Recovering The Satellites

Counting Crows

DGC Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


(Editor's Note: This review first appeared in the November 12, 1996 edition of On The Town magazine.)

Okay, full disclosure time. No, I'm not related to any of the Counting Crows (at least that I'm aware of). I don't know their manager, have never worked for their record label or producer and am secure in the knowledge that any kind of veiled grovel for concert tickets would be laughed off. My disclosure is simply this: I did not approach the job of listening to and reviewing this album in an objective, detached manner. This would be impossible, inasmuch as I believe that Counting Crows vocalist/leader Adam Duritz is well on the way to proving himself to be the premier rock and roll songwriter of his generation.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Evidence the first: from the band's 1993 debut, August and Everything After, "A Murder of One"-in this reviewer's opinion, probably the most riveting, agonizingly beautiful rock song of the '90s (a hundred listens and I still get chills as Duritz pleads with his battered friend-and himself-to "change" at the close). Evidence the second: the rest of that remarkable, acclaimed album. Evidence the third: three full years later, Recovering the Satellites, as strong and sure and dynamic and literate a follow-up album as I've heard. The personal trials of fame and consequent writer's block Duritz suffered through following the big splash made by August appear to have been vanquished quite thoroughly.

Deriving their bluesy, rootsy sound from such classic rock giants as Van Morrison and The Band, the Crows, their sound toughened up a bit this time with the addition of a second guitarist, provide the appealing musical underpinnings to Duritz's brilliant flights of lyricism. There's the sadly compelling "Another Horsedreamers' Blues" ("Margery's wingspan's all feathers and coke cans / And TV dinners and letters she won't send"); the bitter ruminations on fame "Have You Seen Me Lately" and "Recovering the Satellites" ("All anybody really wants to know is... when you gonna come down"); and, in the country-rock inflected "Daylight Fading," a sharp summation of the trials of writer's block ("all the anger and the eloquence are bleeding into fear").

Duritz's lyrics, sung in a crackling, edgy voice, are full of rain and departures and sleepless nights, of longing to be loved and lovers who long to be elsewhere. The album's capper, though, comes in "A Long December," a ringing, densely melodic ballad offering a single ray of hope: "The smell of hospitals in winter / And the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls / All at once you look across a crowded room / To see the way that light attaches to a girl ... And it's been a long December and there's reason to believe / Maybe this year will be better than the last."

Recovering the Satellites offers abundant hope for every admirer of the Crows.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B


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