Ed Hawrysch

REVIEW: The Black Crowes – iTunes Originals (2008)

crowes-itunes-originalsTHE BLACK CROWES – iTunes Originals (2008)

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.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: The Black Crowes – Freak ‘N’ Roll…Into the Fog (2006)

The rather late first review from Toronto Record Store Excursion 2013!

 

CROWES FREAK ROLL_0002THE BLACK CROWES – Freak ‘n’ Roll…Into the Fog: All Join Hands, The Fillmore, San Francisco (2006 Eagle Records)

I somehow missed this when it first came out!  This double live album (acquired at Sonic Boom Music for the awesome price of $7.99), recorded in 2005, reunited the Robinson brothers with members from the classic era.  Returning are Marc Ford (guitar),  Ed Hawrysch (keyboards, from Toronto Ontario), Sven Pipien (bass) and original drummer Steve Gorham.  I believe the original bassist, Johnny Colt, was busy with Rock Star Supernova at the time…

Anyway, with a set concentrated on classic Crowes tunes from the earlier albums with a few other gems, this is an awesome collection.  There are a few later songs, such as a mind-blowing psychedelic version of “Soul Singing” (Lions).  Many of the songs, “Soul Singing” included, turn into long extended jams.  I wouldn’t call them meandering jams; they are spellbinding and with purpose at every moment.

The Crowes are backed by guests:  the Left Coast Horns and backup singers.  The horns kick ass on the extended “(Only) Halfway to Everywhere”.  They transform “Welcome to the Goodtimes” into something a little more sassy, likewise with “Let Me Share the Ride”, and “Seeing Things” from the first LP.  They also help stretch “Non Fiction” into 10 minutes of exploratory rock.  The backup singers really compliment “My Morning Song” transforming it into an ecstatic moment.

I have always taken a bit of flak from other Crowes fans over my favourite album.  Mine is Amorica, and most people I knew favoured Southern Harmony.  Regardless, it’s a delight to hear “Wiser Time” from Amorica on this album.  Songs like this are really special, and with most of the original players on it, “Wiser Time” shines.

I enjoy that the Crowes threw some rarities, covers and B-sides on Freak ‘n’ Roll.  “Sunday Night Buttermilk Waltz” and “Mellow Down Easy” are among the highlights of these tracks, but I was most excited about “The Night they Drove Ol’ Dixie Down”.  The original is a favourite of mine so I couldn’t wait to hear the Crowes’ interpretation.  And guess what?  It’s awesome.  It would be ludicrous to compare it to the original by The Band.  All that matters is that the Crowes wring more soul out of the song than you’ll hear in modern rock on any given day.

The Walmart version of the CD came with a download code for a bonus track, the Stones’ “Loving Cup”.  I obtained it via the seedy underbelly of the internets.  On the DVD this was played after “Welcome to the Goodtimes”.  I’m glad to have this song because the horns really fatten it up nicely, and it’s also a great tune!

5/5 stars

Record Store Excursion 2013!

PART 1

PART 2