By Counting Crows
Ten years on from the release of 'August And Everything After' comes this 'Best Of' collection. Weighing in at 18 tracks long, plus a live bonus track, it covers the band's four studio albums as well as including an early demo, a new song and a cover. It's to the band's credit that they are still here, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, The Gin Blossoms and many other bands from the same era all combusted or faded away whilst the Crows are enjoying perhaps their most healthy spell, finally beginning to make a real impact in Europe. Lets not forget this is the band that were Geffen's biggest sellers when 'August...' was released in 1993. And Geffen had Nirvana too at that time.
Opening at full speed with the crunching 'Angels Of The Silences' distorted guitars the bait is cast as the hooks approach your ear. Whilst being one of the band's heavier numbers it still maintains that inherent sense of melody and the beauty of Adam Duritz's lyrics; "All my sins I said that I would pay for them if I could come back to you". 'Round Here' builds slowly from the opening guitar riff into a swirling atmospheric song that haunts you like the memories that inspire Duritz's writing; "she says she's tired of life, everybody's tired of something round here". Track after track is like striking musical gold, 'Rain King', the uproarious 'Hanging around', 'Mrs. Potters Lullaby', 'Recovering The Satellites', 'American Girls', 'Omaha' they all blossom with musical and lyrical beauty, offering grace, sensitivity, weakness and hope.
Counting Crows success has partly been due to their insistence on doing what they wanted. They refused to allow the label to release 'Mr. Jones' as a single yet it still took on a life of it's own, gaining massive airplay and essentially launching the band's career. The band have simply always done what they wanted and what they have enjoyed, both live and in the studio and it is that which has earned them a hardcore base of fans which a no.1 single cannot earn you. Naturally in the course of operating in such a way the band have produced radio friendly hits, it's just that they never intended to write them that way.
This disc contains some of the greatest songs written in the last decade, none more so than 'Mr. Jones'. It's catchy verses with Duritz's passionate vocal delivery making for musical gold; "she's perfect or you, man there's gotta be somebody for me'. It strikes a chord in even the darkest heart of anyone who's ever strived for something or someone.
'Einstein On The Beach (For An Eggman)' is a demo from around 1991 that itself got plenty of airplay after the success of 'Mr. Jones' and it deserves it's place here along with all the other tracks (although perhaps the cover of 'Big Yellow Taxi' could have been traded for the absence of the delectable 'Colorblind' from 'This Desert Life'). There's another cover, The Grateful Dead's 'Friend Of The Devil' a perfect choice, whilst Counting Crows have never been a band to write story songs the emotion contained within the lyrics is similar to those of Duritz; "Got two reasons why I cry away each lonely night, the first one's named sweet Anne-Marie, cos she's my heart's delight". New track 'She Don't Want Nobody Near" closes the disc (minus the live bonus track of 'Blues Run The Game') and shows that Counting Crows have no plans to move away from writing emotional, delicate, powerful, heartfelt songs that contain moments in both the lyrics and the music that can send down shivers down your spine.
For anyone who has not yet discovered Counting Crows this is the perfect introduction to the perfect band. Europe is slowly catching on but like REM and U2 this is a band that have slowly built chart success after earning a loyal fanbase and they join those two bands as serious contenders as being the best band in the world right now.