The prolific and hard-working legend that is Glenn Hughes seemingly wasted no time at all after Black Country Communion folded in spring last year, as May 2014 sees him return with California Breed, and their self-titled debut album. Together with BCC sticksman Jason Bonham and 23 year old newcomer Andrew Watt on guitar, the trio have created, quite possibly, the twenty first century's most dynamically infectious, organically alluring, and innately rocked-up retro record thus far. And it's the inherence of the retro underpinnings in the majority of songs on 'California Breed', propelled by a raw, live sounding energy that makes the listening experience such an invigorating one. Sure, there's a sporadicity of modern flavours in certain tracks that stops the album being entirely immersed in retro nostalgia, although we're talking about a genuine and refined retro flair here; this is no second-rate pastiche. After all, it's Hughes' original era.
What's remarkable, though, for a band featuring three generations of musician, is that it all gels so perfectly in the execution of its stylistic harmony. Watt, at just twenty three years old, is ostensibly anachronistic in his playing, and already a major talent at such a young age. Bonham's sticksman heritage is axiomatic in each and every song; the spirit of his father's drumming legacy lives on in his son. And Hughes himself, "The Voice of Rock", successfully fulfills said moniker with a truly amazing performance. Some singers' voices mature and improve with age; others falter. Hughes is, most definitely, the former. Without meaning to sound patronising in any small way, the power, energy, control, and passion in the man's voice is astonishing for someone in his early sixties. He sings with such an intensity of passion throughout the range of his voice that it reaffirms his hegemony as one of rock's best singers.
Returning to the live sounding essence of the music, there's a simple reason why they've attained such a feeling - the record was recorded live. I say "simple", but that's not intended to trivialise the reason for its overall sound. Any old band can record an album live, of course, but few can make it work to their advantage. Although the music is underpinned by a raw, infectious energy, it never comes across as a mindlessly random jam; rather, it's a refined exercise in musical instinct, such is the high skill level of the three personnel involved. They're simply on fire throughout, feeding off each other's playing in the most exciting and naturally intelligible of ways. And it's this that gives the already well-composed songs that extra kick in their execution.
For those who are still mourning the demise of Black Country Communion, then mourn no more. California Breed are not intended to be a replacement, successor, or whatever else, and are discernibly different through their dynamic; however, to have Hughes and Bonham back together in a new venture, and one as magnificent as this, is reason enough to rejoice. And, with Watt on guitar, a gem of a discovery (courtesy of Hughes' mate Julian Lennon), they're one of the most thrilling rock trios to emerge for years.
Review by Mark Holmes
19th May 2014
1) The Way; 2) Sweet Tea
3) Chemical Rain
4) Midnight Oil
5) All Falls Down
6) The Grey
7) Days They Come
8) Spit You Out
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...quite possibly, the twenty first century's most dynamically infectious, organically alluring, and innately rocked-up retro record thus far."
California Breedís self-titled debut album is released in the UK on May 19th by Frontiers Records. Further info: