Welcome to a brand new feature for Decibel Geek, “Essential Tracks”! In these articles, we explore a band’s musical catalogue and pick out those tunes that make the artists special.
THE BLACK CROWES
Before you read on, go to the bottom of the page, hit play and listen while you read. It will make the experience even more rewarding.
Bursting onto the scene way back in 1989 with their debut album Shake Your Moneymaker, the Black Crowes were a breath of fresh air after being doused in hairspray bands for most of the decade. Their mixture of Southern Blues and hard rock were brought to the fore by the fantastically talented vocals of Mr Chris Robinson. This man has one of the most soulful voices on the planet that could make a glass eye weep.
After eight solid albums and a short hiatus between 2002 – 2005, they finally went their separate ways in 2015. This initiated by the brothers Robinson. Chris and six string playing brother Rich Robinson constantly bickered over money, rights and everything in between. It’s a shame really, as they are one of the greatest bands of their genre and, when they were on the top of their game, they were unbeatable.
THE BLACK CROWES – STATUS
Since the band split up, guitarist Rich Robinson went on to form The Magpie Salute and Chris Robinson formed the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.
After countless hours of drumming my ear-holes with the entire Black Crowes discography, I came up with what I think are the essential tracks throughout their entire career. Not necessarily their hits, as I went deep. So deep, in fact, I even have a track or two off the Lost Crowes album for you!
Unfortunately, after listening to both brothers’ solo projects, I came to the conclusion (in my opinion of course) that Chris was undoubtedly the leader of the pack when it came to great songwriting. To be honest, I found The Magpie Salute to be bland and boring, but the Brotherhood was easily as good as the Crowes and even better in some areas. So read on, and find out which ten Black Crowes tracks I have picked from the pack to try and make you a believer.
The first track we have here today is “Midnight from The Inside Out“. This is a track which bursts to life in a wall of feedback and the roll of a snare. At the start, it’s like you’re listening to an offcut, but then the magic begins. The wailing guitars, the drums sound so sharp and fresh and, then, in come those soulful vocals. Once the chorus kicks in. it’s like 1989 all over again with a twist of second album The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. It has those wonderful female backing singers, which transport you back to the 60’s. It all sounds a bit rough, but I love this track from the Lions album.
Another track from Lions, “Losing My Mind“, commences with that warbling bass and the stuttering riff of strained guitar. It has a touch of funk, rock and soul in this one. In some parts, it reminds me of the Infectious Grooves. The vocals are powerful throughout. They come hard fast and almost blurted out in a rap and bring Robinson‘s voice to an almost raspy point.
From the Amorica album comes “A Conspiracy”. This is a funky little track, with a wah wah riff rattling away in the background while Chris Robinson spits out staccato lines over the riff. As the track builds to the chorus, his voice begins to soar and then the sweet riff of the lead guitar comes in over the chorus. This whole thing sounds so warm and 70’s. They really captured the essence of the era here.
Also from Amorica is “Cursed Diamond”, which is a Country-tinged acoustic ballad style track with a hint of piano. This accompanies the soulful and passionate vocals of Robinson. When the song really takes off, with a drum roll, the guitars fall over the track like an amplified waterfall and then it all lifts off into the stratosphere. The slide guitar that weaves in and out of the underlying riff just sounds amazing and that guitar solo is like creamy smooth chocolate dripping from the speakers.
“Good Morning Captain” is a great track from a fantastic album, Before The Frost…Until The Freeze. This is a honky tonk, Southern-flavoured classic, complete with banjo. The chorus is strong as is the song as a whole. It’s almost like a storybook that’s been converted into song. Everything here is filling the channels, leaving no gaps for any more stray instruments. I wouldn’t think there could be any more strays out there, they’re already in and the doors shut. As always, the vocals are amazing and probably the best thing Robinson‘s ever sung.
Another stroke of genius from the Before The Frost record is the disco dubbed “I Ain’t Hiding“. I know I said disco, but it’s more than that. Ok, it has that beat and some weird funky instruments going on. That distorted riff that rings out over the track is grooving, but the thing that gets me hooked on this one is the vocals. Just from listening to this, I want to dress like a 70’s hippy, dance naked in a field of mud at a festival and just go crazy!
‘The Last Place That Love Lives‘ is one of the most soulful ballads I have ever heard. Chris Robinson’s vocals are full of angst and feeling and never miss a note. The mixture of instruments that back up the acoustics of this track are suited perfectly. It gives the whole track a feeling of a Country Rock ballad that was recorded around the campfire on the side of the Appalachian mountains.
“Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye” from The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion is another ballad, only this time with a Blues tinge. There’s some fine guitar work on this. I’m also guessing some kind of Moog keys (but I may be wrong) and the vocals are amazing, especially when Robinson goes out of his mind near the track’s finale. This one reminds me of all those early tracks with amazing singers like Smokey Robinson and Aretha Franklin. Yes, it is that well done!
“Seeing Things” from Shake Your Moneymaker is a blinder of a Soul ballad. In line with the aforementioned track, this hits all the right notes. It is slightly slower paced than “Bad Luck Blue Eyes“. Howeverm it has more of a piano flavour and the ring of an organ in the background. When the guitars kick in around the chorus, it makes you want to throw your hands in the air and pray to Jesus. Again, the emotion in the vocals is abundant and puts chills down your spine as the song comes to its climax.
Finally, we get back to the 12 Bar Boogie Rock that the band are best known for, with “Jealous Again”. This is another track from the debut Shake Your Moneymaker. That guitar just rings out, bringing shades of Rolling Stones and Status Quo, but with a vocal that reaches to the stars. The chorus is strong; if you’re not out of your chair shaking your ass by the end, then there’s a possibility you may be dead.