Counting Crows, Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation)

Counting Crows, <I>Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation)</I>

If nothing else, Counting Crows needs to be awarded points simply for staying around for this long. After their megahit single “Mr. Jones,” people were quick to write the band off as a one-hit wonder, although throughout the years, they’d release more singles that were just as successful — if not more so — such as “A Long December,” “Accidentally in Love,” “Hangin’ Around,” and their cover of “Big Yellow Taxi.”

To say that Counting Crows is the epitome of the rock ‘n roll band for a new generation is an understatement. We are no longer a part of the drug-taking, free sex-having generation of rock ‘n roll that was so great, but we’re more of a modern version of that generation now. Lead singer Adam Duritz is a good example of that, as prior to this album’s release he made some of his mental issues public.

He had stated that he was suffering from a disease where he had difficulty distinguishing reality from his dreams, but the medication he was taking for it was so much worse to come off of than actually being on it. (Side Note: I suffer from a rather mild version of this, but I won’t be medicated for it for this very reason. Oftentimes in mental health, the cure is worse than the disease.) Yes, the days of a drunken Jim Morrison are over, and the time of recognizing things such as schizophrenia are upon us.

I was first introduced to Counting Crows the same way as everyone else: I heard “Mr. Jones” on the radio. After I purchased August and Everything After, I didn’t own another Counting Crows album for quite some time. In fact, it has only really been within the last few years that I’ve gone back and picked up their albums in between August and Everything After and now. I don’t want to say that Hard Candy, for example, isn’t as good as August and Everything After, but I just think that August and Everything After was just so good.

Few people know — or realize — that there weren’t that many radio singles taken from August and Everything After, yet these days you can stumble across the radio playing even my favorite Counting Crows song, “Anna Begins.” There’s just something about August and Everything After that makes it so classic.

It’s an album that has stayed with me since I first bought it, and over those many years it has become ingrained in my mind. I somehow know all of the words and beats now. It’s hard to compare to any other album in existence — it just has such a profound relationship with me — much less compare it to another Counting Crows album.

Yet here we are. This is not a review of August and Everything After; this is a review of Underwater Sunshine, which is the latest Counting Crows album.

This marks the first independent release for Counting Crows since being on a major label for close to twenty years. This isn’t exactly what you would think of in terms of an album, though, as it is entirely cover songs, although most of the songs you may not recognize.

I first heard their cover of “Untitled Love Song” on the radio, and Donna McKenzie mentioned that it was a cover from their new album of covers. Honestly, had I not known that going into this album, I wouldn’t have pegged most of these songs as being covers, because they are songs that I — and probably most people — have never even heard of before.

Admittedly, I know who Teenage Fanclub, Travis, and Dawes are. Gram Parsons sounds familiar and, honestly, if you don’t know who Bob Dylan is, there is no hope for you. But that’s five songs out of a total of fifteen? Yeah, I’m not exactly batting very well, here.

The fun part of this is that since you probably don’t know most of these songs, they almost become Counting Crows songs, in a way. These songs do sound like a Counting Crows album, but at the same time they don’t because, well, they aren’t their original songs.

This album breaks down to having two strong positive qualities with no negative fallback. First off, this could be the newest release of Counting Crows original hits, for all you know. You can listen to it as such, and based purely on the music — regardless of who may have written it — this is a solid album full of Counting Crows goodness.

On top of that, you’ve got these songs that are actually by other bands. I know I particularly enjoy “Hospital” (originally by Coby Brown) and “Meet on the Ledge” (originally by Fairport Convention), so now after being introduced to these new musicians by one of my all-time favorites, I have some more music digging to do.

So no, Underwater Sunshine is not an album of original songs, so it’s also not the “new Counting Crows album” in a traditional sense, but it is the album that keeps on giving.

[Counting Crows is playing 11/12/12 at Bayou Music Center, along with Tender Mercies & Mean Creek.]
(Collective Sounds --; Cooking Vinyl --; Counting Crows --; Counting Crows (Facebook) --; Counting Crows (Twitter) --
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Review by . Review posted Sunday, November 11th, 2012. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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