My easy pick for the best album of 1993 is August and Everything After, the debut release by Counting Crows. I’ve talked about doing a theme week (or two) on great debut albums, and this one would surely be near the top of that list as well.
The California-based band had formed just a couple of years before this album’s release, and sparked a bidding war among major labels who heard their demo tapes. They landed T Bone Burnett as producer and knocked out this collection of literate folk rock tunes. The album sold more than 7 million copies in the U.S. and placed three singles on the Hot 100 (including ‘Mr. Jones,’ which reached #5).
I’ve enjoyed the past two weeks of favorite songs so much that I’m dedicating this week to some honorable mentions.
It’s pretty clear that there are hundreds of songs in the running and one batch could easily replace another depending on my mood. Here are five more that almost made the cut this time around.
Counting Crows is a perfect example of my ‘Folk Rock Derivative’ group. They have branched out into a wide range of musical directions, but there is a rootsy core to all of their work that traces straight back to Bob Dylan, The Band and Van Morrison.
In fact, the band has name-checked Dylan and Richard Manuel in song and covered Morrison in concert. Hell, ‘Mr. Jones’ sounds like a lost lost track off of Moondance.
Best Albums of the 90s – #9
August & Everything After – Counting Crows (1993)
Last week I mentioned the large number of sophomore albums on this list and hinted at another list of great second albums.
Today’s featured album is something more traditional — a fabulous debut. Great first albums are special because not only do they contain memorable music in their own right, they are invested with the promise of what’s to come. When discovering a new artist who instantly clicks, it’s hard not to imagine how that career might develop over future decades.
As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, it annoys me that Counting Crows don’t get the critical or mainstream respect they deserve. I don’t need to feel sorry for rich, famous rock stars, but Adam Duritz and company shouldn’t have such abuses heaped on them. So I’m doing my part this week to stand up for a band I’ve found consistently excellent over the 15 years they’ve been recording.
It’s rather fitting that this theme week follows the one I did on The Smiths because (as much as it will irk Dana to read this) the groups are similar. Not in sound — they’re quite different in that regard — but in that they both have self-indulgent lead singers with non-traditional voices that people either love or hate. Morrissey is accused of wallowing in self-pity in his lyrics but Adam Duritz puts him to shame in that department. That doesn’t bother me, though… I adore both groups.