Over the course of rock music history, certain bands seem to have been totally forgotten or, even worse in my opinion, reduced down to a couple of songs that are supposed to represent a rich catalog of music. For example, if we were to judge the quality of work of let’s say Lynyrd Skynyrd based upon their songs played on classic rock radio, it would be judged upon “Free Bird,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and maybe one of the following: “Simple Man,” “What’s My Name” or “Tuesday’s Gone.” But, you would be hard pressed to find a better band from the Seventies if you were able to hear ALL of their music. Many artists’ careers have been reduced to a thumbnail representation, which only diminishes what they actually brought to the table. Such is the dilemma faced with today’s artist.
Back in 1990, US radio was totally segregated. On rock radio, it had yet to morph into classic rock and alternative rock formats, yet it was overrun with hair metal bands, many of whom we might be scratching our heads to remember (except for Eddie Trunk, the man with perhaps the world’s most limited musical pallet on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nomination committee). Seriously, who remembers Firehouse, Bulletboys or wants to remember Warrant? But, they were dominating airplay not only on rock radio but also on Top 40 radio, alongside such memorable artists as Debbie Gibson (the Taylor Swift of her era), Paula Abdul and The Jets. Yet, The Black Crowes came crashing through the noise with a rock sound that hearkened back to the days of The Faces, Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones. For a brief shining moment, The Crowes were everything that was cool and urgent about rock music. Unfortunately, they hit right before the grunge tsunami that wiped out everything in sight. So, their rich career has been reduced to those two albums released in the pre-Nirvana days of the early-Nineties.
Let’s begin by saying that these guys could flat out rock! Unfortunately, radio refused to stick with them as they developed and deepened their sound by incorporating more blues and Americana sounds. By the time the band decided to hang it up in the mid-20teens, The Black Crowes had gone from a boogie band to a band not unlike the granddaddy Americana band of them all The Band. And, it is that musical evolution that people today do not truly appreciate.
It’s also worth noting that Oasis did NOT invent the Nineties band brothers infighting, first perfected by the Everly Brothers, then taken to a whole new level by Ray and Dave Davies of The Kinks. No, the Nineties brotherly rivalry award should go to The Black Crowes’ Chris and Rich Robinson. But, unlike the Gallaghers of Oasis, the Robinsons could hold things together for the sake of the band, turning that creative tension into terrific and timeless music that remains as vital today as the day it was created. And, although I never saw the band live, their live recordings prove The Black Crowes were as vital a concert phenomenon as any band this side of Pearl Jam.
With that said, here’s my Top 25 songs by The Black Crowes.
25. “Blackberry” (Three Snakes and One Charm, 1996)
24. “Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye” (The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, 1992)
23. “Wiser Time” (Amorica, 1994)
22. “Wounded Bird” (Warpaint, 2008)
21. “Good Friday” (Three Snakes and One Charm, 1996)
20. “Lickin'” (Lions, 2001)
19. “Only a Fool” (By Your Side, 1999)
18. “I Ain’t Hiding” (Before the Frost…Until the Freeze, 2009)
17. “Go Faster” (By Your Side, 1999)
16. “A Conspiracy” (Amorica, 1994)
15. “Sting Me” (The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, 1992)
14. “Evergreen” (Warpaint, 2008)
13. “A Conspiracy” (Amorica, 1994)
12. “Kickin’ My Heart Around” (By Your Side, 1999)
11. “Good Morning Captain” (Before the Frost…Until the Freeze, 2009)
10. “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution” (Warpaint, 2008)
9. “Seeing Things” (Shake Your Money Maker, 1990)
8. “Soul Singing” (Lions, 2001)
7. “My Morning Song” (The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, 1992)
6. “Twice as Hard” (Shake Your Money Maker, 1990)
5. “Thorn in My Pride” (The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, 1992)
4. “She Talks to Angels” (Shake Your Money Maker, 1990)
3. “Jealous Again” (Shake Your Money Maker, 1990)
2. “Hard to Handle” (Shake Your Money Maker, 1990)
1. “Remedy” (The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, 1992)
I understand that having eight of my Top 10 songs from their first two albums undercuts my argument about The Black Crowe’s career. But, maybe I can clarify it all better tomorrow when I ranked their studio albums. Additionally, what band didn’t create song of their finest anthems early on only to become better album artists as they became more competent musicians. So, I will be going back to The Black Crowes’ well one more time. Peace!