California Breed – Album Review

California Breed, the self-titled debut release, May 20th, 2014.

Review by Ann Joles

Ready for a hard rock release that begs you to sink in, tune out, and soak it up? Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham are back together again, thankfully, along with guitarist Andrew Watt and producer Dave Cobb, and they are giving us the delight of the year, California Breed. Their debut, self-titled album is due to be released May 20th, 2014. This may be the collaboration and collection of kick ass that puts hard rock back where it belongs – front and center. This is a gem.

I’ve said it before, and in the spirit of full disclosure I will say it again, I love Glenn Hughes. The man’s voice energizes the soul while his aggressive bass style rattles the bones. Jason Bonham, of course, is brilliant. The man doesn’t just play drums. The man drives his drum work, shifting, rolling, and building the interest in each song. Certainly Hughes and Bonham could carry any band, but Andrew Watt, a young man who weaves his guitar work into a song as if breathing through the composition, completes the trio’s ability to bend classic rock into something exciting. Big, fangirl words, yes, but the critics all agree – California Breed is a hard rock dream come true.

For those of you wondering if Hughes/Bonham means another Black Country Communion, the answer is No.

Watch. 

While some recently released classic rock-inspired albums could easily slip into the 1972 hot rotation line up without attracting notice, California Breed would stand out like a Rottweiler in a litter of poodles. And so they should. When Maine Music News asked Glenn Hughes in a recent interview about the process behind the California Breed sound, he told us, “I wanted this to be either a 1968 or 2014 sound.” Exactly. This collection is a 2014 interpretation of the great rhythm, melody, and guitar work pioneered decades ago – but better – with even more brass. The older I get, the less I endure music that feels mediocre and mellow. I want music that creates a connection, growls, and isn’t afraid of grit and power. I want some meat on my music’s bones. California Breed was reading my mind, and every track delivers.

Glenn Hughes shared with Maine Music News the writing process that led up to the album. He told us, “There were no Andrew Watt or Glenn Hughes solo songs. We started to write “Chemical Rain” and “Solo” at my house the first day we got together, me and Andrew. A month later we started to send each other what you now hear on the album. I wrote “Breathe” and “The Grey” and “Sweet Tea” and “Days They Come” and sent them to Andrew. He helped me finish them, and he sent me “All Falls Down,” “The Way,” and “Scars,” and I finished them. So I wanted it to be collaborative.” In fact, writing credit is given to all three members of the band.

That makes perfect sense and is indicative of character in this release. Hughes is a force of nature, Bonham has a distinct style to say the least, and Watt, though just getting started, has a strong, unique, almost subtle but still vibrant, guitar presence. With these three big personalities and talents, their songs could easily sound compartmentalized, but that is far from the case. California Breed feels organically grown and free of overwhelming ego or overproduction. The compositions here seamlessly flow and surprise and whisper and rock and have grown more interesting with repeated listens.

Here is a quick, track by track run down:

The release starts off with a full onslaught of bass and drums on “The Way.” Nothing is held back on this one, or any of these tracks for that matter. Next, “Sweet Tea” is testosterone set to a funky and fun groove, and Watt steps forward with his guitar work. The first single to be released from the album, “Sweet Tea” hit #11 on the US Classic Rock Chart, and it is no wonder.

“Chemical Rain” is heavy and satisfying and thick with Zeppelin and psychedelic overtones. “Midnight Oil’s” pulsing groove comes with sweet harmonies, a smooth female backing vocalist, and a great guitar. Have a listen: 

“All Falls Down” shifts the album’s velocity and offers a sweeping, melodic pace that never becomes a ballad but has all the emotional punch. Word has it this will be the next single released in the US. That makes perfect sense to me. “The Grey” winds up the energy with a spunky rock sound and howling Hughes vocals bolstered by Watt’s guitar. “Days They Come” is soft and melodic before hitting a rebellious rock vibe. “Spit You Out” continues the masculine, funky feel that flirts with solid, rocking pop effects.

“Strong” feels ripped from the clutches of the 70s but drips a bit of 80s alternative. It is open and wild, textured and surprisingly interesting. The next track, “Invisible,” is heavy grinding bass, saturated drums, backing vocals, and guitar that peaks out and lightens the mood. “Scars” celebrates funk and rolls out that great beat with riffs and a hook. The last track, “Breathe,” begins with a bit of acoustic, open skies, and poignant vocals from Hughes, but it is a cool down, of sorts, before we get one more shot of everything that’s good – burning vocals, thundering drums, and well-designed classic guitar. What a way to wrap up. Hit repeat.

We don’t rate albums or give so many stars out of whatever, but if I did I would be hard pressed to hold back a perfect score on California Breed’s debut release. This is wonderful, familiar, fresh, soaring and grinding, and captures the power and courage that only classic rock and roll understands. Get your copy, settle in, listen up, and fill your soul.

To purchase California Breed’s new album visit

iTunes: http://smarturl.it/CaliforniaBreed
Amazon: CD:http://smarturl.it/CB_AmzCD
Amazon: CD/DVD: http://smarturl.it/CB_AmzCDDVD

About the author

Ann James Joles

Website

You’ll know her when you see her – Ann is probably the only person at a live show scribbling down notes and guarding a camera case. With a long time career in higher education behind her, she is more at home at a rock show with screaming fans than in an office.