Archive for the ‘ALBUMS’ Category

Echo & The Bunnymen present an archival dig for all of the sessions they recorded for the legendary John Peel during their formative years from 1979 to 1983. Many of the 21 songs do not appear on their early albums, as the band actually used the sessions to experiment with new material.

From post-punk roots, Echo & The Bunnymen grew to become Liverpool’s second most famous foursome with music that was darkly mysterious, sweepingly romantic and increasingly ambitious. BBC DJ John Peel was one of British alternative rock’s leading tastemakers during the band’s initial incarnation; as can be heard on THE JOHN PEEL SESSIONS 1979-1983, their paths crossed several times.

The six radio dates with Peel take the group from its beginnings (when drum machine Echo was still supplying the beats) to its masterpiece “Ocean Rain”. Showcasing fiery performances and Ian McCullough’s talent for improvising lyrics, these 20 recordings include revelatory versions of such Bunnymen favorites as “The Killing Moon,” “Seven Seas” and “Heaven Up Here.”

Now available as a limited edition 2-LP set on 180-gram black vinyl, THE JOHN PEEL SESSIONS 1979-1983 is a collection no fan of the band should be without

No Nukes 1979

A worthy cause moves Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to pause recording of their new album to perform at the “No Nukes” benefit concerts in New York. Though a few tracks were later featured in the resulting live album and film, No Nukes ’79 presents Bruce’s complete sets from September 21st and 22nd, including the world premiere of “The River”, “Sherry Darling”, “Prove It All Night”, “Thunder Road”, “Detroit Medley”, “Quarter to Three”, “Jungleland”, “Rave On” and “Stay” featuring Jackson BrowneTom Petty and Rosemary Butler . This release is mixed by Jon Altschiller.

There’s a case to be made that Bruce Springsteen’s appearance at two MUSE benefit concerts in 1979 mark the moment he truly arrived, when his status as not merely a rock star but THE rock superstar of his era became undeniable. And not unlike similar moments that affected Bruce himself, specifically Elvis Presley and The Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show, the power of a filmed performance was a major contributing factor. After all, the No Nukes film (released in 1980) and, to a lesser but still important extent, the No Nukes triple album, were the first commercial releases to ever offer live Springsteen performances.

After spending the better part of 1978 playing to ever-growing crowds on the Darkness tour (including arena dates in top markets), Springsteen had become a major touring act. Better still, the legend of his three-hour concerts was spreading, and word-of-mouth reviews sounded like tales of religious conversion. The collective sentiment expressed by those who had been to a Bruce concert to those who hadn’t was simple: You HAVE to see this guy play.

But with the Darkness tour wrapped and the focus shifted to studio recording, it seemed there would be no chance to see Springsteen live in 1979. The pent-up demand to see Bruce in concert, particularly in his NY/NJ homebase where he hadn’t played since September 1978 (save for an on-campus gymnasium show at Princeton in November), was off the charts.

Meanwhile, in March 1979, an accident at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station near Harrisburg, PA, highlighted the risks of nuclear power to the entire nation and further galvanized the already active anti-nuclear movement. MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) was formed soon after Three Mile Island by a group of like-minded artists and music-industry leaders, including Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and Bonnie Raitt.

To raise awareness and money, the newly founded organization wasted little time in announcing The MUSE Concerts for a Non-Nuclear Future, five shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Two of those would be headlined by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in their only concerts of the year (not counting the final Darkness show, Cleveland 1/1/79). Needless to say, ticket demand for September 21st-22nd, the two nights Springsteen was scheduled to perform, was enormous.

Bruce and the E Streeters had spent much of the spring and summer in the studio at the Power Station on West 53rd, recording songs for what one year later would become “The River”. In fact, soon after the MUSE concerts, for which they paused to rehearse and perform, they considered stopping recording entirely and turning in a ten-song single album (eventually released in 2015 on The Ties That Bind box set).

While recording for The River would not only resume but carry on well into 1980, Springsteen was at least considering that his new album might be pretty much done when he took the stage on September 21st. He was also two days away from his 30th birthday. Combine that with an eight-month layoff from the road, and it is no wonder he and the band played with such passion and ferocity at the two MUSE concerts, both presented/captured here in full.

Jon Altschiller’s new multi-track mix crisply captures the electric anticipation in the air as the band tunes up and blasts into “Prove It All Night” on 9/21, with Max Weinberg in particular adrenalized by being back on stage.

