There once was a time when your's truly had an impossible time really getting inside the walls of music from genres other than Hip-Hop. No other type of music could ever hold my attention. That's probably because Hip-Hop is lyrics-based while everything else seems very instrumental based. I have a harder time digging my teeth into something where I don't get 16-32 lines of soul per verse. The music is cool but I don't connect to notes I connect to words. In the past year, however, I have been exposed to some wonderful stuff from other genres which have not only satisfied me in their aesthetics but had some wonderful lyrical offerings. From Wilco to Iron & Wine, I was finally connecting to music outside of Hip-Hop and it was wonderful. With this in mind, I turn to the "I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Your's W/O" where MattA75 hooked me up with The Black Crowes' "The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion".
Now with all due respect to MattA75, who loves this album, I must give my 100% uncut thoughts on a 10 track offering that I found to be incredibly anemic.
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Before I begin, I might as well introduce The Black Crowes to you. This is all I truly know about this band as their best works were done well before I had any sort of musical taste:
Chris Robinson - vocals
Rich Robinson - guitar
Mark Ford - guitar
Ed Hersch - piano/organ
Johnny Colt - bass
Steve Gorman - drums
The Black Crowes "The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion" could very well be a wonderful album for some. For me, however, it's everything that prevented me from getting into genres not Hip-Hop in the first place. Chris Robinson sounds cool as a vocalist but his lyrics are unengaging. The soundscape doesn't vary enough for me; it's so solid it's boring. Then again, the album _is_ fun but not in a way that stimulates my imagination and/or intellect and that frustrates me. But maybe you don't need that.
Upon first listen, Sting Me, the opener, really got me excited for the Black Crowes experience. It has this grand vision of what it means to have a good time with a kicked-back, downhome composition and a carefree attitude. I was liking the cocky swagger and excitement of Chris Robinson's voice, even despite the too-simple lyrics. What really drew me in, however, were the soulful harmonies - the kind of soul we _wish_ R&B music would posses these days. Add that with the guitar soloing and overall feel and this is just good rock music, right? If you enjoy formulas, then yes. If not, this music will get frustrating fast.
See, I hardly noticed when Sting Me ended and Remedy began. I need variation and already, by the second song, I was feeling an overtone of sameness. To describe Remedy would be to exhaust everything I said about Sting Me. Re-read that paragraph if you don't get it.
Thorn In My Pride happily served me up with something a lil' different. The music is much more subtle, less balls-out southern rock. It's quieter and I appreciated this. Instead of throwing a ton of vocalists into the fold to aid Robinson, he consumes the rumbling bass and laid-back guitars by his damn self and does it well. Also, the piano playing that comes in on the latter half of the song is absolutely beautiful - a moment of musical excellence that I was not expecting after the first few tracks. The soul harmonies come in at the perfect time towards the end and seal this as a song I can really get into.
Yeah, so now I have done my best to describe roughly 17 minutes of a 50-51 minute album. While I have listened to "The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion" multiple times now, I have to admit, this is the point where I have lost a lot of interest each and every time. Is it because Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye is one of the biggest yawners I have ever heard? Partially. It's also because The Black Crowes, as a whole, have worn dangerously thin on my patience by this point. It's as if I'm waiting for this all to come to climax. Compounding that, I _demand_ some sort of imperfection, some sort of true excitement. Yell! Sing out of tune! Jam all of the keys down on the keyboard at the same time! Kick some rhymes about the struggle! OK, don't do that. But give me something that I can dig my teeth into, that can make me say "ye-yah!". The little timid scream toward the end of Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye doesn't count either. That just made me laugh. Nice try.
My wishes were never granted. The rest of "The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion" just made me mad. Even more anger-inducing is the fact that this album is hard to break down song-by-song considering that it all sounds the same. Instead of saying Black Moon Creeping sounds like this or My Mourning Song feels like that and boring you into never wanting to see the "crypticcradle" moniker next to a review again, I will give you a simple list to determine whether or not you might like "The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion".
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You might like "The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion" if...
1. You like southern rock formulas.
2. You like consistency that doesn't bend much for variation.
3. You really need something to drink to that won't confuse you after six beers.
4. Like Maggie Gyllenhaal from "Secretary", you want to be bored.
5. You have a general distaste for any music considered remotely challenging.
6. You almost always choose style over substance.
7. You like a good helping of soul with your rock 'n roll.
8. You have read my reviews and have decided that I'm weird, that what I enjoy is weird, and that you could never once sit through that which I cherish.
I would say if you match a few of those things, you will enjoy "The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion". This album is by no means bad; I just can't stand it. That makes sense right? Still, this experience was good for me because I got to face head-on what I do not enjoy in music outside of Hip-Hop. How would I know what I truly found pleasing if not for that which I truly do not find pleasing?
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"The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion"
The Black Crowes
Def American Recordings: 1992
50 min. & 32 sec.
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For more information about Cryptic Cradle and his reviews, please click here.
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Written by Cryptic Cradle for Spike-A-Delic Productions.