The new album might be titled "The Best and Worst of the Counting Crows."
The Crows were blessed and cursed three years ago by making one of the landmark singles of the 1990s, "Mr. Jones." Lead singer Adam Duritz sounded like a cross between Van Morrison and Mick Jagger in an almost perfect rock single off an impressive debut album, "August and Everything After."
The Crows were, in many ways, the precursor of Hootie and the Blowfish. Both bands create accessible, generic rock 'n' roll for the masses. Such music combines the best of classic rock with an alternative edge. Although lacking the generational tension and riveting persona of acts such as Nirvana or Pearl Jam, the Crows possess a certain pop majesty.
That listener-friendly style is evident on the Counting Crows new release, "Recovering the Satellites," (Geffen 24975). Duritz dominates the CD and the first single, "Angels of the Silences."
Like "Mr. Jones," the new single is destined for hitsville. It's a
scorching rocker, featuring the hot guitars of David Bryson and Dan Vickory, backing Duritz's impassioned vocal.
"Angels" is the highlight of a lackluster first half of the album. Duritz's vocal sounds strained and lacks conviction on "Catapult," a slow-moving number that opens the CD. "Daylight Fading" possesses a country twang that will never be mistaken for Nashville.
There's more moping by Duritz through "Goodnight Elisabeth," and "Children in Bloom" isn't much better.
The Crows, however, save the CD with a powerful effort the rest of the way. "Have You Seen Me Lately?" offers a classic rock sound that is clean, pure and nearly irresistible. "Miller's Angels" finds Duritz in an introspective mood, looking for spiritual answers.
"Another Horsedreamer's Blues" is Duritz in a light and soulful mood. "Recovering the Satellites," the title track, is a bluesy rocker, and "Monkey" features nonsense lyrics that work against a steady beat. The band closes the album with a folky, acoustic number "Walkaways."
The Counting Crows appear to be reluctant rock stars. This band lacks its own musical identity but manages to churn out impressive records. "Recovering the Satellites" is a mixed effort that shows just how far the Counting Crows have come, but also how much further this young band needs to go before reaching its potential.