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Published: 2011/01/05
by Brandon Findlay

On The Impending Death of The Crowes…

Photo by Brad Hodge

The internet, that occasional delta of opinion-as-fact and fact-as-fiction, has done wonders for throwing ropes of information to the farthest reaches. Those reaches may not grasp much- it lacks pragmatism to assume too greatly either way- but in this carnival attraction called the Internet Age, at least the view is scenic.

One virtue of our info-hurling technological Wonder Bread is you get the chance to find true kinship. You know- brothers of another mother, sisters of another mister, etc. One such playground with the nicest swing sets has been E-Mule (eMule, et al.), a Gov’t Mule e-community where I have met some of the finest music-loving people around. Thus, from a recent discussion amidst that group, I offer these adapted thoughts concerning the (at the time) pending demise/hiatus of the Black Crowes. After reading through the range of others’ opinions, I offered mine, titled with a nod to Will Ackerman’s “Virgin Spirit”. By the way, that would be a ‘rope of information’ right there- grasp and explore.

Enjoy the scenery.

“Reading about the current state of the Crowes and their members, i.e. minus Marc Ford, I have come to wonder about one thread which I have not seen expressed in such a way: A great and one-day-legendary rock band needs three qualities: necessity, relevancy, and intensity. Let us call these the Body, Mind, and Soul of music.

The Stones felt this breaking point, I would argue, at Sticky Fingers. It’s a far stronger album overall than Exile On Main Street; it was relevant for its time (and of its time); it was a necessary statement- literally the right album at the right time for the right reasons; and served as one intense state of the union on their life and art. It has outsold Exile three times over as well, though sales alone are not to be considered a guidepost of worthiness. But post- Goat’s Head Soup? Eh… it’s drecky in a lot of ways. Some Girls had some fine tunes, but not a great album, or band, really. And that’s where the Crowes are.

Let us gander at the still young art form known as rock & roll. The first generation of rock and rollers, ala the Sun Records crowd, Paul Burlison, Eddie Cochran- they are all dead.

The second generation is mostly irrelevant or also now passed on. McCartney is a concert draw, but his current work carries little weight when compared to the days his musical Body, Mind, and Soul were cranking like a tuned V8. To point, check his set lists for the last 15 years. Those lists pour forth like an ocean of Beatles and early Wings, with thirty-five years worth of raindrops filling in the gaps.

Fellow former Yardbirds Clapton and Beck are putting out well-regarded work, but Clapton seems disinterested in finding the more intense versions of himself. Emotion and Commotion is certainly the finest Beck offering in a long while in the regard he bestows on his own playing. But it’s mired by Joss Stone-isms, an uneven song cycle, and most pointed, it is a terrible tease for just how great of an album Beck could have made.

Neil Young. Intensity-yes. Neccesity- maybe. The world needed Harvest. Harvest II-XIII have not been received as well.

Bob Dylan- Hmmm… He had us in ’97 and Time Out Of Mind is a brilliant record. But Dylan used to change the way the wind blew. It’s a different ballgame, hanging his pop-culture koans like a scarecrow under the starlit heavens, especially since he was once the brightest star of all.

Robert Plant and John Paul Jones are turning out interesting work. I’ll give Plant marks for relevance, and throw in necessity, but intensity… that trigger is not yet pulled. With Them Crooked Vultures, I will argue that Jones has all three qualities. So, out of all the 2nd Gen rockers, JPJ is still living it up properly. Who else is there? I’m sure there are some but I can’t think of them right now [Author’s note: in the interim between typing this to E-Mule and then adapting it for, I have yet to think of any- apologies ].

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