With a limited, 90-minute slot on the multi-artist bill it’s a bang-bang set both nights: “Prove It All Night” into “Badlands,” into “The Promised Land.”  What Bruce performs is in effect a mini Darkness concert that adds an important look to the future with the first-ever performances of his newly written masterpiece, “The River.” Introducing the deeply personal song the first night, Bruce says simply, “It’s for my brother-in-law”; the second night he says it’s for “my mother and my sister.”

While some finer details of the final arrangement of “The River” were yet to come, the emotional core of the song is fully realized. It is thrilling to hear these initial performances and to imagine what it would have been like to experience the song for the first time amongst the No Nukes crowd. My jaw would have been on the floor.

The look-forward to The River continues with “Sherry Darling,” shifting the mood materially with an “end-of-the summer song” and restoring the party atmosphere from the top of the show. From there, it is a race to the finish through “Thunder Road” (the performance from the second night is featured in the No Nukes film), “Jungleland” (a couple of particularly passionate versions), “Rosalita,” and “Born to Run.” All killer, no filler.

The two MUSE performances are relatively consistent, with the second night perhaps slightly less frenetic, as one might expect. The “encore” songs are where the changes come.

Night one we are treated to the delightful rendition of Maurice Williams’ “Stay” featured on the No Nukes album, a song which had been a regular part of Jackson Browne’s sets. Browne and his backup singer Rosemary Butler guest on the E Street version, as smooth a groove as any they’ve laid down. “Detroit Medley” also appeared on the No Nukes album in edited form, expunging some of Bruce’s hilarious “hazardous to your health” warnings and insurance pitching, which are restored here. The show closes with a 100 MPH cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On.”

The encore from night two repeats “Stay,” this time with the late Tom Petty sharing lead vocals with Springsteen and Browne, and wraps with a “Quarter to Three” for the ages, material parts of which made it into the No Nukes film.

The footage of “Quarter to Three,” which shows Springsteen giving it his all to point of collapsing on the floor and needing to be revived (in jest) by the band, preserved for all to see the unique magic of Springsteen in concert. The film also shows other artists reacting to the pre-show cheers of “Brooooce” (and acknowledging that Springsteen is the artist the crowd is really there to see), not to mention the incredible performances of “The River” and “Thunder Road” noted above.

Remember, at the time the No Nukes film was released in 1980, there was no MTV. Springsteen had never appeared on American television. You literally couldn’t see him perform without going to a concert until the No Nukes film opened that July. And when it did in the US, and later in the UK and Europe, tens of thousands of future fans saw with their own eyes what they had only read and heard about. Though he only appears on screen for perhaps 15 minutes of the film’s 103-minute run time, No Nukes managed to bottle up for the first time the essence of Bruce Springsteen in concert.

Finally, the No Nukes shows also marked Springsteen’s first overt foray into political activism. During the show, Bruce says it was Jackson Browne’s “sense of purpose and conviction that got me down here tonight,” and Browne’s commitment to the cause continues to this day. To honor that, $2 from each sale of No Nukes 1979 will be donated to Musicians United for Safe Energy, to support nearly 40 years of fighting the good fight.

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California garage rocker Mikal Cronin recently shared “I’ve Got Reason” the final single ahead of the release of his fourth album, Seeker, out today. The song lets it rip with a fuzzed-out chaos that’s wonderfully sloppy—with a psychedelic music video adding to the madness.“I’ve Got Reason” is undoubtedly the heaviest of Cronin’s new releases. While “Shelter” works soaring strings into its beautiful arrangement, “I’ve Got Reason” strips away the frills. The single feels straight out of the garage, with a minimal guitar, bass and drum formula.

On his fourth full-length, Mikal Cronin continues to experiment outside of the Bay Area garage rock scene he was reared in. The songs on Seeker are imbued with darkness: lovelorn, tense, unsure. They’re rocking ballads filled with ornate production and doubts

From the album “Seeker” out October 25th, 2019 on Merge Records.

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Montrealites Half Moon Run have released their third studio album, ‘A Blemish In The Great Light’, last Friday and it’s chock full of swirling indie rock riffs, at times a throwback to seventies nouveau synth, sometimes the harmonies feeling like an echo of sixties rock and roll. It’s a fresh new take and we like it. Last night they had a sold out headline show at Electric Brixton, and what a beauty it was.

Half Moon Run have returned with their third album, A Blemish In The Great Light, via Glassnote Records. Produced by Joe Chiccarelli (The Strokes, Beck, Killers) and featuring the singles Then Again and Flesh and Blood.

