Black Country Communion

When Black Country Communion came out with their self-titled debut in 2010, it was just the blast of fresh blood rock and roll needed. You had vocalist and bassist Glenn Hughes in the middle of a creative resurgence; vocalist and guitarist Joe Bonamassa exploding ear drums on the blues circuit; drummer Jason Bonham, neglected of any further Led Zeppelin shows, firing on all pistons; and keyboardist Derek Sherinian, having played with Dream Theater and Alice Cooper, ready to be part of something bigger and better. The supergroup recorded three albums, toured the States and Europe, and were primed to put real music back into perspective. Scheduling conflicts with other pursuits created enough tension for the group to call it a day in 2012. And for all intents and purposes, it was assumed that was the last we’d hear from the English-American quartet. But then they announced Black Country Communion IV. One spin through, and you’ll be convinced the five-year break might have been exactly what they needed to make the best album of their catalog.

The desire to regroup was initiated by Bonamassa. The guitarist’s solo career has been on fire since 2002, but apparently he decided he wanted to rechannel Jimmy Page with Hughes, Bonham and Sherinian once again. So they all agreed to record a fourth Black Country Communion. To make it official, producer Kevin Shirley, who originally brought the four musicians together and manned the knobs for the first three records, was invited to give IV its sonic wings. Whereas the previous records took flight, IV soars into the stratosphere. The songs have a more cohesive feel, Bonamassa’s to-die-for riffs are edgier and tenaciously defined, Sherinian’s keys are brought up in the mix, Hughes sings like a force of nature, and Bonham pounds through the mightiest performance of his career. The minute “Collide,” the album’s opener, shifts into gear, you know you’re in for the ride of your life. The driving crunch of Bonamassa’s chords and leads gives way to Hughes’ immortal pipes, Sherinian’s shifty Mellotron and Bonham’s exquisite drum work. The hammer comes down and the tone is set.

Hard rockin’ tracks like “Sway” and “Love Remains” are carved out of Zeppelin-like licks played with swift, unabashed urgency. “Awake” takes it even further as Bonamassa punches the turn-arounds, Hughes and Bonham push the rhythm, and Sherinian lets his fingers dance along in syncopation. This album provides far more air time for the keyboardist, who adds sly dashes of stylish piano to the more subtle “Wunderlust” and “When The Morning Comes.” Although IV is a showcase for Hughes and his massive, untainted voice, Bonamassa takes the microphone for “The Last Song For My Resting Place,” a rather rustic, almost folksy tune that sounds at once completely out of place and totally appropriate. This is classic Black Country Communion — hard and heavy for the most part, light and airy in places, transcendent and utterly brilliant all over. At press time, plans to promote and play IV live are limited and dictated by each player’s schedule. If and when they come anywhere near your town, my advice is to find a way to witness one of the most exciting rock and roll bands of the 21st century.

~ Shawn Perry


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