Review Summary: "Freak flag, I fly...Now can you hear me calling?"
Black Country Communion are one of those new bands that have something rare: they rock. From the sound they produced when the four members blend together, to even the clothes they wear. These guys have style. Glenn "The Voice of Rock" Hughes sings and plays a mean bass, Jason Bonham (yes, son of legendary drummer John Bonham) pounds his way through, Derek Sherinian sparkles behind his Hammond Organ, and last but certainly not least, guitarist Joe Bonamassa lights his fretboard on fire the way only a man born into the blues could do. This was intended to be released as a Glenn Hughes solo album, but it was decided to become BCC's third effort. Therefore, the majority of these songs were written primarily by Hughes, which gives the album a more funk and soul feel. But don't worry, the heaviness and bluesiness doesn't disappoint.
As usual BCC kick off their album in a band. And if there ever was a bang, it's "Big Train". Right away you get a feel of how tight the band plays together and can gel with one another. This song is really unique because, rather than a straight-up rocker like previous album openers, they mellow things down with acoustic guitars in the verses and especially the surprising bridge. This is common on a few of the tracks, like "Cry Freedom" and "Common Man". I like that a lot because of the variety and that it gives something new.
Soloing is a big part of this band. I mean, "Too Late For The Sun" from their debut was an eleven-minute epic filled with jamming. So it's nothing new to hear Bonamassa and his sweet guitar licks and solos. "Big Train" features a really cool guitar solo that is one of my favorites on the album and a true standout (although "The Giver" and "Dandelion" don't disappoint). So it wasn't surprising to hear a lot from this man. No, what WAS surprising was hearing so much more of Sherinian. While sort of sitting in the corner on their previous two releases and only getting short moments to shine, this guy demonstrates here at how good he can play. Think Jon Lord from Deep Purple. While his playing is outstanding throughout, it was really cool to hear him and Bonamassa "duel" on certain tracks. For example, on "Confessor" Sherinian will go crazy, then Bonamassa, then Sherinian, and Bonamassa. They do this pattern (sometimes a little differently) on others, such as "Crawl", "Common Man", and "Big Train" (man that song has a lot to offer, huh"). Speaking of "Common Man", it's really a cool track. What starts out with a good riff that sounds too similar to Rush's "Tom Sawyer" (a minor flaw), goes into a funky verse and heavy chorus, repeats, and transforms into something pretty cool. Each member gets a few measure to deliver highlight material. Sherinian, Bonamassa, Hughes, Bonham (in that order) solo for a short period of time back to back to back to back, then transitions into a solo by the phenomenal organist/keyboardist.
All that talk of "Bonamassa this, Sherinian that" is kinda getting boring isn't it" (Don't worry you won't think so when hearing this masterpiece.) So how do the other two band members play out" Well just fine actually. This is really Hughes' and (somewhat) Bonham's album after all. Jason pays tribute to his pop on every song, never letting up once. He even co-wrote a couple songs! Hughes' voice never fails to disappoint, and here is no exception. His range is ridiculous, hitting notes so high I didn't even know they were possible to reach. I get goosebumps just hearing him sing his heart out with "I'm in the middle of a dream/I just don't know what it means/I am at war with my fear" on the second chorus of "The Circle". Really haunting stuff, and let's not forget his bass playing and ESPECIALLY the lyrics. Hard to believe the man is sixty some years old.
I've always been a fan of Bonamassa's voice, and I have to say I really enjoyed his duet with Hughes on "Cry Freedom". The two voices mixed add up to make something special, and I just wish this wasn't the only song Joe sang on. This song is a cool blues-rock riff that reminisces Humble Pie, and the keyboard intro to "Midnight Sun" pays homage to The Who. "This Is Your Time" acts like a mix of Zeppelin and Soundgarden with a cool riff. The riffs are really strong on here like on this one and "Crawl". Perhaps the best two (or two of the best, it's really difficult to pick favorites here for me) would be "The Giver" and the title track. "The Giver" reminds me of previous epic "Song of Yesterday" in that its verses are quiet and relaxing, while the choruses are heavy, loud, and filled with phenomenol singing. It's a really cool groove on the actual chorus, as well. The title track is something powerful, with a soft intro and verse that builds up with orchestral instruments and roars into a massive riff on the chorus. With lyrics like "There's a sacred place, It's where I go" and "By the lake/The road you take/The lone mistake/I try to break" you get a sense of something mysterious and mystifying from Hughes' past. And let's not forget, the solos here are nothing short of impressive.
If you're looking for a good album, this is the one. If you're looking for a great album with a 70s classic rock feel, this is the one. If you're looking for a fantastic album that surely should be 2012's album of the year, this is definetely the one to pick. Packed with strong playing and lyrical content, "Afterglow" is sure to delight and quickly become one you keep wanting to hear again and again. It's a shame it might be the last one for these guys...
-Spine tingling vocals
-Inspired playing and solos
-Diversity and dynamics
-Not enough Bonamassa singing
-"Common Man" riff sounds somewhat like "Tom Sawyer"
-Might be their last effort