Black Country Communion “Afterglow” Album Review

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Black Country Communion’s “Afterglow,” released October 30, 2012.

Want some brand new old school rock’n’roll that makes you want to shake your ass? Ask and you shall receive. I’m a woman of pretty simple taste. I like nice design, ease of use, quality rather than lots of bells and whistles. While I am adventurous, I know what works, and I appreciate it. Black Country Communion’s third studio release, “Afterglow,” still has BCC’s full blown rock sound, and best of all, they have evolved and refined without becoming slack and limp.

While I love the previous BCC offerings, I think I most enjoy what isn’t included in “Afterglow.” This release isn’t trying to knock the listener’s senses into overload. Here we get fresh 1970s rock’nroll sound without being tested for endurance. Face it, we can talk for hours about the significance of that decade on the progression of rock, but for my generation, the kids coming of age in the early 80s, it is easy to be weighed down in the trappings of that era – extensive guitar solos, excessive trial and error as soon-to-be-legends tried to create something distinct, innovative. This is 2012, and it is time to relax and enjoy.

One of my favorite things about BCC is isolating each member to hear what they bring to the songs. It only makes sense that these bands members would be able to come together to provide a whole but still retain their individual place.

I’ll start by saying that when I grow up, I want to be as cool as Glenn Hughes. What must it be like to just open your mouth and have rock’n’roll come out? Does the man leave scorched earth behind him? The first thing I noticed on “Afterglow” was Hughes, of course, since this album leads with his bass. His vocals seem to have even more texture and range than in the earlier BCC recordings. Perhaps he gave himself more vocal room to play when writing the bulk of the lyrics.

Jason Bonham is as intelligent as ever, edging every song with contrast and balls. I would expect no less. His drums on “Afterglow” ebb and flow as a song needs, leading, then retreating for a bit, then crashing again. Bonham’s distinct sound is equally as strong whether tempered and holding the rhythm or full tilt and the center of attention.

Several tracks on “Afterglow” are heavy and interesting because of Derek Sherinian’s keyboards. Without Sherinian’s contribution, this album would fall far short of the classic 1970s sound. He is repeatedly setting the tone, track after track.

Joe Bonamassa, lead guitarist and a guitar god for so many Bonafans, was a force of nature in the earlier BCC work. “Afterglow” has allowed him a different role, giving the band its expansive sound and layering his lyrical guitar work beside Hughes’s vocals, creating full and dynamic songs. While only front and center sporadically, he is building the intricacies of this album. That may not be enough for his fans, but as the worn out cliché says, it is what it is.

And one last thing before hitting the track list, “Afterglow,” huh? An interesting name for a band now in a public pissing contest. Work it out, boys, let us know, and we’ll show up to see BCC live when all your schedules allow. Studio is great, but live is better. Don’t screw this up.

Track by Track thoughts:

“Big Train” ~ This track ignites “Afterglow,” evoking all that is good about the 1970’s classic rock sound. We have thundering drums, a nice guitar reaching above the fray, a groovy melody, and even a bit of distortion in the backing vocals. A BIG song, it grows on you if don’t get run over.

“This is Your Time” ~ Perhaps taking a cue from the urgency felt by many to step out of old needless thoughts and habits, “This is Your Time” is motivating, urging the listener all the while stomping like Godzilla. “This is your time, it’s in your hands, this is your time to make your stand.”

“Midnight Sun” ~ A fun package with dense elements. The keyboards lead, Bonamassa’s guitar fills out, the lyrics are catchy, and drums are steady and strong.

“Confessor” ~ “You give me madness, I’ll give you a sign, no need to be mindless at the scene of the crime…” I’m a little old for air guitar and screaming at the top of my lungs, but this song makes me want to.

“Cry Freedom” ~ As expected, the lyrics are drenched in military and battle symbolism – “the last brigade on the motorcade…” Adding interest, Bonamassa and Hughes share vocals on this track, lending a sense of brothers-in-arms. Soak in the rock’n’roll on this one, fans.

“Afterglow” ~ The album’s namesake, this is a bit smoky, slower, but still opens up and surrenders once again to Hughes’s bass line and relentless vocals. It took me a while to warm up to this song and its ebb and flow, but I did.

“Dandelion” ~ Fun, spunky even, this track is full of texture both musically and lyrically, Bonamassa’s guitar and Hughes’s vocals share the stage at the same time.

“The Circle” ~ Peeling guitar, moody guitar, intelligent guitar. Bonamassa leaves a mark on “The Circle.”

“Common Man” ~ One of my favorite selections on “Afterglow,” “Common Man” is groovy and strong, flexing everyone’s muscles as vocals vault, keyboards are clever and reflect the face of the 1970s, drums maintain a steady assault, and lead guitar has a prime position, even a nice solo to end.

“The Giver” ~ Each time I listen to this song I hear some new snip of a familiar song, a flavor of tribute to classic sound. Try it, you’ll see. This track is a quilt made of rock’nroll. It will keep you warm.

“Crawl” ~ Closing “Afterglow,” “Crawl” is saturated with bass as it thunders alongside Bonamassa’s attitude, both artists lashing at the air. Melodramatic? Yes. But so is “Crawl.” And it works.

I’ve listened to “Afterglow” in every configuration I can muster over the last few days – in the Jeep at 75mph, in the kitchen from an iPad hooked to speakers, and blasting off the back porch on one of the last warm fall days. Each setting has bent the sound a little, making me notice one element over another. At first, it was all Glenn Hughes, then I heard Sherinian, then Bonamassa’s presense was clear, Bonham’s drums… Evolution is a good thing.

“Afterglow” can be purchased here.

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