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CD Reviews:  Counting Crows: Hard Candy

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Die-hard fans of the Crows think that the band reached its peak with the release of 1994's August and Everything After. Or maybe with 1996's Recovering the Satellites. Then there's the camp who feels Hard Candy is the band's best effort, ripe with poppy hooks and sweet harmonies. But unlike earlier efforts, singer Adam Duritz seems to make his melodies fit the music instead of practically improvising like a poet on the chord-changes laid out in front of him. As a fan of these guys since the beginning, I'll say that I'm somewhere in the middle. There's good and bad to this record. 

As the first two tracks, "Hard Candy" and "American Girls" attest, the songs are so perfectly crafted for radio it's almost annoying, and you won't hear me say that very often. The one thing Duritz has going for him is that familiarity -- his voice is so distinctive that it's as comforting as apple pie. "Goodnight LA" has some bluesy piano and a bit of the old Crows sound, reminiscent of "Sullivan Street" from the first record. Honestly, this album gets half a star just for this song -- it's that good. "Butterfly in Reverse" is a song about a girl named Maryann. (Is it just me or does Duritz sing a lot about Maryann and Maria?) "New Frontier" delves into some new territory production-wise, sounding almost like a 1980s pop song, and "Black and Blue" is another pretty piano ballad but even at three and a half minutes drags on a little too long. "Why Should You Come When I Call?" and "Up All Night" have that movie soundtrack quality, as does most of this release. 

Come to think of it, the Counting Crows probably make up the soundtrack of a lot of people's lives. The ones who dig this band seem to really dig them, like cult heroes. It took me a few listens to start to like this one. Who knows, maybe another month of spins might jump the grade up to four stars. But for now, listen with happy ears and a little caution. 

~Mike Farley : Feedback - Link to Us  - About B-E - FAQ - Advertise with Us

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