The Black Crowes - 'Before The Frost...Until The Freeze' (Silver Arrow/Megaforce) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Dom Daley   
Tuesday, 01 September 2009 16:05


1crowSo, live in the studio, eh? Well, the 'Before The Frost' kicks off with 'Good Morning Captain' which has a guitar riff straight off 'Gasoline Alley' but what would you expect - it is the Black Crowes after all.



Before I get into this I must say that the Crowes have the novel idea of selling the CD but inserting a card with a code on it for punters to go to a web site and download a further nine tracks to accompany the CD, so thats twenty tracks in all! Fair play Messrs Robinson, that's some gesture. Is it any good, I hear you ask? Where are Brothers Rich and Chris's heads at these days? Will it sound like latter day Black Crowes or the return to their early releases?



To be fair, they were never going to go industrial or hardcore on our little Caftan asses, were they? Having been a fan from day one, I always felt (or I hoped) there was more to come from the brothers after such a stonking debut and follow up, yet they never quite pushed on and, when they went solo, it seemed indicative of the brothers to deliver what turned out to be dull solo projects bar the odd flash of inspiration.

After too many unshaven nights bonging in their Casey Jones dungarees and listening to the best of Woodstock or Gram Parsons, the Crowes indeed vanished. 'Amorica' had its moments as did 'Lions', 'Three Snakes...' and 'Warpaint', and I still maintain the world is always a better place with the Black Crowes making records, even if they are not as good as they should or could have been. Anyway back to 'Before The Frost'....


Obvious comparisons to the mid 80's Rolling Stones or the lighter side of the Faces will get made which isn't a bad thing, in fact, it is raw and at times hangs on by a thread. Tracks like 'A Train Still Makes A Lonely Sound' and 'Kept My Soul' sound great and breeze by a vintage Black Crowes swagger. But the biggest surprise on the record has to be 'I Ain't Hiding' which, on first listen sounded like 'Boys And Girls' by Blur (I kid you not), but then it's more likely one of the Robinsons has been listening to 'Black And Blue' (the Stones album that is not the 80's rockers) or 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy' by Rod the Mod . Anyway, the song could grow to be the highlight of the album which, so far, isn't bad and has a few highs.



A Black Crowes release wouldn't be right without a swooning ballad or two and this CD is no exception, 'What Is Home?' would fit that category but, for me, sounds a bit Crosby, Stills and Nash.... but it does have a mean banjo picking through it. There is even time for a bit of porno soundtrack music in the shape of 'Make Glad'. The album then finally ends with acoustic lament 'The Last Place That Love Lives', again showing off the raggedness of the concept of recording live in a studio with invited audience - 'She Talks To Angels' it isn't, but it does show that Chris still has a superb voice and one that hasn't lost any of that soul and warmth. So there we have it, another Black Crowes album hits the high streets - now to listen to the download part.....

'Until The Freeze'. Well, it not so much kicks off but drifts in with sitar and violin and one of the longest songs on offer throughout both collections, clocking in at over six minutes it builds and builds but ultimately goes nowhere for me as I've never been a big fan of the instrumental or almost instrumental as a few words are muttered after about five minutes. Over the next few tracks, sadly, it all goes a bit Pete Tong for me as they noodle their way through the late 60's and early 70's and, to be frank, it was done a lot better at the time with far stronger songs by the likes of Ronnie Lane and Rod Stewart.



I'd go as far as to say that current darlings of the alt country rock scene do this a lot better. Lap steel and bluegrass are definitely the order of the day on these songs and, whilst the Crowes play their instruments very well, I can't help but think "what about the bleedin songs", boys? It's not at all strong and yet more self indulgence on behalf of the brothers Robinson.



Sadly, it's not the return to the top table for the Crowes and whilst they are probably very happy with their lot in life, and having been there and done it, I guess they're settling down to do what they like, when they like, and fuck anyone who isn't along for the ride. That's fine, but I was kinda hoping for a little more Rock and Roll and less drift and amble. Oh well, maybe the next one will see the brothers have a shave and put on their cowboy boots and shake their skinny backsides but, alas, I wouldn't bet on it.