Led by Adam Duritz's powerful voice, and Dylan-esque songwriting the Counting Crows launched into the mainstream with their debut album August and Everything After
and hit single Mr. Jones.
The album peaked on the Billboard Charts at number 4, and is often mentioned when the topic of the best album of the 90's is brought up. The album was like a breath of fresh-air coming out in the middle of the hurricane that was the grunge scene. Intimate lyrics, soulful singing, memorable hooks, and a band that sounded as if they'd been playing together for decades contrasted greatly with the lose sound of the grunge bands. With Mr. Jones being the only song of it's type on the album it would have been very easy to write the Crows off as one hit wonders, well maybe 4 hit wonders since the album also produced the singles Round Here, Rain King,
and A Murder Of One
But when their follow-up album Recovering The Sattelites
shot up the charts to number 1 on the strength of the singles A Long December,
and Angels Of The Silences,
there was little doubt that the Counting Crows truly had something special.
Simply listening to the Counting Crows studio albums would never allow you to fully understand, and appreciate the amount of talent the band has. Listening to the band live is a totally different experience. Much like the artists they were influenced by (such as Bob Dylan) the Counting Crows view the stage as a place to re-invent their songs, jam, try new things, and just have fun. This is imediatley evident as soon as the first disc
begins with an unrecognazible guitar riff (unless you've heard The Himalayans, Adam Duritz's first bands, version of the song) that is eventually revealed as [b]Round Here[b/] once Adam sings the recognizable line "Step out the front door like a ghost into a fog/where no one notices the contrast of white on white." The song manages to eclipse the original recording in terms of the emotion and intimacy that can be felt while listening to the song, mainly in-part to Adam's wailing vocals that only seldom venture out of tune. But also due to the added parts such as the end where Adam cries out "I'm lonely, lonely, lonely without you!"
Have You Seen Me Lately
once covered in distorted guitars, and played as an up-tempo rocker shows up on this album as a beautiful acoustic ballad decorated with melodic piano lines, and topped with a riviting vocal performance. This is the only song on the album that manages to better the original, although many come close. Angels Of The Silences,
both formally up-tempo rockers (especially the first) are presented on this disc with an acoustic-country feel. Mr. Jones
is completley revamped taking away the jangly chord progression instead replacing it with a repeating guitar line accompanied by an organ. Rain King,Mercury,
and Ghost Train
pick up the pace a little by introducing some electric guitar to the album, but still manage to contributed to the feel of the album by remaining driven mostly by the acoustic guitar. Anna Begins
appears to close the album but after many minutes of what would make you believe that your record was over a seceret unreleased song titled Chelsea
begins, driven by piano and some brass instruments the song has a jazzy feel to it, and is driven like most other songs on the album by the emotional and riviting vocal delivery.
has a totally different feel from the first disc in that it feels more like a concert. The sound of the crowd can be heard throughout the songs, and there are alot more electric songs. Recovering The Sattelites
stays almost completley true to the album version with the exception of the changing of the phrasing of the vocals. Angels Of The Silences, Have You Seen Me Lately,
and Rain King
all make a second appearance this time in their more raw and rocking versions. Round Here
sounds as though it's going to be a run through of the record version but where as the record version lasts only 5:24 this version clocks up to exactly 10 minutes. Following the bridge the band goes off into a spaceous jam with Adam improvising some suprisingly beautiful lyrics as well as borrowing some lyrics from other Crows songs (Have You Seen Me Lately) over top of the bands music that sounds almost otherwordly. This track follows the acoustic version of Have You Seen Me Lately as the best and most worthwhile track on the album. The rest of the tracks follow in the vein of the first track in that they sound like their official counterparts only with slight differences. But due to Adam's unpredictable voice, and the small changes, people who have heard the originals will have enough new sounds to keep them interested and enjoying the album while people who have not heard the originals (in which case...why are you starting with this album?) will be impressed by the intimacy of the songs, as well as the extreme level of musicianship that can be heard on the album.