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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The Black Crowes

Freak ‘N’ Roll...Into the Fog - The Black Crowes All Join Hands - The Fillmore, San Francisco

Review by Gary Hill

You’ve probably heard at least a handful of Black Crowes songs. Well, this disc shows that unless you’ve caught the band live you have not heard them at their best. Sure they blend of retro blues, hard rock, R & B and other sounds works pretty darn well on album, but it comes alive (in more ways than one here). What were strong songs to begin with take on a whole new life and power. If you are only going to own one Black Crowes album, this has to be it. I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen the band live, but after hearing this CD I won’t miss another chance. This is without question the best live album of the year in my opinion. If you’ve even thought about picking up a disc by this band, now is the time.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
(Only) Halfway To Everywhere
The Crowes kick it off with this bluesy, soulful grind, full of horns and gospel singers in the background. It’s a potent opener with a wall of sound approach.
Sting Me
Coming in a bit more tentatively, this one leaps out in fine fashion as a Rolling Stones like groove. Personally, I think this retro rocker is a bit stronger than the one before because it doesn’t seem quite as busy.
No Speak No Slave
A more metallic jam ensues on this one with a rather Guns and Roses kind of approach. The main riff here is extremely contagious. It’s raw and extremely tasty with some smoking guitar soloing – that at calls to mind Jimi Hendrix a bit.
Soul Singing
They slow it down a bit here with this blues ballad approach with hints of ‘60’s psychedelia. After a short run in this manner they power it out, but the two elements shift and alternate around one another creating a great sense of contrast. This turns into a screaming jam later with some scorching ‘70’s styled guitar soloing. It’s quite a dynamic track, not content to stay in one place for very long. The psychedelia returns later in the piece with another Hendrix like solo.
Welcome To The Goodtimes
This is another that comes in tentatively. They turn in a Rod Stewart meets the Rolling Stones sort of blues ballad approach. Layers of horns and backing vocals are added later along with a honky tonk piano, but overall this stays pretty true to its roots.
Jealous Again
One of the Black Crowes’ better-known cuts, they put in a strong performance of this Stones like groove. If you’ve heard the Black Crowes you’ve heard this boogie-woogie tinged piece of music. 
Space Captain
Keys lead this one off, feeling a little like Elton John at first. They turn in a bluesy jam from this, at first quite stripped down. About half way through the cut it pounds out into a hard rocking take on its musical themes, still maintaining a retro rock texture.
My Morning Song
This one stomps in with a smoking bluesy guitar dominated texture. That doesn’t mean that the keyboards don’t get a tasty solo, though. This is another that has a bit of the Stones infused in its arrangement. It’s another killer.
Sunday Night Buttermilk Waltz
Here they turn to an acoustic folk rock approach. It’s an interesting change of pace. This is an intricate and pretty, but still quite energetic acoustic guitar instrumental showcase. 
Disc 2
Cursed Diamond
Acoustic guitar leads this one off, too. It turns into a poignant ballad from there. It turns toward bluesy (albeit acoustic blues) as it carries forward. You might hear a lot of Robert Johnson on this back porch arrangement.
She Talks To Angels
Another of the Black Crowes’ best-known pieces, this one is an acoustic based ballad. It’s always been a very pretty song, and this rendition is perhaps even more so due to the intimacy of the performance. They seem to play it a bit slower than on the studio version. They bring in more instrumentation as they carry on to fill out the arrangement. The vocals showing on this one is especially powerful.
Wiser Time
They continue in acoustic dominated modes here, with this extremely pretty rock ballad that has some definite progressive rock and also country tendencies. It’s another strong piece of music on a disc that doesn’t have any losers. This one is really effective and beautiful.
Non Fiction
Continuing with the trend acoustic guitar leads this one off and the group slowly move out into a bluesy, country like groove with keys bringing in a retro gospel texture. It turns extremely jazz oriented later with some killer space elements backing a smoking horn solo. If you jumped into the middle of this you might think you were listening to Traffic.
Seeing Things
Electric modes return here as this cut tentatively kicks off. It’s a slow grind with a lot of Hammond B3 sounds adding to the bluesy retro sounds. They power this out to good effect later. This is another of the Crowes’ better known numbers, but perhaps not as familiar as some of the others. The horns and backing vocals are used to good effect on this one as the end segment is a powerhouse.
Hard to Handle
The final “hit” from the band to be included on this set, they start it with just percussion. When that familiar riff joins, though, we’re off and running on this horn laden arrangement. This has always been a great R & B infused rocker and a personal favorite. I have to say that I might just like this better than the studio version. The horns get some opportunities to wail on this extended arrangement. This might be the best track of the whole set.
Let Me Share The Ride
1970’s hard rocking guitar modes are the order of the day on this one. This simply oozes class and style. There are echoes of the Allman Brothers all over this thing. They turn this into a jazz jam later, too.
Mellow Down Easy
The sounds of Little Feat are the predominant shades of this track. Throw some Allman Brothers guitar work and some smoking blues harp into the mix and this 12 bar stomping blues number is pretty well represented. This starts off a bit slow, but when they really let loose if you are still sitting down, you better call 911.
Remedy
Back to the more traditional Black Crowes sound, this was another moderate hit for them. It’s a smoking Rolling Stones like jam, but in this live version it really sears. The piano soloing all over the top is purely brilliant.
The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down
Here they tackle a retro classic. This cut, made popular by the band starts off pretty true to that rendition. In fact they play it pretty true to form as only the Black Crowes could pull off these days. I’ve always loved the guitar soloing on this cut and they play that faithfully, too. This is a killer way to end an awesome album.
 
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