[Album Review] “By Your Side” – The Black Crowes

By Your Side - Black CrowesAlbum Title: By Your Side
Artist: Black Crowes
Year: 1998
Running Time: 44m 55s

Track listing: 1 Go Faster; 2 Kickin’ My Heart Around; 3 By Your Side; 4 HorseHead; 5 Only A Fool; 6 Heavy; 7 Welcome to the Goodtimes; 8 Go Tell the Congregation; 9 Diamond Ring; 10 Then She Said My Name; 11 Virtue and Vice

The Black Crowes came to prominence at a time when rock music was in vogue. At the turn of the nineties, and prior to the big grunge explosion, bands that could play a hard tune and have an image and attitude to match were topping the charts. Guns N Roses and Aerosmith were leading this charge and were soon joined by the Crowes. With their debut album, “Shake Your Money Maker”, they brought blues-rock to the forefront – ‘Jealous Again’, ‘Hard to Handle’ and ‘She Talks to Angels’ were all massive hits in the charts and on MTV.

They continued this success with “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion” which spawned the raunchy ‘Remedy’. But things degenerated as rumours of drug problems became bigger news than the music. Their next two albums, “Amorica” and “Three Snakes and One Charm” failed to break the grunge and indie dominance and were only moderately received by the press. Many believed that their 1998 album “By Your Side” could be their last throw of the dice…

It’s fair to say that this is a hefty return to form even if the formula remains pretty much unchanged; expert rhythms, tuneful guitar and organs, tasty harmonica and rich vocal performances. The outstanding tracks are numerous. ‘Heavy’ is completely irrepressible, a great all-round band effort with a knockout riff, super chorus and back-to-form vocal diarrhoea form Chris Robinson. The title track, an ivory-tinged upbeat power ballad, is pretty tasty, as is the closing track, ‘Virtue and Vice’ – the latter a gritty, brilliantly composed tale of what it’s like to lack self-confidence in a relationship.

Things rock when required, the appropriately named ‘Go Faster’ is a good time groove with scorching guitar and harmonica and ‘Then She Said My Name’ has a cute hook. The hardest track on show is probably ‘HorseHead’ – thumping effects from Steve Gorman, deafening guitar from Rich Robinson and a hefty bassline from Sven Pipien – but yet it never seems out of place.

The Rolling Stones are revived with the bluesy ‘Diamond Ring’ and there is two very opposite sounds back-to-back with ‘Welcome to the Goodtimes’ and ‘Go Tell the Congregation’. The former could have been derived from a Christmas Carol while the latter is a riff-based straight-forward rocker. Not too bad, if not hugely imaginative.

A few groans could be heard with regard to the first single, ‘Kickin My Heart Around’ which is pretty disappointing – maybe the weakest track on show – a tired sound and mid-tempo riff, despite some good vocals from Chris Robinson. Shame that it was chosen to showcase the album.

And there you have it. A great package, it has to be said. Thankfully the polish and musical prowess that the Crowes posses has been rewarded with some great tunes for the first time in about 3 albums. The lyrics are nothing to write home about but were they ever? Just enjoy the music.


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