Monday, October 17, 2011

Black Country Communion - 2

Black Country Communion
J&R Adventures/Fontana Distribution

Nine months after the release of their overwhelmingly well received self-titled debut effort, Black Country Communion has returned with their highly anticipated second full-length effort ‘2’.
Given the chemistry between those involved within the group (Ex-Deep Purple/Black Sabbath vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes, lead/rhythm guitarist/vocalist Joe Bonamassa, ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian and drummer Jason Bonham – along with unofficial fifth member Kevin Shirley as producer/mixer) on their debut effort, it’s not all that surprising to find that the group’s follow up album is every bit as strong as their debut. But while the short gap between recordings will have many assuming that ‘2’ is nothing more than a continuation of ‘Black Country Communion’, the truth is that the albums really do have completely different personalities and vibes.
The opening track ‘The Outsider’ (Which is the album’s first single) sees the band shifting up a gear from where they last left listeners, with Sherinian’s playing alongside Bonham around the latter half of the energetic hard rock tune taking on a greater prominence than anything heard on their first album, while Bonamassa showcases a slightly harder edge within his playing, which gels perfectly with the heavier sound the band were clearly aiming for this time around.
The follow up track ‘Man In The Middle’ (Which is the first song to be given the promotional video clip treatment) maintains the heavy feel of the opener, with the grit and deep tones from the bass and guitars balanced perfectly against Hughes’ aggressive vocals.
It isn’t until ‘The Battle For Hadrian’s Wall’ that Black Country Communion taper their heavier stance for something a little laid back and traditional sounding (In the classic rock stance), with Bonamassa taking over the vocal duties, and the acoustic guitars guiding the bulk of the song. While Hughes is no doubt a big driving force within the band, Bonamassa’s contributions don’t fade into the background one bit. Boasting some subtle Led Zeppelin influences, and featuring some stellar keyboard work from Sherinian, ‘The Battle For Hadrian’s Wall’ is easily one of the album’s strongest cuts, and one of the clear examples of just how much the band have come together as musicians since the release of their debut.
The lengthy ‘Save Me’ is another track where the band channel their Led Zeppelin influences on the musical front, with the song bringing to mind ‘Kashmir’ with its touches of orchestration and middle eastern chord progressions within its classic hard rock casing.
‘Smokestack Woman’, the funk driven ‘Crossfire’ and ‘I Can See Your Spirit’ are full-on rocking efforts that demonstrate the spark and energy within the band’s line-up, while on the Hughes led blues based ‘Little Secret’, Bonamassa really gets his opportunity to step up to the plate and play up a storm.
The Bonamassa sung ‘An Ordinary Son’ is another personal favourite where the gentle ebb and flow from gentle atmospheric passages and total rock out passages and seamlessly interwoven throughout flawlessly, while Hughes saves his best performance until the end, with the slower and haunting blues atmosphere within ‘Cold’ evoking the mood that was last heard from the legend on his overlooked classic ‘Addition’ from 1996.
The gap between Black Country Communion’s first and second release wasn’t a huge length of time, but the differences between the two are more than evident. Their debut certainly had its fair share of great tracks, but I can’t help but feel that on ‘2’, there’s more of a collaborative, band-feel to the songs and playing.
Often, supergroups have a lifespan of one or two albums at best. On the strength of ‘2’, I can’t help but feel that Black Country Communion is only just starting to get warmed up. Let’s hope that’s the case.

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© Justin Donnelly