Quick Review (LP): Saturday Nights, Sunday Mornings by Counting Crows

Counting Crows
Saturday Nights, Sunday Mornings
DGC; 2008

My Rating: B (64/100)

Best Tracks: "1492","Hanging Tree", "You Can’t Count On Me", "Sundays", "Cowboys", "Washington Square"

Friday Aspirations, Monday Executions

– After a string of 4 great albums the Crows swing and miss.
– There seems to be an effort to create something "edgy" here. Why, in the minds of rock musicians, does "edgy" A) equal GOOD and B) boil down to sludgy guitars and depraved lyrics?
– "1492" rocks as hard as anything off of Satellites, but it doesn’t bear the same melodic genius.
– "Hanging Tree" and "Sundays" are both pretty good tunes.
– "Insignificant" = "Have You Seen Me Lately?"
– The softer material is good, but never rises to the greatness of efforts past.
– The vision outdoes the hooks.
– At the end of the day, the honest truth is that nothing on this record would make it onto a one CD collection of the Crows’ best. 
Thom Jurek of Allmusic thinks this is one of the Crows’ best. After reading his review, I’m inclined to rethink my score. I haven’t entirely given up on this album, but I do maintain that most of this sounds like re-treaded Crows.

Cohesion (4/5) 
Concept (4.5/5) – The strongest aspect of this record, the one that really makes it worth coming back to.
Consistency (3.5/5) – The first half is without a doubt stronger.
Consequence (4/5)
Songs (4/5) – A lot of almost great songs here, but none of them quite measure up with the Crows’ work of the past.

Quick Review (LP): Hard Candy by Counting Crows

hard candy counting crows Counting Crows
Hard Candy
DGC; 2002

My Rating: B+ (77/100)

Best Tracks: “Hard Candy”, “If I Could Give All My Love”, “Goodnight LA”, “Miami”

While I didn’t much dig this album upon its initial release back in 2002, I have to admit that it has stood the test of time remarkably well. Sure, if the Crows have a “sell-out” record, this is the one. The hidden track, “Big Yellow Taxi”, was all over the radio for a while, sounding more like an American Idol product than a single from the band that wrote “A Long December.” Additionally, Duritz co-wrote “Butterfly In Reverse” with Ryan “Critical Darling” Adams (long before ol’ Ryan had come through the strange phase that was his first five LP’s), which is arguably the worst track on the album. But the thing is, there’s just too many great tracks on this record to tank it overall. “Hard Candy” might be the best opening track on any of their albums. “Richard Manuel Is Dead” is a powerful and moving tribute to the tragedy of The Band’s heart and soul.  “Goodnight LA” and “Good Times” are big, harrowing, soulful numbers. Even “American Girls”, with its thin, poppy guitar jangle and hyper-yearning vocals, is a pretty fantastic song. That’s not to say that Hard Candy doesn’t have its flaws. For one, it’s frontloaded with the best material. For another, the production is too precious. But that’s OK, because it’s a very listenable record with several bright spots. While it may not be as good as any of their first three records, Hard Candy is at least in the same league.

Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

AMG review
SputnikMusic review
My review of August And Everything After
My review of Recovering the Satellites
My review of This Desert Life

Quick Review (LP): This Desert Life by Counting Crows

this desert life counting crows Counting Crows
This Desert Life
DGC; 1999

My Rating: A- (83/100)

Best Tracks: “Mrs. Potter’s Lullabye”, “Amy Hit The Atmosphere”, “All My Friends”, “High Life”

The Band‘s influence is still prominent, but what I think of with This Desert Life is Gram Parson‘s cosmic americana. There’s something particularly starry-eyed about the recordings here, with the more epic tracks achieving the sort of prolonged, brilliant focus that Duritz had only come close to achieving on Satellite‘s longer tracks. Standout performances belong to guitar wizard Dan Vickrey (again) and drummer Ben Mize, the former for continuing to channel Robbie Robertson’s humble-pie lead work, the latter for delivering some of the best working man rhythms since Kenny Buttrey’s magical performances on Blonde On Blonde. I’ve already declared my love for “Mrs. Potter’s Lullabye” elsewhere, but dozens of listens in it’s still one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard, the divine love child of “Rocket Man”, “City of New Orleans”, and “Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again.” And while Duritz got tagged with the “Van Morrison” mantle pretty early on, this record’s “All My Friends” is the track that comes closest to emulating the blue-eyed soul man. This is a wide-open road record, a celebration of classic rock that is at the same time the most focused and well-written in the Crows’ catalog. While it didn’t quite score the big hits, it’s the band’s sleeper, the little known gem that is just waiting to be discovered, by you and everyone else.

Cohesion (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

My review of Recovering The Satellites
My review of August And Everything After
SputnikMusic review
AMG review

Quick Review (LP): Recovering the Satellites by Counting Crows

recovering the satellites Counting Crows
Recovering the Satellites
DGC; 1996

My Rating: A- (83/100)

Best Tracks: “Daylight Fading”, “Children In Bloom”, “Monkey”, “A Long December”

After channeling Van Morrison on their first record, the Crows hired Pixies producer Gil Norton and decided to channel The Band on their second. You’ve got Dan Vickrey and his massive, flaming guitar riffs as Robbie Robertson, Duritz as the fame-wrecked and soulful Richard Manuel, and even Charles Gillingham’s organ sounds like the madness that Garth Hudson was putting out back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Where lovely mandolins once adorned the band’s pretty folk songs, Duritz has instead concocted a collection of stadium-sized hard rock songs. Some of them are epic. “Children In Bloom” and “Recovering the Satellites” both go way beyond anything you’d have thought the band was capable of on August and Everything After, and “Miller’s Angels” is about as impressionistic, cathartic, and arcane as a roots rock band could be that side of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Yet the album shares one key thing with August – great songs. Between “Daylight Fading”, “Monkey”, and “Have You Seen Me Lately?”, this is one of the better rock albums of a hard rock decade. That’s notable, especially since Duritz really doesn’t get much credit as a rock musician. But the proof is here for those who are willing to listen and put aside the fact that he is also the guy who wrote (great!) wuss-rock like “Mr. Jones” and “Round Here.” Still, the final word must go to “A Long December”, which is quite simply one of the greatest tracks of the 90’s, and the sort of tune that is nearly impossible not to sing along with. Naysayers, respect is due.

