V2 – 2001 – 53 minutes
Derided by many as a band with a Rolling Stones overdraft, Atlanta outfit The Black Crowes still managed to create two of the finest records of the 1990's in 'The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion' and 'Amorica'. For the last five years however, it's been boogie as usual: albums like 'Three Snakes And One Charm' and 'By Your Side' sounding more rehash than retro with the band often tripping over self-parody in their crushed velvet flares. Now comes 'Lions', their first studio album for new label V2 and a chance too see whether a stint doing Led Zeppelin covers with Jimmy Page had blown the dust off their amps.
Sadly it's an antiseptic affair with the 'Crowes peddling what can only be described as professional pub rock - lock up your fathers as opposed to your daughters. Produced by Don Was, the majority of the tracks trundle by with all the charm of a soundcheck, vocalist Chris Robinson fronting one by-the-numbers workout after another (think big chorus, think bigger guitars, remember small change). Is this the same band that found the perfect mix of bravado and introspection on songs like 'Sometimes Salvation' and 'Wiser Time' not so long ago?
Only on the album's show-stopping ballads ('Losing My Mind', 'Miracle To Me' and 'Lay It All On Me') do they quell your desire to retreat to their former glories. All three tracks are full of the misty eyed charm Robinson used to conjure up in spades, suggesting that they should have spent more time crying in their hooch and less trying to be the life and soul of the party.
The Black Crowes were never going to veer off the style highway and produce a drum 'n' bass album but six records in they've mixed up the concepts of consistency and taking the easy way out. They may be a proud as the titular characters of their latest opus, but what was once a swagger is fast becoming a stoop.
Tracklisting: Midnight From The Inside Out – Lickin' – Come On – No Use Lying – Losing My Mind – Ozone Mama – Greasy Grass River – Soul Singing – Miracle To Me – Young Man, Old Man – Cosmic Friend – Cypress Tree – Lay It All On M