Black Country Communion

2

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Black Country Communion's self-titled debut met with so much critical and, in some markets, even commercial success that the multi-talented super-quartet wasted little time -- an almost worrisomely short amount of time, in fact -- before getting to work on this sophomore follow-up. But, thankfully, striking while the iron was hot did not equate with going through the motions on 2011's unassumingly named 2; nor, for that matter, did it entail the sort of battle between mega-egos that is so common to these superstar arrangements. Rather, while the smart money had BCC pegged as vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes' ship to captain, BCC2 actually sounds like the baby of drummer Jason Bonham, of all people, because so many of its songs show no qualms about getting the "Led" out, if you catch the meaning. This modus operandi quickly becomes self-evident in Derek Sherinian's "Kashmir"-like keyboard orchestrations for "Man in the Middle" and "Save Me," guitarist Joe Bonamassa's Jimmy Page-inspired power riffs and knotty licks for "Smokestack Woman" and "I Can See Your Spirit," not to mention the all-purpose "Battle of Evermore" rewrite on steroids that is "The Battle for Hadrian's Wall." Far from descending into a pale imitation like, say, a Kingdom Come or late-'80s Whitesnake, however, BCC's offerings rise above and fly true thanks to the unimpeachable pedigree and recognizable musical personalities of all involved here. It's also highly entertaining to hear Hughes -- he of Deep Purple MKIII and sporadic collaborations with Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi -- getting all cozy with the third and final cornerstone of the legendary British heavy metal axis. And of course there's much more to BCC2 than pundit-sanctioned Zep worship. Urgent opener "The Outsider" delivers heavy rock so pure that its ingredients are already etched in the public domain by now; "An Ordinary Son" blends Bonamassa's blues, Hughes' soul, and Sherinian's churchy Hammond organ into a heavenly gospel rocker; and the slow-burning epic "Little Secret" (plus, to a lesser degree, the distinctly somber "Cold") stretches the expressive breadth of Hughes' voice and Bonamassa's six-string to both their most subtle and bombastic extremes, resulting in an exquisite display of pent-up tension and grateful release. As a result, BCC2 arguably tops its worthy predecessor as a balanced song set while, admittedly, lacking any singles as striking as BCC1's "One Last Soul" or even "Black Country," none of which should bother the last living album consumers out there, who obviously make up the vast majority of the band's constituents. And here's hoping Black Country Communion can keep the ball rolling into album number three....

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