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BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION Afterglow Mascot Records (2012)

Black Country Communion

'Afterglow' is essentially is a Glenn Hughes solo album given extra impetus and depth by the band. Hughes claims to record in three's, so we can probably assume this might be the end of the line for an outfit whose creative energy has been glued together by producer Kevin Shirley. And anyone who saw Joe Bonamassa's body language at High Voltage last year might have guessed that he wasn't going to stick around as a sideman.

If 'Afterglow' is to be the last BCC album, it represents Glenn going out with a bang. He's written most of the material with some musical input from Jason Bonham on 'Common Man' and 'This Is Your Time'.

The band do him proud, matching his angelic to brusque vocal performances with rock solid grooves and stellar solo's within a big production, as exemplified by the opening 'Big Train'. The album was apparently recorded in five days, which represents a whirlwind for an artist like Hughes, who is more used to nurturing his songs in the studio.

And while Glenn is in imperious form and revels in a full scale return to rock, it's his duet with Bonamassa on the heavy boogie of 'Cry Freedom' that provides an album highlight. The aggressive Who influenced 'Midnight Sun' is equally impressive. It's a song that came from Jason playing a Who snippet at the band's London debut.

So far so good, and over the course of 11 tracks Glenn searches out moments of high drama, catchy hooks and soaring vocals as exemplified by the light and shade of the title track - complete with strings and horns - and the funky, jammed out organic end-piece of 'Common Man'.

'Afterglow' also marks a return to Glenn's Purple hard-rock era, though not everything is an unqualified success, as despite some fierce soloing, 'Confessor' panders too easily to formulaic Metal and 'The Circle' is a triumph of drama over substance. But when Glenn reaches for his most expansive moments as on the Zeppelin influenced 'The Giver', he sounds like a younger Robert Plant. And the Zeppelin influence continues on the heavy pulse of the closing 'Crawl', which is well suited to Hughes's bombastic approach.

If 'Afterglow' is to be the band's swansong album, then Glenn Hughes has done his level best to make sure it will be remembered for his performance. There can be few other 60 olds outside of Sammy Hagar who have the energy and undiminished creative levels to pull off a hard rock album in the twilight of their career. It's perhaps ironic that Hughes should achieve this success under the moniker of a band with such a potentially short shelf life.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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