Review Summary: Black Country Communion's second album proves that you can still release classic efforts at a quick and consistent rate
One has to give credit to Black Country Communion. If anything, having a sophomore album coming out so soon does show that they are serious about their 70s ambitions. For not only do they have the songwriting chops and member credentials that go along with that era, but they also have the work ethic needed to create a few modern favorites. But in an age where musical endeavors are frequently delayed for years by perfectionism and procrastination, it is worth wondering if this outfit's second go-around will sound excessively rushed or thrown together. Fortunately, this effort works off the strength of the Communion's 2010 debut and confirms their status as being more than a typical supergroup.
While the debut album could be described as a largely rocking affair with occasional lapses into more mellow moments, this release seems to serve as an effective reversal. Somewhat unsurprisingly, a strong blues influence can be heard throughout and is particularly strong on the album's second half. Of these tracks, "Faithless" is made memorable by its building pre-chorus and powerful chorus while "Little Secret" is an incredibly bluesy track for having not been written by guitarist/vocalist Joe Bonamassa.
But with that said, there are still a few holdovers from the debut as "The Outsider" opens the album on an intense note that is incredibly similar in tone to "Black Country" and "The Battle for Hadrian's Wall" showcases some Zeppelin influence in its acoustic emphasis and lyrical mysticism. In addition, "Man in the Middle" is probably the band's crunchiest number to date and "Smokestack Woman" and "I Can See Your Spirit" do a pretty good job of balancing an old school rock attitude with the album's overall laid back nature.
The debut may have previously shown off some great chemistry for a group that had spent so little time playing together, but things seem to be more balanced this time around. As expected, lead vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes continues to impress with his soulful voice and solid basslines but he is not the only one that manages to stand out. Previously, keyboardist Derek Sherinian and drummer Jason Bonham seemed to take the backseat due to the overshadowing talents of Hughes and Bonamassa. However, they both seem to step up on this album as the former unleashes several cool organ solos and textures while the latter contributed the roots to the song that would later become the eastern-tinged "Save Me." The lyrics also seem to stand out more on this album as a more personal tone strongly comes through on tracks such as "Faithless" and the grief-filled "Cold." Of course, there is still some time for the standard rock topics of battle and good ol' fashioned baby making...
But with everything that this album has going for it, it would've been even better to see a little more involvement from Bonamassa. Perhaps due to him and producer Kevin Shirley somehow finding time over the last year to record his tenth solo album, he only contributes two tracks that could really be called his own. And while he does put forth some amazing guitar lines and vocals, it would be great to see him sing lead or even duet a little more often on future efforts. This sentiment appears to be shared by the other members as Hughes has expressed it in at least one interview...
Overall, BBC's sophomore album is an improvement over the already awesome debut and is one of the top albums to have come out in 2011. In a way similar to Audioslave, the last album succeeded thanks to its energy and strong initiative while this effort shows the band bringing in more focus and balance. If anything, one can hope that the band will keep this momentum going even more and will have another slab of greatness to offer us in 2012.
Originally published at http://suite101.com