Commemorating 20 years since the release of Shake Your Money Maker, their multi-platinum debut album, the Black Crowes have taken 20 of their favorite songs and re-recorded them acoustically. At first thought the idea behind Croweology may seem like an old band trying to recapture a bit of the spotlight. And, it’s hard not to recognize the humor in the fact that a band that borrows so much of their inspiration from the Rolling Stones is putting out an anniversary album the same year the Stones re-released Exile on Main Street. However, it can’t be denied that just about every song on the Crowes’ two-disc collection is played with an equal passion as its original counterpart, perhaps just a little bit quieter.
In all honesty, it’s impressive that the band has lasted this long. In its more than 20 years, the lineup has seen some 16 different musicians, two scrapped albums, and a three-year break-up at the start of this millennium. They’ve been lucky, though. The ‘70s-style rock that they capture so well still grabs listeners of all ages by the ears and doesn’t let go, and singer Chris Robinson’s unforgettable voice has never faltered. In its strongest moments, a band like this could have stood tall amongst its elder peers of that decade, and their brand of classic rock still holds sincere and true in a time when most popular music falls by the wayside.
Disc one opens with “Jealous Again”, a hit from that first definitive album. That’s only one of three songs from Money Maker on the collection (the others are “She Talks to Angels” and “Sister Luck”, both on disc two), which only goes to show you how much else the Crowes have put out in their career. The album clocking the most number of songs brought to the acoustic is their second release, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, as five of those songs made the cut this time around. The majority of disc one focuses on their rock leanings, with favorites “Remedy” and “Soul Singing” leading the way. The addition of a gospel choir to the chorus of “Soul Singing” brings a new dimension of natural joy to the already upbeat rocker. More mellow tunes like “Cold Boy Smile” and “Ballad in Urgency” add some nice tempo changes to the flow.
“She Talks to Angels” starts the second disc off a bit slowly, yet still familiarly and beautifully. The energy quickly lifts with “Morning Song”, which, when done acoustically identifies more easily with the roots of Southern blues slide guitar than does the 1992 original, and you’ll be tapping your feet in no time. The rest of the disc, from “Good Friday” to “Welcome to the Good Times”, shows a band that has evolved comfortably from one of straight-ahead rock to a more laid back version of itself, as opposed to one still trying to relive the good ol’ days.
A tour beginning August 13 will take them into mid-December, at which time the Crowes’ will take an undetermined amount of time off. It will provide those fans from the early days of MTV, on which the Crowes’ played a significant part, the opportunity to relive some old memories. But Croweology, if not just a walk down memory lane, is an enjoyable listen on its own. Though it may not showcase any new original material, it at least gives the feeling that the Black Crowes are not about to let their next hiatus wash them away in a wave of unsatisfying nostalgia: they will leave us only looking for more.