If you ever spy these iTunes Originals sets from bands you like, then have a gander at the track list. The Black Crowes’ edition contains original hits, but also has unreleased exclusive versions. There is also a long interview session (spread through the set) with Chris and Rich Robinson, a good and revealing chat. In total the set runs over an hour and a half. Chris and Rich are vivid storytellers and the interviews are good enough to want to listen to more than once. They surprisingly reveal that punk was a strong early influence. Rich recalls seeing Corrosion of Conformity which opened up a new world for the brothers Robinson. The punk shows gave the band a “try anything” attitude in concert, including playing brand new songs that they didn’t have words for yet. But their influences also stretched deep into indi rock, folk, jazz and beyond.
“Twice As Hard” from the debut album is the first hit song presented, and damn if it isn’t still as fine as the day it dropped in 1990. That simple classic British blues rock sound gave the Crowes the springboard they needed to drive them on to greater achievements. It was different for the time. Yet the ballad “She Talks to Angels” was really special and that’s here too. With the interviews in between explaining the journey, iTunes Originals plays like an audio documentary. The story and the music get more interesting as you go. Each album brings something new to the table. By Your Side was a “strange place”, says Chris, but its title track still rouses the senses.
It’s a light sprinkling of hits and album cuts moving forward through the discography of the Crowes. The main thing for long time fans is the exclusive material, all acoustic versions recorded by Rich and Chris. The Otis Redding cover “You Don’t Miss Your Water” is a song they’ve been singing together for years, but never recorded until now. What a lovely song, and what harmonies. From Three Snakes and One Charm, “Good Friday” is rendered slower and sadder. The stripped down approach of these acoustic recordings lends “Welcome to the Good Times” from By Your Side a new appeal.
The Crowes split up for a bit in the early 2000s, but you can’t keep the Robinson brothers apart for too long. War Paint (2008) was their reunion as the Crowes. With new and returning members, the band felt revitalized. “Oh Josephine”, another acoustic exclusive, is as pretty as “She Talks to Angels” 18 years earlier. The last of the exclusives is “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution” which also closes the set. Upbeat gospel rock and roll works as well electric as it does acoustic. “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution” was one of the finer moments on War Paint and it’s perfect for ending this iTunes Originals.