By Your Side
American / Columbia Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: Alfredo Narvaez
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/13/1999
After years of exploring '60s psychedelia and using it to fuel their records, the Atlanta-based quintet/sextet The Black Crowes decided to return to their Southern-rock roots. Of course, that's what you will think when you first see and buy By Your Side. And, on one hand, this is very, very true. However, when you listen to this, you may realize that this album has blues and specially gospel as its main influences! Let's head down and take a look.
The album starts with the fun "Go Faster" and the quick "Kicking My Heart Around." These signal the Crowes' return to those rock roots they had not gone by since their debut album Shake Your Moneymaker. The band, however, has not forgotten its lessons learned from the following releases and the title-track is a fusion of pop, rock, and funk. It is very catchy and fun. The other instantly catchy song is "Only A Fool." If you've seen the "Weird Al" Yankovic-directed video, you'll remember this song. It is amazingly, incredibly, catchy and stays in your head like no one's got a right to.
But if you think that this is all this album has got to offer, you're mistaken. In my humble opinion, the best song here is "Horsehead" (or is that "Asshole"?) In any case, this song is the perfect example of what I was talking about. It takes a low blues riff and sequence and tacks on vocals that seem out of a gospel choir. "Go Tell The Congregation" makes you really ask if the band has gone and recorded a gospel album - due to the vocals and the uplifting tone of the music. In any case, it's good.
Another thing that hits you is that the band is funkier than before. This is featured in songs like "Heavy" and "Then She Said My Name." "Virtue and Vice" is good, but it would go better somewhere in the middle part of the second half of the album. That's the one big problem I have with the album. Most of the slow and mid-tempo songs are stuck in the second half. That doesn't mean that they are bad - far from it. "Welcome To The Good Times" is quite good and so is "Diamond Ring." Perhaps another rocker in the middle - or as an album closer to allow "Virtue And Vice" to switch places - could have bettered that.
The entire band - from the Robinson Brothers to drummer Steve Gorman to new bassist Sven Pipien and pianist 39 (sorry, I forgot his name!) - work and meld incredibly. Though there have been additions and substractions to the band's roster through the years, the core of the band (the Robinsons) keep the band in line and make it seem as though the group has been together for years.
This is a good rock album that uses pop, blues, and gospel influences to spice itself up. If you're looking that, then "Welcome to the good times, honey."
|My favorite album of all the Crowes' work.|