The Black Crowes returned from the dead just before Covid, when Chris and Rich of the famously-battling Robinson Brothers, set out on a short acoustic tour to announce that they signed a peace treaty and reformed the band. A successful return to the stage followed after a year or so of lockdowns with the long Shake Your Money-Maker 30th Anniversary tour, the Crowes playing all the songs off that first album in their entirety, plus some long james you'd expect at one of their shows.
It's a new lineup with drummer Steve Gorman not invited to participate (nor would he accept) after he published his tell-all book about the Black Crowes. That book, by the way, is a mandatory read; it exposes all the warts of a band that screamed out of Atlanta in 1990 and rode a platinum tailwind for 4 years, after which the members did everything to crash the plane. And they did. A few times.
Chris and Rich Robinson's battles all but choked the life out of this once proud American group. The vitriol flew back and forth so much, it not only killed a band, it killed a family. That said, this reunion is all that much more remarkable, not necessarily that it happened, but that it's held together for three years.
So let's get past all that and talk about another example of the Black Crowes new era of mutual civility - a fresh music release entitled 1972. It's a cool concept - six covers that were the cream of the music charts that year. The band sounds like it set up for a session and just let it rock live in the studio, and amazingly, it sounds like they're having a great time. That says a lot when you read Gorman's book and realize how little fun they actually were having for so long.
The first song is the best one because it covers the Rolling Stones, a Crowes' grandfather, really. The group tears into "Rocks Off" and you can hear the confidence and swagger in the guitars because this is something Rich Robinson once played over and over as a kid when he was studying Keith Richards 101. The Crowes locomotive blasts this one down the tracks and I didn't even miss the horns.
A version of Rod Stewart's "You Wear it Well" deftly blends acoustic and electric guitar with keys, Chris Robinson's voice travels well down Stewart's gravelly road. Lowell George and Little Feat's classic "Easy to Slip" is given a faithful early country-rock vibe that recalls that era of the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, and eventually the Eagles.
Less successful are the attempts at "The Slider" by Marc Bolan and T-Rex and Bowie's "Moonage Daydream." While the band plays well enough, Chris Robinson's voice isn't so well-suited to take on either of those glam-rock kings. But the remaining "Papa Was a Rolling Stones," the Temptations Motown tour-de-force, is taken out of it's pure dance groove and rocked out in style. Here, Robinson's wise-ass, jive-talkin' abilities work just fine.
1972 is available now. It's great to have the Black Crowes back; I just hope they keep attending those anger management classes.