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Saving the best until last?,
This review is from: Afterglow (Audio CD)
Ridiculously, fate finds me writing a review for another Black Country Communion album. Making albums quicker than it takes most bands to record one song, Black Country Communion aren't just knocking out any old crap either. Their debut smashed into the mainstream charts, follow up `2' was even better as far as I'm concerned, then they recorded `Live Over Europe'. Phew! And now a third record? When did that happen?
It turns out it even took the band by surprise. Glenn Hughes was writing for a solo record, until producer Kevin Shirley convinced him to take the songs and turn it into BCC's third opus. Supergroups inevitably implode somewhere down the line, and things didn't look great for BCC. There was talk of tension due to Hughes' vision for the band being hindered by guitarist Joe Bonamassa's hectic solo schedule. Factor in an unplanned record, plundering Glenn's solo compositions and having a ludicrously small window of just five days when all four members could get together, and the writing could have been on the wall.
However, by some musical miracle, they've not only managed to make another great album, I think they've made the best one yet! `Big Train' storms out of the speakers, with an `Achilles Last Stand' feel to it. Hughes sounds immense, delivering a classic performance, while Bonamassa wails on a wah-wah pedal. Derek Sherinian adds glorious textures and Jason Bonham channels the spirit of his father. Perhaps they should be put under duress more often!
While Hughes handled most of the writing, Bonham stepped in with a creative hand on `This Is Your Time', a thunderous stomper. `Midnight Sun' is better still, bringing to mind The Who with Sherinian's Bundrick-esque keyboards, before the power-chord assault begins. `Confessor' keeps things at breakneck pace, with a superb chorus. One thing is clear - they sound more like a band. Glenn's bass is more noticeable, the drums sound fantastic and Sherinian's keyboards are more prominent. Mix in Bonamassa's fretboard firepower and there's no weak link.
The songs have more light and shade, with more keyboard and acoustic parts. The use of backing vocals is also prevalent. Perhaps this is a side effect of taking songs Glenn meant for himself, but they just plain work.
The Zeppelin-esque title track is a sprawling, majestic epic with Hughes at his very best. `Dandelion' is another gem, but from start to finish, this is easily the most complete Black Country Communion album so far. Bonamassa still contributes vocals on `Cry Freedom' but the rest of the singing is left to Hughes. Joe makes good use of his extra time by playing some of his most searing solos to date.
The album is definitely a grower, because there's so much more to get to grips with. The songs and performances are better and the production is phenomenal. Where BCC go from here remains to be seen - but if this is the end, talk about going out on a high! Absolutely stunning.
James Gaden - Fireworks Magazine