The Counting Crows dove into the music scene during the early 90s and haven’t looked back since. I think all of us can think of one Counting Crows song and remember a distinct time and place when that particular song hit the airwaves. They wrote great, radio friendly tunes that boasted solid songwriting miles ahead of any other radio, one hit wonder band during their prime. Now, its time for a little bit of respect to be handed out to the band that gave us such rousing hits like, “Mr. Jones” and “Round Here,” a band that probably had some sort of positive influence on half of the bands that pay tribute to them here.
Cover songs, let alone a tribute album, can be a scary place to visit. Let’s face it, cover songs over the past few years have been agonizingly generic and plain. Often times, bands try too much to put their own little flavor into the song and end up overflowing the song with their touch and the cover turns out just plain messy. Then other times, bands pour no creativity into it and you end up getting an updated, carbon copy version of the original song. The line is so fine that many bands just never seem to pull it off.
Not the case with this indie tribute to the Crows; Dead and Dreaming. Each band does an above average job of taking a classic song and putting just the right amount of personality into the song. The results: 12 extremely well done tracks that I believe would make Adam Duritz and friends smile from ear to ear. The songs give you the impression that there was a good amount of time and energy poured into them from the beginning stages to the finished product.
The tribute album starts out with more of the lesser known, easy on the ear paced Counting Crows songs after Rydia opens the album with a solid performance of “Angels of Silences.” The Rocket Summer gives one of the top of the line efforts on the track “High Life” where the vocals really differ from the original. Boys Night Out strips down their hardcore armor to deliver an acoustic and mellow performance of “Walkaways” which was a nice bolt from the blue. The album then shifts to the radio rock hits where Punchline ups the tempo with “Round Here” and gives the song an impressive coating of pop punk that sounds really clever. Houston Calls might do the best overall work on covering the song “Einstein on a Beach.” They implement keyboards and synthesizers to offer a really unique spin on the track. I was also incredibly impressed with Hidden in Plain View’s rendition of “Mr. Jones.” They keep true to the song mainly, but overall, they did a great job instrumentally and I can tell this Drive-Thru band has really tightened up, and the outcome is very notable.
I had high expectations for this album, and in all honesty, the bands exceeded my expectations. Each and every band did just enough to the original songs and each knew the right formula for making the cover song work. With so many cover songs just not worthy of being listened to, this was no easy task. Each band showed that no matter what, great songwriting in any form can be appreciated on many levels and in many genres.
(The Vinyl Summer)
Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper
For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.
So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.
On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.
The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.
Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill
The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good
One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.
They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.
The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.
Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.
The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.