REVIEW: The Black Crowes – Wiser For The Time (4 LP box set)

THE BLACK CROWES – Wiser For The Time (2013 4 LP box set, Silver Arrow/Megaforce Records)

I enjoy when bands do releases that are exclusive to certain formats.  In 2013 the Crowes put out this mammoth live album/box set, and let me tell you it’s gorgeous.  All it lacks is a booklet with pictures or liner notes.  I am otherwise completely thrilled with this release.  I’ve been on a Crowes kick these last few weeks, being drawn to the feel and impeccable musicianship of the band.  Wiser For The Time is largely acoustic, featuring mellow songs and arrangements spanning their entire career.  It also has plenty of electric rock, funk and blues.  It boasts 26 tracks and a running time of over 2 1/2 hours.  There was also a bonus 27th song given away for free last year, “Under A Mountain” taken from the same series of five New York concerts that comprise the album.

The Black Crowes pulled out all the stops.  From familiar hits such as “Jealous Again” to non-album obscurities like the scorching “Exit”, Wiser For The Time is treat after treat.  “Exit” in particular was a delicacy for me.  I had never heard the song before and was taken aback by its heavy groove.  And this is a song that has never been released on an album!?  Well, until now.  Even familiar songs like “No Speak No Slave” have new exciting moments, making the album a fresh listening experience.  Other songs like “Only Halfway to Everywhere” are extended to the 10 minute mark.

Covers?  Of the Crowes always surprise with interesting covers choices.  Here the biggest joy may be “Hot Burrito #1” and “Hot Burrito #2,” in sequence, by the Flying Burrito Brothers. That’s pretty hard core.  There were plenty of unfamiliar songs to me on Wiser For The Time.  Whether they are covers or Crowes obscurities I don’t know.  Regardless, I enjoy a good live album with unfamiliar material on it.  Who wants the same songs all the time?

SAM_0439Personal highlight:  “The Garden Gate” is my favourite song from 2009’s sprawling 2-LP Before the Frost…Until the Freeze.  I’m pleased that it made the album.  It’s every bit as good here as it was on Before the Frost.

But whether it’s the funky “Make Glad” or the extended jamming that makes up the end of “Tied Up and Swallowed”, there is not a dull moment on Wiser For The Time.  I solidly enjoyed the whole album.  I hope I can find the time to do so frequently in the future, but let’s be honest.  In our rat-race lives, few of us have the time to really spend time with an album anymore, particularly a 4 LP live box set.  And this isn’t a cheap set.  Sunrise had it for about $81, but Amazon were asking $73 with free shipping.  For those who can’t justify paying that much, iTunes have it too.  But these are beautiful 180 gram records, and iTunes can’t sell you the warmth that you will hear on a turntable.  Think wisely before buying.

4/5 stars

4 LP setIMG_00001630

  1. Cursed Diamond
  2. Sister Luck
  3. Smile
  4. Downtown Money Waster
  5. Hot Burrito #1
  6. Hot Burrito #2
  7. The Garden Gate
  8. Better When You’re Not Alone
  9. Darling Of The Underground Press
  10. Jealous Again
  11. Hotel Illness
  12. Thunderstorm
  13. Oh The Rain
  14. Soul Singing
  15. Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With YouIMG_00001632
  16. Exit
  17. No Speak No Slave
  18. Only Halfway To Everywhere
  19. A Conspiracy
  20. Title Song 
  21. My Morning Song/Stare It Cold
  22. Tied Up and Swallowed
  23. Make Glad
  24. Waiting Guilty
  25. She Talk To Angels
  26. Willin’

Free Download Bonus Track

  1. Under A Mountain

53 comments

  1. Great closing advice – at our house, the turntable is in the basement, so not nearly as convenient but there’s no substitue for that LP (make that 4 LP) sound!
    This is one of those groups that the more I hear by them, the more I like.

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        1. Alas just money maker – it seems to be the case with most artists from the 90s and beyond, even if they’ve had a lot of strong records, only their most ‘significant’ is included.

