You remember the buzz about this band? The buzz goes like this: Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham, Glenn Hughes – and former Dream Theater member Derek Sherinian on keys. (No offense to Derek, he’s just not as well known as the first three guys.)
The buzz was all about classic rock. Zep’s in the heritage there, Deep Purple too, and Joe was throwing out terms like Marshall plexi and Paul Kossoff. It was enough that I and many others couldn’t wait to hear this album. And now I have!
Before getting to what I hear on it, I have to admit this: I’d cooked up all kinds of riff-laden, skin-pounding, huge-sounding scenarios in my head, no doubt influenced by a real dearth of truly good classic-vein rock these days (IMO, a rant saved for another time).
Then Joe said in the music media that he was enthused about the project, as did Glenn and producer Kevin Shirley (who also produced Zep!). Oddly, however, Jason seemed a bit lukewarm about it in a vid on the Black Country Communion (BCC) site – which may have been due to the fact that the band apparently spent only a week or two on the whole thing.
Who knows, but when I read about that brief time playing together, I thought: uh-oh. I don’t care what you’re talking about – music, sports, business, whatever – it’s going to take longer than that to really mesh unless you’re talking pure magic…which BCC could be….
Then I got a free download off the BCC site, a tune called “One Last Soul” – which I think you can still download free here with the promo code OLS2010. To me, it’s not classic rock. Sounded (and still sounds) to me like a cross between ’80s (not hair) and current hard rock. Single-ish, maybe. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just didn’t match up to the possibly unrealistic expectations I’d hatched, nurtured and fed in my head.
So I had all this stuff swirling around in my cranium, and….
Okay, man, shut up already – how is the album?
It’s good! It has riffs, it’s rock-solid (no fluff), the singing is good to great, Joe plays unlike I’ve ever heard him do at length before (very cool) and yes, it does mostly sound “classic rock.” Classic rock references are all over the place in there, and you’ll know ’em when you hear ’em.
Is it Led Zep II or Deep Purple II or Free II? No. Bummer in a way, but hey, that was all in my head. (If I had to pick one of the above, it would be most similar to DP.)
Track by Track Rundown
Here we go:
1. Black Country
Great tune. Fast, very cool, Deep Purple-ish maybe? I doubt you/I would know this is Joe on guitar if no one told you. “Heartbreaker”-type break after the solo. Shweet!
2. One Last Soul
Single-ish, yes, but honestly my least-favorite tune on the album. That’s probably because I’m still doing cave paintings in Germany (anyone remember their anthropology?).
3. The Great Divide
Slower tune, I’m hearing more of Joe’s style of blues on this tune particularly on the solo.
4. Down Again
Another very cool tune. No reverb for Joe on the main riff? Joe is a reverb freak, but in the ol’ days, there was no reverb so I assume he was going for vintage feel here. LOVE the phased bridge riff. Super cool. Odd progression in the chorus, which I like. Joe’s tone on the solo is vintage. Very cool 60-second-plus outro, vaguely Who-like, ambient slide guitar.
Songs starts with 30 seconds of wah jamming, sounds like it’s going to be Hendrix-like, but ends up in Deep Purple-ish territory in the verses. (I’m using these references because they are classic rock and we all know them. You will hear others.) Fast solo – Joe seems like he’s fired up on this one. This tune is sort of the love child of Deep Purple and Joe’s brand of rock-blues. I like it!
6. Song of Yesterday
This is a Bonamassa riff – of course. You’ll know what I mean when you hear it. And Joe sings this tune, a slower song – but then it gets heavy, in a classic rock sense (sweet!), then back to slow, then heavy, etc. Then Glenn sings a part, then he harmonizes with Joe or Joe harmonizes with himself, cool part…oops, this has turned into a narration. Bottom line: The song is 8:33 long, and works. Nice outro, very cool.
(Side note: Joe and Kevin Shirley, who has produced Joe’s last several albums, sometimes put interesting outros on tunes, which is really, really great. Almost never done these days.)
7. No Time
Fast riff-based rock song – which would be great in itself, but it also has a King’s X-like bridge! Yeah! Am I hearing a guitar with a Fender scale here? A baritone? One of Joe’s Music Mans maybe? VERY cool keyboard break in here. No guitar solo, and it doesn’t matter. Love the tune.
One minute 18 seconds of mellow, and then we get Mountain (the band) – not literally, of course, but you will hear it. And from that description, it’s obviously classic rock!
9. The Revolution in Me
Another Joe-sung tune, which to me sounds like his solo material – until after the first solo, when it sounds a little more ’70s progressive.
10. Stand (At the Burning Tree)
To me the verse is Deep Purple-ish, the bridge is slower and cool in a ’70s rock way, the chorus is a heavy riff. Yeah! What’s not to like?
11. Sista Jane
AC/DC-like power chord beginning and chorus, Glenn and Joe share vox, solo is on the outro. Solid tune.
12. Too Late for the Sun
This tune is really cool – very interesting. Defies characterization, except maybe for the Cream-like beginning. This tune really would’ve benefitted from louder drums (my opinion – see Tone Notes below). ANOTHER cool outro, just keeps on going: 11:21! I love this tune!
All IMO of course – and these opinions plus $4 will get you a Starbucks.
> Joe’s tone is big, a little dark and does not have (to my ears) the classic rock mids that I expected, but is much more raw than his solo tone. Definitely woody, and less smooth than his solo stuff.
> Bass sounds great.
> Drums a little thinner than I would’ve liked. Jason can hit hard and has a big-sounding kit, plus some cool drum parts are in there so wish they were louder in the mix. Like the snare threatening to crack open my skull, a kick drum that sounds like it’s filling the Chunnel.
> Keys are a good addition, and definitely make it all sound a little more like DP. Derek’s parts are tasty and work well.
> Is it classic rock? Yes!
> Is it good? Yep!
> Is it great? Only time can answer that question.
> Is it worth the $14? Absolutely.
> Do you want to listen to it again and again to absorb it? (A key test.) Yes I do!
> Is there woody tone? Yep.
> Will it give you a tone woody? Possibly.
> Do you want to see them live? Heck yes.
> Would you be stoked to see them tour and then put out another album? No doubt. If they did that, the next album would be all that and then some (whatever that means, but it’s good!).
The album’s street date is Sept. 21. Preorder the disc at bccommunion.com and also get it digital on the street date.
Sites That Link to this Post
- BCC Still Good, Santana…Not So Much | September 21, 2010
- WoodyTone! - Review: Bonamassa’s Dust Bowl Clapton-esque | March 22, 2011