Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

30Nov/086

Spending another Sunday morning with the Counting Crows

I'd like to start this particular post off with a plug for Mel, who takes a look at the pros and cons of long distance relationships via a two-parter post on her blog.

Oh, the paragraphs I could dedicate to the subject....

We're going to talk some Counting Crows in a second, but here's a couple of things that led up to the Counting Crows subject matter:

This past week, I was in Target picking up a copy of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation for a friend - an occasional purchase each year for friends who love the film but don't own it, or worse.....haven't seen it!

Seriously, what rock are you living under if you haven't seen Christmas Vacation?

While I should immediately remove you from my friend roster for such a thing, it seems that I have a charitable side that likes to broaden the horizons of others.

Last night I went to my DVDs to pull out my own copy for a viewing and it was missing! A spontaneous phone conversation with Brian from Broken Headphones revealed that his copy was missing as well! What's happening here in Cleveland?

Later that evening, I sat down at the computer to see what was happening on email, Twitter, etc.

I threw a quick Tweet:

Still love the latest Counting Crows album....but the person who mixed it deserves a nice kick in the face. Overmodulated sonic mud.

I was listening to Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings this weekend, a listen that was inspired by thoughts I was having as we head towards the end of 2008. SN/SM is certainly on my mental best of list for the year, but I hadn't listened to it in a while because of how sonically unpleasing the first half is from "1492" to "Cowboys." Since it had been a while, I thought I'd give it a spin in the car to see if my opinion would be modified at all. Sadly, the answer is still a failing grade for the Saturday Nights portion.

To play catch-up for you if you haven't heard the album, SN/SM was conceived as two separate albums with the more electric material comprising the Saturday Nights portion, and the quieter material (for the most part) makes up the Sunday Morning half. Gil Norton (Foo Fighters, Del Amitri) produced Saturday Nights with James Brown mixing, and Brian Deck produced and mixed Sunday Mornings.

So where do we assign the blame? Taking a look at the recent Police DVD/CD release, I hear we can assign the blame for the unbelievably poor packaging to the band, who wanted to use the most environmentally conscious packaging method possible. Fair enough, I guess. And your complaints about the sound quality of Metallica's Death Magnetic? You guessed it, the band is the alleged culprit.

So what if we look at the problematic sound on Saturday Nights starting with producer Gil Norton? Norton has a long line of respectable production credits including *ahem* Recovering The Satellites by Counting Crows. Gil also produced Del Amitri's Change Everything album - is it wrong that I'm inclined to give him a pass just for being involved with those two albums? Plus, the dude produced an entire SR-71 album and still retained the desire to have a career in music!

I kid. I like the first SR-71 album a little, shhhhh!

I'm left with inclination to place the blame on mixer James Brown and his suspiciously named "Just Managing" production company, but is that the right move?

I can somehow see the scene now: Adam Duritz is cackling maniacally like John Cusack at the burger joint, overseeing the Saturday Nights mix with instructions to make every-thing louder than every-thing else........and then make everything else louder than that!

Once you get past the sound issues, Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings is one of the best albums that Counting Crows have made in years, and I'm saying that as a someone who has been a fan of generally everything they've put out. Duritz has a historical knack for wrapping his voice around some of the greatest miserable songs and he does it so well. As one who trends toward the more miserable side of music, you won't be surprised to hear that I really love the Sunday Mornings side of the album, and songs like "Washington Square" and "When I Dream of Michelangelo."

Mel was asking on Twitter if there was anywhere that she could stream the album, and indeed there is. You can stream the album via the band's Myspace page - Navigate over to the music player, and click on the album cover, and the entire album loads as a playlist.

I also found the following "in the studio" performance videos that I hadn't seen:

Counting Crows - Washington Square

Counting Crows - 1492 (Couldn't embed this one - here's the link to the video stream)

Counting Crows - Cowboys

Counting Crows - Le Ballet d'Or

And here's an oldie - "Have You Seen Me Lately" performed earlier this year on Fuse and worthy of inclusion because of the two chuckleheads that intro the band at the beginning of the performance:

Counting Crows - Have You Seen Me Lately (live on Fuse)

One of my favorite songs from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings is one of the first songs I heard via the "digital 45" released by the band prior to the album release in March. If you haven't heard the new album, "When I Dream of Michelangelo" might be the one song you need to hear to sell you on the release. Classic Duritz.

Well you know I don't like you but you wanna be my friend
Well, there are bodies on the ceiling and they're fluttering their wings
It's ok I'm angry
But you'll never understand
When you dream of Michelangelo
They hang above your hands

And I know that she is not my friend
And I know cause there she goes
Walking on my skin again


Counting Crows - When I Dream of Michelangelo

Just in case you missed it:

In one of my first posts here, I wrote about something that you won't want to miss:

For an extended trip behind the scenes of Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings as an album, check out the Counting Crows performance on World Cafe which can be found at I Am Fuel, You Are Friends. The World Cafe performance is a fascinating look at both halves of the new album, and reveals the genesis of each song, and the ties to the back catalog of Counting Crows songs you already know and love.

Check it out and grab the zip - that's the only link that is still active.

Relevant Links:

Counting Crows official website

LiveCountingCrows.Com

Purchase Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

  • http://www.burgoblog.com Burgo

    Awesome Matt… I’m loving those “in studio” vids, I haven’t come across them before. The word for this right now? Bliss.

  • http://deejaydog.me Doug Vanisky

    wow. i had so given up on the counting crows and now i’m so impressed with this. thanks for the post.

  • Matt Wardlaw

    Burg – totally…couldn’t believe that I hadn’t seen ’em.

    Doug – glad I could bring you back from the darkness! I kinda had your viewpoint going into this new record, and ended up being pleasantly surprised.

  • Dan

    The Fuel zip link is now dead. I kind of agree with the SN tracks. I was listening to this album on the commute home last night, and I usually skip to Cowboys (it really rocks) then just listen to the SM tracks.
    That type of production/mixing is what makes the Springsteen Magic disk unlistenable for me.

  • http://www.thefrontloader.com Swapmeet Louie

    I haven’t checked out the Counting Crows new album, but will surely do so now! Thanks for the writeup!

    And Christmas Vacation is one of the funniest holiday movies EVER.

    EEEVER.

  • Matt Wardlaw

    Dan – looks like a momentary outage on the zip link – it’s working for me now. For some reason, Springsteen’s Magic doesn’t bug me. I guess I’m really tolerant…as many people as I have seen bitching about Magic.

    Louie – hope you dig it. BTW – Clark Griswold is on Twitter..lol

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