The ‘difficult third album’ has long been a tradition in rock music circles, typified by self-indulgent, lengthy songs with no real hooks, lazy songwriting or just plain burnout from intense touring and recording sessions from the first two. Difficult third album for Black Country Communion could not be more of an understatement. At least for the construction of this album.
Written mostly by bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes while hot blues guitar prodigy bandmate Joe Bonamassa was touring the world and recorded in a short break from his hectic schedule, Black Country Communion’s third album, Afterglow, was born into this world very much kicking and screaming. Since then there has been bitter fallouts, making up, overpriced gigs, cancelled gigs and promises of touring about as convincing as an X Factor sob story. You have to give it to them, these four guys know how to ride the rock ‘n‘ rollercoaster.
Consisting of Hughes, Bonamassa, drummer Jason (son of Led Zep tubthumper) Bonham and keyboard virtuoso Derek Sherinian, those unfamiliar with their work will just blink an eye. Surely these 4 very forgettable names cannot be called a supergroup? But with members having played in the likes of Deep Purple, Kiss, Foreigner, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, Dream Theater and BB King, Black Country Communion’s rock pedigree is pure.
Glenn Hughes still has a set of pipes to rival Robert Plant’s honey-soaked wails and with Joe Bonamassa becoming the latest guitar hotshot since Slash in the late ‘80s to burst onto the scene, the potential is huge.
The band’s first two albums came when the supergroup revival was trendy, releasing albums amongst those by Chickenfoot, Them Crooked Vultures and Thom Yorke’s project. They delivered solid hard rock and funk tunes which most people didn’t know Bonamassa had in him. Afterglow picks up exactly where Black Country Communion 2 left off.
With songs very much in the same vein as those first two albums, and recorded with a more polished, less demo-like production, BCC deliver solid hook after solid hook. Perhaps a little more bluesy than its predecessors, the album benefits from a more settled approach than the previous two releases.
Sherinian has finally found his feet with this project, with his organ solo on Confessor nothing short of majestic. Bonamassa’s dual vocal performance on Cry Freedom proves just how much this band have going for them and to say Jason Bonham would have made his dad proud is obvious.
It’s perhaps sad then that with an album this good, which benefits from repeated listens, that the future of the band was in doubt before a note had even been heard. Bonamassa’s more successful solo career has put a stopper on any plans to tour the record this side of next Summer and with Hughes visibly frustrated behind his trademark shades this could well be the band’s swansong. But if it is, BCC will have proved to have been a star that burned briefly but brightly and with music as good as this, there will no doubt remain an afterglow.