The word everyone comes back to when describing Montreal indie rockers Half Moon Run is “complex” (The Guardian, Exclaim, et al.) Whether they’re billed as dreamy alt-pop, bucolic alt-folk, or psychedelic indie rock, the four multi-instrumentalists – Devon Portielje (vocals, guitar, piano, percussion), Conner Molander (vocals, guitar, keyboard, piano, pedal steel, bass, harmonica), Dylan Phillips (vocals, drums, piano, keyboard), and Isaac Symonds (vocals, drums, mandolin, synth, bass) – have built their name on cerebral, acrobatic arrangements and harmonies that lilt prettily till they turn feral.

This project is funded in part by FACTOR, the Government of Canada and Canada’s private radio broadcasters.

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The implied toughness of Bishop Briggs’ name suits her well for the performative strength expressed throughout her new album, CHAMPION. The record matches strutting, declarative percussion with the swelling choral elements of arena rock, layering both on a throughline of vulnerability. There’s a sobering badassery in Briggs’ marriage of aesthetic and naked self-exploration, the kind that invites a listening audience to bop their heads while doing soul-searching of their own, even if only on a subconscious level. Realizing personal introspection with the album blaring at the same time is a challenge: If CHAMPION can be distilled into a single word, that word is “loud,” whether in decibels or overdetermined wordplay.

The album’s title track, which was released over the summer, was written shortly before her breakup occurred, and therefore deviates a bit from her breakup anthem vibe, but is very Briggs: feminist, confident, honest.

“The meaning behind it being, as a woman, feeling like I have to be so many different things at once. You have to be powerful, but not too powerful. You have to be sexy but sweet. You have to be confident, but you have to be humble. And it’s just so exhausting,” Briggs says. “With this song, I just thought how different my world would be if I had some confidence.”

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Back in the day – this would be late 1983 or early 1984  – I had worked as a rep for Virgin Records the label.  Those were the days when Virgin were churning out band after band, some of them better than others – The Records,  The Motors, Japan, XTC and Magazine were among the better options on offer.  Having come back from the latest Meeting at which there was no doubt but to get out there and mercilessly plug the latest Culture Club album, But at that time there was a new Glaswegian band called The Blue Nile who had made one indie single that sank without trace and whose records Virgin Records were now distributing.

The Blue Nile’s debut album was – ‘A Walk across the Rooftops’.  With lots of synths, clattering electronic percussion, chugging guitars, angst-ridden male singer – but somehow The Blue Nile had taken all these ingredients and turned them into something that was utterly unique.  Where other synth-laden bands would just come off sounding cold and mechanical, The Blue Nile had somehow contrived to suffuse their electronic tableaux with warmth and humanity.

In early ’84, ‘Rooftops’ felt like a great record, though not without its moments of indecision, but the remarkable thing is that it still sounds nearly as good today, nearly 30 years later.  It wasn’t really the singles from the album – Stay’ and ‘Tinseltown in the Rain’ that made it sound so different to everything else; they were great singles that barely shaved the Top 40, but there were so many others like that at the time, seemingly unable to deflect public attention away from Boy George.

It was more the tracks that you had to revisit – the ones with lengthy silences in the middle of them and seemingly endless echoing fades, songs that sounded like they were recorded in the dimly-lit halls of an empty railway station at 3:30 am – songs like the title track and ‘Easter Parade’ or like ‘Heatwave’, that slowly built powerful castles in the night-time air out of the thinnest of preambles. And then there’s ‘Tinseltown‘……

One of my all-time favourites songs, if anything, whilst ‘Stay‘ has faded in my affections over the years, ‘Tinseltown in the Rain’ is still a song I probably love even more now than when I first heard it.

Like many bands that emerged after punk, The Blue Nile are defined by their limitations. Vocalist and guitarist Paul Buchanan later said told The Independent: “I’ve always found it strange that people missed the ‘punk’ aspect of A Walk Across the Rooftops. We were living in a flat in Glasgow with no hot water. We barely knew what we were doing and that was very liberating.” Buchanan’s guitar skills were limited, and the trio didn’t have a drummer, so the trio built around the assets they did have; Buchanan’s soulful voice, and Robert Bell and Paul Joseph Moore’s keyboards and synthesizers.

While 1980s synth-pop hasn’t always dated well, The Blue Nile’s classy, shimmering music has aged gracefully. Bell and Moore’s arrangements are almost symphonic in their carefully constructed grandeur. Buchanan’s yearning voice adds a human element, similar to contemporaries like Peter Gabriel or Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis.

The Blue Nile in the early days….no-one was doing anything like this, except maybe Japan, and their knowing orientalisms were maybe just a little too arch and self-conscious to have the same impact.  Interestingly, once Japan had split, David Sylvian headed off into similar territory and his 1986 album ‘Gone to Earth’ sails through Blue Nile waters at times.

