Top positive review
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A FINE LAST RELEASE FROM ONE OF THE BEST BANDS STILL PLAYING
on August 3, 2010
Two discs, 59, 61 minutes each approximately. The sound is very crisp and punchy. The separation between the vocals and instruments is very good. This is one of the best sounding albums the group have ever released. From the delicate sound of the mandolin, to deep bass notes-every instrument has its place. The discs are slipped in, bare, inside a four-part, fold-out cardboard sleeve. The graphics inside consist of a color drawing of trees in a forest, with a "stand-up" feature of two crows-a nice touch. There's no booklet for this release. Song titles, band members, and recording information are on the holder itself.
This set, with songs based largely on acoustic arrangements (some tracks have electric instruments), is full of the rhythm and swagger THE BLACK CROWES are known for. If anyone thinks this is some kind of sleepy/hippie/laid back/ acoustic set-forget it. This is prime BLACK CROWES doing what they do best. Chris Robinson's vocals are center stage, and his time-worn voice carries these songs into another realm. The band makes good use of acoustic guitars and a pumping, yet sympathetic rhythm section to create a foundation for Robinson's voice. The use of electric guitars (and occasionally pedal steel, banjo, mandolin, and fiddle) in the mix add depth and emotion to the arrangements. The piano is an essential part of a number of these tracks-echoing Robinson's plaintive vocals.
A few highlights. The opening track "Jealous Again", is a stomping, rolling rock 'n' roll song in the best tradition of the Crowes. Chris Robinson's voice jumps out of the speakers almost immediately, and the female backing singers fit in seamlessly along with the acoustic and electric guitars. "Share The Ride" sounds like a harder version of something Levon Helm might sing. Third track "Remedy", is THE BLACK CROWES like long time listeners know them-straight ahead, bluesy rock 'n' roll. The beautiful "Non-Fiction" is a combination of the bands harder stance vocally, yet the arrangement is full of delicate acoustic guitars. This long track (almost 8 minutes) winds down beautifully to almost nothing-like watching smoke disappear in the air. With "Hotel Illness", the band is once again back in full swaggering form. The simple beat, the harmonica, the hand-claps, and all the guitars weave a dense sound for Robinson's voice and perfectly arranged electric guitar fills. The long (over 9 minutes) atmospheric song "Wiser Time", shows how far the band has come from the "Shake Your Money Maker" era (which I like), with an arrangement that is subtle yet is musically intricate.
The second disc starts off with the well known "She Talks To Angels", which with mandolin and pedal steel in the mix of guitars, gives this track an extra edge. "Morning Song" begins with the sound of the band counting off and tentatively beginning to play the opening notes, which gives the feeling of being in the studio while this was recorded. This is THE BLACK CROWES in full gospel mode. The bass and drums, the piano, the background vocals, all combine in an almost over-whelming fervor of gospel sound. "Good Friday", with its plaintive vocal and harmonica, is one of the better ballads on the album. Nothing fancy-its subtle arrangement is very emotive. "Thorn In My Pride" is the sound of the band jamming on acoustic guitars, with Robinson's vocal backed up by female backing singers to good effect. "Girl From A Pawnshop", with mandolin, fiddle, and acoustic guitars, has a country feel to it. The combination of an expressive lead vocal with female backing singers fits the song's feel perfectly. "Sister Luck" has a ROLLING STONES/"Exile On Main Street" era sound and feel, with the subtle arrangement, including bottle neck guitar another highlight of the album. The final track, "Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye", is a ballad that is played and sung in the best BLACK CROWES tradition, and is a fitting end to a powerful collection of songs.
This album, apparently the last for some time, is proof positive that THE BLACK CROWES still have that certain "something" that other bands can only wish for. The fact that this is a double album-at a low price, speaks volumes about the band. But its in the music, the vocals, and the overall feel of these songs, where the band shows that they can deliver a collection of heartfelt songs. From good time, bluesy rock 'n' roll, to delicately arranged ballads, to pumping gospel-its all here. This set of songs sees the band bringing their sound in closer, yet all the visceral, emotional, and exciting musical feel is still readily apparent. Quite a combination. Everyone will have favorites on this collection, and its a testament to the band that the many moods heard here all sound authentic. Its a shame that the band is disappearing from the scene for some time. On hearing this release you, too, will have to agree.