BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION, the Anglo-American rock group comprising vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes (DEEP PURPLE, TRAPEZE), drummer Jason Bonham (LED ZEPPELIN, FOREIGNER), Derek Sherinian (DREAM THEATER, ALICE COOPER, BILLY IDOL) and blues-rock guitarist/vocalist Joe Bonamassa, will release its third album, “Afterglow”, on October 30 (one day earlier internationally).
Just like its two predecessors, “Afterglow” was overseen by Kevin Shirley, whose catalog of hit records for LED ZEPPELIN, IRON MAIDEN, AEROSMITH, JOURNEY, THE BLACK CROWES and many more has made him one of the hottest producers that rock music has to offer. Shirley — who had the idea of putting Hughes and Bonamassa together in a band together after seeing them jamming onstage in Los Angeles back in November 2009 — is the group’s unofficial “fifth member.”
The additions of Jason Bonham, esteemed son of LED ZEPPELIN‘s John, who took his father’s place when the legendary group made musical history by reuniting at London’s O2 Arena in December 2007, and the in-demand Derek Sherinian, made them a force to be reckoned with. An air of expectancy and excitement greets the unveiling of “Afterglow”.
When issued in September 2010, BCC‘s self-titled debut was described by Classic Rock magazine as “possibly the best hard rock album of 2010,” while Mojo magazine awarded it 4 stars. Music Radar hailed the disc as “a potent and stomping collection of riff-heavy rockers that will undoubtedly stun listeners.”
During its first week of release in the U.K., the album hit the #1 spot in the official Top 40 Rock Albums chart. It was voted #3 in Classic Rock magazine’s “Critics Album Of The Year” poll, and listeners of Planet Rock radio crowned BCC as the “Best New Band” of 2010.
Issued a mere nine months later, in time for a well-received slot at the High Voltage festival in London, “Black Country Communion 2” was darker and deeper than its predecessor. Once again it topped the U.K.’s Rock Albums chart. The band were also the recipients of the “Best Breakthrough Act” award at Classic Rock magazine’s prestigious Roll Of Honour ceremony. Acknowledging that more than a single listen was required to fully appreciate its “depth and artistry,” the same magazine rightly called “BCC2” “one stone-solid classic song after another.”
This time, with Bonamassa busy notching up the miles to promote his biggest solo record to date — “Driving Towards The Daylight” reached No. 2 in the U.K.’s Top 40 Albums chart — BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION (the distinctive name is a reference to the industrial area in the Midlands of Great Britain where both Hughes and Bonham were born and raised) had far more time to prepare “Afterglow”… and it shows.
“There were six months to write this album, and I’m really excited by the way it came out,” comments Glenn Hughes, the man responsible for the bulk of its contents. “I wanted to make a record that stood up to the first two, but not to repeat either of those records. There would be absolutely no point beginning it with a song like ‘Black Country’ [the distinctively energetic track that kicked off the debut].”
The band assembled to record “Afterglow” in a studio in Westlake Village, about 70 miles outside of Hollywood, during five supremely productive days. Its 11 songs are set to delight all fans of high quality hard rock, also those that admire singers of distinction. Hughes is not known as The Voice Of Rock for nothing.
In terms of content, “Afterglow” expands upon the progression that took place between “BCC” and “BCC2”. Rich in hooks, melodies and choruses, it’s nonetheless another of those highly rewarding albums that bears additional fruit with repeated spins.
“I wanted this album to have more acoustic moments than the previous two,” explains Hughes. “I wanted to hear more of Derek [Sherinian] and I wanted the more angelic voice of Glenn as well as the more aggressive one which is there on songs like ‘Crawl’ and ‘Midnight Sun’. Above all, I wanted more drama.”
Hughes shares lead vocals with Bonamassa on the song “Cry Freedom”. “The vocal sound that Kevin got on this record is second to none — it’s his best work yet with BCC,” believes Hughes. “We butted heads a little on the first and second albums, simply because we’re both control freaks, but this was the record on which Kevin and Glenn became friends.”
Indeed, Hughes speaks of Shirley in the most glowing terms. “Kevin only needs three hours of sleep per night; he’s hyper and super-intelligent,” says Glenn. “He cracks the whip but he also knows exactly what he’s talking about when it comes to music.”
BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION hopes to tour “Afterglow” at the start of 2013.
Here’s a breakdown of the album’s contents in the words of Glenn Hughes:
“Big Train”: “It’s very quirky and British-sounding. Jason Bonham is an incredible timekeeper. I love the way he provides the engine room on that song.”
“This Is Your Time”: “Let’s give Jason Bonham a little more love. He writes his songs on an iPhone whilst driving his car, which is completely nuts. It really helps the groove factor. He emailed me some footage of him playing this song. He wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics. It has a huge chorus, too. Jason is not just a brilliant drummer — he’s a great songwriter.”
“Midnight Sun”: “I had my wallet stolen in a Starbucks and arrived late at the studio. When I got there, the guys were fooling around with a song that sounds quite a lot like THE WHO, thanks to those Rabbit Bundrick-style keyboards. I picked up my bass and joined in. It’s quite a romp; there’s a definite vibe of Moon and Entwistle.”
“Confessor”: “The first album had ‘No Time’, which was slow and groovy. I wrote ‘Confessor’ that way too, but when Jason heard it he insisted upon playing it — in his own words — like his dad would have done. We’re a democratic band and I went along with that. When he turbo-d it up it really came to life.”
“Cry Freedom”: “I sang this one alone originally until Kevin pointed out that the album didn’t have a song with split vocals. Joe and I sing well together. I’ve never had a problem sharing a microphone with other great singers. We really let rip off one another on this one, which has a ZZ TOP/HUMBLE PIE kind of a vibe.”
“Afterglow”: “[At more than six minutes long] it’s an epic song. I was adamant that this album should have a proper title instead of a number. I played it to the band right at the end of sessions — purposely so. When they heard it on acoustic guitar, everybody agreed that it should name the album.”
“Dandelion”: “I wrote it slower than we recorded it; maybe I had too much coffee that day. Had we done it that way then maybe it would have sounded a bit dirge-like. Jason sets the tempos — he’s got a really good ear for the way that a song should sound.”
“The Circle”: “It’s one of my favorites on this record. It gives me the chance to use my ‘breathier’ voice. Kevin asked me to sing it an octave higher than I intended, and it worked. The high voice in the chorus is not my falsetto, it’s my upper register natural voice. I’m singing about being powerless; being in a dreamlike state. People have spoken about my voice and bass playing for so many years, I hope that this time they notice my lyrics because I’m very proud of them.”
“Common Man”: “That’s another of the songs that came from Jason. When he sang me its melody acapella, I could hear myself singing it. It could have been a song from DEEP PURPLE‘s ‘Stormbringer’ album; he wrote it for my voice.”
“The Giver”: “When you listen to the end of the song, if people are trying to figure out what key it’s in, I’m playing a capo [a device that raises the pitch of notes] on the fifth fret. When I wrote it, I deliberately held back from completing it because it needed Joe‘s input. Kevin helped as well.”
“Crawl”: “Some people may know that this song was going to be on ‘BCC2’ but we held it over because there simply wasn’t enough room. To me, it fits this album a lot better. It’s a really aggressive song — it’s dangerous and angry. I love it. It’s a great way to finish the record.”
Photo credit: Christie Goodwin