[Album Review] "Lions" – The Black Crowes

Lions - Black CrowesAlbum Title: Lions
Artist: The Black Crowes
Year: 2001
Running Time: 55m 5s

Track listing: 1 Midnight from the Inside Out; 2 Lickin’; 3 Come On; 4 No Use Lying; 5 Losing My Mind; 6 Ozone Mama; 7 Greasy Grass River; 8 Soul Singing; 9 Miracle to Me; 10 Young Man, Old Man; 11 Cosmic Friend; 12 Cypress Tree; 13 Lay It All On Me

One thing about the Black Crowes is that they can play it fast, and they can play it slow. On their landmark debut album, they did both amazingly well (‘Jealous Again’, ‘Twice As Hard’ or slowed down rock-ballads, ‘Sister Luck’ and ‘She Talks to Angels’). They repeated the feat on their previous hit record with ‘Go Faster’, ‘Horsehead’ and ‘Heavy’ playing roughneck partner to subtle beauties like ‘By Your Side’, ‘Diamond Ring’ and ‘Virtue and Vice’.

The Crowes are back with album number six of their eleven year career. Following the commercial and critical success of the pleasing “By Your Side”, Chris Robinson leads the retro-rockers back towards their roots with a mixture of blues-rock, distorted funk and psychedelic undertones. If it ain’t broke…?

“Lions” takes it’s time to grow but once it does, you are guaranteed a treat on the ear, and a further return to form for Chris Robinson and Co is in evidence. ‘Midnight From the Inside Out’ is a typical Crowes ragged-rock anthem complete with crunching guitars and a slow but deliberate rhythm from drummer, Steve Gorman, and ‘Lickin’ is a soild, crusty Led Zep-style 70s rocker.

A fair part of this album sounds more like a throw back to their early records, and especially their second release, “Southern Harmony and Musical Companian” with a heavy blues and funk influence apparent. ‘Greasy Grass River’, ‘Ozone Mama’, groovy ‘Come On’, and the marvellous ‘Soul Singing’, mix distorted electrics, strong rhythm sections, wonderful acoustics, R&B backing vocals and trademark keyboards.

Although none of the slow songs make the lasting impression that ‘She Talks to Angels’ or ‘Virtue and Vice’ made, ‘Miracle to Me’ is a beautiful heart-felt Eagles-style ballad and ‘Losing My Mind’ picks up brilliantly in the electric-heavy chorus. Unfortunately, promising ‘No Use Lying’ becomes more bland as it goes on and ‘Lay It All On Me’ proves the theory that sometimes cutting an album at 12 tracks is sufficient.

‘Cosmic Friend’ is brilliantly bizzare with the first 120 seconds of marching-drums and occasionaly chords reminiscent of late-Beatles/McCartney, before kicking in with a throbbing British rock performance with Robinson’s vocals really standing out, as they do frequently on the record. ‘Cypress Tree’ is a more mainstream but successfully, rugged rocker, while the harmonica-effected ‘Young Man, Old Man’ is less cohesive or interesting.

All in all, this album doesn’t quite make the mark that the last release did, but it is better than the mid-career lull that the Crowes experienced with “Amorica” and “Three Shankes and One Charm”. Hats off to the guys for once again proving themselves to the be “America’s Most Rock N Roll Band”. A sincere compliment if such a thing exists in this industry.

3star

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