Black Crowes

Author: Janet

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At the time of their 1990 debut, the kind of rock & roll the Black Crowes specialize in was out of style. Only Guns N’ Roses came close to approximating a vintage Stones-style raunch, but they were too angry and jagged to pull it off completely. The Black Crowes replicated that Stonesy swagger and Faces boogie perfectly. Vocalist Chris Robinson appropriated the sound and style of vintage Rod Stewart while guitarist Rich Robinson fused Keith Richards’ lean attack with Ron Wood’s messy rhythmic sense. At their best, the Black Crowes echo classic rock without slavishly imitating their influences.

The Robinson brothers originally formed the Black Crowes in Georgia in 1984. By the time of their 1990 debut, Shake Your Money Maker, the group comprised Chris Robinson (vocals), Rich Robinson (guitar), Johnny Colt (bass), Jeff Cease (guitar), and Steve Gorman (drums). “Jealous Again,” the first single from Shake Your Money Maker, was a moderate hit but it was the band’s cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” that made the group a multi-platinum success. “Hard to Handle” climbed its way into the Top 40, propelling the album into the Top Ten. The acoustic ballad “She Talks to Angels” became the band’s second Top 40 hit in the spring of 1991. Shake Your Money Maker would eventually sell over three million copies.

The Black Crowes delivered their second album, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, in the spring of 1992. It entered the charts at number one, but it didn’t have as many hit singles as the debut; none of the singles cracked the Top 40 and only “Remedy” and “Thorn in My Pride” made the Top 100. Nevertheless, the band established itself as a popular concert attraction that summer, selling out theaters across America. During 1992, the band added keyboardist Eddie Harsch as a permanent member. The Black Crowes’ third album, Amorica, arrived in late 1994. Amorica debuted in the Top Ten, but none of the singles from the album made the charts; even though the record went gold, it slipped off the charts in early 1995.

Three Snakes and One Charm, the group’s fourth album, was released in July 1996. The album entered the charts at number 15, but it quickly slipped out of the Top 50. Nevertheless, the album received the best reviews of any Crowes album since The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. Guitarist Marc Ford was fired from the Black Crowes in August 1997; two years later, the group returned with By Your Side. In mid-2000, the band collaborated with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page on the double-disc Live at the Greek, an eclectic mix of newly recorded Zeppelin covers and additional classic blues cuts. Greatest Hits 1990-1999: A Tribute to a Work in Progress, a 16-track best-of compilation, was also released in mid-2000.

The Don Was-produced Lions appeared in spring 2001, and a summer tour with Oasis — the Tour of Brotherly Love — followed in June. But all was apparently not well with the group, and in January 2002, the band announced that it was on hiatus. Drummer Steve Gorman was fired, and Chris Robinson announced his intentions for a solo career. In 2005, however, the Black Crowes reunited for a show at San Francisco’s Fillmore, a concert that was released in both CD and DVD form in 2006 as Freak ‘N’ Roll… Into the Fog. That same year also saw the release of The Lost Crowes, which contained two previously unreleased albums, 1993′s Tall (parts of which were seen in Amorica and other places) and the 1997 never-before-heard Band. Following a series of lineup changes, the retooled band then hit the road for a proper tour before setting to work on their first studio effort in seven years. Joined by newcomer Luther Dickinson, guitarist and co-founder of the North Mississippi Allstars, the Black Crowes combined the rootsy appeal of their early work with a newfound political awareness on 2008′s Warpaint. – Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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