Chris Robinson - vocals; Rich Robinson - guitar; Jeff Cease - guitar; Johnny Colt - bass guitar; Steve Gorman - drums
Before he was known as Mr. Kate Hudson, Chris Robinson was known for being the frontman of one of the best blues-rock bands in the country, the Black Crowes. This performance, captured in December of 1990, finds the band riding the considerable wave of their debut LP Shake Your Money Maker.
The Altlanta quintet rolls through almost all of their debut and shows why their debut sold over three million copies. One of those reasons has to be Robinson's soulful, confident vocals, which guide most of the songs. His whiskey-soaked tenor is especially captivating on the rollicking "Struttin' Blues" and their popular ballad "She Talks To Angels." The later is a surprisingly affecting ballad about a drug-addicted woman, who is struggling with the loss of a child. Robinson's vocals are emotive and bluesy, showing exactly why he is such a brilliant frontman.
That said, an excellent frontman does not a great band make, and Black Crowes are no exception. Guitarists Rich Robinson, who shares songwriting duties with his brother, and Jeff Cease consistently stand out as well. While Cease's impressive lead work peppers the tunes, it is Robinson's bluesy riffs and catchy melodies that are indispensible to the group's sound. Especially on upbeat songs like "You're Wrong" and "Get Back," Robinson's rhythm playing is a joy to listen to and only reinforces the notion that he is one of the most underrated players of the '90s. Drummer Steve Gorman and bassist Johnny Colt are content to stay mostly in the background, but their rock-solid playing keeps the band going, and if you pay attention, Gorman's drumming is technically impressive and very tasteful.
While it's been some years since the group has had a hit single or LP, they remain a big draw all over the country and internationally, and this recording hints to why that is. At their best, they were one of the finest rock bands in the country, and, from all accounts, they remain a fantastic live group.
The Black Crowes were formed in Atlanta, Georgia in 1989 by brothers Chris and Rich Robinson. In 1989, the group—rounded out by lead guitarist Jeff Cease, bassist Johnny Colt, and drummer Steve Gorman—headed into the studio and crafted their excellent debut Shake Your Money Maker. The group wore its influences on its sleeve, crafting catchy blues rock that harkened back to '60s and '70s groups like Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers, and the Doobie Brothers. The album was a huge success, selling over three million copies. Its success was driven by the pair of No. 1 mainstream rock singles "Hard to Handle" and "She Talks to Angels." While the later was penned by the Brothers Robinson, "Hard to Handle" is an Otis Redding song and a popular live tune for Grateful Dead. "Jealous Again," "Twice As Hard," and "Seeing Things" also received substantial radio play.
The group returned with a strong follow-up in 1992 with The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. The disc shot straight to No. 1 on the Billboard Albums Chart on the back of No. 1 single "Remedy." It also signaled the first of the personnel changes that would plague the band through its career. Though they replaced their lead guitarist, Rich Robinson, with the help of new guitarist Marc Ford, picked up the slack, crafting a riff-heavy LP that was named in Guitar World Magazine's Top 100 greatest guitar albums of all time. The album, and the Crowes' relentless touring, helped solidify the band as one of the era's best live rock bands.
Though the group would never quite reach the commercial heights of its first two albums, 1994's Amorica, 1996's Three Snakes and One Charm, 1999's By Your Side,, and 2001's Lions were all successful. While they didn't sell as well as their predecessors, that was probably more due to the mainstream's shift from the rock 'n' roll of the early '90s to the pop music that became more popular in the middle-to-late 1990's than the overall quality of the albums. After touring to support Lions, the group took a three-year hiatus from 2002-2005.
With an almost entirely new line-up (only the Robinson brothers remained), the group reformed in 2005 and released their 2007 LP Warpaint. Without the aid of a major label, Warpaint was still a massive success, hitting No. 5 on the Billboard Album Charts. The record was a stunning return to form, considering all the line-up changes, but it sold well and critics fell in love with it. It was the group's most poplar record since The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.
On August 31st, 2009, the group released Before the Frost…Until the Freeze in two parts. The first disc Before the Frost came out as a single CD, while Until the Freeze was a download only. It also came out as a double-vinyl featuring all the songs on the two CD's spliced together in a different order. The album was recorded in Woodstock, NY and has received good reviews. After the album was released, the group hit the road and will stay there until, at least, the end of 2009.