Of course, I duly proceeded to bore everyone about the Blue Nile and was almost willing their singles into the top Forty, but somehow it never really happened. ‘Rooftops’ remained frozen in time as one of the great ‘one-off’ albums of the era.

Hats had a troubled gestation, after touring 1984’s debut A Walk Across the Rooftops, The Blue Nile were sent straight back into the studio to record a followup. Without material, the group spent almost three years (!) recording without result. They were forced to vacate the studio for another band, and returned to Glasgow where Buchanan was able to overcome his writer’s block. Despite the five year gap between albums, and all of the studio time, Buchanan later claimed that half of Hats was recorded in a week.

Now, amazingly, finally, after most of us had given up on them, The Blue Nile had a new album out!  ‘Hats’ was the album I thought I’d never see and it was seriously good as well – probably lacking a stand-out track like ‘Tinseltown‘, but a bit more consistent overall.  Paul Buchanan’s achingly poignant voice and elliptical lyrics found nuggets of meaning in the elusive minutiae of everyday life. These were songs of loss and yearning and if you could almost make a case for ‘Rooftops‘ being an album of teenage wonderment, then it was equally possible that ‘Hats’  had us nicely settled down with a significant other and travelling the night-time highways.

The next album just reinforced it worked for me, it seemed that The Blue Nile in the autumn of 1990, with ‘Hats’ well-established on the playlist – came news that The Blue Nile were touring the UK. When Paul Buchanan finally spoke to the crowd, you could hear knuckle-cracking tension in every syllable  but every hesitant sentence was greeted with shouts of encouragement, applause, laughter and sheer outbursts of joy. It could be argued that The Blue Nile’s music is perhaps more ‘electronically assisted’ than other bands, with its samples and banks of electronic gizmos, but the sound was crisp, the performance right on the money and Buchanan’s voice the central rock on which waves of sound crashed throughout the performance.

Buchanan’s good at deflating his own romanticism. ‘Saturday Night’ could easily turn into a mushy love song, but his image of “an ordinary girl” grounds the song in reality. The strings don’t arrive until halfway through, and cascade all over an already beautiful song.

Another 6 years to 1996 and another Blue Nile album; different this time, with Buchanan’s acoustic guitar at the forefront and again the eerie feeling that the band and the lives they were living somehow paralleled my own.   Peace at last’ was the album, less feted by the critics than its predecessors, but still a worthy successor to ‘Hats’.  Here were songs about the sweet tedium of family life, the feeling of having settled. Still, there was Body and Soul’ another Blue Nile anthem.

And so to ‘High’, the Blue Nile’s 2004 release, an album which seemed to aim for the purely electronic tones of the first two records.  The lyrical undercurrent is more mixed on this album, with songs about commitment and staying power, but also tales of loss and of travel and with at least one landmark song, ‘Because of Toledo’.  It’s another excellent album , filled with light and shade and the slow turning of the seasons. Four albums in 21 years.

In 2006, Paul Buchanan toured as a solo act, with Robert Bell on bass (and other musicians), but without P.J. Moore, then the Buchanan/Bell duo + band toured again in 2007 & 2008, this time as The Blue Nile, but again without Moore.

So perhaps we can hope for some new Blue Nile material soon. The Blue Nile are famous for their lack of productivity. The Glasgow-based group were formed in 1981 and effectively broke up by 2006, and released a mere four albums during their quarter century tenure.

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If ever there was a band that was born too late, it’s the Black Crowes. Frontman Chris Robinson recently stated: “We like the way records sounded from 1968 to 1972.”

Which is hardly surprising coming from a dude who views the modern world through a haze of marijuana smoke and looks like he’s just got back from Woodstock. But as he proudly declares: “This band has always been out of sync with whatever is going on, because we couldn’t care less what’s going on, ever!”

“This band has always been out of sync with whatever is going on, because we couldn’t care less what’s going on, ever!”

Shake Your Money Maker (Def American , 1990)

The Black Crowes (1990): On their debut album, the Black Crowes come on like the Faces infused with a little southern boogie. They were clearly influenced by rock’s classic past (their next album sounded like a long-lost Stones record from the early ’70s) .

Produced by Rick Rubin’s right- hand man, George Drakoulias, The Black Crowes’ debut kicked off with the 70s-style rock of Twice As Hard and never looked forward. The key hit single, Hard To Handle, was originally recorded by soul legend Otis Redding back in 1968. Originally written and recorded by Otis Redding during his final recording sessions before his death, the Black Crowes‘ cover of ‘Hard to Handle’ reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Rock Charts in 1990. More than two decades later, the song still stands out as a significant contribution to the world of rock and roll. An honest rendition of Redding’s tune, the radio promo remix of ‘Hard to Handle’ takes the cover even further by including a brass section throughout the song.

