Black Country Communion – Black Country Communion 2

January 01, 1970



guitarist Joe Bonamassa wears as a badge of honor the fact that he’s never been
mentioned in the pages of Rolling Stone magazine, much less earned a coveted cover space that has recently featured the
likes of Rhianna and Lady Gaga; this in spite of the fact that he’s the
best-selling blues artist of the 2000s. In the first few years of the
publication’s existence, Bonamassa’s classic rock “supergroup” Black
Country Communion may not have made the cover, but they certainly would have
received some sort of coverage for their guitar-heavy blend of rock, soul, and
blues. That America’s foremost music magazine and, indeed, most stateside music
publications – present company excluded – virtually ignored BCC’s self-titled
2010 debut album is more of a shame than a critical oversight.


Across the
pond, in merry ol’ England, that country’s rock press has embraced Black
Country Communion as musical saviors, and not just because of the fact that
vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes (Trapeze, Deep Purple, solo artist) and drummer
Jason Bonham – he of the Zeppelin bloodline – are Brits. Americans Bonamassa
and keyboardist Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater) round out the band, the four
talented musicians achieving a sound that is so eerily like 1972 raising its
thorny head again that it’s ridiculous. Black
Country Communion
successfully captured the classic rock sound of the ’70s decade,
spruced it up with modern production, and then launched the band gleefully
rolling across Europe like conquering pagans
worshipping some rock ‘n’ roll gods of yore.


Less than
a year later, here comes Black Country Communion 2, an even bigger, scarier classic rock shibboleth that puts
throwback rockers like the Sword or Rose
Hill Drive in their proper place. With a chemistry
forged by touring behind the first album’s material, BCC quickly jumped back in
the studio with grand aspirations; the result is an album of monster riffs,
larger-than-life vocals, and crashing rhythms guaranteed to bring tears to the
eyes of any classic rock fan, whether they were raised in the 1970s or not.


Black Country Communion 2 cranks up the amps from the first note,
“The Outsider” roaring in on steel wings with a rapid-paced
soundtrack that supports Hughes’ lofty, hard-rocking vocals. The song sounds
like a cross between AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, but Bonamassa’s massive riffing
and the blistering rhythm section of Hughes/Bonham drive the song off a
different sort of cliff altogether. Suitably warmed up, the band launches into
the dino-stomp of “Man In The Middle,” the song evincing the funky
metallic blues of Hughes’ solo work, but with a larger purpose, and a bigger
sound, Bonham’s drumbeats exploding out of the beast while the guitar and bass
rumble malevolently low in the mix, hitting one’s ears like a gang fight.


“The Battle For Hadrian’s Wall”
is patterned along the lines of almost everything on Led Zeppelin III, with a healthy dollop of British folk-rock (think
Fairport Convention) thrown in for good measure. Bonamassa’s spry acoustic
guitarplay supports Hughes’ ethereal vocals until a rising crescendo of sound
blows the dust and fuzz out of your eardrums. The song carries on, alternating
light/dark with some razor-sharp shards of guitar and a fluid, almost jazzy
rhythmic soundtrack. The powerful dirge that is “Smokestack Woman” reminds
of Hughes’ tenure with Deep Purple, mixing high-voltage hard rock cheap thrills
with bluesy undercurrents and just enough funky mojo strut to make you forget
whatsis-name, that faceless, talentless band you saw play at your local club
last weekend. These guys were designed from the ground up to be rock stars, and
they let their freak flag fly proudly with each performance. Case in point:
“An Ordinary Son,” the song riding in with a gentle acoustic intro,
shimmering drumbeats, and roaring bass lines, the song building on Hughes’
deceptively sedate vocals to reach full gallop, the “Voice of Rock’s”
soulful vox accompanied by Sherinian’s chiming keys low in the mix, and
Bonamassa’s imaginative fretwork lurking menacingly in the corners.


Zeppelinesque rip-n-roar instant classic, “I Can See Your Spirit”
swoops in on a dark-hearted recurring riff and bird-of-prey rhythms, the song a
non-stop rock ‘n’ roll roller-coaster teetering dangerously on the edge of the rail.
As if there were ever any doubt, Hughes’ leather-lunged vocals place him firmly
in the rarified stratosphere of esteemed shouters like Robert Plant, Ronnie
James Dio, and Rob Halford, the man a bona fide rock ‘n’ roll god with a small
but rabid following. Bonamassa’s scorching solo here bleeds blues from the
speakers, while Sherinian’s manic keyboard runs build upon a legacy built by
classic key-benders like Jon Lord and Ken Hensley.            


Black Country Communion 2 closes out with “Cold,” the song a
moody, atmospheric mid-tempo rocker that showcases Bonamassa’s gorgeous guitar
tone and provocative playing style as well as Bonham’s nuanced rhythms. The
song itself is hauntingly beautiful, Hughes subtle vocal turns providing the
lyrics with turbo-charged emotion and maximum impact as Bonamassa’s solos soar
magnificently high above the band. Producer Kevin Shirley, Bonamassa’s longtime
studio cohort, captures every note on the album with perfect balance, providing
the band with a signature sound that is both antique in focus and contemporary in
sound, simply timeless in execution.


While it
may seem that Black Country Communion is hopelessly stuck in a bygone era,
pursuing a classic rock sound that only demented old greybeards like the
Reverend could appreciate, this “conventional wisdom” – obviously displayed
by the ignorance of much of the mainstream U.S. music press – couldn’t be
further from the truth. While the Brits have gone gaga over BCC, audiences in
the states have also begun to embrace the instrumental virtuosity, sincere
artistry, and overwhelming joy in the power of rock ‘n’ roll that is at the
core of the band’s existence. Black Country Communion 2 sounds like little you’ve heard in the past 30 years, except
for maybe the band’s erstwhile debut. The Rev sez “check it out!”


DOWNLOAD: “The Outsider,” “Man In The
Middle,” “An Ordinary Son,” “Cold” – REV. KEITH A.


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