Concept (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Cohesion (5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

Related Links:
My review of August and Everything After
AMG review of Recovering the Satellites
Duritz on the songs
SputnikMusic reviews of Recovering the Satellites

CD Review | Counting Crows: August & Everything After

Counting Crows
August and Everything After; 1993
Geffen Records
My Rating: 96/100
I do believe I’ve been through every feeling imaginable with AUGUST. There’s been delight; admiration; contempt; nausea; and, finally for some time now, settled amazement. There’s just no denying that this is a CLASSIC record, even if there was a point in my youth where I thought I was too hard for the pathetic tenderness it unashamedly wears. Although I’ve given most of the songs flawless scores, there’s five tracks here that are quite simply iconic, the rock and roll equivalent of pitching a perfect game. “Mr. Jones” may have been so overplayed at one point that you rolled your eyes, but you know you LOVE that song. “Round Here” opens the album like “Thunder Road” opened BORN TO RUN, while “Murder of One” would land in my top ten closers of all time. And “Rain King” – what can be said – one of the top ten greatest pop songs of the 1990’s, hands down. En masse, AUGUST ties it all together like no other record from the era, even besting the monumental AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE as an overall artistic statement. As AUGUST demonstrates, the Crows proved from the start that they could make the ghosts of roots rock past and present dance like none other. A must have for any record collection.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Tracks:
1. Round Here (5/5)
2. Omaha (5/5)
3. Mr. Jones (5/5)
4. Perfect Blue Buildings (5/5)
5. Anna Begins (5/5)
6. Time and Time Again (5/5)
7. Rain King (5/5)
8. Sullivan Street (5/5)
9. Ghost Train (4/5)
10. Raining in Baltimore (4/5)
11. A Murder of One (5/5)

CountingCrowsAugustandEverythingAfterCounting Crows
August and Everything After; 1993
Geffen Records

My Rating: 96/100

I do believe I’ve been through every feeling imaginable with AUGUST. There’s been delight; admiration; contempt; nausea; and, finally for some time now, settled amazement. There’s just no denying that this is a CLASSIC record, even if there was a point in my youth where I thought I was too hard for the pathetic tenderness it unashamedly wears. Although I’ve given most of the songs flawless scores, there’s five tracks here that are quite simply iconic, the rock and roll equivalent of pitching a perfect game. “Mr. Jones” may have been so overplayed at one point that you rolled your eyes, but you know you LOVE that song. “Round Here” opens the album like “Thunder Road” opened BORN TO RUN, while “Murder of One” would land in my top ten closers of all time. And “Rain King” – what can be said – one of the top ten greatest pop songs of the 1990’s, hands down. En masse, AUGUST ties it all together like no other record from the era, even besting the monumental AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE as an overall artistic statement. As AUGUST demonstrates, the Crows proved from the start that they could make the ghosts of roots rock past and present dance like none other. A must have for any record collection.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)

Tracks:

1. Round Here (5/5)
2. Omaha (5/5)
3. Mr. Jones (5/5)
4. Perfect Blue Buildings (5/5)
5. Anna Begins (5/5)
6. Time and Time Again (5/5)
7. Rain King (5/5)
8. Sullivan Street (5/5)
9. Ghost Train (4/5)
10. Raining in Baltimore (4/5)
11. A Murder of One (5/5)

Tracks of the Decade: “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” by Counting Crows

Counting Crows, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” from THIS DESERT LIFE: Arriving early in the decade, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” was the centerpiece of Counting Crows’ last great record, THIS DESERT LIFE. An epic, cinematic masterpiece that captures all of Adam Duritz’s coffee-shop-romantic angst in bite size, “Lullaby” encapsulates the star-crossed dreams of America in the 1990’s, one last optimistic fix before the sobering events of 9/11. Accompanied by an absolutely fabulous music video (see below), the song blends “City of New Orleans” and Dylan’s “Memphis Blues”, with blindingly grandiose lyrics (“If dreams are like movies/Then memories are films about ghosts”), decadent production, and incendiary performances to boot. It may not be their most popular hit, but it’s got my vote as their best song. A huge claim, given the artistic wealth of their first two records, but you judge for yourself.
PS First one to callout the pre-fame cameo at 5:05’s the winner!

Mrs._Potter's_LullabyCounting Crows
“Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”
from THIS DESERT LIFE

Arriving early in the decade, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” was the centerpiece of Counting Crows’ last great album, THIS DESERT LIFE. An epic, cinematic masterpiece that captures all of Adam Duritz’s coffee-shop-romantic angst in bite size, “Lullaby” finds a muse in the star-crossed dreams of America in the 1990’s, one last optimistic fix before the sobering events of 9/11. Accompanied by an absolutely fabulous music video, the song marries “City of New Orleans” and Dylan’s “Memphis Blues”, with blindingly grandiose lyrics (“If dreams are like movies/Then memories are films about ghosts”), decadent production, and incendiary performances to boot. It may not be their most popular hit, but it’s got my vote as their best song. A huge claim, given the artistic wealth of their first two records, but you judge for yourself.

PS First one to callout the pre-fame cameo at 5:05’s the winner!