The Black Crowes Album Project: The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (1992)

The Black Crowes Album Project:
The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (1992)

Band Members:

Chris Robinson, vocals, harp
Rich Robinson, guitar
Steve Gorman, drums
Johnny Colt, bass
Marc Ford, guitar
Eddie Hawrysch, keys

Additional Musicians:

Barbara and Joy – the choir
Chris Trujillo – congas

Produced by:

The Black Crowes and George Drakoulias

Mitch’s Review:

The combination of being on the road for a couple of years honing their craft and adding two virtuosos propelled The Black Crowes to the next level on their second album, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. There’s no sophomore slump here. The band is tight and polished. The music is complex and full of texture. Just cue up the middle of “Remedy” (3:19 mark) to hear the difference that Marc Ford & Eddie Hawrysch make. A searing yet short Ford guitar solo is followed up a soulful Hawrysch keyboard fill. No offense to Jeff Cease intended, but Marc Ford’s tone and timing is unmatched. His work on TSHAMC stands among the best recorded guitar work ever. Then again, we shouldn’t slight Rich’s playing either. TSHAMC is a testament to Rich Robinson’s growing composition skills. The 9 originals on the album stand among his best work. Chris’s performance –vocally and lyrically – is outstanding. He even busts out the harp for the first time. All of the other elements are excellent as well: Gorman and Colt are locked in, providing that heavy groove on the bottom, the soul sisters add even more depth and emotion to the mix and the production (live, analog feel) is exactly right.

The endearing sloppiness of SYMM has been replaced by sheer confidence. And why not? They’ve got the songs and the musical chops to pull it off. Southern Harmony is a perfect cross between soul and southern rock. It’s all space and atmosphere with songs that are stretched out and jammed out but never to the point of over-indulgence. It rocks hard with songs like “Black Moon Creeping” and “No Speak No Slave” but it also contains beautiful layered tunes like “Thorn in My Pride”. It’s my favorite album of all time, one of the greatest rock albums ever and only their insistence on covering a medicore Bob Marley tune prevents them from achieving perfection. Final Score: 3.9

1) Sting Me: 4
2) Remedy: 4
3) Thorn In My Pride: 4
4) Bad Luck Blues Eyes Goodbye: 4
5) Sometimes Salvation: 4
6) Hotel Illness: 4
7) Black Moon Creeping: 4
8) No Speak No Slave: 4
9) My Morning Song: 4
10) Time Will Tell: 3

Don’s Review:

In May 1992, the Black Crowes were the biggest band in the world. The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion was #1 on Billboard’s Album Chart. And, amazingly, they had become the best band in the world, for the songwriting and musicianship on their new record was a quantum leap forward even from the great Shake Your Money Maker.

What most stands out on this album – 17 years and a thousand spins later – is THE SOUND. Producer George Drakoulias (the Crowes themselves share production credit) recorded the band live in the studio, with all the energy, spontaneity and bravado of a band that knew it was on fire. Yet the record is full of warmth and richness. Listening on headphones remains a delight. Percussive accoutrements like the cow bell on “Sting Me”, or the triangle on “No Speak No Slave” unveil themselves in every track. Soul sister backing vocals have never been recorded better on any album from the Crowes or any other band.

Clearly, the core of the band had grown significantly after 2 solid years on the road. But the addition of two truly incredible musicians catapulted them to greatness. Ed Hawrysch’s boogie-woogie piano and magestic Hammond B-3 organ organically meshed with the music better than Chuck Leavell’s over-dubbed keys did on Money Maker. Marc Ford’s guitar was a revelation. His performance on Southern Harmony remains shockingly incredible, especially considering many of his solos were first takes during his first week ever playing with the band. His tone was nasty and gorgeous at the same time.

As for the songs? Almost all are great. The only mild letdown being the hangover of “Time Will Tell”. But, actually, probably any song would pale after the impossible-to-top, 1-2-3 punch run of “Black Moon Creeping”, “No Speak No Slave” and “My Morning Song”, the latter finishing with a crescendo that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it live, and especially on this recording. Final Score: 3.9

1) Sting Me: 4
2) Remedy: 4
3) Thorn In My Pride: 4
4) Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye: 4
5) Sometimes Salvation: 4
6) Hotel Illness: 4
7) Black Moon Creeping: 4
8) No Speak No Slave: 4
9) My Morning Song: 4
10) Time Will Tell: 3

 

Previous Release: 1990′s Shake Your Money Maker

Up Next: 1994′s Amorica

To learn more about The Black Crowes Album Project, please read the introduction.

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Comments

The Black Crowes Album Project: The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (1992) — 2 Comments

  1. This is the Crowe’s masterpiece. Besides being recorded live in the studio, (in about two weeks, the perfect way to record a rock album), it’s important to note that the final mix is very dry, with little/no reverb, which results in a very direct, in your face sound that compliments the songs & playing perfectly, I agree that “Time Will Tell” is the weakest track on the album, even as much as I love Bob Marley, & could easily have been dispensed with.

    Other than that, the band never delivered a more solid collection of songs & playing during their long & rich career. Marc Ford & Rich compliment each other perfectly, Ed’s keyboard textures elevate the band’s sound, Steve & Johnny become a rhythm section as tight & as funky as that of the Stones or Booker T & the MGs, & Chris’ vocals are simply peerless.

    This album achieves the perfect balance of song & sounds, which they would try to match again & again, never quite making it.

  2. This song reminds me of my liltte sis’. (she wasn’t really my liltte sis, but I looked after her like one) I wasn’t a good enough Christian for her and her family. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. She didn’t believe me. I still have her letters in a safe box. Don’t know why I can’t bring myself to burn them.

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