BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION
Well, this one was rather unexpected. Since the release of their eponymously titled debut album seven years ago, the combined, potently explosive talents of Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian, wowed the world under the Black Country Communion moniker with their masterful musicianship. BCC existed as a musical entity over the course of three albums and a sporadicity of live shows... until 2013. For that is the year when Bonamassa announced his departure from the lineup, and forbade the trio of remaining musicians to continue the band without him. So, yeah, a BCC reunion seemed the most unlikely of prospects, but it's happened, and here is their fourth album, the aptly titled 'BCCIV'.
It's everything you'd want from a new BCC album... and then some. Beefy rock riffs; succulently warm and heartfelt guitar leads/solos; a solid and engaging rhythmic backbone of perfectly fused bass and drums; ever-interesting keyboards; and, of course, "The Voice of Rock". It's all here, once again. Oh, and some first-class songwriting that both plays to their classic rock and blues-biased strengths, while injecting a few other seamlessly blended elements (notably, prog and folk feature here and there). There's no "cashing-in" reunion going on here... this is BCC back, doing what they did, and evidently still do, best.
Bonamassa's guitar playing on this album is phenomenal, from how he works his fretboard to the actual tonality of his instrument... a rough and ready edge, yet with a beautiful warmth. Glenn "The Voice of Rock" Hughes lives up to his adopted, KLF-era moniker once again, while loading songs with some fine bass work. Jason Bonham remains a monster behind his kit, while Derek Sherinian's varied keyboard sounds colour and enhance each song's mood with all the refinement and emotion you'd expect from a guy of his calibre.
In one sense, 'BCCIV' is an album of contrasts. Lengthy compositions are interspersed amongst the 4/5 minute numbers. Then there are the pacing variations - slow-burning, down-tempo track 'The Cove' is contraposed against the in-your-face, up-tempo rocker 'The Crow'. And mood-wise, there are shifts both between and within songs that posit feel-good, optimistic tunes (like 'Over My Head') side-by-side with melancholic, reflective pieces ('The Last Song for My Resting Place').
The mood contrasts and variations seem to have been well thought out within the context of songs lyrical subjects. Narratives and themes for the songs are as wide ranging as a piece inspired by Wallace Hartley (violinist on the Titanic, who continued to perform and lead his band in such unimaginably harrowing circumstances), marine conservation (specifically, dolphins), and immortality. And the music has enough variance and stylistic divergences within BCC's core sound to reflect the themes and targeted moods of each piece. 'The Last Song for My Resting Place', for example, is melancholically underpinned, but with glimpses of optimism shining through... and, rather aptly, for its Hartley-inspired narrative, features a violin that sees BCC temporarily transform into a Levellers-esque folk rock act à la 'The Boatman' kind of vibe. All the seamless mood shifts in this near eight minute track, through its mellow/heavy contrasts and atmospheric sways, are seriously impressive.
Once again, the band have hired Kevin Shirley to produce, and the resulting music sounds organic, alive and raw. It's always great to hear this kind of production in a day and age when an overzealous use of ProTools seems to be unfortunately rife throughout the genre (and industry, in general). After all, overproduced music results in a sterile sound that zaps all its emotional essence (if that even existed in the first instance). No such production shenanigans here. This is how rock music is supposed to sound. Alive and vibrant!
Overall, 'BCCIV' is a more than welcome return from Black Country Communion. With two live UK performances already announced for early-Jan next year (Wolves Civic Hall on Tues 2nd, and Hammersmith Apollo two days later), which have been billed as exclusive European shows for 2018, I'm sure fans will flock to these based on the strength of this comeback release (even with the overinflated, face value ticket prices of over £100 for the London date).
Review by Mark Holmes
22nd Sept 2017
2) Over My Head
3) The Last Song for My Resting Place
5) The Cove
6) The Crow
8) Love Remains
10) When the Morning Comes
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"This is how rock music is supposed to sound. Alive and vibrant!"