Black Country Communion
So, here it is, the most unlikely album release of the year. Five years after a reportedly acrimonious split, the supergroup that is Black Country Communion are back with their fourth studio release. Ten new songs penned by bassist Glenn Hughes and blues maestro Joe Bonamassa make up the originally titled 'BCCIV'. But that only tells half the story - throw Jason Bonham on drums and Derek Sherinian on keyboards into the mix, all wrapped up with producer extraordinaire Kevin Shirley's magic touch and you have a barnstorming collection of tunes which could easily make up the best Rock album of 2017.
From the opening Zep like crunching riff of first single 'Collide' it sounds like the five year old cobwebs are being blown away with some serious force. Everyone is obviously having a ball, with Hughes vocals soaring and wailing in equal measure, to powerhouse performances by Bonham and Bonamassa, with the latter playing like his guitar is on fire. A great opening track that leaves you in no doubt this is no half hearted side project to fill time between solo releases.
Never is this more evident than on 'Over My Head' with another instantly catchy riff and a great chorus, it's perfect for radio. Happily it seems the considerable egos on display are going to be put aside and everyone is going to get their chance to shine, this time it's Bonham, who plays with such force and precision even old Dad would have been proud. This has the feel of a band on the edge where reputations are forgotten and all that matters is the music.
'Last Song For My Resting Place' would be at home on any Joe Bonamassa solo album. And what a song this is, the only track with Joe on lead vocals and clocking in at almost eight minutes long, the word epic doesn't really do it justice. It sounds like a sea shanty with attitude and tells the story of Wallace Harvey, the band leader and violinist on the Titanic who played and perished as the ship went down. As you might expect the violin plays it's part, with the layered song mixing light and heavy with a crushing solo from Mr. B. in usual Blues/Rock mode at its centre. A monster of a track that only improves with repeated plays.
With everyone stamping their mark on the previous songs, 'Sway' sees Sherinian take to the spotlight and whilst the guitars and drums of the two JB's are unrelenting, the underlying keyboards bring an extra depth to this rocker. Add to this, the over the top vocals by Hughes and this full on song, again reminiscent of classic Zeppelin, is a swaggering five minutes of sheer joy.
Although the pace slows down somewhat for 'The Cove', the power most certainly does not. A track inspired by Hughes work with conservation group The Dolphin Project, we get a heartfelt vocal from the singer and a back to the Blues performance from Mr. Bonamassa. Meanwhile Mr. Bonham's crescendo drums sound like they are signalling the end of the world. Although not as immediately accessible as many of the songs featured here, it's a definite grower which needs time to get under your skin.
With a possible reference to the cover of third album 'Afterglow', 'The Crow' has everything thrown in, as well as the kitchen sink, another rocker featuring solos from guitar, drums and keys. Sometimes quick and sometimes slow maybe the lyric, but with a Rage Against The Machine like bass line, and powerful vocals, it's clear that Hughes will not be outdone.Only with multiple listens can you take in everything that's going on in this track. A complete stormer.
My initial favourite upon first listen was 'Wanderlust'. From the very start it sounds like a classic Bonamassa song and if I could find one fault, it would be that I would have preferred to hear JB sing it. It has a great pace, a highly infectious groove and a singable chorus that immediately gets wedged in your brain, plus another great ascending drum and guitar combination - not to mention a rocking grand piano - make this song an absolute highlight.
Next up 'Love Remains' and the Led Zep references just keep coming. A falsetto performance for the chorus from Hughes where it feels like a high pitched Plant should be. It's a great song, which even though is about loss, is no way downbeat, another ear worm which could be a single and is perfect for radio. Bonham in particular sounds like he's having the time of his life. Another personal favourite.
Blistering is probably the only word needed to describe 'Awake' with its thunderous guitars and keyboards.A song about living forever - you can imagine the audience needing a lie down - let alone the band - when this is played live. A well paced number which builds to a stunning climax,Hughes uses all his vocal dexterity to power though it, reminiscent of his days in Deep Purple. A stunning track.
The album closes with the more sedate 'When The Morning Comes', the second multi layered eight minute song. Never feeling over long, everyone plays their part, with once again solos for keys and guitar. The vocal passages during the verses are pretty low key for a change, but normal service is resumed through the instrumental sections as again Mr. Bonham brings the power. A killer way to close a superb CD.
A great album easily worth the five year wait. Just a shame next year's European tour only consists of two UK dates, but with everyone's touring commitments I suppose it's not that surprising. Those who have (and can afford) tickets are in for a real treat come January 2018. Here's hoping Black Country Communion V lands before 2022!