Deep Album Cuts Vol. 25: Counting Crows

Counting Crows are incredibly uncool, and I get it. The first time I heard "Mr. Jones," I was pretty appalled that alternative rock radio and MTV taking time away from all my beloved grunge bands to play a song that began with a cheesy "sha la la la la la" and ended with the goofy dreadlocked singer openly wishing he was Bob Dylan. But the ubiquitous, 7 times platinum August and Everything After got under my skin over the next couple years, and the follow-up Recovering the Satellites was even better, a surprisingly bombastic and guitar-driven record that gave me a whole new respect for the band.

Since Counting Crows began their inevitably commercial decline, it's been easy to just let them fester in uncoolness -- their two only hits since the '90s ended were a really embarrassing cover of "Big Yellow Taxi" and song from the soundtrack to Shrek 2 (a really catchy song, in fact, though it was more memorable for the horrifying video starring an animated rabbit with Duritz dreads). But after listening to their pretty good new album Somewhere Under Wonderland, I decided to check out the later albums I was content to avoid. And I gotta say, they've remained a pretty impressively consistent band, whether you love them or hate them. I may not ever develop a relationship with any of their other albums like I have with Recovering the Satellites, but I have to admit that that's at least partially because loving one Counting Crows album is embarrassing enough as it is. But Hard Candy is surprisingly good and none of the albums since then isn't at least listenable.

Counting Crows Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Children In Bloom
2. Sullivan Street
3. Hanging Tree
4. High Life
5. I'm Not Sleeping
6. Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes To Hollywood)
7. Raining In Baltimore
8. Dislocation
9. St. Robinson In His Cadillac Dream
10. Recovering the Satellites
11. Hard Candy
12. Colorblind
13. Four White Stallions
14. Anna Begins
15. Chelsea
16. Goodnight Elisabeth

Tracks 2, 7 and 14 from August and Everything After (1993)
Tracks 1, 5, 10 and 16 from Recovering the Satellites (1996)
Tracks 15 from Across a Wire: Live in New York City (1998)
Track 4, 9 and 12 from This Desert Life (1999)
Tracks 6 and 11 from Hard Candy (2002)
Track 3 from Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (2008)
Track 13 from Underwater Sunshine (or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation) (2012)
Track 8 from Somewhere Under Wonderland (2014)

I've never been able to resist the charms of "Raining In Baltimore," and slotted it next to a couple of other songs that nod to Duritz's Maryland birthplace. If their songs weren't so long, I would've included more than one song from the later albums, and even more from the first two albums, but oh well. I don't even know if I like "Colorblind" but thanks to Cruel Intentions it's their most popular deep cut, so it seemed necessary to include it. Duritz is probably the popular singer who's most openly dealt with depression and suicidal tendencies who hasn't become any kind of romantic cult hero. But something touching does really come out in some of these songs that makes me feel real empathy for the guy.

When I listen to these songs, I'm really impressed with how versatile the band is and how well they conjure all these '70s singer-songwriter and classic rock influences into something that sounds good with contemporary production and brings the hooks closer to the fore than a lot of less commercially successful bands with similar influences. It's tempting to imagine the band with a less divisive lead singer, or with Duritz simply not wearing the goofy dreads and holding back on both his strained high notes and his self-pitying poetry. But making these mixes is kind of about appreciating bands that aren't critical darlings, that have something to offer beyond their hit singles that you sometimes have to dig in a little to find.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
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