|The Black Crowes:
The Lost Crowes (The Black Crows: The Tall Sessions) Label: Rhino Records
It’s almost 2007: do you know where your Black Crowes are? Sometimes I wonder if even Chris and Rich Robinson know exactly where they are in a career that’s taken more detours, had beyond its share of break ups, make-ups, and shake-ups, and routinely reached further and further into the past to recreate itself. Following last year’s reunion with original drummer Steve Gorman, the brothers Robinson hit the road for a few highly-publicized concert dates in select major cities. The resulting buzz around the new incarnation of the Crowes spurred talk of more than a short-lived reunion. The Lost Crowes arrives while we wait for next year’s super-hyped new album, their first studio release in six years (at least two break-ups ago, if you’re counting).
As such filler, The Lost Crowes is a fan’s record if there ever was one. Not to suggest that it’s altogether disposable, but neither disc one (subtitled “Tall,” a mere pre-production of 1994’s Amorica) nor disc two, which they call “Band,” are even remotely essential to the Crowes’ great catalog or legacy. On “Tall,” recognizable tracks like “A Conspiracy” and “Wiser Time” offer little variance from their album versions on Amorica, and the eerie “Songs of the Flesh” is nothing but scrap from the edit room floor. “Tied Up and Swallowed” is a raucous surprise, however, and a warm six-string lullaby called “Tornado” makes for a nice inclusion.
The “Band” disc is the result of a two-week jam session put to tape following the Crowes’ appearance on the 1997 Further Festival. “I remember us being in the studio,” Rich recalls, “no one there, not having anything to worry about or deal with. It was great to just go in and make a rock and roll record that was lighter and played to our strengths.” There is definitely more attention-grabbing and unfamiliar Crowes material on this second disc. “Another Roadside Tragedy” is a snare-happy shuffle that rips a chorus well-suited for their Three Snakes & One Charm album, while the title track to 1999’s By Your Side came directly by way of “If It Ever Stops Raining.” “Grinnin’” is one of the highlights here, an exhibit of Eddie Harsch’s mad keyboard skills.
At the end of the day, there is nothing within The Lost Crowes that will ever be missed by the casual fan. This kind of recording probably wouldn’t get released by less-accomplished bands, but for musicians with the relevance of the Black Crowes, such an endeavor is expected and even saluted. There is really nothing left for these guys to do, though I’m willing to bet tomorrow’s lunch money that their days onstage are far from numbered. Here’s to 2007 with the Black Crowes planted firmly in the scenery!