This is job one for Glenn Hughes, and the others have risen with equally reliable performances. The first album was done very well, and the material is all very good stuff as well. But they didn't gel quite as well as a complete unit as they appear to on this release. I feel that is down to Derek Sherinian's input being of equal contribution, among a couple of other small things. He also brings the prog element on very strong, which is why. although they may not be considered a prog band, he is a prog artist and I think he really helps make this a prog album, so it gets that stamp at MSJ.

Either way you slice it, I rate this album as one of the best of the last two decades, and certainly the best retro/classic rock of this time period. It's hard to lose with Hughes teaming up with the likes of whiz kid Joe Bonamassa. Everyone comes completely full circle in their careers here, all putting in the best of what they do, including Jason Bonham. If this is what the future standard in rock holds, we're in for some quality. Hughes and company are setting the bar with their perfect combo of hard rock/blues/funk songwriting and energetically delivered performances. Let's hope I'm not just dreaming.

This band is one of the best to come along iin so long it's hopefully not too late to make the impression they truly deserve to make. I think the efforts to do so are written all over this masterpiece of classic/progressive hard rock.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Outsider

Right off the bat they mean business with Glenn Hughes opening in the vein of everything from “Neon Nights” and “In For The Kill” by Black Sabbath to “Devil's Road” by HTP, and every great opener in between. Make no mistake when I say that, as they proceed to conquer and divide throughout. This one also features cracking keyboard work from Sherinian, as he gets to come on strong in mid-section unison interplay with Bonamassa.

Man In The Middle

This is the first single, for which a great promotional video was shot at a southern California beach. It has a grungy riff with Hughes carrying on about himself, which he does so well in the lyrics all over the disc. This wouldn't be my choice for the lead track but it would still fit up there with my choices for singles.

The Battle For Hadrian's Wall

Now this features Bonamassa on vocals, and it happens to be a contender for the best song here. His vocal performance is up there with Hughes. He plays a double neck and pulls off a stellar performance on both guitar and vocals, something in the vein of Zeppelin's “Ramble On.” It's that good anyway.

Save Me

This is based around a riff that Bonham provided from the sessions he did with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. He told  Hughes to give it his all, and that he did, as he went way down deep to the darkest places to get the colossal vibe he accomplished. Bonamassa pulls off two phase shifted solos, not to mention the added symphonic effects. And that's not even the half of it. This is easily one of BCC's best tracks. This is probably Bonham's best performance on the disc, as well.

Smokestack Woman

This is another killer track with a massive groove! This is where Hughes starts to peak and the song rocks to the core. I would rate this up there with the best of their catalog thus far, as well. I love how, when they slow it down, Bonamassa goes Jimmy Page wild and Hughes let's out a massive belt and they go back to the chorus like magic. What a great live number this must be.

Faithless

This features Hughes once again in a very dark moment, and it's an interesting one too. There is a very funky underlying bass line and bursts of vocal emotions. It's one of the more spiritually hypnotic numbers.

An Ordinary Son

Bonamassa reappears with the lead vocals once again, and it's every bit as good as his earlier vocal showing on  the disc. The concept comes on very heavy at this point, as he relates a very soothing tale. This is another that rates up there with their very best indeed. It's one of the slower tracks as well, which is not a bad thing, as both singers can more than handle the ups and downs. This has to be one of Bonamassa's arriving moments. It's only fair to give such an example as “Gonna dig a hole / Gonna fall in the dirt / Gonna deem myself and rise upon this earth.” Sherinian throws a solo in later and Hughes adds to the majesty of the epic. This is brilliant!

I Can See Your Spirit

Things kick back up a notch here with a heavy pounding riff and Hughes going in several directions. This track deals with the spiritual factor. It’s another solid cut with Sherinian letting it rip on organ.

Little Secret

This one slows things back down and again goes into personal territory for Hughes. He digs way down to some of the places everyone  goes, making this an easily relatable theme, which is what a good song is all about. This is a very slow and soulful number with a nice bottom end organ growl. Since it's very personal, that is all one needs to know. It is the closest thing to straight forward blues on here.

Crossfire

Another highlight track here, this has awesome vocal harmonies from Hughes. There isn't a whole lot more to say about it, other than it's as good as just about anything here. It’s another BCC standard with Hughes in full Stevie Wonder mode. It should easily go down as one of the album's favorites.

Cold

Things close with Hughes once again going way down deep, and Bonamassa following, or vice versa, if you will, This is built on a wonderful harmonic motif and features heavenly soling. By the time this ends it's hard to believe it's over.

 

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