September , 2010
Review by Mike DiQuinzio
The Black Crowes
It's rare for a band to find mainstream success with their first album, change their style on the second one, and completely abandon what made them successful by the third; all the while maintaining a devoted fan base that anxiously awaits their next move.
The Black Crowes are indeed as uncommon as they come. Brothers Chris and Rich Robinson are constantly switching their musical gears to keep fans guessing as they explore new avenues and incorporate a wide array of influences into their sound. To that extent, the Black Crowes have simply outdone themselves with the release of their two-record set, Croweology.
Whereas most bands would celebrate their 20th Anniversary by releasing an album of remastered hits, the Black Crowes did the reverse. The full band went into the studio and recorded acoustic versions not only of their classics, but hidden gems culled from their first six albums.
This is not your run-of-the-mill greatest hits package by any stretch of the imagination. It's actually a genius way to reintroduce some of their best material from days gone ny that was both radio and fan friendly. While the inclusion of hits like "She Talks to Angels", "Jealous Again" and "Remedy" are expected, it's the lesser-known songs the band reintroduced that make this collection nothing short of amazing.
"My Morning Song" – always a highlight of their shows – loses nothing in this acoustic version. The gospel-tinged jam in the midsection is as powerful on disc as it is in a live setting. "Ballad in Urgency" and "Wiser Time", possibly the best ten minutes from the Amorica album, are showcased better in these bare-knuckled versions than in their original forms. "Girl from a Pawnshop" benefits greatly from the opening raw punch of both the guitar and mandolin, before unfolding into a lush arrangement, that packs so much power you forget the tune is unplugged.
It's the inclusion of the Crowes' classic "Thorn in My Pride", from the Southern Harmony album, that steals the thunder from every other number on this superb collection. Although the song was somewhat stripped down when it was first released, this new arrangement allows Chris Robinson's voice to become a powerful and very moving instrument. The stirring vocal performance, coupled with the harmonica and slide guitar jam in the middle, takes the listener on one heck of a journey.
No, the Black Crowes aren't the same "Hard to Handle" band that took the country by storm twenty years ago. They are actually better now. If you've been smart enough to hitch a ride on the Robinson's musical rollercoaster all these many years, then Croweology will be a must for your collection. And for those of you that missed the fun, here's your chance to get reacquainted.