The Black Crowes Album Project: Three Snakes and One Charm (1996)

The Black Crowes Album Project:
Three Snakes and One Charm (1996)

 Band Members:

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

Additional Musicians:

Gary “Mudbone” Cooper, Gary Shider, Barbara Mitchell, Erica Stewart, background vocals
Gregory Davis, Roger Lewis, Effrem Towns, Revert Andrews, Kevin Harris, horns
Bruce Kaphan, pedal steel guitar
Rick Taylor, banjo

Produced by:

Jack Joseph Puig and The Black Crowes

Mitch’s Review:

If music in 1996 was still released as records, rather than CDs, then The Black Crowes’ Three Snakes and One Charm would have delivered one of the most beautiful B sides ever. The last 6 songs on this disc are just perfect, showcasing a brighter and more mature side of the band.

There’s a balance on TSAOC between the classic heavy Crowes sound and a more laid-back organic feel. All of the familiar elements are still present: Rich’s crunching riffs, Ford’s solos, Eddie and Steve’s fills and Johnny bass lines. But there’s a different vibe here: a little more acoustic, a little more experimental, a little more out there. In retrospect, TSAOC has a heavy Chris Robinson feel. In other words, it’s a crazy hippie rock and roll freakfest.

There are three funk songs on the disc that work to varying degrees. “(Only) Halfway to Everywhere” is fantastic, with mind-blowing vocal interplay between Chris, Mudone and Shider. “Nebakanezer” features a great descending guitar line and “Blackberry” is slight but still enjoyable.

Mid-tempo ballads that build into a crescendo are the Crowes’ bread and butter and “Girl From a Pawnshop” is the best of their career. It’s the gem of the album.

The side B love songs are uniformly strong and impressive, especially the fantastic “Bring On, Bring On.” And who could overlook Rich’s first “lead” vocal on “How Much For Your Wings?” or the surprisingly tender “Better When You’re Not Alone”

The weaker songs on the album are the generic “Under a Mountain” and the British Invasion-style rocker “One Mirror Too Many”. But even these two tracks are decent. They just pale in comparison to the rest of the material.

In 1996 the creative well was overflowing for The Black Crowes. They had the vision, the songs and the musicians to deliver yet another classic album. I never would have guessed it before we started this project but I actually rate TSAOC slightly higher than Amorica. Wow. Final Score: 3.7

 1) Under a Mountain: 3
2) Good Friday: 4
3) Nebakanezer: 4
4) One Mirror Too Many: 3
5) Blackberry: 3
6) Girl from a Pawnshop: 4
7) (Only) Halfway to Everywhere: 4
8) Bring On, Bring On: 4
9) How Much for Your Wings?: 3
10) Let Me Share the Ride: 4
11) Better When You’re Not Alone: 4
12) Evil Eye: 4

Don’s review:

The Black Crowes took another giant creative leap with 1996’s Three Snakes And One Charm, a sprawling album both experimental and traditional. Everything sounds different. The band members’ (non-soul-sister) background vocals are more prominent, echoing Yes (of all bands) on “One Mirror Too Many”. The complementary percussion (a potpourri of maracas, tambourines and rattles) are way up in the mix, spicing up most of the tracks. Guests include the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Danny Herron and members of Parliament Funkadelic. Somehow producer Jack Joseph Puig makes it all work.

At the core is stellar songwriting. Lyrically, even the basic “Blackberry” is redeemed because it’s just fun. But “Under A Mountain”, “Bring On” and especially “Girl From A Pawnshop” are Chris at the very top of his game. Rich must have been on some sort of performance-enhancing drug, because he was at the peak of his creativity. Nothing could be accused of sounding recycled. It’s all fresh even the rootsy “Good Friday” and timeless “Let Me Share The Ride”.

Looking back, Three Snakes and One Charm might be the Crowes’ most under-rated album. In retrospect, it’s every bit as thrilling as amorica. For me, had they replaced “How Much For Your Wings” and “Evil Eye” with b-sides “Just Say Your Sorry”, and one of the covers (“Mellow Down Easy” or, better yet, “Somebody’s On Your Case”), respectively, it might have challenged The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion in overall greatness. Final Score: 3.3

1) Under A Mountain: 4
2) Good Friday: 3
3) Nebakanezer: 3
4) One Mirror Too Many: 3
5) Blackberry: 3
6) Girl From A Pawnshop: 4
7) (Only) Halfway to Everywhere: 4
8) Bring On, Bring On: 4
9) How Much For Your Wings: 2
10) Let Me Share The Ride: 4
11) Better When You’re Not Alone:3
12) Evil Eye: 3

Previous Release: 1994′s Amorica

Up Next: 1999′s By Your Side

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

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