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Counting Crows Fly High

Posted in MusicWorld on November 30, 1999 by

Poetic, introspective and unabashedly romantic, Counting Crows is a modern rock anomaly. While many of their contemporaries explore the darker side of human nature, the Crows remain true to the tenets of classic rock & roll. The band's new DGC Records album, This Desert Life, is a homespun masterwork reminiscent of Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Yet for all its late-'60s homages, This Desert Life features the unmistakable Counting Crows stamp: memorable melodies, easy-rocking rhythms and the emotive vocals of Adam Duritz.

This Desert Life finds Duritz and his comrades - guitarists David Bryson and Dan Vickrey, keyboardist Charles Gillingham, bassist Matt Malley and drummer Ben Mize - in a playful mood. The album's celebratory debut single, "Hanginaround," sounds like it was recorded at a frat party. On the folky "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby," Duritz pokes fun at his own celebrity, describing himself as "an idiot walking a tightrope of fortune and fame."

Counting Crows first took flight in 1989, when Duritz and guitarist David Bryson were introduced by a mutual friend. Calling themselves Counting Crows after an English divination rhyme, the duo began performing as an acoustic duo at coffeehouses and small clubs. Expanding into a sextet, the band was signed to Geffen Records. Counting Crows' 1993 debut album, August and Everything After, drew a storm of critical praise. In its four-star review of the album, Rolling Stone magazine called the disc "one of the best rock releases of the year." By the time the smoke had cleared, August and Everything After had logged 93 weeks on Billboard's Hot 200 albums chart and sold a remarkable 7 million copies.

Counting Crows handily beat the sophomore slump with their chart-topping, multi-platinum 1996 album, Recovering the Satellites. A two-CD live set, Across a Wire - Live in New York revealed both the acoustic and electric sides of the band.