Some groups build a huge audience but once the hits stop, so do they. Others, like the Black Crowes, are able to establish a relationship with their audience that allows them to survive the down points in a typical Rock career. Having a reputation as a hot live act didn't hurt either.
Hailing from Atlanta, the Black Crowes formed in '84 but it wasn't until '90 that their debut, "Shake Your Money Maker," was released. Talk about paying dues. Two charging Rockers, "Jealous Again" and a cover of Otis Reddings' "Handle With Care" made a dent.
"The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion" rolled out in '92 with the hit "Remedy." That same year keyboardist Eddie Hersch was added.
Though it sold well enough, "Amorica," represented a steep falling off. Black Crowes next effort, in '96, "Three Snakes And One Charm" won critical approval but little else. The "By Your Side" CD didn't break any new ground or build their audience. In fact, disappointing sales caused the group to be dropped by their label, Columbia.
It was time to shake things up a bit. A tour and subsequent album, "Live At The Greek," with Led Zeppelin's legendary Jimmy Page reworked both Zeppelin and the Blues. Don Was, a masterful producer, was called in to lend his expertise for "Lions" released in '01.
Black Crowes embarked on a successful reunion tour, following an '02 - '05 hiatus, that included a stint with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
In '06, the Crowes released their first live concert DVD. Freak 'N' Roll Into The Fog featured performances captured at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium. Of course, just when things looked they'd get rolling again there was the inevitable snag. Ford quit the band via fax. Barely a week later, the Crowes parted company with Harsch. Guitarist Paul Stacey and keyboardist Rob Clores were slotted as replacements though Clores was gone within the year. At that point Adam MacDougall stepped in.
The band invited North Mississippi Allstars guitarist Luther Dickinson to play on their upcoming album but that resulted in Dickinson supplanting Stacey, who was viewed as only being temporary.
Amidst all these comings and goings, the Robinson brothers did an acoustic tour under the Brothers of a Feather banner. The '07 "Live At The Roxy" resulted. The L.A. shows, like the rest of the tour, featured Black Crowes songs plus some covers.
The comeback album "Warpaint," their first one with original material in seven years, contained the single, "Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution." "It's got all the roots," said Chris Robinson of the '08 release. "But it's also got a psychedelic feel."
Even before "Warpaint" was released there was a controversy. Maxim apologized for running a lukewarm review of the album. Seems the magazine's music critic didn't listen to the entire disc before assigning a two-and-a-half-star rating (pretty low). Maxim admitted that it hadn't followed editorial policy. The Crowes' manager, Pete Angelus, called the publication's statement "self-serving damage control" and wanted Maxim to "issue a public apology" to the band.
Regardless, "Warpaint" won both critical and fan approval, getting to #5 on the Billboard Album Chart - their best showing since "The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion," a decade-and-a-half earlier.
Around this time, the group's back catalog from the American Recordings imprint was available as digital downloads for the first time on iTunes. It included the Crowes' first five discs, the '98 box-set compilation "Sho' Nuff" and the '06 rarities collection "The Lost Crowes."
An '08 tour stop at the Wiltern Theater in L.A. yielded the two disc "Warpaint Live." The first disc had the "Warpaint" album in its entirety. The second contained songs from the Black Crowes catalog plus covers. The DVD landed in the summer of '09.
A few months later, Black Crowes released their eighth studio album "Before the Frost..." It was actually a "live in the studio" effort. Chris got the idea for a live album of new material after listening to the Grateful Dead's "Europe '72" while on vacation. He contacted Levon Helm (ex-drummer for The Band) about using his studio (a converted barn) in Woodstock, NY. The album was recorded over five nights in front of an audience.
CD and vinyl versions were sold through the usual retail channels. But the second set, "...Until The Freeze," was free exclusively through a download code included in "Before The Frost..." It was a "buy one, get one free" offer.
Continuing their drive to re-package and re-present their catalog the Crowes issued a double album, "Croweology," in '10. It contained acoustic renditions of 20 of the band's top tracks. After the tour, the band went on another "indefinite hiatus."
Black Crowes announced their return in late '12 with news they would be touring the following year. Which they did.
The Robinson brothers continued to stay busy in '14. First, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood (guitarist Neal Casal, keyboardist Adam MacDougall, bassist Jeff Hill - who replaced Mark Dutton in '16, and drummer Tony Leone - who took over from George Sluppick in '15) issued "Phosphorescent Harvest," his group's follow-up to '12's pair of albums, "Big Moon Ritual" and "Magic Door." Just weeks later, Rich presented "The Ceaseless Sight," his third studio album. The set contained the single "In Comes The Night."
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood returned with their '16 album "Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel." That same year, ex-Crowes guitarist Marc Ford dropped "The Vulture."
1990 Shake Your Money Maker
1992 The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion
1996 Three Snakes And One Charm
1999 By Your Side
2009 Before the Frost...Until the Freeze
"Stay true to your vision and you shall prevail." That could be the Black Crowes motto. Woefully out of style when their debut was released, the Crowes paid no mind. Their raunchy Rock owed more to the Stones and Faces, than Southern Rock or the current trends. They are what the Rolling Stones would sound like if they came from the American South rather than the south of England. The Robinsons, Chris and Rich, learned their lesson well. They wrote just about every memorable Black Crowes' track.