Album review: BLACK COFFEE – Take One

[Release date 21.04.18]

Columbus, Ohio represents the US industrial heartland the same way Birmingham and Wolverhampton do in the UK so it’s entirely unsurprising that Black Coffee hail from there. Formed in 2017 by drummer Tommy McCullough, singer/bassist Ehab Omran and guitarist Justin Young, Black Coffee announce themselves on to the classic rock scene with no little aplomb and some considerable substance – that’s posh English-speak for “get your waxy lugs washed out and fill ‘em up with ear candy”…….”Take One” is a very decent and definitely non-vegan debut album.

Remember the good ole days when a rock band would suck you in at the start of an album with a crafty wee acoustic piece – all melody and sentiment – a seductive portent of things to come before blacking your eye and bloodying your nose with a killer opening track? I haven’t heard that done well in a while but Black Coffee nail it with the ridiculously confident one-two opener of “Creamer” (moody and contemplative with Omran easily the closest Burke Shelley lookalike I’ve seen ’82) rolling nicely into “I Barely Know Her” – a real belter of a track reminiscent of something Glenn Hughes would be proud of. Check the video – out with the sophisticated Shelley glasses and in with the kaftans, carpets, flared jeans and attitude and the album is firmly off to the races.

You have all these mainstream media muppets these days decrying the death of classic rock as an ageing, irrelevant music form, occasionally rising above their social media-sponsored, herd-mentality mediocrity to grudgingly acknowledge Greta van Fleet….well, it’s time to wake up and…..er…..smell the “Black Coffee”. I’m sure the basics of some of these song ideas were stored in someone’s iPhone before 2017 but if they really did come up with these songs in 12 months since getting together – watch out world !!

“Hurricane” has that rambunctious chorus over a fast furious riff, a perfect canvas for Omran to show off his vocal dexterity….this lad’s got the chops. Rock funky “Monica” satisfies whilst “Born To Lie” channels a bit of a Powerage-era vibe, complete with Bon/Udo vocal treatment and the lyric of the album “Mama, I’m really sorry I’m a stoner…..”

“The Traveller” is the almost, and why-the-fuck-not, obligatory acoustic power-ballad recalling something similar which emanated from a little holiday home cottage in rural Wales around 1970 when the Zeps were in town. “Fade” seems like a “let’s-get-everything-that’s-good-about-this-band-down-in-just-two-and-a-half-short-minutes” kind of effort which works very well whilst album closer “Away” builds with rocking purposes into a corking, full-on band binge.

If these guys had been born in the Black Country just after the war, they’d undoubtedly be doing their farewell tour to many thousands around the world now. Judging from the rounded quality of this debut album and the cocksure presence of the band in the “Barely….” video, the future looks bright for the classic rock genre in general and for Black Coffee in particular. GRTR!-approved….. ****

Review by Mark “Mad Dog” Shaw


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