Music Review: Black Country Communion: Afterglow (J and R Adventures, CD)

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Black Country Communion Afterglow

Hard-rock supergroup Black Country Communion defines its sound on its third CD Afterglow. If the prolific band’s first album found the members channeling singer/bassist Glenn Hughes’ Deep Purple history, and the second album (the imaginatively titled 2) tapped into drummer Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin DNA, chapter three sees the band finding its own space—still acknowledging its influences and members’ backgrounds, but forging a sound that’s unique to the group.

Hughes seems to be firmly in the drivers’ seat on Afterglow, singing all of the lead vocals except for a back-and-forth duet with Joe Bonamassa on “Cry Freedom”, and reportedly responsible for most of the songwriting. This may account for the album having more of an R&B feel along the lines of much of Hughes’ solo catalog.

Bonamassa certainly gets his licks in, delivering blistering solos on “Big Train” and “This Is Your Time.” But this time around, keyboardist Derek Sherinian, who often played a background role on the band’s first two albums, has more of a presence, playing a great Jon Lord-like organ solo on “Confessor” and laying down some busy clavinet lines on “Common Man.” Bonham can’t help but give the whole proceedings some Zep stomp with tough, solid drumming that recalls his late father John Bonham’s work with Zeppelin, and also reflects Jason Bonham’s stint with Zeppelin in the 2007 reunion concert getting a proper DVD release in 2012. Closing track “Crawl” certainly evokes “Kashmir” but puts a new twist on the formula.

Certainly, there are traces of Purple here, Zeppelin there, Bonamassa blues rock, etc., but BCC has achieved a more original blend on Afterglow, with melodic, memorable song constructions that are proper settings for the member’s instrumental virtuosity and Hughes’ vocal wailing, but are not overshadowed by these elements.

Producer Kevin Shirley, who was instrumental in putting the band together in 2009 and has produced all three albums, does his usual awesome job on the sound, mixing it crisply and making sure every instrument and vocal track comes through loud and clear.

There’s been buzz in the music press lately that BCC may be not long for this world, that Bonamassa’s busy touring schedule is preventing him from gigging with this band, and Hughes is none too happy about it. I certainly hope not. They’re a great group with a well-defined sound and style that takes advantage of the members’ histories but has moved beyond into something fresh and new. Here’s hoping they can keep it together for the next chapter.

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