Black Country Communion: Afterglow
I'm sure by now most folks have heard about the controversy and tension within the Black Country Communion camp. It's been somewhat of a 'Cold War' on Twitter between Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa in recent weeks, starting right up when the band finished their third release in just a few short years, titled Afterglow. Apparently, due to Bonamassa's hectic solo band touring & recording schedule, he wasn't able to contribute much writing to this latest BCC release, leaving Hughes to do the bulk of the songwriting (many of the songs were apparently slated for his next solo album) along with some contributions from Jason Bonham. In addition, the bands lone scheduled concert for early 2013 in the UK was abruptly cancelled just days after it was announced, with no real explanation, leading many fans to ponder whether Afterglow will indeed be the bands swan song. After some back and forth on Twitter between Glenn, Joe, and producer Kevin Shirley, it's not real clear what the story is between the band members as of this writing, but if nothing else, it's drawing a lot of attention to Afterglow, though the funny thing is, all the drama isn't really needed, as this is an album that stands on its own and instantly reveals its greatness.
There is surely a different feel to Afterglow when compared to BCC's first two releases. Perhaps there's more of a 'Glenn Hughes' vibe overall, but as fantastic as those first two albums were, this one has a little more variety, as the songs hit on '70s hard rock, some bluesy funk, and some '80s heavy rock styles. Opening track "Big Train" kicks things off in fine fashion, a catchy rocker with powerful vocals from Hughes and plenty of impressive riffs from Bonamassa. A nod to the '70s can he heard on the heavy "This is Your Time", complete with Joe's beefy licks and Derek Sherinian's wonderful keyboard work. Imagine a cross between Humble Pie, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Trapeze, and Deep Purple and you have an idea of what to expect here. "Midnight Sun" sees Bonamassa delivering some nifty Van Halen styled riffs, giving this hook laden winner a real '80s feel, and Bonham doing his best Keith Moon impression during the closing moments.
On "Confessor", the groove recalls the lean and mean material from the bands sophomore release, as crunchy riffs and thick Hammond organ provide the foundation for Hughes' soaring vocals, and "Cry Freedom" is more of a steamrolling blues rock number, with Hughes and Bonamassa trading off on the vocals for superb effect and Joe nailing it on some sizzling slide guitar. Things slow down a bit on the atmospheric & melodic title track, a truly remarkable and instantly memorable song that fully shows the wonderful voice of Glenn Hughes. Going from gentle crooning to violent screaming, the bassist gives it his all on this one, a real Zeppelin styled number that jumps from pastoral to symphonic to heavy rocking all in an instant. Memories of vintage Cactus can he heard on the bluesy hard rock of "Dandelion", as Bonham drives this pulsating boogie machine over which Bonamassa's scorching solos and beefy riffs take center stage. Perhaps my favorite song here is up next, the emotional "The Circle", as the band settle into a tranquil, bluesy, proggy atmosphere that recalls Free at their zenith, complete with swirling organ, tasty guitar licks, and Hughes' soaring vocals. This one has a haunting quality that will stay with you for days.
"Common Man" has a riff that sounds a lot like the Rush classic "Tom Sawyer", but of course if more bluesy, and contains a hook laden chorus, while "The Giver" has some great melodies within a more atmospheric framework, with the harmonies recalling Hughes' work in MarkII Deep Purple. Closer "Crawl" is a potent mix of hard rock, funk, blues, and prog, chock full of Hughes' beefy bass riffs and Bonamassa's snaking guitar lines, as the band go through all sorts of twists, turns, stops and starts. Nice use of Sherinian's chilling keyboard tapestries in the background for dramatic effect as well, and he and Joe get into some scorching back and forth trade-offs near the climax that recall some classic Rainbow exchanges of yesteryear.
What the future holds for this fantastic supergroup remains to be seen, but let's hope the guys can work out whatever scheduling differences they may have to take this beast of an album out on the road. There's just that certain 'something' that really clicks when you put these four musicians together, and would be a shame to end it all now. Should that be the case (but let's hope not), then Afterglow rounds out their trio of releases in dramatic and near perfect fashion.
