From The Black Country To Sunny California
Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian set up shop in Malibu to record their debut album. Classic Rock is there…
Words: Brooke Ellis
The Pacific Coast Highway that runs parallel to the ocean in Malibu, California, was at a standstill. A traffic collision had resulted in a fatality which in turn forced a road close, returning inconvenienced motorists back whence they came, on a roundabout detour which meant 20 added miles just to resume the course 100 yards ahead of the accident.
This was much to the chagrin of Glenn Hughes, who, before leaving on his usually well-timed trip, loaded up on coffee. “That was hell!” he complained as he arrived, sprinting for the loo. Producer Kevin Shirley, amused by Glenn’s entrance, responded in jest: “You know what’s worse? Being dead like the guy that was killed!”
Ultimately, the accident thwarted everyone’s prompt arrival to Shangri La Studios, the historic compound for years patronised by an array of rock legends. The set-up is vintage, right down to the lava lamps. The equipment and 30+ year-old dinosaur soundboard are run thru Pro Tools at a computer station which disrupts the nostalgia scheme. Home these two days in March to Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian, the artists briefly known as Black Country, it’s the perfect setting for the making of a classic-vibe rock record.
Refreshed, Glenn returns and states: “I just want to say this to the readers of Classic Rock… when I googled ‘Black Country’, there was nothing coming back other than the place, ‘Black Country’ [in the English midlands] where Jason and I are from… Jason went on the internet saying that we were called Black Country and hence this other band came up and said ‘No you’re not’ so we didn’t even try to avoid it. I just want everyone to know that we weren’t about to steal another band’s name! But Classic Rock will be the first to know the new name!”
The band assembles in the main room and gradually gets into the swing of rehearsing a new song, The Great Divide, experimenting with a reggae groove, which Glenn likens to The Eagles’ Hotel California (the tune itself bears little resemblance). Meanwhile, blues king Bonamassa contributes a sweet, slow melodic riff woven within the rhythm. There’s no denying his soulful skill, though his youthful appearance and persistent boyish grin defy imagining him ever having had the blues. All the while, uber-producer Shirley is in the midst of the process, involved and providing direction, as his assistants man the board.
Indeed, the tunes are shaping up nicely. From the AC/DC-style riffage of Sista Jane, the atmospheric soulfulness of The Great Divide, the epic structure of Too Late For The Sun, to the classic feel of One Last Soul, this is truly a collection of straight-out rockers.
“We won’t be dropping the album until September, so gigs will be coming after that,” Glenn explains. “I think we’re making a pretty intense record…we all focused on what we want to do and made a decision to make a rock record! I mean ROCK! And this IS Rock!”
Whew! And here we were worried they would go techno…!