Black Country Communion was an English-American hard rock band based in Los Angeles, California. Formed in 2009, the band was a supergroup composed of bassist and vocalist Glenn Hughes, guitarist and vocalist Joe Bonamassa, drummer Jason Bonham, and keyboardist Derek Sherinian. Originally formed by Hughes and Bonamassa with the help of producer Kevin Shirley, the group released its debut album Black Country in September 2010. Second album 2 followed in June 2011, which was promoted on a European tour later in the year. The band released its third and final album Afterglow in October 2012.
Following a performance together in Los Angeles, Hughes and Bonamassa started the side project in November 2009, recruiting Bonham and Sherinian later in the year on the advice of Shirley. The name Black Country Communion is derived from the term Black Country, which refers to the West Midlands area of England where Hughes and Bonham grew up. The group's sound is intentionally reminiscent of popular classic rock groups of the 1970s, reflecting the previous work of frontman Hughes as well as the link between Bonham and his father John's band Led Zeppelin.
In March 2013, after months of public tensions within the band, Bonamassa announced that he was no longer a member of Black Country Communion, with the question over whether the group would continue with another guitarist unclear. Days later, Hughes confirmed that the band was officially over, hinting that he would continue working with Bonham and Sherinian under a new collective name.
2009–2010: Formation and Black Country
The foundation of Black Country Communion can be traced back to 2006, when Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa first met at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, after which they jammed together for the first time at Hughes's studio in Hollywood with the idea to make music together in the future. Bonamassa also worked with Jason Bonham that year, when the drummer performed on the guitarist's fifth studio album You & Me at the recommendation of producer and mutual friend Kevin Shirley. Hughes and Bonamassa reunited three years later in November 2009, when they performed together again at the House of Blues in Los Angeles for Guitar Center, playing renditions of songs by Hughes's old bands Trapeze ("Medusa") and Deep Purple ("Mistreated"). It was at this point that the two decided to form a band. The idea of enlisting drummer Bonham and keyboardist Derek Sherinian to complete the band's lineup was suggested by Bonamassa's producer Shirley, after Hughes and Bonamassa briefly considered adding a second guitarist instead of a keyboardist.
The completed quartet first performed together during the encore of a Joe Bonamassa show in Riverside, California on March 17, 2010, playing "One Last Soul" and a cover version of the Deep Purple song "Burn". The name Black Country Communion was not finalised until May 2010, after the threat of legal action from another band prevented the group from using the name Black Country. Frontman Glenn Hughes later revealed that the band in question was from Baltimore, Maryland, who reportedly demanded $500,000 for the right to use the name Black Country, a move which he quickly condemned as "just rude".
Black Country Communion recorded their debut album at Shangri-La Studios in Los Angeles in early 2010, and scheduled its release through Mascot Music in Europe and J&R Adventures in North America for September that year. Speaking about the album, Hughes described it as "a big British rock statement", comparing the band's sound to that of his previous groups Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, as well as Led Zeppelin. "One Last Soul" was the first song to be released from the album, receiving its worldwide radio debut on English digital station Planet Rock (a station on which Bonamassa produces his own show) on August 2. The track was later released as a free digital download on the band's official website on August 10. Shortly before the release of the album, Planet Rock also broadcast an hour-long documentary featuring exclusive interviews with the band, as well as a selection of tracks from the album.
Black Country was officially released in Europe on September 20, and in North America on September 21. On the night of its European release, the band played its first official show at the John Henry Rehearsal Studios in London, in front of a limited crowd of "around 75–100 people"; the performance was broadcast on Planet Rock that night, and again later on September 24. The album was a commercial success in the UK, reaching number 13 in the UK Albums Chart and topping the UK Rock Albums Chart, while in the US it peaked at number 54 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It also received a widely positive critical reception, including four-star reviews from website AllMusic and magazine Mojo.
The band did not tour in promotion of Black Country, playing just two shows in the UK at the end of the year at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall and the Shepherds Bush Empire. At the end of the year the group were named Band of the Year by the listeners of Planet Rock, beating such established groups as Iron Maiden and Muse to take the accolade; they also won the Best New Band award, ahead of The Union, The Gaslight Anthem, and The Jokers.
2010–2012: Second album and touring
Talk of a second album began to circulate as early as October 2010, just a month after the release of Black Country, when it was estimated by drummer Bonham that the band would start work on their second album in January 2011, a claim which was verified the following month by Hughes. By December Hughes had already written nine tracks for the album, which he explained would serve as a direct sequel to the first album – "part two of the first one". During the recording process in January it was revealed that the follow-up to Black Country would be released in June, with the band set to embark on a promotional tour to coincide with its release. The album's title, release date, track listing, and artwork were revealed in March.
The first song released from Black Country Communion's second album was "The Outsider", made available as a free digital download from the group's official website in May 2011, followed by "Man in the Middle", for which the band's first music video was released on June 6. The album, simply titled 2, was released on June 13 in Europe and the following day in North America, selling over 8,000 copies in its first week in the US (compared to the 7,100 units of Black Country) but charting 17 places lower on the Billboard 200 at number 71. The album was also less successful in the UK Albums Chart, peaking at number 23 (ten places lower than its predecessor), although it still managed to top the UK Rock Albums Chart.
