It definitely sucks when you watch a band that you are REALLY a fan of implode. For me, that's just what I had to do with Black Country Communion. As the band that I think a lot of people compared head to head with Sammy Hagar's supergroup Chickenfoot, BCC stormed out quickly and recorded three tremendous releases. Still, as quickly as they came up, they imploded. Guitarist Joe Bonamassa's ego seemed to clash with vocalist Glenn Hughes', and before long you had half the band (Bonamassa and keyboardist Derek Sherinian) on one side, and the other half (Hughes and drummer Jason Bonham) on the other. The side most people will care about, Hughes and Jason Bonham, have returned with a new band name, a new guitarist and a slightly different sound from what they were doing. The sound may be a bit different, but it's clearly lost none of it's punch.
CALIFORNIA BREED is what Hughes has called "pure rock" in many interviews, and that's a great description of it. It's heavily influenced by blues, funk, and classic rock...which makes sense given the sum of their pieces. Without question, the combination of these three musicians is pretty magical. Songs like "Chemical Rain" stand as some of the best material Hughes has ever worked on, which says a lot when you consider just how historic his career is. The song has a very Led Zeppelin feel to it, thanks in large part to the powerhouse drumming of Bonham and the very Jimmy Page-esque raw sound provided by new guitarist Andrew Watt. While Bonamassa was more of a virtuoso type that occasionally showcased that talent in BCC, Watt seems a lot more soulful in his playing on CALIFORNIA BREED. Songs like "Midnight Oil" sound like they may have been influenced by '70s hard rock on guitar, and yet have a much more powerful "oomph" in the backend provided by Hughes (bass) and Bonham. In essence, this is what makes California Breed click. The songs don't sound like anything by classic rock n' roll - the REALLY good stuff and not the popular schlock that radio turned into hits. In short, listening to songs like "Invisible" or "Spit You Out" will remind you of when you heard some non-single from Deep Purple or UFO and went, "man, I never knew of that one before".
As for the vocals, well...it is Glenn Hughes. He's known as the "voice of rock" for a reason. As he always is, Hughes' voice is not only masterful, but powerful and one of the most authentically emotional that recorded music has ever seen. He puts it all together on the simply brilliant ballad "All Falls Down"; one of the greatest songs that he's ever been associated with.
PITRIFF RATING - 97/100 - The level of greatness that comes from California Breed has already made me forget that other band that Hughes and Bonham used to be associated with. While this is for the older crowd that misses the great era of true classic rock, it's a gem that is not to be missed. Simply, this is as good as it gets at making that kind of music today.