Among the Top 10 Black Crowes Songs could be complete without ‘Jealous Again,’ the second track – and lead single – on the band’s debut album, ‘Shake Your Money Maker.’ A purely blues-based rock and roll song, ‘Jealous Again’ is arguably one of the catchiest Crowes songs ever released. Elevating the song to a new level, the band covered the tune on their 2010 acoustic greatest hits album, ‘Croweology,’ opening fans up to a different interpretation of a true classic.

But the Crowes were no hackneyed bar band. Their youthful energy, and great songs, the Black Crowes‘ first single, ‘Jealous Again,’ was released in 1990. Frontman Chris Robinson was 23 years old and his younger brother, guitarist Rich, was 20 years old. other highlight was the acoustic ballad She Talks To Angels, connected with a 90s audience.

Possibly one of the most recognizable Crowes tunes out there, ‘She Talks to Angels’ is a beautiful song that focuses on a woman battling addiction. Written by both Robinson brothers, what makes the song even more extraordinary is the fact that Rich wrote the music for it when he was just 15 years old. Even though the song will forever be associated with the music of the early-’90s, as with most of the Crowes‘ music, ‘She Talks to Angels’ will hold up for many years to come.

With eight million units shifted worldwide, Shake Your Money Maker is still the Black Crowes’ biggest-selling album.

The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion (Def American, 1992)

The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion topped the US chart (still the only Crowes album to do so) and remains the Black Crowes’ finest work.

With a brilliant new guitarist, Marc Ford, replacing the errant Jeff Cease, the band were on a roll, cutting the whole album in just eight days. Its heavy, funky, soulful rock‘n’roll – best illustrated by the snaking Remedy and the stoned jam Thorn In My Pride – carried echoes of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Sly & The Family Stone.

Two years after ‘Hard to Handle’ hit No. 1, ‘Remedy’ did the exact same thing for 11 weeks. Like all of the Black Crowes’ music, ‘Remedy’ stands the test of time and even 20 years later, it sounds better than ever. Taking a cue from an old Parliament song, ‘Remedy’ is most memorable thanks to the catchy guitar riff that not only opens the song, but is also a major part of its foundation.

One of the tamer songs on ‘Southern Harmony,’ ‘Thorn in My Pride’ perfectly captures the soulful edge of the Black Crowes. As opposed to ‘Lickin,” the band is obviously comfortable with performing the song live as they’ve played it nearly 1,000 times since the early-’90s. With emotional lyrics that have become definitive for the Crowes’ career.

‘The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion’ was the perfect follow-up to the band’s debut album. With even more rock and musical depth, the record showcased the band’s quick growth in just a couple of years. One of the shining examples of that growth is ‘My Morning Song,’ a tune with so much soul it’s become a regular fan-favorite at live shows. Besides the energy Robinson and company exude during the song, it also has a powerful breakdown that comes around the 3:30 mark when Robinson belts out, ‘If your rhythm ever falls out of time / You can bring it to me and I will make it alright.’ ‘My Morning Song’ proves to be a track that has a lasting effect on its listener.

In essence this album is the Crowes’ Sticky Fingers.

Amorica (American, 1994)

For serious Crowes aficionados this third album represents the band’s artistic peak. Amorica was markedly different to the first two albums. Opener Gone kicked ass, but the overall vibe was more mellow, trippy and introspective. The Crowes were extending their reach. Its best songs are among the group’s zenith – particularly cosmic-cowboy jams “Wiser Time,” “Nonfiction” and “Ballad in Urgency.” Percussion-driven “High Head Blues” and afterglow saunter “She Gave Good Sunflower,” too. “Descending” is a gorgeous piano-gospel fadeout. It’s well-documented recording “Amorica” was a mess. While there were piles of drugs present during the sessions, (perhaps not coincidentally) there weren’t as many songwriting homeruns as before.

The album’s peak is Wiser Time, an uplifting, spiritual psychedelic jam. The single High Head Blues evoked the swamp-rock of Creedence Clearwater Revival. At the end there’s Descending, a beautiful, world- weary ballad finished with a wonderful piano coda.

The Crowes would never quite reach such heights again.

Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes Live At The Greek (TVT, 2000)

It started, of course, with a jam. At a Crowes gig in London in June 1999 Jimmy Page joined the band for an encore. They played Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, and it felt so good that they decided to tour together.

The resulting double live album features landmark Zeppelin songs and blues standards, but, due to contractual obligations, none of the Crowes material they played.