- Big Train
- This Is Your Time
- Midnight Sun
- Cry Freedom
- The Circle
- Common Man
- The Giver
Added: October 7th 2012
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
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|Black Country Communion: Afterglow
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-11-01 15:22:18
So what's this here then? A third, in as many years album from super-group Black Country Communion? Weren't they supposed to be hitting the rocks and calling it a day? Oh, they still might be?? Well, if they are going to continue to make music every bit as compelling and convincing as that on Afterglow, long may the friction and alleged infighting continue! This album is nothing short of being a complete and utter triumph and not only the best classic rock releases from Black Country Communion so far, but the best you'll be able to find right now and for some time previous. Don't doubt me here, I'm not joking, this is the real deal, the cat's pyjamas, the dog's bollocks and as good as having two birds in each hand as well as about four dozen in the bush!
Amazingly, considering the less than enthusiastic reception received by many of the albums in his under rated solo catalogue, Afterglow began life as a standalone Glenn Hughes effort. With the onetime Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Trapeze and too many others to mention, singer and bassist only convinced to attempt to reconvene the Black Country Communions at the insistence of the band's unofficial fifth member and producer Kevin Shirley (Journey/Iron Maiden/Rush/Led Zeppelin/and also too many more to mention). With mere days in the studio together Hughes, guitarist Joe Bonamassa, keyboard player Derek Sherinian and drummer Jason Bonham, came in, laid down their best grooves and left Hughes and Shirley to polish up the results. The efforts of their elbow grease being blindingly dazzling.
Hurtling down the tracks comes "Big Train" and my advice is not to stand in its way. The bass throbs and thrums, as the keyboards lay the foundations from which the guitars soar, swoop and dive, leaving a dizzying trail for the drums to effortlessly follow. Amazingly enough - while Hughes says BCC may be on the verge of ending - one song in and already Afterglow sounds like an unadulterated band effort. Astounding! From there "This Is Your Time" stomps with vicious intent, crushing all it can see, while Hughes rolls out a honey like vocal that lives up to the name "Voice Of Rock" and then some. Instead of reaching for the heights, he keeps, for this song anyway, his voice in check. Content to drive the massive and I do mean humungous, groove to within the very edge of its life through his considered restraint.
Bonham sounds gargantuan, pounding the skins, leaving an almost tangible taste of anger in every thwacking thump, but then he's equalled at every smack by the wallop of keyboards provided by Sherinian. Album on album BCC have become more of quartet, rather than the Glenn and Joe show and on Afterglow there's no doubt that the mighty effect wouldn't be achieved without the contributions of a drummer and keyboardist few can match. "Dandelion" roars into view in a manner its name could never suggest, but the tenderness in Hughes vocal delivery and stripped back passages counterpoint the ferocity of the rest of the song to perfection, while "Cry Freedom" finds Bonamassa stepping up to the microphone to share lead vocals with Hughes. The results are stunning and if there was to be one criticism of Afterglow (there aren't many others I can find), it is that more of Bonamassa's singing would only have brought a near flawless album even nearer to perfection. As you'd expect however the guitarist's fret work is beyond reproach, with "Common Man" dripping with six-string atmosphere, while the album's title track is an in your face monster of a guitar track.
I could go on and tell you how Hughes has never sung better, that "Crawl" gnaws into your mind as it delivers its pleasures, or how Sherinian and Bonamassa combine ridiculously well throughout "Midnight Sun", while still leaving enough room for Bonham to batter his kit into submission and Hughes to pummel his bass and sing his heart out. However I'd only just be labouring the point that Afterglow is really rather good!
Did I mention that "Confessor" just about tops the lot.....?
We can only pray that the demise of Black Country Communion fails to come to pass, while secretly hoping that the rumoured friction which caused such enigmatic performances to result in an album this good, continues.
Bask in the Black Country Communion Afterglow, for it may be their last. If it is not, then take cover, because how they follow this album, I'm not sure!
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