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)