The master guitarist gels nicely with Rich Robinson, and Chris Robinson proves that if Zeppelin were ever going to tour without Robert Plant he’s the only man for the job.

The Lost Crowes (American, 2006)

Not just a bunch of B-sides and out-takes, but two complete and previously unreleased albums.

On disc one of The Lost Crowes is Band, an album recorded in 1997 but abandoned when the Crowes switched labels and cut the more mainstream By Your Side. Far superior to the preceding Three Snakes And One Charm, it’s a genuine lost classic. This is cheating a bit. “The Lost Crowes” is a compilation of two shelved projects, “Amorica” precursor “Tall” and “The Band,” tracks originally recorded around 1993 to 1997. But even just the latter “lost” album would be the fourth best Crowes LP. A click closer to “Southern Harmony” Longhaired like “Three Snakes” but more resonant. “The Band”-era highlights include blacklight-rockers “Paint an 8,” “Another Roadside Tragedy” and “Peace Anyway,” the pastoral “Wyoming and Me,” bittersweet “Lifevest” and tear-jerking “My Heart’s Killing Me.”  The druggier, “Tall” stuff like “Dirty Hair Halo,” “Feathers,” “Song of the Flesh”, “Tied Up & Swallowed” is equal parts good-trip and bad-trip. The buzz from acoustic songs – like lyrically twisty hayseed lark “Tornado” and paranoia hymn “Thunderstorm 6:54”

On disc two is Tall, an album recorded in 1993 and then shelved until six of its 16 songs were reworked on Amorica. The standout track (inexplicably left off Amorica) is Feathers, a meditative psychedelic blues.

An essential purchase for the Crowes connoisseur.

By Your Side (Columbia, 1998)

Chris Robinson described the making of this album as “the worst period of my life”. Following the departures of guitarist Marc Ford and bassist Johnny Colt, the band had signed to a new label, Columbia, who demanded a radio-friendly album in the vein of Shake Your Money Maker.

“It was the only time we put down out instinctual defences and listened to other people,” Robinson complained.

But it worked. By Your Side is a fine album. The Crowes blasted out high-octane rock on Kickin’ My Heart Around, and hit a soulful groove on Only A Fool. Even at his lowest ebb, Chris was still one of the the best singer’s in rock’n’roll. Starting things off with a raucous slide up the guitar neck, ‘Kickin’ My Heart Around’ never slows down for three minutes and 41 seconds. The song is soaked in overdriven guitars and a non-stop toe-tapping rhythm that culminates with an ear-piercing harmonica-laden bridge. With lyrics like, ‘Well I told you so now it’s time to go / Got to get this show on the road / Just stop kickin’ my heart around,’ it’s easy to get this song stuck in your head.

The disc does contain some excellent hard-rock. Zep-tastic “HorseHead” is the most metallic The Crowes ever got, with Gorman summoning “Physical Graffiti” boom. “Kickin’ My Heart Around” traffics in venomous velocity. Title track “By Your Side” recaptures “Shake Your Money Maker” strut, while “Only a Fool” and “Diamond Ring” are well-crafted valentines. The Band-like gem “Welcome To The Goodtimes” deserved more acclaim and wider audience. The best “By Your Side” songs are arguably stronger than those on “Three Snakes.” for sure.

Warpaint (Silver Arrow, 2008)

The Crowes’ ‘comeback’ album is all about vibe. Recorded near Woodstock – in a sense, the band’s spiritual home – Warpaint was completed in a week.

“That organic trip is really where it’s at for us,” said Chris Robinson, describing the album’s earthy blend of rock, blues, country, funk and soul.

While the blues have always played a role in the Black Crowes‘ music, ‘Evergreen’ is a shining example of just how far they can push their talents. ‘Warpaint‘ is the first studio album with Luther Dickinson on guitar, and his Southern rock and blues influence is obvious on ‘Evergreen.’ Dickinson’s chops shine around 2:20 as he takes front-stage for a lively and one-of-a-kind solo that bleeds perfectly into the final chorus.

With Marc Ford out of the band again, and Eddie Harsch gone too, the Crowes found ideal replacements in keyboard player Adam MacDougall and North Mississippi All Stars guitarist Luther Dickinson.

Warpaint might be the Black Crowes’ lowest-selling studio album, but it shares the timeless quality of their best work.

Left for dead by many after the limp “Lions,” the band returned with the much rootsier and potent “Warpaint.” The addition of North Mississippi Allstars slide-guitar ace Luther Dickinson revitalized The Crowes. And there were better songs again. Opening track “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution” rekindled Stones sashay. Released during the White Stripes/Black Keys era, “Walk Believer Walk” proved a band could still do blues cool without being a garage-duo. “Oh Josephine” is a stoned heartbreaker and “Locust Street” one of the Crowes’ most poignant works. “Movin’ on Down the Line” is a fine highway song.