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        2. Yeah, and I totally get that. It’s a broad spectrum of music they are sampling. I know a lot of fans who consider Money Maker the weakest of the original 4 albums. I think Southern Harmony arguably was more significant, even though it’s songs like Hard To Handle and Jealous Again that I hear on the radio today.

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        3. I think the argument in favour of including the first was that nobody else sounded like that in 1990 – I think there’s also a bias towards debuts/big hits if the choice was limited to just one record per group.

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        4. I recall at the time, there was a comparison between the Black Crowes, and the London Quireboys. They both released debuts in 1990 and although they evolved in different directions, they both started out based in that Faces-Stones-Rod Stewart vibe and look.

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        5. I’m not familiar with the London Quireboyds but the others are certainly pretty good company – If I were ever compared to 1971 Faces-Stones-Rod Stewart, I’d definitely consider that a compliment!

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    1. Agreed. I’m sure it made the setlist of one of the 5 shows they recorded for this. Wiser Time is a Crowes classic for me.

      I had no ideas what these records would look like until I opened it. I was thrilled!

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  2. That is indeed a beautiful set. Sure do love dem Crowes.

    Is this the tour they did with Oasis, the Brothers Tour, something like that? If it is, my sister went to at least three of those shows.

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      1. From Wiki “The band launched its support of the album with the month-long Tour of Brotherly Love with Oasis and Spacehog in May and June 2001.”

        But that’s not the same dates as yer vinyl set.

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        1. Yeah so this would still be quite a bit later on. Still a great set! I was playing the mp3 album in the car today. I managed to listen to 90 minutes of it, thanks to the weather. Rather, thanks to people not knowing how to drive in weather. Anyway I listened to about 5 sides of it so far in the car.

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        2. Yep, missed it by a few months.

          Man, I can’t imagine it taking you 90 minutes to get anywhere in your town. Even with blizzard conditions. You could probably WALK most of the way across town in that kind of time.

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        1. See, my opinion on all of this isn’t popular. I loved Southern at the time so much I wore out my cassette of it. And then I thought Amorica overrated. They took a wrong turn, after Southern. And then the next few records they lost me more and more… It’s only in retrospect I can appreciate something like Lions.

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        2. I haven’t given Lions a listen in years. The ones I play most steadily are Amorica and the more recent Before the Frost which I loved. Other than that, I’ve been listening to live albums.

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        3. One of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t buy this one old bootleg of theirs from the Money Maker tour. Chris did all that “preachin'” that I used to love, which he doesn’t do anymore. Real gospel style. “The Black Croooooowes…are comin’ to your town…” stuff like that. Wish I’d bought it.

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        4. My brother in law used to boot-record their shows, pro set-up. He’s got rubbermaid tubs full of that stuff, ‘cos he’d trade them too. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t have a whole whack of that older stuff.

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        5. I used my cell phone’s video camera to record one song at the Bad Religion show we saw, and if you can believe it I got a friggin’ text in the middle of a 90 second song and the ringtone interrupts it! Impeccable timing.

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      1. It was a sad, sad time… My favourite Van Morrison album languishes in the same expensive-as-hell limbo because of it. I despair of ever getting a reasonably-priced copy. I did, however, get my ultimate Wynton Marsalis album on vinyl from that period AND I LOVE IT COMPLETELY. :)

        Good luck getting Southern!

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        1. I remember buying one album in November 1991 on record — Skid Row’s Slave To the Grind. It was not possible to find in town, but Columbia House were still offering the odd vinyl. Their version of Slave had an alternate track called Beggars Day so I figured what the hell?

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        2. Niiiice! Has it been on CD since? Or is it another Lebrain rarity?

          Incredible coincidence: I just got a Discogs wishlist notification today that my Van Morrison is available. Granted, it is a 2LP set, and it is surely more rare, but it has some hairlines on it, despite their protestations it’s still good and they still want $65 USD for it.

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  3. I always thought that The Quireboys were superior to the Black Crowes. Still do. I never really got the Black Crowes and the only album of theirs that I really, really like is By Your Side. To me that one is waaaaay superior to everything else they have ever released. Sure, the dubut was really good as well and Southern Harmony had some good tunes, but after that, nothing, Three Snakes and Amorica are both albums that sounds confused and without any direction.

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