In promotion of the album, BCC completed a short tour of Europe between June and July, playing shows in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK with support act the Michael Schenker Group. The group also performed in the US for the first time since its formation, playing a total of seven shows in six states between June 10 and 19. It was confirmed in September that a live video album documenting a number of shows on the European tour, entitled Live Over Europe, would be released in October, and it was also screened in a select number of Vue Cinemas outlets across the UK and Ireland on November 1. Live Over Europe was released on DVD on October 24, and on Blu-ray on November 15.
In November 2011 the group won the Classic Rock award for Breakthrough Act of the Year. For the remainder of the year and through early 2012, Hughes performed sporadically at a number of events and started writing for his next solo album, Bonamassa continued with his solo touring and recorded his eleventh album Driving Towards the Daylight, Sherinian released his seventh solo album Oceana and played a number of shows, and Bonham continued his Led Zeppelin Experience tour.
2012–2013: Afterglow and breakup
In January 2012 it was announced that the band were scheduled to return to the studio in June to record the follow-up to 2, with a release planned for later in the year. Discussing the direction of the group's third album, Hughes explained that it serves as "a continuation of the first and second albums", containing "darker [material]" and "moments of drama". The first track to be released from the album was "Confessor", which was made available as a free download on the band's official website from September 19, 2012, and Afterglow was later released on October 29 in Europe and on October 30 in North America. Despite no touring plans in place for after the release of their third album, Black Country Communion planned to play a one-off show at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall on January 5, 2013, with a video release of the concert planned for later in the year. It was later announced, however, that the performance was cancelled due to "unforeseen circumstances", contributing to concerns over the band's future. Kevin Shirley offered an apology to fans the day after the cancellation, hinting that the performance would be rescheduled for a later date by assuring fans that "your call will be answered".
Speaking in August 2012, Glenn Hughes was quoted as doubting the future of the band after the release of Afterglow, proclaiming "I hate to break it to you, but [Afterglow] just may be [the band's last album]", blaming the band's lack of touring (due in part to Joe Bonamassa's busy solo touring schedule) as a hindrance to the continued success of the group. Hughes later clarified his comments on the fate of the band, stating that they "were fuelled from frustration and aimed at motivating other members of the group to commit to a proper touring schedule", and pointed out that if the band were unable to tour regularly then he would seek another band which could. Later, in an exchange on Twitter, Bonamassa and Hughes both mentioned that they were "ready to move on", providing more evidence that the group's disbandment was imminent.
In an interview in October, Hughes quelled speculation the band was splitting up. Accepting responsibility for the initial spread of the rumours, he cited the speed at which the band had produced and released music as the cause for the stress on the group. On the possibility of the band touring together again, the frontman responded positively but warned that nothing was confirmed. Bonamassa, however, later revealed his anger at Hughes, condemning his "bullying" of the guitarist to complete the planned 2013 show despite knowing he was not able to, the way in which he publicly revealed the tensions in the band, and his claims as to being the sole songwriter on Afterglow. Jason Bonham also revealed his frustration with the situation, while manager Roy Weisman admitted it was his decision to cancel the Wolverhampton gig, although this was based on Hughes's actions. Bonamassa sought to end the situation positively, praising Hughes as a musician and proposing that the band would continue to make music for the foreseeable future, while Bonham proposed that the band could tour with a different guitarist, chosen by Bonamassa.
On March 13, 2013 though, Joe Bonamassa announced his departure from the band, revealing that he was "happily not involved any more" with the group. On March 23, Glenn Hughes confirmed that the band was over, revealing that Bonamassa would not allow the remaining members to continue with the Black Country Communion name. Speaking about the future, he hinted that "Jason, Derek and I will continue with a different name when the time is right".
Style and songwriting
As a supergroup, Black Country Communion's style is often described as a mix of various different sounds and influences. Particular significance is attributed to the band's mix of blues rock (attributed primarily to Bonamassa's sound and influences) and classic rock (originating from Hughes' previous work with Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, and Bonham's tie with Led Zeppelin), with some critics going as far as claiming the group's sound is based on "the vintage Deep Purple template". In reviews for the band's second album 2, a number of critics compared the sound of the group to that of drummer Bonham's father's band Led Zeppelin – Eduardo Rivadavia of website AllMusic noted that the album "sounds like the baby of drummer Jason Bonham", while Paul Cole of newspaper Sunday Mercury claimed it is "haunted by the spirit of Zeppelin". Speaking about how he intended the style of the band to appear, Hughes has proclaimed that BCC "are a rock and roll band in the true sense of the word".
Traditionally the writing processes for BCC's albums have been led by Hughes, who wrote the majority of the lyrics for both Black Country and 2. The majority of the music on Black Country was composed by Hughes and Bonamassa, with Kevin Shirley increasing his composition presence for the second album. Noting the extensive touring commitments of Bonamassa, Hughes has claimed that he was "left as the keeper of the keys to write [the band's] albums", noting that for each record – which have been continuations of their predecessors – he has had more and more time to write material (six weeks for Black Country, four months for 2, and six months for Afterglow). Talking about the writing of the first album, Hughes has compared the approach of himself and Bonamassa to such songwriting duos as Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, and Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith.
- Black Country (2010)
- 2 (2011)
- Afterglow (2012)
- Official website
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Image from Discogs