Three Snakes And One Charm

The Black Crowes

American Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The Black Crowes are a band that's best left doing what comes naturally to them.

On their debut album, Shake Your Moneymaker, one hears a band that is trying to break into the mainstream. They did with hits like "Hard To Handle" and "Twice As Hard," leaving the band with great success - maybe too much at one time.

Their next work, The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion, sounded like a band trying to deal with the sudden wave of success, and they weren't handling it well. The album, in turn, suffered.

Their third effort, Amorica, showed off a band desperately trying to regain a lost audience through more experimental works. This was their worst effort yet, and led many people to write off the Crowes as a fluke success.

Their latest release, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Three Snakes And One Charm, should shake off any doubts about their potential. Chris Robinson and crew get back to basics and play the music they know the best - rock mixed with rhythm and blues. They're out to prove only that they know this genre well - and have created the best album of their career as proof.

The first single, "Good Friday," is a slight return to the bluesy jam that helped the band capture the public's attention a few years ago. The feel is loose, but intense, as Chris Robinson's vocals swagger along with his brother Rich's guitar work. The harmonies on this one, as well as many other cuts, are impeccable. If only radio would take a bigger chance with this one - it's one of the best songs the Crowes have ever cranked out.

In fact, a good three-fourths of the album could easily be released as singles, and none of them would sound out of place on the radio. "Under The Mountain," "One Mirror Too Many," "Evil Eye" and "Nebakanezer" (the last having a slight Aerosmith feel to it) all snap the listener to attention. Even the latest single, "Blackberry," sounds fresh when placed with its brothers.

But don't think the Crowes have forgotten about their other roots. The slow, drawn out "ballads" are here, one in the guise of "Girl From A Pawnshop," an incredible song that passes way too quickly. As for acoustic work a la "She Talks To Angels," the brothers Robinson and band deliver with cuts like "Bring On, Bring On."

After barely making it through one listen of Amorica, I had to listen to Three Snakes three times to make sure this was the same band. The more I listen to this album, the better it becomes. This album deserves a better fate than the lackluster sales it has met with to date.

Special attention should be drawn to the production work of Jack Joseph Puig, whose work behind the control boards seems to complement the Crowes' style. The album does not sound polished by any means; the production work has a slightly rough edge to it, as does the music. Puig and the Crowes knew exactly what they were doing.

It's not often a band gets a second chance at the spotlight after throwing away their first opportunity. The Black Crowes have been given that shot with Three Snakes And One Charm, and they use it well. This is easily one of the best albums of 1996.

Rating: A

User Rating: B



© 1997 Christopher Thelen 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 American Records, and is used for informational purposes only.