Thursday, November 6, 2014

Review of California Breed's Self-Titled Album

Seeing how Black Country Communion was one of the strongest supergroups ever assembled, it was a shame to see it disintegrate following the disputes between Joe Bonamassa and Glenn Hughes. While the former returned to his blues rock solo project, Hughes has forged on with a new ensemble featuring Communion drummer Jason Bonham and newcomer guitarist Andrew Watt. The resulting effort isn't on the same level as Black Country Communion's trilogy but it does make for a solid rock debut.

Unsurprisingly, California Breed is cut from the same riff rock cloth that was originated by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Hughes' vocals are at their soulful best, Bonham's drumming is as bombastic as ever, and Watt proves to be a competent player as he ranges from chunky rhythms on "The Grey" to more melodic flourishes on "All Falls Down." The songwriting also has some variety though things don't stray too far from the laid back but still upbeat mid-tempo template.

And with that template in mind, the band dynamic is rather basic by power trio standards. The songs are conventionally structured and based around the vocals, so there aren't too many opportunities for longer instrumental segments or any banter between the guitars and bass. This setup will likely change once the band members get more comfortable with one another but it does make one miss Bonamassa's more intricate contributions at times.

The album is also brought down by having a few too many songs for its basic format. You won't find any bad ones on here but it really feels like the two after "Invisible" could've been cut or placed elsewhere as the track has a rather climactic approach. Fortunately there are plenty of great moments that make up for it with "Sweet Tea" offering an almost 60s romp and "Spit You Out" having a groove that sounds like it could've come from the last Queens of the Stone Age venture.

I may have bias as a Black Country Communion fan but California Breed's debut is a solid rock album with plenty of room for growth. Glenn Hughes is a talented vocalist/bassist and has a knack for finding talented people to work with, so it isn't too surprising to see him excel with a new project. However, it seems like the band may still need to work on their chemistry as a unit. This is an essential purchase for fans of his work but other rock listeners may need to see how this group develops on future efforts.

"The Way"
"Sweet Tea"
"Midnight Oil"
"The Grey"
"Spit You Out"