To liven up the Summer of all rock/blues fans – an album that spits fire and sunshine, soaking the listener in a dizzying current of wild electric and crisp acoustic guitar playing, agile bass and thundering drumwork.and oh yeah, the singer is Glenn Hughes….
California Breed they may be and comprising Mr Hughes, now veteran drummer Jason Bonham and newer discovery guitar man Andrew Watt ( 23 yrs old) BUT what you hear on this set springs from British hard rock/blues as practised by Cream, Zep and lesser credited but just as good outfits like Leafhound, Bakerloo and July.
Whether Black Country Communion will ever regroup remains to be seen but this album blends UK edgy music with West Coast energized bliss and the songs tumble out like crashing surf, The ensemble already have a relaxed but punchy sound and with Hughes of course the lightning bolts are always mixed with airy, gliding passages. Watt cope with everything really well and to these ears isn’t aping any particular player. He’s clearly heard the best but there’s no Page clonery or Blackmore revisited stuff. Apparently Julian Lennon – who himself works with our friend and guitar genius Matt backer – recommended the NY axeman to Hughes and Bonham.
The overriding thought you will have as this records finishes week..highlights is – how soon can I see this crew live ? I shall ask Hughsie when I meet with him again next include opener The Way with its swaggering riff and stops and rattling tom toms ; ‘the emphatic Sweet Tea where Hughes’ voice sounds uniquely him, how other heavy bands must envy those pipes ! the semi-wah’d guitar ascensions sounds pretty evil. Chemical Rain already sound an epic and Bonham is surefooted, laying off the verses as rich layered guitar ebbs and flows, all well captured by producer Dave Cobb who I suspect favours Cheap Trick and Alice Cooper (pause for him to smile at this notion). All falls Down is just gorgeous, with an exquisite vocal by Glenn that combines pain and dignity..here’s the California side of the groups DNA, eh buddy ? The song is also a lesson in drum arrangement dynamics, worthy of Clive Bunker. Spit You Out has an insistent Lou Reed tinge about it, the singing sounds sly and conspiratorial..reminds me of the Cars but with Chuck Leavell aboard, great buzzing guitar runs zigzagging through the mix. If I have a favourite a this point, it’s maybe ‘Scars’ which is an oily sludge of a song giving away to an Oriental melody that floats skywards over an assured chord progression. The catchy Breathe has stinging octave guitar figures and another forceful vocal pitched halfway between blues and soul.
Best of Breed ? well we may struggle to find a more colourful hard rock/blues set this year, I venture