The Random iTunes Fairy must have seen my mention of Counting Crows’ 2002 album Hard Candy a couple of weeks ago and gotten in the mood to hear it again.
There isn’t a weak track on this album, easily the band’s best work. In fact, every track is so good I’m hard pressed to name a favorite. Maybe ‘Miami’ or ‘Up All Night.’ The title track or ‘American Girls.’ The plaintive ‘Carriage’ or drunkly melancholy closer ‘Holiday in Spain.’
Counting Crows are one of the world’s most unjustly maligned bands, so I wasn’t surprised that their fourth record — Hard Candy — didn’t show up on any of the critics top ten lists I studied when preparing this collection of 2002’s best albums.
Still, it’s a mystery to me why even this incredible album went unappreciated by tastemakers. A deeper analysis showed that the record wasn’t panned. It received solid reviews — a B here, three stars there — but nothing that would put it in the conversation among the year’s best.
Starting off the final week of my series on great albums, I arrive at a band that has released only five studio albums over 18 years… two of which were strong contenders for this list.
Counting Crows don’t get a whole lot of respect from critics and music snobs, for reasons I’ve never understood, but I’m a huge fan of their brand of literate, earthy pop rock. They borrow from Van Morrison, The Band, and R.E.M. but the product they whip up in their musical blender is distinctly their own.
The band exploded out of the gate in 1993 with ‘Mr. Jones,’ still the biggest hit they’ve ever had. That song appeared on their debut album, August and Everything After, a record that stands as one of the 90s’ best.
As much as I love August and Everything After and This Desert Life, if I had to choose I would name Hard Candy Counting Crows’ best album. One reason is that, like those albums, it does so many things right but, unlike them, it manages to do absolutely nothing wrong. I don’t hear a false note on Hard Candy.
The biggest hit off this album is oddly enough a hidden track, and one the band didn’t even write. A cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ tucked away after a few minutes of silence at the end of the album wound up on a movie soundtrack and the Billboard charts. I heard Mitchell’s original the other day and was reminded of how much I like what the Crows did with it. Hers, not so much.