Black Country Communion: V Review

Not many modern outfits give me the itch to dust off my old Led Zep and Deep Purple records. Then again, Black Country Communion are no ordinary sons. A renowned supergroup that suffuse the sky with the black smoke and soot of the Black Country (an area of England’s West Midlands), and the patriotic stars and stripes of America, their camaraderie was (and thankfully still is) immediately evident.

If you thought classic rock was dead and that old-school punch had been knocked out long before 2010 (the year of BCC’s self-titled LP), allow me to introduce you to this outrageously talented line-up. Keyboard phenomenon Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater) and blues-rock titan Joe Bonamassa make up the American contingent. The other half of this musical power plant are the two boys representing the Black Country — thunderous drummer Jason Bonham and the ageless, evergreen ‘Voice of Rock’ Glenn Hughes.

Fans of this supergroup have had to suffer a seven-year wait for this latest release — the somewhat slothfully titled V. Yet, all is forgiven once you push play. The driving funk elements of Zep’s ‘Physical Graffiti’ and the soulfully hard ‘Come Taste The Band’ era of Deep Purple come to mind, but you’re still treated to the unmistakable sound of BCC.

The Black Country was at the fiery heart of the Industrial Revolution, and there’s always been a burning furnace and ‘white coals’ hard rock ember pumping this well-oiled machine. This step in their evolution sees a funkier flavor dropped on their classic rock and blues union.

Even more so, there’s a redefined purpose and reclaimed cohesion. It sounds like a fresh start, although it still feels like no time has passed since their last outing — especially with an almost 73-year-old Hughes continuing to astound with his vocal prowess.

Any internal conflict that may have marred progress during their hiatus is clearly water under the bridge, and we (the listeners) and the band are the beneficiaries of this renewed spirit and energy. The three singles released to date were a sign this was shaping up to be an amazing record, and it’s these trio of songs that kick off proceedings. Not only do they showcase their growth as musicians and as a collective unit, it earmarks them as superb storytellers.

It’s love at first heavy riff as opener “Enlighten” sees all four members coalesce and groove as one, with the irrepressible Hughes exploring themes of self-awareness and spiritual awakening (‘I see the watcher, I hear the echo’).

Lead single “Stay Free” is frightfully funky, hard rockin’, melodic, and bombastic at the same time. Bonham’s cool drum intro (think ZZ Top’s “Gimme All Your Lovin”) gets the party started as the band lets rip into a crunchy ‘Trampled Underfoot’ groove. The interaction between the guitar and keyboard riffs is a breath of fresh air, with Hughes defying the laws of nature once again. It’s a truly delicious slice of funky classic rock.

Forget Bonamassa’s blues credentials. He’s a seriously good rock guitarist in his own right, as illustrated on the atmospheric “Red Sun,” with its blistering riff and otherworldly solo. The song has an epic, nirvana aura — the same highest level as the band’s previous epics, “Last Song For My Resting Place” and “Song Of Yesterday.” It has a wicked bassline, too — a timely reminder that Hughes is also a pretty handy bass player.

The goosebumps don’t stop there as Bonamassa’s emotional licks and pinpoint note selections on the beautifully slow yet intense “Restless” give the record’s true phenomenon, Hughes, a canvas to showcase his diverse vocal range. Most singers half his age can’t get near him, with his almost haunting, impassioned vocals chilling me to the deepest part of my soul.

Bonamassa puts his foot on the accelerator for the driving riff of “Letting Go,” as Bonham takes on the role of the beast to the guitarist’s beauty with his forceful skin striking.

“You’re Not Alone” sees Bonamassa and Sherinian trade solos over another groove-laden riff, before the keyboard maestro adds gospel grandeur to the intro and outro of the deeply majestic “Love And Faith.” It’s the only track on the album where Hughes and Bonamassa share vocal duties — the duo coming together in glorious harmony through the song’s emotive layers, with many textures and melodies overlapping.

Cruising down the home straight with another funky rocker (was it ever going to be anything else?) on “The Open Road,” Bonamassa delivers another divine solo with a tone to die for amidst another Bonham battering of those poor drums and a scintillating outro that sees every member reach their zenith.

The developments in manufacturing over in the Black Country molded the rest of the planet, but we need to thank brainchild Kevin Shirley for manufacturing this genuine world-class band. This newly harvested chapter in BCC’s storied career is prodigious and powerful, with a new dimension added by the funk-tinged energy and musicality.

Rock music is meant to sound like this both now and way back when. Beefy riffs, a heavy dose of blues, prominent keyboard washes, and a full-on percussive attack all support one of rock’s greatest voices and treasures that keeps on giving.

This is a real supergroup topfull of superlatives — something that is notoriously absent in today’s rock scene. Just don’t make us wait another seven years.

The Review: 9.5/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Stay Free
– Red Sun
– Restless
– Love And Faith

The Big Hit

– Red Sun

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