Deep Album Cuts Vol. 30: The Black Crowes

A few days ago, The Black Crowes announced their breakup after 25 years as a band, with Rich Robinson announcing that they couldn't carry on with his brother, frontman Chris Robinson, basically demanding to take a bigger cut of the band's money than the other founding members. It's sad to hear about something like that happening between brothers, but at the same time I support Rich in calling that out, because the insanity of lead singers trying to swindle the rest of the band, and reduce other members of the band to salaried employees, seems to be some kind of epidemic among aging bands. No need to tolerate that shit.

Although The Black Crowes are going out in a blaze of tawdry in-fighting, long after their commercial decline, I kinda felt like giving them some props as a better band than their reputation suggests. They debuted in 1990 with a huge, great blockbuster album with several hit singles. And though they managed to maintain their mainstream profile for a while after that, it quickly became apparent how out of step they were with what we remember as '90s rock now -- they're in that weird little bubble where Lenny Kravitz and Sheryl Crow were also allowed to thrive as '60s and '70s rock nostalgists in the '90s. Blues-based rock has been painfully unhip for a long time, but I'll take the Black Crowes over the Black Keys any day of the week. And Chris Robinson always seemed like a pretty genuine student of the music they play -- he even sang on a Little Feat record a few years ago, which will make anyone cooler in my book.

I could really live without the Black Crowes' biggest hit, the cheesed out Otis Redding cover, but pretty much everything else I think has aged pretty well. "Jealous Again," "Twice As Hard," "Remedy," that's good shit that I'm always happy to hear on the radio, and I'm not ashamed to say "She Talks To Angels" has gottn me a little emotional. Even some of the less successful later singles like "Wiser Time," I love that one. So it seemed like a good time to delve into the albums and see what's there.

The Black Crowes Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist): 

1. Thick N' Thin
2. Struttin' Blues
3. Sister Luck
4. Could I've Been So Blind
5. Sometimes Salvation
6. Black Moon Creeping
7. My Morning Song
8. Gone
9. Descending
10. Under A Mountain
11. Girl From A Pawnshop
12. Heavy
13. Miracle To Me
14. Movin' On Down The Line
15. What Is Home
16. Lady of Avenue A

Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4 from Shake Your Money Maker (1990)
Tracks 5, 6 and 7 from The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (1992)
Tracks 8 and 9 from Amorica (1994)
Tracks 10 and 11 from Three Snakes and One Charm (1996)
Track 12 from By Your Side (1999)
Track 13 from Lions (2001)
Track 14 from Warpaint (2008)
Tracks 15 and 16 from Before the Frost...Until the Freeze (2009)

There are some other good songs in the band's catalog where the titles were just too close to self-parody, like "She Gave Good Sunflower" and "Ozone Mama" and "Wee Who See The Deep." But for the most part their catalog is pretty consistent and light on embarrassment. "What Is Home" is the first (and, I guess, last) song in the Black Crowes catalog fully written and sung by Rich Robinson, who's made a few solo records since the band first went on extended hiatus over a decade ago. It's a quiet little acoustic track and his voice is much softer and gentler than his brother's, but it's an interesting track with a lot of rhythmic turnarounds and a section in 7/8.

The first album, Shake Your Money Maker, is the only one that I regard as essential, but even as the hits dried up, there were some fine moments on the later albums -- the stoned '70s Stones grooves of Amorica, the horns all over By Your Side, the acoustic textures of the new-songs-recorded-live swan song Before The Frost...Until The Freeze. I can't fault anyone for being bored by this band's existence, but they were a solid singles act and, really, more than that if you wanted to dig in beyond the hits.

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
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
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