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Full Throttle Rock

Album Review: California Breed - California Breed

Posted on June 20, 2014 at 1:15 AM

California Breed - California Breed

Written by Antony Scholefield


It's sad that, at age 62, Glenn Hughes is currently singing with more gusto than I've ever found. While other '70s remnants are hiding behind modulators or descending into strange squawks, Hughes is hitting top pitch and screaming like a punk with a red-hot poker in his neck. His time as singer-bassist for Deep Purple was short, but tracks like 'Burn' showed what he could do, and what he can still do. Now he's joined forces with Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, and 20-something guitarist Andrew Watt. Together, they're California Breed, and they’ve just released their self-titled debut.

Although the trio bring along a broad spectrum of influences, Led Zeppelin top the list. Album opener 'The Way' sits halfway between classic Zep tracks 'Heartbreaker' and 'Black Dog', and features regular mad drum breaks worthy of a Bonham. Unfortunately, the song - if possible - is too Zep-like. It's too deliberate, and becomes awkward in its self-consciousness. Follow-up 'Sweet Tea' is much better. It rides on the heavy groove that characterises the album's good tracks - of which, I'm glad to report, there are many.

The album does have weaknesses, such as the oddly arranged 'Days They Come' and the pseudo-Western 'Strong'. Even on these, however, Hughes monsters the vocals. He lacks the clarity of his Purple days, but the rough edges only make California Breed even more enjoyable. Hughes and his crew continue the Led Zep shout-outs with 'Chemical Rain' and 'Midnight Oil'. They've got hints of Zeppelin’s epic 'Kashmir', a song I'd already categorise as cranked up to 11. Thus, I'll say that these back-to-back beauties are turned up to 12. Unlike 'The Way', they don't feel like Led Zeppelin covers. They feel like California Breed songs.

Really, the album has highlights everywhere. There's the melodic 'All Falls Down', which sounds like Robert Plant in ballad mode. There's 'Spit You Out', which sounds like a heavy rock number laid across an old-time rock and roll groove. 'Scars' is one of the best, with its tempo shifts and shoulder-shuffling riff. Finally, there's 'Breathe', the semi-acoustic closer featuring Julian Lennon. It's an unusual addition, and maybe it shouldn't work - maybe it doesn't deserve to work, even - but it does. It's like the whole of California Breed. It just works, for reasons that don't require empirical explanation.

Maybe it’s unfair that I've singled out Hughes as the album's representative. Andrew Watt is a name to remember, and there's reason that Jason Bonham played in the 2007 Led Zeppelin reunion. It's Hughes' shameless scream, however, that you won't get anywhere else. It's a vocal style that disappears with flared trousers and four-inch platforms for men. If you love '70s rock – which you bloody well ought to, if you’re on this site - you'll love to hear it backed up with mod-con production values. You can critically analyse it if you like, or you can shut up, sit back, and enjoy. The hexagenerian's still got it.

Categories: Album Reviews

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