This time, they might well have lost it completely.
Before success went straight to their lungs, there was a time when The Black Crowes seemed to offer a new strain of rock’n’roll radicalism. In 1992, clad in a riot of leather and Civil War memorabilia and on the verge of releasing their brilliant second album ‘The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion’, they were untouchable. Armed with a fearsome pro-marijuana, anti-corporation manifesto (the year before it had cost them their place on a [a]ZZ Top[/a] tour), they were a group that encapsulated the lost spirit of outlaw rock’n’roll.
At the heart of this revisionist dream were the brothers Robinson, guitarist Rich and the band’s mouthpiece, Chris. Moulded into shape by producer George Drakoulias (who also discovered them at the end of the ’80s), their 1990 album ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ was a triumph of history over originality. The LP’s most memorable moment might have been their robust cover of Otis Redding‘s ‘Hard To Handle’ – included here – but in general it was a tight reworking of the hairball boogie of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers and The Faces.
By the time of ‘The Southern Harmony…’, they’d refined this template into something vital and timeless. Of the four songs featured on this compilation, ‘Remedy’ and ‘Thorn In My Pride’ remain two of the great rock singles of the ’90s, all tumbling melodies and wasted anguish. It was the last time that the band were so clear-eyed for at least another six years.
Their next two records – the awful ‘Amorica’ and the slightly better ‘Three Snakes And One Charm’ – might have contributed the odd gem (‘Wiser Time’ was among their best singles and is featured here), but made against a backdrop of bickering and drugged-out ennui, they were foggy approximations of what had gone before. Worse, by this stage they looked like any old bar band as well as sounding like one.
Although things had improved by the time of their last record, ‘By Your Side’ (check out the relatively lean ‘Kickin’ My Heart Around’ and ‘Go Faster’, again included here), public interest had dipped to such an extent that no-one really noticed. They’re currently attempting to relaunch themselves with Jimmy Page on board. This time, they might well have lost it completely.