Black Country Communion are a British/American supergroup named after the Black Country area of England from which their singer and drummer hail, who play a classic rock sound that is rooted firmly in the 1970s but with a few modern twists, and who are rather prolific, having released three studio albums and a live album/DVD/Blu-Ray in just three years.
2012’s Afterglow is the band’s third full-length studio album. As with all the band’s previous work, the album was produced by Kevin Shirley and the line-up consists of Glen Hughes (Deep Purple, Trapeze, Black Sabbath) on bass and vocals, modern Blues icon Joe Bonamassa on guitar and occasional vocals, Derek Sherinian (Dream Theatre, Planet X, Alice Cooper, Yngwie Malmsteen) on keyboards and Jason Bonham (Led Zeppelin reunions, Jimmy Page, The Firm, Paul Rogers, UFO) on the drums.
This third album is still very much in the 1970s bluesy rock mould of the band’s previous work, but there are a few twists and turns musically, into funk, soul and rnb territory adding variety and colour to the existing formula. There is a bit of a lush orchestral touch on a few songs as usual and in general, the album does the best job it can of balancing keeping what makes the band so good in the first place with not becoming stale.
Conscious of not repeating the structural formula of their previous work too closely either, the album doesn’t open with a speedy hard rock number (‘Black Country’ & ‘The Outsider’) although they still managed to write such a track and release it as the albums first single (‘Confessor’) but let it hang back a little later in the running order.
The album once more has a different feel than the previous two in that Joe Bonamassa contributed less music and Jason Bonham contributed more than previously, and then on top of that, the album originally started out as a Glen Hughes solo album before being reworked into a band effort.
The album has generated some non-musical press because the band members disagree publicly about touring in support of the album, as the band normally have to fit touring around Joe Bonamassa’s hectic schedule but they released this particular album at an inconvenient time for Joe. Regardless, while context is interesting, an album realistically ought to be judged on musical merit alone and so its probably best not to let that touring-argument influence your opinion.
At the end of the day; everybody will have their own opinion of this album, whether that be that it is the best thing they ever done, a giant disappointment or just average. In my personal opinion the album is an absolute masterstroke and I love it more with each listen.
From the bouncy moments like ‘Cry Freedom,’ to the funky ‘Big Train,’ and the hard closer ‘Crawl’ every track on the album is enjoyable, the music and vocals are utterly sublime and the production is brilliant sounding. Just like, and perhaps even a little more so than the two albums which preceded it, it just sounds like a classic album. Just listening to the brief guitar solo on the title track, or the main riff on ‘The Giver’ gives off the feel of something that I’ve known and loved for years even on the first listen.
Overall; I highly recommend this album if you like the band. If possible try to disregard the press surrounding the touring and just enjoy the well-crafted music. Furthermore; if you can get it for a good price, try and get the special edition version which has a DVD with some music videos and more importantly an enjoyable 45-minute making-of documentary with a lot of studio footage, where you can hear them working out tracks like ‘Dandelion’ on acoustic guitars before hand and having a bit of fun between takes.