When the Black Crowes made their debut in 1990, their brand of rock & roll was severely out of style. The only close approximate to a vintage Rolling Stones-like raunch came from Guns N’ Roses. However they were too jagged and angry to be able to completely pull it off. However, the Black Crowes were able to replicate the swagger of the Stones and boogie of the Faces perfectly. The band’s vocalist Chris Robins was able to appropriate the style and sound of vintage Rod Stewart, with his brother Rich fusing the lean guitar attack of Keith Richards with the messy rhythmic sense of Ron Wood. The Black Crowes at their best echoed the sounds of classic rock while avoiding being a slavish imitator of their influences. The nostalgic sound of the band helped with fostering a popular and long career.
Originally, the Black Crowes was formed by the Robinson Brothers in 1984 in Georgia. At the time the band released their debut album in 1990, “Shake Your Money Maker,” their lineup consisted of Chris Robinson vocalist, Rich Robinson, guitarist, Johnny Colt, bassist, Jeff Cease, guitarist, and Steve Gorman, drummer. “Shake Your Money Maker’s” first single “Jealous Again,” was a modest hit. However it was the Black Crowes’ cover of “Hard to Handle” by Otis Redding that turned the band into a successful multi-platinum group. “Hard to Handle” shot is way up the Top 40 and along the way propelled their set to the Top Ten. In spring 1991 “She Talks to Angels,” the band’s acoustic ballad, became the second Top 40 single for the band. Eventually “Shake Your Money Maker” sold more than three million copies.
“The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion,” the band’s second album, was released spring 1992, making its debut in the No. 1 spot. However the set was lacking in strong hits. None of the album’s singles made it into the Top 40, with only “Thorn in My Pride” and “Remedy” hitting the Top 100. However the band was still able to establish itself that summer as a popular show attraction, selling theaters out all over the US. In 1992 Eddie Harsch, keyboardist, was added as a permanent band member. “Amorica,” the third album from The Black Crowes, was released in 1994, making a Top Ten debut. However none of the album’s singles made much of a dent. After going gold, the album slipped off the charts.
In July 1995, the fourth album from the band “Three Snakes and One Charm,” was released. After it made a strong entrance, the album slipped quickly from the Top 50. However the set also garnered the best reviews since their “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion” album. Marc Ford, the band’s guitarist, was fired in August 1997. Johnny Colt, their bassist, left to form Brand New Immortals. On “By Your Side” Rich Robinson handled all the guitar parts. The band then collaborated with Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, one of the most celebrated guitarists in the world. “Live at the Greek,” a concert album, captured the partnership. It was an eclectic mix featuring newly recorded covers of Zeppelin along with some classic blues cuts. In 2000, the band’s best-of 16 track compilation “Greatest Hits 1990-1999: A Tribute to a Work in Progress” was released.
The band enlisted Don Was to produce “Lions,” their 2001 album. The lyrics for the set were influenced by the highly publicized relationship Chris Robinson had with Kate Hudson, the actress. In June The Black Crowes toured for a month with Oasis. The trek was entitled “Tour of Brotherly Love” after the fact that both bands featured siblings. However, all was not well within the band. In January 2002 the band announced that they would be going on hiatus. Steve Gorman, the band’s drummer, was fired. Frontman Chris Robinson started to plan out his solo career.
However in 2005, The Black Crowes came together to perform in a show at the Fillmore in San Francisco. The concert was released in 2006 as both a DVD and CD and entitle “Freak ‘N’ Roll… Into the Fog.” In 2006 “The Lost Crowes” was also released, containing two albums previously unreleased: “Tall” from 1993 (parts appeared on “Amorica” as well as other places) and “Band” from 1997. After several changes in the lineup, the retooled band hit the road, then settled down and worked on their first studio set in seven years. Luther Dickinson, North Mississippi Allstars co-founder and guitarist, joined the band. On their 2008 album “Warpaint” The Black Crowes were able to combine their early work’s rootsy appeal with a new political awareness. In 2009, a live performance version of the album, “Warpaint Live,” was released as a two disc CD as well as DVD. That same year “Before the Frost/Until the Freeze” was released the eight studio set from the band.
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