We review and rate the new releases by Black Country Communion, Caravan and The Answer (pictured) and all three are worthy of significant praise.
Look out for the rushonrock verdict on Devin Townsend, Symphony X and Night Ranger plus more this time next week!
On a one-band mission to prove that quantity by no means diminishes quality, the quite brilliant Black Country Communion return a year after their dazzling debut with an even better example of finely constructed blues rock.
Almost defying belief, one of the few super groups worthy of the moniker manage to build on the breakthrough success of their 2010 album by reappraising their strengths, eradicating any nagging weaknesses and evolving into a must-hear modern rock unit soaked in retro glory.
Choosing to kick things off in consummate style, BCC open with The Outsider – a terrifically balanced tune allowing each individual member to pick up where he left off. Derek Sherinian’s sweeping organ jousts with Joe Bonamassa’s bluesy shreds during a spellbinding instrumental section before Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham bring things to a typically rhythmic conclusion.
It’s BCC as we know it but with a significant twist. Whereas the band’s first outing was, very much, a Hughes-driven dream bolstered by an all-star cast, the follow-up is a cumulative effort and sounds like it. There’s a fresh sense of engagement, credibility and passion underpinning BCC2 – no longer a project with potential this is the real deal and everybody’s buying into the vision.
Bonamassa rolls out one of the finest solos of his career on I Can See Your Spirit (and that’s saying something) – an anthem very much of the moment for a band with bombastic fire in its belly. Save Me sees Bonham finally stamp his mark on BCC in a way he was unable to do 12 months ago – mixing the best of his solo work with a luscious nod to Led Zeppelin, the drummer delivers a masterclass in intuitive musicianship.
The cracking intro to Cold unleashes Bonamassa for one final, ferocious assault on the senses and there’s a sumptuous 70s feel to the album’s awesome closer. Hughes, of course, remains the very model of consistency across an album which allows the former Trapeze and Deep Purple man a further opportunity to glow in the twilight of his career. It’s what you’d expect. BCC2, by contrast, isn’t what you’d expect at all – it’s way, way better than that. SR
rushonrock rated: 10/10 Hearing Is BCClieving
Compared to genre leaders Yes, cult progressive rock legends Caravan might have missed the commercial boat. But this timely re-evaluation of an undeniable British classic is a compelling reminder that Pye Hastings and his merry cohort could always pen an endearing and, as it turns out, enduring tune.
For fans of the Canterbury scene leaders this repackaged three-disc collection is a treasure trove of jazz-infused prog oozing sophistication, soothing rhythms and some surprising twists. Listen to opener Golf Girl – with its lazy, hazy lyric and quintessentially English reference to tea – and there’s no hint of what’s to follow. And that’s the essence of In The Land Of Grey And Pink: expect the unexpected and you won’t be disappointed.
Steven Wilson’s new stereo mix of the 22 minute-plus Nine Feet Underground encapsulates that view within one, albeit sprawling, song. The Porcupine Tree driving force and increasingly respected producer pulls out all of the stops to show Caravan in their very best light and this is the place to start if you want to truly understand an often confusing band.
The BBC session and live tracks – completing disc two – offer another shade of a rich creative tapestry which deserves a new audience and a long overdue reappraisal. Caravan have never lacked creativity and the diversity of this definitive album proves the point. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Caravan Calling
It would have been remiss bordering on the foolhardy for The Answer not to have charted the part they played on one of the biggest grossing music tours in history. They knew it, their management knew it and, let’s face it, this was not a trick Cormac and the boys were ever going to miss.
Consequently 412 Days Of Rock N Roll is the definitive record of the band’s lengthy stay (the clue’s in the title) on AC/DC’s Black Ice tour. And if The Answer can’t touch their tour buddies’ Live At River Plate in terms of in-concert performance where they emerge as winners is with the behind-the-scenes footage.
Every fan probably dreams of Cormac and his colleagues being the likeable Irish rogues they appear to be on stage and the 70-minute film of their exploits suggests as much. Once you’ve seen this your faith in the saviours of British classic rock will be strengthened tenfold.
Bagging Brian Johnson for the occasional soundbite adds true authenticity to an enjoyable account of life on the road but it’s the unknown extras who are the stars. One Canadian who urges the band to try the local delicacy of beaver tail – and then attempts to blag what he can from the steps of the tour bus – is a brilliant addition to an often rib-tickling documentary.
The music, of course, is as classy as we’ve come to expect from The Answer. Quality rock played with a high degree of professionalism underpins the band’s debut release for their new label and the audio is a treat in itself.
Throw in every one of their promo clips to date and this is the perfect precursor for what could and should be world domination during the next 12 months. Fingers crossed. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Answer The Critics
This week’s reviews: Simon Rushworth