Tag Archives: Counting Crows

Goodnight, Elisabeth

That would be Elisabeth with an ‘s’ in case you didn’t catch that. (No, it’s not really pronounced differently, but we liked how it looks, and the Little One’s other middle name is ‘Rose’, another word pronounced like it’s spelt with a ‘z’ when it’s not.)

Recovering the Satellites isn’t as even as August and Everything After; it’s louder, too. But when I’m in the mood it works quite well, and it’s got two of my four favorite Counting Crows songs.

Elisabeth is a wistful song. Of course, lyrically, it’s hard to say what it’s ‘about’, but it’s wistful. Helped to a large degree by new guitarist Dan Vickrey’s flawless solo. (Massive digression: Is it Vickrey? David Bryson was also playing guitar at the time, and Bryson also plays dobro; the solo sounds very much like how a dobro player would approach an electric guitar . . . ah, well; liner notes fail once again to provide enough detail.)

So many guitar players confuse intensity with volume or speed. Not this time. Only 8 bars, 30 seconds, but it’s achingly intensely heartfelt without being loud or fast. Only a few notes, really, but each one is adding to the conversation. Subtlety; that’s what’s missing in most rock guitar. Not this time.

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A Murder of One

When I first heard Counting Crows‘ “Mr. Jones” I didn’t like it; nothing definable, it just didn’t please. Strangely, when I saw the video and didn’t like that either, I suddenly realized that I did like the song (and still do.) After a few more huge hits, I decided it might be worth spending $12 on the CD. In retrospect, my caution seems silly, but that’s my nature.

Coming after the upbeat radio hit “Rain King”, the album’s three quietest songs almost lulled me to sleep; “Sullivan Street”, a sweet ballad; “Ghost Train”, dark and brooding; “Raining in Baltimore”, so quiet and slow that it takes a careful listener to find the melody, which then rewards that listener doubly.

Following that trio, the intro to the final song on the album, a vibrating electric guitar string, seemed sure to herald another lullaby to wrap things up. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“A Murder of One” struck me as a particularly witty title — a flock of crows being a ‘murder’, and a murder of one implying, besides the obvious, the loneliness of one when there should be more.

Counting Crows' 'August and Everything After'The vibrating string fades to a moment of silence, and then the entire band joins in the first crashing note of this moving, driving tune. Matt Malley’s bass is more prominent than I recall it on the rest of the album, Adam Duritz just a little more anguished, his timing even more impeccable than usual, but for me, the star of the musical part of the song is Steve Bowman’s drumming. Tight, hard, fast; he’s clearly using both hands, both feet, and his head to get that much rhythym and snap out of his kit. I was disappointed not to find him on the Crows’ second studio album, but such is life.

The title, far from being a simple bit of wit, is apropos to the lyrics about the anguish of seeing someone you care about in an abusive relationship, unable to escape because they don’t know anything else.

It also contains, in one verse, the children’s rhyme whence came the band’s name:

 I dreamt I saw you walking up a hillside in the snow Casting shadows on the winter sky as you stood there counting crows One for sorrow Two for joy Three for girls and four for boys Five for silver Six for gold and Seven for a secret never to be told

The momentum of the music and the intensity of the lyrics feed on each other to create an effect not unlike caffeine, every time I hear the song (thrice and more, just while I’ve been writing this.)

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