Opening with a staccato bass line that morphs into a monster riff, Black Country Communion blows the roof off, heads for the sky and never looks back. With Glenn “The Voice Of Rock” Hughes and Joe Bonamassa leading the band one might expect a funky, bluesy outing in the style of Deep Purple’s “Come Taste The Band” but this record is pure hard rock. Jason Bonham’s immensely powerful drumming brings the thunder and Derek Sherinian’s swirling Hammond B3 grooves whip every influence into a ferocious and focused perfect storm.
The music is fresh and exciting yet instantly familiar. Many listeners will probably be familiar with at least one of the members of Black Country Communion, but I believe it is Glenn Hughes’ voice that lends most to the illusion of familiarity. He has sung on just enough classic rock records to be identifiable without being tedious. In fact his energy on this album is infectious and his voice is strong. Joe Bonamassa takes the lead vocal spot on two songs, shares lead on another pair, and is more than equal to the task of singing with Glenn. Joe’s guitar playing isn’t too shabby either.
On Facebook recently Joe posted that “For years the blues police have said I should go join a rock band. Well this week they got their wish.” Well, Mr. Bonamassa puts his prodigious rock guitar talents to work with Black Country Communion. From the riffs to the solos, every aspect shows he is a worthy successor to rock guitar gods past. Joe tears it up on the band’s cover of “Medusa” by Trapeze, one of Glenn’s pre-Deep Purple bands.
They head into AC/DC territory with the track “Sista Jane” whose fist-banging mania conjures images of Beavis and Butthead head-banging and fist-pumping the maloik in rhythm with Jason Bonham’s hard rock march. “Uh-huh-huh. This is cool.” Yeah, it is cool. I’m right there with them. Air drummers are going to love this album. “Sista Jane” is part of a suite of music in the last 35 minutes of music on this CD that is, simply put, timeless heavy rock music.
The whole band is tremendously talented and gets plenty of time to dazzle on the epic 11-minutes-plus closing track, “Too late For The Sun.” Derek Sherinian however, is perhaps underused on the album. His B3 seems to be there to hold together what is otherwise an amazing power trio. It is not until the last song that the listener realizes how little of his work is previously audible in the mix. Fans who know him from Dream Theater, Platypus or his solo albums may be sorely surprised by how little soloing space he has on the album. I personally expected a lot more and was looking forward to hearing him go toe to toe with Joe Bonamassa.
Derek’s work really comes through while listening with headphones and for all its hard rocking glory, this CD deserves a few focused listens on a headset. The subtleties are hidden but they do exist. Producer Kevin Shirley seems to like a full, bombastic sound and through big speakers at maximum volume the accents can get lost. Sherinian’s keyboards on “Beggarman” are a perfect example. His B3 chords punctuate the main riff; almost defining it. The private, focused listen provided by the headphones draws the ear to those accents and thankfully there are plenty to appreciate with each successive journey to the Black Country.
This is a band that will be unstoppable live. Hopefully they will put together a tour big enough to come within driving distance of home. I can wait to experience Communion live; but for now I’ve got the year’s best new band’s equally excellent debut album to hold me over. Ladies and gentlemen: Black Country Communion.