‘Before the Frost…Until the Freeze’ (2009)

The most recent Crowes’ studio album featured several psychedelic tunes, but one song stands out amongst the 20 offered, and that’s the Dylan-esque, ‘I Ain’t Hiding.’ With a funky bass beat and wicked guitars, the song’s vibe is amplified with Robinson’s lyrics and vocals. Opening with, ‘Rust on my pickups and blood on the stage / Seeds in the ashtray and coke on the blade,’ the Chris Robinson-penned song is flawless in its old-school rock and roll style.

After a 2015 breakup due to a tour money-split disagreement, “Frost” stands as The Black Crowes last studio album. But their previous release, “Warpaint,” would’ve been a more-fitting final statement.

Freak ’N’ Roll… Into The Fog (Eagle, 2006)

Where better for the Black Crowes to cut a double live album than the Fillmore, San Francisco’s legendary hippie hangout?

Recorded on the second date of a five-night residency in 2005, it captures the reunited Crowes in celebratory mood. Indeed, the band were so happy to be back together that they even gave the classic hits they often refused to play, such as Hard To Handle and She Talks To Angels. Best of all is the 10-minute Nonfiction, with the Crowes in all their self-indulgent, cosmic-rock glory.

The Black Crowes have always been a great live act, and here they delivered a great live album.

Lions (2001)

On an album full of blues-, soul- and classic rock-tinged tracks, ‘Lickin” stands out as the most memorable. Built on a wicked guitar riff manned by Rich Robinson, the song is filled with gritty vocals and lyrics as well. While ‘Lions’ may have caused some mixed reviews from critics, it’s hard not to argue that ‘Lickin” rocks from start to finish. Adding to its appeal, it is a rarity for the band to perform the song live, having done so less than 100 times since its concert debut in 2001.

There are a handful of “Lions” tracks that don’t deserve to be erased from time – most notably, joyous jam “Soul Singing.” “Cosmic Friend” offers psych-pop sparks. Having recently backed former Zep guitarist Page on a memorable 1999 tour and resulting live album sounds like it inspired The Crowes’ thrashy “Cypress Tree” and molten “Midnight from the Inside Out.” The heartfelt “Lay It All On Me” closes “Lions” on a high-note.

Three Snakes And One Charm (American, 1996)

“It’s my favourite,” Chris Robinson says of the Crowes’ fourth album. But few would agree with him. As the singer admits: “It’s funny, because people in England hated this record. It got the worst reviews.”

“Three Snakes” is Chris Robinson’s favorite Crowes record. It’s easy to see why, as it contains some of his most brilliant lyrics, especially “perfume and Valium” laced “Under a Mountain,” the strummy kiss-off “Good Friday,” Prince-ish power-ballad “Girl From a Pawnshop,” the trippy “One Mirror Too Many” and corrosive “Nebekanezer.” Lesser material weighs the LP down though, like sappy “Better When You’re Not Alone,” faux-funk “(Only) Halfway to Everywhere” and bar-band-ish “Let Me Share The Ride.” “Blackberry,” which hops with “Hard to Handle”-worthy Gorman beats and hot Chris vocals, is a rare instance where a Rich guitar riff tanks a Crowes track.

Three Snakes… is an erratic mix of signature-Crowes roots-rock and left-field weirdness. The more straightforward songs – the swaggering Under A Mountain, the country blues Girl From A Pawnshop – work best, but the curveballs are too self-consciously ‘out there’: the clunking freak-funk of (Only) Halfway To Everywhere, the faux-jazz break on How Much For Your Wings?.

blackcrowes_croweology

 Croweology (2010)

This album is a double-disc of mostly previously released material done acoustically and sounding like they recorded it live in the studio. The track list is filled with some of the Crowes’ best songs, and the songs are done with live arrangements in mind (several songs have jams and extended solo sections). The only two tracks that were not already recorded by the group are “Cold Boy Smile” (a song that was penned and played live during the 2005-2006 reunion run) and Gram Parsons’ “She.” While it is a definitely a cool concept (think MTV Unplugged), and is an overall great sounding album, it still is a bunch of re-recorded songs, even if they arranged differently. Yet, if you love the Crowes, and haven’t heard this one, you should.

