|Black Country Communion - 'Self Titled' (Mascot Records)|
|Written by Johnny H|
|Sunday, 26 September 2010 05:00|
As a certain light entertainer with extremely bendy wrists used to say "I wanna tell you a story".
Glenn Hughes and I go back over three decades, and I can still remember the day that I first discovered his talents. I was at that phase in my musical journey of discovery when I was trying to outdo my mates by discovering the newest or rarest album I could find by a band we all loved. So there I was elbows deep in vinyl in a long since departed record emporium franticly searching for the best thing I could find for my £3.50 when a Deep Purple album appeared that I'd never heard of before. That album was entitled 'Come Taste The Band', and by purchasing it that day I changed my life forever. Whilst all my mates mocked me for buying such a "heap of shit, that didn't even have Blackmore on it" I stuck with that album, and to this day it still remains my all time favourite Deep Purple album. Why? Well the answer is simple; it did something totally different for Deep Purple that challenged their fans perception of what the band was about, and for that reason alone, I will always love it.
Infected with the Hughes bug, I've stuck with Glenn's recording career pretty much through thick and thin, and casting his personal demons aside, I've faithfully purchased such career highlights as 'Play Me Out', 'Hughes/Thrall' and his masterpiece 'Feel' album, whilst in turn also suffering a few of his career blips in judgment such as 'Blues' and 'A Soulful Christmas'. But this is Glenn Hughes right, the man who really is 'The Voice of Rock', and perhaps much more importantly 'The Voice Of Soul within Rock'.
With his more recent workaholic tendencies and numerous collaborations of ahem 'varying' quality (Voodoo Hill, Hughes/Turner and Iommi springing immediately to mind), Glenn's recent solo albums like 'Soul Mover' and 'First Underground Nuclear Kitchen' have been of a consistently high quality, seeing him effortlessly bridging that gap between Rock and Soul. So, when I first heard about Black Country Communion, you'll forgive me if I admit to thinking "Why? Do we really need another side project from Glenn?" However with the names of (Jason) Bonham, (Joe) Bonamassa and (Derek) Sherinian up there with Hughes how the hell could this project fail to deliver the goods? I mean each one is a star in their own field...right? Add in the involvement of producer/guru Kevin Shirley (Journey, Rush and Iron Maiden) and this suddenly gives Black Country Communion the kudos of being more than just a vehicle for Glenn's or any of the others talents, and much more of 'a band'.
So what about the twelve tracks that actually make up this already critically acclaimed debut album? Kicking off with the (I kid you not) Iron Maiden influenced hell raiser 'Black Country' it's immediately obvious that the guys mean business, and to hear them explode with a sound so unlike what you'd expect them to is actually an initial pleasant surprise to the Classic Rock system. The album's preview cut, 'One Last Soul' is up next, and this pays lip service to a more tried and trusted Hughes solo formula, one that I could happily listen to all day, every day. 'The Great Divide' follows and just as I have stated previously Hughes effortlessly bridges that Rock and Soul gap once more within the track's huge groove laden riff.
It is at this point that I have to hold my hands up and say I'm still to be converted to the tracks 'Down Again' and 'Beggarman' they bustle along with suitable Blues Rock aplomb, but without really doing anything, they are good songs, but need a few more listens.
The first appearance of Joe Bonamassa on vocals for the folky blues of 'Song of Yesterday' for some strange reason, actually makes me think of the criminally underrated talents of Steve Overland, but the varied textures of this track and it's subtle reference to classic Sixties Motown within its outro certainly left me thinking just how perfectly matched vocally Joe and Glenn sound together.
'No Time' sees the sound return to the Blues Rock bluster of the album's shorter tracks but with a Zeppelin-esque mid section this time. Then we get the Trapeze tune 'Medusa', that really does send things off into Classic Rock heaven, (or hell depending on your musical bent). The Hammond grind and Joe Bonamassa vocal of 'The Revolution In Me' is next up and is welcome respite from the band's growing tendency to jam the tune. This is something that they also just about manage to carry off within 'Stand (At The Burning Tree)' and the AC/DC romp of 'Sista Jane' (c'mon you can't tell me you don't recognise that riff) even though both tracks end up lasting to around the seven-minute mark.
As the album ends with an eleven-minute blues workout entitled 'Too Late For The Sun', I'm unfortunately left looking at my CD Player counter rather than being engrossed in what is going on musically, and if I'm honest the seemingly relentless jamming of the final third of the album has by the end of the track's spiralling coda left me feeling just a little cold.
Please don't get me wrong here, Black Country Communion's album is certainly one of Glenn's better side project/collaborations/bands, and the musicianship is absolutely faultless (especially Joe Bonamassa who really does shine throughout). If I'm brutally honest though I'm actually looking forward more to Glenn Hughes' upcoming UK solo tour when 'The Voice of Rock and Soul' really will be let loose.