It’s no secret that The Black Crowes are my favorite band. I’ve spent the better part of the last two decades listening to the Crowes, attending shows, collecting b-sides, arguing about them on message boards and spreading the love to non-believers. At this very moment the band is wrapping up their temporary residency at Levon Helm’s barn in Woodstock, where they were recording their new sorta-double album (“Before the Frost…Until the Freeze”) live at a series of intimate shows. As I boldly predicted in “My Magnus Crowepus” it sounds like they’re definitely pursuing a more organic, cosmic country rock sound (not that I’ve heard the bootleg or anything.) No one knows when the new album is going to be released [9/1/09], how many songs will be on it [disc 1: 11; disc 2: 9] and whether it will be an “all-time classic” or merely “spectacular.” (Kidding, kidding – I’ll really try to be objective about it.)
I recently had lunch with my friend Don Lane who is undoubtedly the biggest Crowes fan that I know. I’m ashamed to admit that he’s probably even more obsessed than I am. He was giving me his song by song review of the Cabin Fever session that he and his wife attended last Saturday in Woodstock and it occurred to me that I’ve never done a song-by-song, album-by-album review of the entire Crowes discography.
Well, now that the human genome project is finally finished I figured that I could spare some time on a project that’s actually useful: The Black Crowes Album Project. The best news is that Don is going to join me for this one, so you’ll get two opinions on each Crowes disc for the price of one.
Here are the rules to the game. Each week (or so) we’re going to re-listen to a Crowes studio album in its entirety and rate the songs. Live albums and solo projects might come later. We’ll go by official release order:
- Shake Your Money Maker
- The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
- Three Snakes and One Charm
- By Your Side
- The Lost Crowes 1 (Tall Sessions)
- The Lost Crowes 2 (Band)
- Before the Frost (9/1/09 release)
I spent a lot of time considering the most effective rating system. I wanted it to be numerical – so the albums could ultimately be ranked on a quantifiable basis – but I also wanted it to be simple. The ranking should take into consideration performance, musical composition, lyrics and originality. The goal is to listen with fresh, objective ears and score:
- 1 point for a bad song (tune has few merits and is usually skipped);
- 2 points for an okay song (tune has some merit but is album filler);
- 3 points for a good song (tune is very well done and is always enjoyable to hear);
- 4 points for a great song (tune is an all-time classic and exemplifies TBC’s best music).
Will Southern Harmony truly prove itself to be the best Crowes album ever? Will Lions or BYS score the worst? How does Warpaint stack up? Which lead guitarist will get the best score (okay, we all know that Marc will win that one!) All these questions and more will be answered during The Black Crowes Album Project!
Up next: 1990′s Shake Your Money Maker