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The Freedom of Music: Black Country Communion the Second

June 5th, 2011

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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

The story of Black Country Communion that the band likes to cite is that they are a 70’s style band. By that they mean, they like to cut the basic song track live off the floor. With their second album, Black Country Communion 2, timed in a very 70’s fashion just ten months after the release of their first album, they join the ranks of 70’s style bands in other ways: the naming of the album and progression of the bands music.
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On their first album influences were obvious and threaded throughout the album. AC/DC, Bad Company, The Who and Iron Maiden where all out front. This time there is much less sounding like other bands, much more development of their own sound. Oh sure, the keyboard and guitar break in The Outsider is pure Yes, and the guitar lick inFaithless is so very close to Alice Cooper’s Devil’s Food. But they are the exception, and BCC2 sounds instead like Black Country Communion. In fact, the Yes style break in the albums first song, The Outsider, announce something is different in this album: keyboard player Derek Sherinian is going to be much more up front.

Glenn Hughes has called this a darker album, and while his songs are definitively edgier and grittier, his singing is more paced. Less an effort to sing hard rock, and more just doing it. Together with Bonham the rhythm section is as tight as the first album. What these two would sound like together if they had spent the last ten months touring together, instead of touring apart, it is frightening to wonder. It is Joe Bonamassa once again, however, that shines. The virtuoso guitar player provides great licks, tasty guitar lines and Paul Rogers-esque vocals. His acoustic showpiece, The Battle for Hadrian’s Wall, is the albums highlight.

But the album is full of highlights: Save Me, rescued from Bonham’s 2008 sessions with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones; Faithless, dark and mysterious sounding, so hard to not listen to again and again; Man in the Middle, BCC at their hardest; An Ordinary Son, Joe Bonamassa’s brilliant other showcase song; Cold, Glenn Hughes finest moment in his Black Country Communion suit.

With FaithlessColdLittle Secret and, too a lesser degree, The Battle for Hadrian’s Wall, BCC2 has it’s share of slower or softer songs. Yet it is still by any definition, a very hard album, with a gritty edge they only let drop on Hadrian’s Wall.

Black Country Communion 2 is a solid album from beginning to end, with no unlistenable music or weak songs. Hughes and Bonamassa are in good voice, and the four very talented musicians are solid and tight. It may not quite be 70’s rock, but it’s the closest thing you’ll hear these days by a large margin.

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The song Save Me has been much talked about as having come from the Led Zeppelin sessions of 2008. “I brought that lick to from the 2008 sessions…” Jason Bonham told an interviewer. “You’ll hear it in the lick.”

At 7:42, it is the albums second longest track, featuring a spacey and slow introduction, Glenn Hughes singing over a sustained guitar chord and arpeggiated keyboard. Once the lick comes in you can hear what Bonham the younger is talking about. The Zeppelin is in the song sure enough, and you can hear the son in the drummer, with a steady solid groove backing up the guitar. In the chorus, guitarist Bonamassa, a Jimmy Page devotee himself, slips on the wah-wah pedal in a way Page might have. And the solo is certainly in the vein of Page, channelling Achilles Last Stand.

It is in the bridge, however, that the song really takes on a Zeppelin feel, as the keyboards have the tone and sound of John Paul Jones keyboard bridge in Kashmir.

Save Me, the song that emerged from the 2008 “Led Zeppelin sessions,” truthfully sounds like a Black Country Communion song, that gives a nod to Led Zeppelin, in much the same was Crossfire, later in the album, seems to give a nod to Yes (I didn’t know Glenn Hughes even owned a Rickenbacker). None the less, it provides an interesting historical peek at what might have emerged from those sessions.

Based on the evidence at hand, it’s a pity they never saw the light of day.


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