Recovering The Satellites

Counting Crows

DGC Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Scott Floman


August & Everything After was a surprise success in 1993, and as a result Counting Crows became an "overnight sensation," largely on the strength of the mammoth hit "Mr. Jones." Ironically, the upbeat "Mr. Jones" was a stark contrast to the rest of the album, which consisted of mellow grooves that were at once easy to listen to and quietly unsettling. Obviously indebted to Van Morrison and The Band, August & Everything After offered consistently earthy, somber musings about everyday life, and singer Adam Duritz's (to some an acquired taste, to others a unique, fresh new voice) longings and desires dominated the album. Though their debut was eminently soulful and consistently satisfying, it had a too similar tone throughout, and I was hoping to see more variety on album number two from this highly promising band.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

After three long years, in 1996 Counting Crows finally returned with their highly anticipated second release, Recovering The Satellites. It sold well, unlike many recent sophomore albums (Gin Blossoms, Blind Melon, Weezer, and Hootie and The Blowfish are just a few recent victims of the sophomore jinx), if not as stratospherically as the debut. Although there's a great album in here somewhere, ultimately Counting Crows fall victim to their own ambitions.

The band has updated their sound (whereas August And Everything After had a retro 70's feel; perhaps producer Gil Norton can take some credit for this) and Recovering The Satellites is a much harder hitting and more varied album than their excellent debut, with songs such as "Angels Of The Silences" supplying a heavy post-punk kick. While the band returns to their rootsy approach on lighter songs such as "Daylight Fading" and the hit "A Long December," Duritz goes overboard with endlessly recurring images of sleep, dreams, angels, and rain. Like many before him, Duritz is trying to come to terms with his band's huge success, noting "these days I feel like I'm fading away, like sometimes when I hear myself on the radio," while hoping "maybe this year will be better than the last." Duritz also continually decries his lost innocence, and lyrics such as "I can't find my way home" act as a metaphor for Duritz trying to find himself.

Musically, on Recovering The Satellites the band sometimes adds string arrangements, keyboard textures, and atypical instrumentation such as accordions, mandolins, and mellotrons to flesh out their sound, keeping things fresh and exciting. "I'm Not Sleeping" has (literally) heavy orchestration and "Another Horsedreamer's Blues"'s weird atmospherics actually recall American Music Club, but the band shows that they're still at their best when keeping things simple on songs such as the lovely "Goodnight Elizabeth." Other standout tracks include the passionate "Catapult," which ends with a ripping guitar solo, and the dreamy title track. If this hour-long album had been trimmed down and Duritz had more lyrical ideas it would've been more successful. As it is, Recovering The Satellites was still a fine, brave follow-up by a band who looks like they're in it for the long haul.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B


© 1997 Scott Floman and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of DGC Records, and is used for informational purposes only.