The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion
The Black Crowes have struck again with their second album, “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion” from Def American Recordings. Even though the Crowes have made some personnel changes (they replaced Jeff Cease (their old lead guitarist) with Marc Ford, added two new and fabulous back-up singers, Barbara and Joy, and added Ed Hawrysch on keyboard), the Crowes kept a rolling with their style of bluesy, off the wall, rock and roll.
When Chris Robinson talks about the Black Crowes, he sounds somewhat arrogant and jaded but his promises aren’t anything the Crowes can’t back up ten times over. “People talk about chart positions, but what about the chorus, what about the line in the bridge that made you put your glass down and scratch your head and go AOh, wow,’ you know? What about that? People are so fascinated with figures. I don’t think there can be anything more impersonal than numbers.
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And I don’t think you should judge music on, specifically, its commercial appeal and where it is on the charts, ’cause at the end of the day, who really cares?” And as for the name “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion,” Chris Robinson says “I’m sure there’s a meaning. I think it has something to do with the fact that people have never really grasped the real sort of vibe that we have about being Southern, which was never to do with Southern Rock music. It was more of just a feeling. So I think that this title represents that. I stole it from a hymn book I’m sure there’s something wrapped up in the gospel about it.”
The tape starts off with “Sting Me,” “Remedy,” and “Thorn in My Pride” which display the amazing musical growth of the Crowes since their first album (“Shake Your Money Maker”) which was released in Spring, 1990. These songs not only show the strength and range of Robinson’s voice, they also are embellished by the phenomenal background vocals of Barbara and Joy. There is no way, in my opinion, that Robinson could pull off the great vocal performance on this tape without these astounding back-up singers.
“Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye” was a shock at first listening. It doesn’t sound like a typical Crowes’ song, Robinson seems to stay affixed to one vocal range. The song seems more depressing than the others but it has its own kind of appeal to it. It takes a while to get used to, but eventually it grows on you.
“Sometimes Salvation” and “Hotel Illness” both keep the tape rolling along and Chris even displays some black humor in “Hotel Illness” (“So tell me baby is it true all those things that they say about you …” and “No baby, love ain’t a punishment …”). The tape starts to get boring and tedious with “Black Moon Creeping” and “No Speak No Slave.” These songs, in my opinion, are bland and lyrically say nothing but the vocal performances were flawless. “My Morning Song” was pretty amazing and “Time Will Tell,” a remake of an old Bob Marley song ended the tape on a perfect note.
To an optimist, this tape would be a perfect hit on a dart board. To a pessimist, it would be 3/4 full. If you enjoyed “Money Maker,” don’t expect ” … Companion” to be the same. They have two different sounds. I’d say that the only thing in Mr. Crowes’ garden would be a double platinum album. And maybe a Grammy too. n