Black Crowes deserve a bigger apology

by Malcolm X Abram

Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

6 March 2008


OK, this one’s kind of personal.

Last week, the Black Crowes (aka the Rolling Faces Brothers) called out Maxim, the magazine for Men Who Can’t Read More Than 400 Words at a Time Unless They’re Surrounded by Near-Naked Women and Ads for Stuff That Will Instantly Make You Sexier, for printing a review of its latest album, “Warpaint.” The rockers were upset because the label didn’t send out any review copies and thus there was no way for the reviewer to have heard the album. Additionally, the review was unkind, giving the album a 2 ½-star rating and stating, among other things, that “it hasn’t left Chris Robinson and the gang much room for growth.”

Righteously indignant, the Crowes cried foul and Maxim issued a half-baked apology stating that the review was an “educated guess” written in order to ensure that a Black Crowes review would appear in the magazine.

After getting busted and justifiably raked over the proverbial coals for its dishonesty, Maxim issued another apology via Editorial Director James Kaminsky, who said last week, “It is Maxim’s editorial policy to assign star ratings only to those albums that have been heard in their entirety. Unfortunately, that policy was not followed in the March 2008 issue of our magazine and we apologize to our readers.”

Hogwash. First, the magazine owes the Black Crowes a full and very public apology (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write). Secondly, Maxim was faced with a deadline and ran with a made-up review and assumed no one would notice.

Yes, it is the Black Crowes, which has basically recorded Stones, Faces and Allman Brothers variations for much of its 18-year career. Nearly all of its albums could be named “A Nod Is as Good as Sticky Fingers on Main St. ... to a Blind Horse Eating a Peach.”

Recently, the band added talented North Mississippi All-Stars slide guitarist Luther Dickenson, giving another healthy heaping of the Allman Brothers flavor to its early `70s-rock bouillabaisse.

I’m listening to “Warpaint” as I write this and, frankly, “growth” has never been one of those adjectives that apply to the band. But as Black Crowes albums go, it’s pretty solid and Dickenson is a welcome addition.

Nevertheless, it’s simply unconscionable that any publication - even a useless waste of trees like Maxim - would betray its readers’ trust (yes, I still believe in such quaint notions) for an extra few words. Editors could have easily just stuck another near-naked, semifamous waif on the pages and none of their “readers” would have noticed.

Hell, I feel guilty reviewing an album after having it less than a week, but to simply pull some words out of your tuckus and slap a rating on them is wrong.

The writer maintains he was assigned to “preview” the album and that the magazine assigned a review rating to his story without his knowledge, but the aforementioned quote tells me he’s full of it.

As a music fan, I’m offended, because when I read an album review, even if I completely disagree with the writer, I still expect an honest assessment of the music/band/sociological implications, etc. I still want to glean some pertinent information as to the album’s content. When a publication flat-out lies to me - the music fan - that obviously makes me question the entire operation.

As a (thankfully) working rock writer/reviewer, I’m offended, because collectively the Internet is already trying to put us out of business. To fuel the fire of thousands of bands slighted in print and confirm the thoughts of many distrusting readers for the sake of convenience is one reason me and my ilk will likely be out of work in a decade.

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