Counting Crows Debut "August And Everything After" Among the Last of the Great Analog Rock Recordings
While everyone dwells on Duritz's musical homage to Van Morrison on the catchy "I want to be a star so I won't be lonely" hit "Mr. Jones", the album opens with the heavily Peter Gabriel influenced ("Red Rain" in particular) "Round Here" with yearning lyrics that also echo Springsteen.
The second tune "Omaha" pushes a Mellencamp-like middle America vision. And of course the side one closer on this stunning sounding double 45 is the aforementioned "Mr. Jones" that begins with the defining Van "Sha la la"s. Does the introduction to "Time and Time Again" mimic a Nick Drake Pink Moon song? You decide but I think so.
On this notable debut Duritz proves to be more of an adept vocalist and lyricist than melodicist. The songs tend to vamp along on two chords until the release chord on the chorus, the catchiest and most welcome being the change that leads to the "Mr. Jones" chorus.
Duritz's emotionally charged soaring vocals and his poetry supercharge even the most rambling of musical constructs but your ability to stick out an album long listen depends upon your appreciation for the poetry and its delivery and your tolerance for rambling/droning melodies or lack thereof. Much of the album has a downcast dreary emotional subtext that after a while can be suffocating. If mid-tempo yearning is your thing, you'll lap it up.
Helping even the most rambling/droning intolerant listener are the mostly spectacular sonics, engineered by Patrick McCarthy whose engineering byline seems to have unfortunately disappeared from record album credits.
The drums in particular are recorded spectacularly well here, spread across the stage. McCarthy must have lavished a great deal of time on the snare, getting just the right blend of "pop" and texture with each hit producing sonic pleasure. The electric guitars are also recorded with a beautiful blend of body and chime.
The recording also excels dynamically and the mix produces satisfying three-dimensionality and superb image focus and solidity. Ironically, the weakest sonic link is the recording of Duritz's voice, which though not heavily processed has a slightly thin, flat quality and an edge that will be more annoying on some systems than on others. Perhaps it's a touch of the dreaded Aphex Aural Exciter? Whatever it is, it shouldn't diminish much the otherwise sterling sonic pleasures.
I compared this double 45 with the old gold CD from Mobile Fidelity, which was far superior sounding to the original CD and boy did it suck compared to this. If you want to know why CDs are an unacceptable medium for rock music compare for yourself. The idea that CD are "transparent to the source" is such bullshit I don't know where to start. Wait! Yes I do! Compare this double 45 to any CD version. The CD sounds cloudy with soft indistinct drums and no crack whatsoever to anything that should sound dynamic.
Nothing Counting Crows did subsequently matches the power of this debut album. That sometimes happens, but Duritz soldiers on. He appeared with his group last Fall on The Howard Stern Show performing a "stop your car and listen" quality Abbey Road medley.
If you're part of the "Mr. Jones" generation that came of age to this record, you'll want to invest in this sonically spectacular version expertly mastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. You make think you've heard this album but until you hear this edition you really haven't. Quality Record Pressings plating and pressing quality remain models of velvety quiet backdrops and explosive sonics.