69. The Black Crowes – “By Your Side”

Things that put me off in the rock world part 1 – backing singers.

the-black-crowes-by-your-side-album-coverI don’t mean a bit of harmonising (or not quite harmonising) by the guy on rhythm guitar, or the drummer piping up during the chorus. 

I mean a line of formation-dancing, gospel choir-trained ladies providing soaring arias alongside the less capable lead singer and clogging up space on stage when they go on the road.  Such additions are the start of the slippery tide towards decks of synths, a second “percussionist”, and as I saw at a recent Ani Di Franco show, a xylophonist. 

It just aint rock.  It’s fine if your a funk or soul act.  Or, indeed, a do-wop group.  Then you can have as many Joanie Cunninghams as you like.

So rant over.  The Black Crowes engage such choristers to excess on this album, and push it dangerously close to Mellencamp territory.

Coupled with misdemeanour against humanity 2, the ugly Perry Farell-imitating overblown band photo, it pushes what is an otherwise promising release into irritating land. 

It’s a damn shame too because the boogey-influenced bluesy rock here is still better than most.

File under: No need for back up

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3 responses to “69. The Black Crowes – “By Your Side”

  1. Unrelenting Tedium

    If you mix up the letters of ‘ugly Perry Farell-imitating overblown band photo’ and take some away and add some others you get ‘bunch of junkies’…which is spooky.

  2. While the note is correct in noting that ‘more’ tends to ‘excess’ when it comes to rock music, there have been many exceptions. Yes the ’70s glam-orch rock groups like Emerson, Lake & Palmer were undeniably excessive. Yes the Robert Palmer girls are embarrassing. Yes, the stripped down fury of ‘sweet child o Mine’ is far better than the orchestral excess of ‘Novemebr rain’. However, the gospel choir backing is an essential part of the Motown sound. Orchestration changes Love’s ‘forever changes’ from a good, but forgetable album to one of the all time greats. As for the xylaphone, two words – Violent Femmes!!

  3. “The Black Crowes engage such choristers to excess on this album, and push it dangerously close to Mellencamp territory.”

    Weren’t you on the most ardent Mellancamp fans back in the day? Wonder what you will say about his releases in approximately 3 years, 7 months and 23 days.

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