Of course, the group have several live albums Live (2002), Freak n’ Roll…Into the Fog (2006) (also a DVD), Warpaint Live (2009), and Wiser for the Time (2013)], and the Robinson Brothers’ acoustic live album Brothers of a Feather – Live at the Roxy,

The band’s drummer Steve Gorman is readying a memoir, titled “Hard to Handle” after their breakthrough Otis Redding cover.

Gorman is a clever storyteller and likable dude. Having been behind the kit for almost every Crowes gig and every single album, he’ll have a unique perspective on the group’s famously warring brothers (guitarist Rich Robinson and singer Chris Robinson) and the many stars whose orbits intersected with The Crowes. The band’s entire journey, really. Gorman is writing his book with Steve Hyden, author of one of 2018’s most critically lauded music tomes, “Twilight of the Gods.”

After months of speculation, The Black Crowes are set to reunite next year in honor of the 30th anniversary of their debut, Shake Your Money Maker. The shows will be the first time that brothers Chris and Rich Robinson have performed together since December 2013.

Last year, Chris Robinson assembled a band called As the Crow Flies specifically to perform the music of the Black Crowes again.

Although there has been no official statement, a tweeted photo of a billboard in New York City that says the band will be playing on July 17th, 2020 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., and again the next day at the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, N.Y. The sign adds that they will play the 1990 record “in its entirety plus all the hits.

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Margaux - Cave In

Autumn—the romantic season of fiery, golden leaves, nipping winds and hot, steaming mugs of coffee—never lasts long enough. “December came too fast,” sings Margaux Bouchegnies over the delicately lo-fi intro to her new single, “Cave In.” The Seattle bred, Brooklyn-based 20-year-old singer-songwriter counts Joni Mitchell among her main influences. Even in its nascent stage, Margaux’s songwriting internalizes Mitchell’s touch for bluesy naturalism. About a minute in, “Cave In” dynamically shifts to crunchier instrumentation. From there, subtle scene changes abound; like stomping on an overdrive pedal, “Cave In” quickly jumps between jarring fuzziness and melodic resolution. Snail Mail and Car Seat Headrest come to mind: both artists write incredibly mature and lush arrangements that, primarily, originate from the guitar. Like them, Margaux’s patient storytelling intertwines with softly-confident vocal execution. Yet, it’s her penchant for airy, symphonic production (see: “Palm,” her other recent single) that sets Margaux apart. Combined with—and perhaps even thanks to—her deft guitar playing, her ambitious songwriting already feels fully actualized.

The second single off of Margaux’s debut EP, “More Brilliant is the Hand that Throws the Coin”, out November 15th, 2019, on Massif Records.

Broken Bells - Good Luck

Danger Mouse and James Mercer have reunited on “Good Luck,” a fatalistic new single that broods on the desolation of our current day and age. A pounding bass sits at the forefront while Mercer sings of looking “the face of evil” in the eye. “Head up, dead lamb,” he sings, acknowledging that our sacrifice has already been made. Upon declaring that “there’s no divine right,” lines like “In time, it ends” then feel like a promise for a light at the end of the tunnel. While Danger Mouse collaborated with Karen O for Lux Prima earlier this year, Mercer has been mostly quiet since The Shins’ 2018 surprise release of The Worm’s Heart, a reworking of their fifth album Heartworms.

In a joint statement, the duo officially announced an upcoming LP. “We always drift back to one another as Broken Bells,” they stated in their press release for the single. “Right now it’s happened in the form of writing and recording sessions for the third Broken Bells album.”

Hello! Just a head’s up for a limited edition commemorative EP to mark 10 YEARS?! since the debut Withered Hand album Good News was released.

I hope some of you will find these new treatments of old familiars touching. I marvel at Pete’s Harvey’s string arrangements and it was fun to be reunited with Pete at his studio in Perth where the strings were recorded. I laid down new ten-years-older vocals on four songs and spoke about my attempts at creative and broader recovery.

Here’s the official blurb:

The Springsteen of self-deprecation (!) celebrates the tenth anniversary of his debut long player by re-working four of the album’s finest tunes. They were handed over to Pete Harvey (who was involved in the genesis of the original recordings) to re-arrange, lovely new melancholic string sections were recorded, and Willson re-sang his vocals – effortlessly moving the anti-folk classics towards anti-chamber pop.

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Dan Willson – vocals and guitar
Strings arranged by Pete and performed by the Pumpkinseeds:
Kate Miguda – violin
Liam Liam Lynch – viola
Harriet Davidson & Pete Harvey – cello

Album releases November 25th, 2019

Thanks to Wiaiwya and Fika Recordings for their help in making a vinyl incarnation available. With a limited edition meaning only 300 copies of this Vinyl and 500 CDs will ever exist,