Review: Counting Crows – August & Everything After

What’s the first song you ever loved? If we’re being really honest, the answer for most of us is probably something like “Happy Birthday,” or “Jingle Bells,” or a lullaby our parents sang us when we were young. Maybe it’s something we heard in our favorite childhood TV show or Disney movie, or a nursery rhyme song, or some silly novelty ditty we learned from the other kids at daycare. Me, though? I can’t really remember ever caring about music in any fashion until I heard “Mr. Jones.”

Counting Crows are the closest I can come to saying I’ve loved a band for my entire life. Their debut album, 1993’s August & Everything After, came out 30 years ago today, a few months before my third birthday. At some point, a copy of it came into my family’s possession – and more importantly, into our Ford Expedition. In the backseat, headed home from some family day trip, I watched as my brother slid the album into the CD player and skipped to track 3.

In retrospect, “Mr. Jones” doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that would appeal to a young child’s brain. It’s verbose and meandering and takes forever to get to the chorus. Adam Duritz sings a lot of words that didn’t register any meaning to me at the time: things like “New Amsterdam” and “flamenco dancer” and “Bob Dylan.” And boy, I remember being baffled – truly baffled – by this man’s claim that grey was his favorite color. Surely, he was a liar, or maybe even crazy.

But for as bewildering and strange as I found “Mr. Jones” to be, when the song finally wound around to the hook, it enraptured me. “Mr. Jones and me/Tell each other fairytales/And we stare at the beautiful women/She’s looking at you/Oh, no no, she’s looking at me.” The melody was warm and golden and welcoming, and I fell in love with it right away. Soon, every time I was in that car, I wanted nothing more than to get the CD with the yellow cover out of the center console, skip to track 3, and take that ride again.

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Review: Counting Crows – Hard Candy

Counting Crows will always be a band affiliated first and foremost with the 1990s. There are many good reasons for this fact, starting with the band’s 1993 debut album August & Everything After. A massive LP that spawned singles like “Mr. Jones” and “Round Here,” August remains the pinnacle of the band’s legacy. A few years back, when I saw the Crows live on a co-headlining tour with Matchbox Twenty, it was still the August songs that got the biggest response.

For me, though, I always affiliate Counting Crows instead with the mid-2000s. That’s not because I wasn’t aware enough to know about their music in the ‘90s. On the contrary, “Mr. Jones” is the first song I ever remember liking, and the band’s sound in general just makes me think of growing up. When I started really getting into music in 2003, I remember revisiting those first two Counting Crows albums—August and 1996’s Recovering the Satellites—and hearing so many songs that I recalled from my formative years. It felt like reconvening with old friends.

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Review: Counting Crows – Recovering the Satellites

Few trends scream “nineties” more loudly than the “rebellion against fame” album. Nirvana made In Utero. Pearl Jam made Vitalogy. R.E.M. made Monster. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine a rock band ever becoming famous enough in the mainstream to then justify the creation of a “rebellion against fame” album. For awhile there, though, making this type of album—usually a louder, more abrasive follow-up to a cleaner, more tasteful, massively successful predecessor—was a rock ‘n’ roll rite of passage. Few bands ever steered into the skid quite as much as Counting Crows did on Recovering the Satellites.

It’s difficult, from the vantage point of 2021’s pop music status quo, to describe how absolutely massive Counting Crows were in the mid-90s. The band’s debut, 1993’s August & Everything After, is certified seven-times platinum in the United States and has sold well north of 10 million copies worldwide. The flagship single, “Mr. Jones,” made it to number 2 on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 chart. Ironically, “Mr. Jones” was a song about wanting to be famous; to be “big, big stars.” “When I look at the television I wanna see me/Staring right back at me,” frontman Adam Duritz sang in the song.

Be careful what you wish for, Adam.

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Review: Counting Crows – Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings

Counting Crows - Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings

Going platinum eleven times in less than fifteen years is an admirable feat for any recording artist, but Counting Crows have made it look cool. Dreadlocked lead singer Adam Duritz became sort of a poet of a generation, appealing to both young and old with his heartfelt lyrics and soothing vocals. The band’s newest creation, is the split-level Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings. The so-called “Saturday Nights” section is a seedy romp through debauchery and confusion, posing more questions than answers as frontman Adam Duritz puts himself all the way out on a limb for listeners. The “Sunday Mornings” portion experiences a bit of twisted nostalgia, as the singer replays and then comes to terms with his faults.

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