Friday, September 18, 2009

Review: Black Crowes "Before the Frost...Until the Freeze"

"Before the Frost...Until the Freeze" is the latest opus from The Black Crowes, an ambitious project divided into two parts totalling twenty new studio tracks. Kudos to the band for not stabbing fans in the back with the trendy bullsh!t "deluxe" editions of the CD release. The "Before the Frost" CD includes a card allowing access to download the "Until the Freeze" mp3s for no extra charge. The entire project was recorded in just five nights in front of a live studio audience, explaining the audible applause at the end of each track. Also very cool - the CD looks just like an LP.

To put my review in perspective, my top three favorite Black Crowes records are: "By Your Side" (1999), "Shake Your Money Maker" (1990), and "Three Snakes and One Charm" (1996). I believe this year's release is going to be my fourth favorite.

Upon first listen, I honestly wasn't so enthusiastic. Only a couple tracks instantly grabbed me...but after a couple more spins the subtle hooks were sinking in fast and a greater appreciation for the astonishing musicianship was developing. These songs have to chill with you for a bit, but it is worth the investment. Overall, the double album is a more laid back affair for Black Crowes, so people looking for the higher energy of their debut or the upbeat catchy pop of "By Your Side" may be disappointed. While a little slower and viscous, "Before the Frost...Until the Freeze" still engages the listener and is ultimately satisfying. Highlights from "Before the Frost" include the rousing opener, "Good Morning Captain", the excellent ballad "Appaloosa" and the celebratory sound of "And The Band Played On". They also do an intriguing organic dance track ("I Ain't Hiding"), but it was more strange than enjoyable to me.

"Until The Freeze" is comprised of eight more original Black Crowes' studio songs plus a cover version of the Stephen Stills tune "So Many Times." "Freeze" continues in the mellow vein, with most tracks containing copious bluegrass and country overtones. An alter-ego for the band, but not one that I could get into so much.

"Before the Frost...Until the Freeze" won't give you chills right away, but most of it will grow on you as it thaws.

"Before the Frost" - 1, 3, 4, 8, 10, 12
"...Until the Freeze" - 2, 4

The Black Crowes on MySpace. Official site.

Here they are performing "Good Morning Captain" on Letterman:

No comments: