There are few debut albums that can be considered a perfect effort. These come but once in a while but when they do, they tend to be something astonishing. In 1993 one of these albums arrived and with it, a band that would become known around the world. This is August and Everything After.
Why This Album?
I got my copy of August and Everything After via one of the most successful and popular scams in the 90’s, Columbia House Music. I call this a scam because let’s be honest, ten (sometimes twenty) cd’s for a penny (sometimes a dollar) each and all you had to do was by X amount the remainder of the year is a deal that was too good to be true and also too good to pass up. The reality was, you eventually had to buy music that you didn’t want at ridiculous prices just to fulfill your contract. Sure, you got some choice stuff off the bat, those little stickers you placed on your order form guaranteed that, but the stuff you paid for was RARELY worth it. My copy of August was one of the penny discs and man, I really felt like I got the deal of a lifetime.
When my father and I sat down to choose what discs we wanted I picked the common choices, Nirvana’s In Utero, The Breeders Last Splash, to name a few but I was intrigued by the handwritten cover from the band known as Counting Crows. I had heard a song or two, Mister Jones was a radio hit by this time and I liked the tune so, I took a chance. To get on the ‘sticker list’ was a big deal to us. These were 10-20 albums that had to be the best because you were getting them cheap and you really wanted to get your money’s worth. My dad was always cool enough to let me have 3-5 of the 10. Five if he didn’t find ones he really wanted, three guaranteed because I agreed to buy some of the contractual obligatory orders. He was a cheapskate but he was fair. This time I believe I only had three to choose so picking Counting Crows as my wild card was a risk. We were fairly poor back in those days so every penny counted when we got to splurge, and man was it totally worth it.
I had gotten heavily into the Seattle Grunge sound as everyone my age did in those days. (Hence the Nirvana and Breeders in my selection). It was about a year before my Posies fandom blossomed so, for me, this was certainly something new, something unlike anything that had recently become mainstream and I loved it. From the moment I started that CD I knew that this was something special. The silent moments before Round Here started were just magical and when Adam Duritz began to sing, I have to admit, I was entranced. This was a band that wasn’t pretentious, it didn’t try to be anything other than a band that played music. It was real.
A little pop, a touch of Neil Young, a tad bit of country, there really isn’t any genre that Counting Crows fits in and I think that is part of their charm for me. Like many bands of their time they were labeled Alternative and no one thought any different, and alternative they were. Gone was the angsty growls, the sludgy guitars, this was a band that told stories with verse, guitar and even some accordion in the mix. They had a blend of sonic bliss that made even their saddest songs sound like ballads to better times.
To this day, this is an album that ends up in my rotation at least once every couple months. It is a sonic comfort food for me, reminding me of a youth discovering new bands and finding my own taste in music. I have been a fan of them for the many years since and hope to see them in concert one day, I consider it a bucket list band for me. But I will always remember it all started with this Columbia House purchase that I have never regretted.
Where do I begin? The entire album is just amazing. It is one of those that you really should listen to from start to finish without stopping or pausing. After a listen of two, I promise that you and Adam will be singing about Grey Guitars and middle American towns together everywhere you go.
If I had to pick a few I would have to go with these:
Track 6 Time and Time Again. To me it is a song about wishing for love, looking for a partner, and missing the one that just left. It is a deep song that is sorrowful and poignant but hits all the right notes.
Track 2 Omaha. This is just such a beautiful tune that feels to me about finding a new place and starting over. It is about the simplicity of small places, small towns. Maybe I’m just reading too much into it.
The third one is Murder of One. The final track. It is more upbeat but still sorrowful and introspective. The title itself is a play on words using their title as a theme, I’ll let you figure it out for yourself. The thing that really spoke to me is the poem in the song…
Up a hillside in the snow
Casting shadows on the winter sky
As you stood there counting crows
Three for girls and four for boys
Five for silver, six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told
Sleeping underneath your skin
Yeah, when you open up your wings to speak
I wish you’d let me in
Ok, Where do I get it?
This is a pretty common album that I don’t think has ever gone out of print, for a good reason. You can pick it up here form Amoeba for around $14 and, if you love it as much as I do, I recommend the full live version as well here for just a few dollars more. One thing about their live albums is that Adam and the band never seem to play songs exactly as they were recorded. They are artist and, as with every great artist, the love playing with their style. Most times, it is as good or better than the original.
They still tour, still make music, still record albums and they are still fantastic. Check them out here: countingcrows.com
Late to the Game 6/12/2018
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