Album review

Counting Crows : Hard Candy

Counting Crows : Hard CandyWhy? Because we need something to listen to in between Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty CDs. Hence Counting Crows.
    Okay, that may be a bit flippant, but I'm sure Adam Duritz and co. wouldn't have a problem being mentioned in the same sentence as either of those artists. Both are masters at combining wonderfully lived-in vocals with touching stories of hard luck and lost love - exactly the territory in which Counting Crows are at their best.

The title track Hard Candy kicks off Counting Crows' fourth studio effort. It's an upbeat rocker which immediately evokes memories of their August And Everything After debut. Believe me, this is no bad thing.
    First single American Girls follows in a similar vein, except this time we've got Sheryl Crow complementing Duritz on backing vocals. It's all sounds incredibly slick and professional, thanks in no small part to Steve Lillywhite's sympathetic production.
    Good Time slows the pace to where Counting Crows operate best, its banjo being replaced with piano on the even more sombre Goodnight L.A.
    The Ryan Adams co-penned Butterfly In Reverse is the first of three tracks which move away from traditional Crows fayre. Unfortunately it's jaunty melody breaks the mood that's been built up over the preceeding tracks. In a different environment, possibly. In this company it's unwelcome. The playful New Frontier gets things back on track, and the trumpet backed ballad Carriage is pretty much spot-on.
    The remainder of Hard Candy relies heavily on Adam Duritz and Charles Gillingham's piano skills, but of course this is the same environment which has spawned some of their greatest tunes, such as A Long December. You can add the escapist Holiday In Spain to the list.

Hard Candy's already a long CD. When you add on the two UK bonus tracks (nothing to write home about) and the hidden cover of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi it's a bit of monster, weighing in at over 67 minutes.
    Only a couple of songs hit you first time out, but put in a bit of effort and it'll become clear that you're listening to a really strong album. If you like your music earthy and evocative, Hard Candy comes highly recommended.

:: Rowan Shaeffer

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