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Counting Crows
Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings
Geffen Records
www.countingcrows.com


A handful of bands from the '90s found their way into recording new albums after 2000, like the Counting Crows. These are the bands that cause people to say, "Wow, they are still making records." Surprisingly yes, the Counting Crows latest release Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings is divided between tunes for the Saturday Nights side of the album and ones that herald in the Sunday Mornings side. If you liked the Counting Crows before, you will like them again on this album.

Not much about their music sounds different or shows growth in the band. Lead singer Adam Duritz has the same raspy edges to his vocal registers as before, and guitarists Dan Vickrey and David Bryson have the same alt-rock slits and intonations that they displayed on the band's hit songs "Mr. Jones" and "Accidentally In Love." Bassist David Immergluck and drummer Jim Bogios show a funky stride in the rhythmic strips, and keyboardist Charles Gillingham may have the most interesting job coloring the drums fills with arousing vistas and shutting clamors. The lyrics provide the songs with captions like signposts that tell the listeners where they are and where the road will lead them. It is a typical Counting Crows album with acoustic-rock regalia reminiscent of Hootie And The Blowfish and confections of chewy rock guitar taffy.

The album starts off with six alt-rock tracks for the Saturday Nights portion of the album. Most of these have a fast tempo and cavities of wiry guitar spikes like in "1492," "Hanging Tree," and "Insignificant." Canals of piano riffs hyphenate the folksy musings of "Los Angeles" while Duritz's rugged vocal textures are greatly exaggerated in the melody. The breading of bluesy finger-snapping beats along "Sundays" give the tune a cozy blue-eyed soul feel, and the quaking shivers of "Cowboys" keep the rhythm section mobile with the vocals hollering and acting like a rolling pin on the melody. The album turns slow and reflective on the Sunday Mornings portion with the acoustic-dales of "Washington Square."

Keeping to an acoustic vibe, the album proceeds with "On Almost Any Sunday Morning" which is swathed in bales of folksy harmonica played by Gillingham. The folk-rock disposition of "When I Dream Of Michelangelo" is pebbled in gentle guitar strums and breathy vocals as the soupy fennel of "Anyone But You" is bricked by soft vocal strokes and lounging chord recessions and progressions. The Counting Crows display a healthy dose of congeniality in their music, making songs that rub people the right way like the tender springs of "Le Ballet D'Or." It's a number that feels like a whiff of fresh air, a tune that you hum while walking through grassy fields with nothing weighing heavily on your mind. Contrasting "Le Ballet D'Or" is the somber, plaintive "On A Tuesday In Amsterdam Long Ago" whose brusque keys feel like tremendous weights on the tune. The album concludes with the rip roaring heartland rock tune "Come Around," pulling out all the blitz and frazzled chord rounds that people have come to like about the Counting Crows.

The Counting Crows have not changed much about themselves on their latest release Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings. They still mix elements of acoustic, alt-rock, classic piano, and harmonica in the same way as before, and their songs are just as accessible for music students to perform at high school recitals. With some tracks produced by Gil Norton and others by Brian Deck, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings feels like two sides of the same coin. If you liked the Counting Crows before, you will continue to like them on this recording. The Counting Crows are who they are and you can take it or leave it, but they show no signs of changing.

-Susan Frances

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