Counting Crows Debut "August And Everything After" Among the Last of the Great Analog Rock Recordings

With his influences clearly imprinted on his creative sleeve, Adam Duritz and friends created in 1993 one of the last great analog rock recordings. Duritz understood that sound mattered as did producer T-Bone Burnett who continues to treasure the basic sense even when working with diminished budgets.

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.

Music Direct Buy It Now

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Comments
boymeetsgirl's picture
Love this

I absolutely love this record! :D I really can't wait to hear it in vinyl. Even with all those MP3 players going around, I still love the old-fashioned way. :)

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sdecker's picture
make a CDR of this album on your rig!

Michael, I've agreed with 95% of what you've written the past 15+ years from music and gear reviews to your general sonic and philosophical tastes.  I'm on Analog Planet for the 'right' reasons, and even you have acknowledged current hi-rez digital-sourced vinyl can sound good.  But your assessment here of how bad the CD format sounds when comparing a modern best-practices $50 45rpm LP played on a $150,000 turntable to a darkish-ages '93 commercial CD and not-much-better-tech MoFi CD is disingenuous.

Here, try this.  We'll assume your analog rig gives you direct-to-mastertape sonics.  Make a CDR of this LP with your MSB Platinum Studio ADC.  Then compare that CDR played on a good modern CD player (or your MSB DAC for that matter) to the LP played on a $5,000 - $10,000 analog front end, that most of us have or aspire to.  I would bet the CDR would sound closer to the LP than to either of the older commercial CDs.  Report the results.

Many of us have recent gear that gets CDs close to as good as they are recorded.  Problem is most of them are recorded, mastered, manufactured poorly.  Few of us have put in the money to get all that modern well-mastered vinyl can offer.  As a reviewer I feel it's essential you have the best home system possible, the better to have a standard to write meaningful reviews of lesser equipment to.  Few of us approach your sonics, particularly with vinyl, I would guess.  I've fouhd your Stereophile reviews of moderate digital gear to be as accurate and unbiased as most of your analog coverage.

Having said that, I have put my order in for this vinyl remaster!

WaxtotheMax's picture
Now I REALLY gotta have it!

I have been putting off buying this for way too long. I cannot wait to experience songs like "Round Here" on 45RPM vinyl!

Kris Deering's picture
Have you had the chance to

Have you had the chance to listen to the latest vinyl release from the Foo Fighters? Grohl went through a lot of work for this all analog production and the 45 RPM vinyl sounds fantastic. His new film Sound City is also a testiment to sound and talks a lot about how digital has affected the sound of rock albums and production over the years. A must see for music fans IMHO.

mikemoon's picture
Foo Fighters...

Yes, Dave Grohl went through some trouble recording and mixing analog, only to master the lp from high resolution files and not analog. Yes, Hi-res can sound great but why not just master from the original master tape...that he supposedly cut up and put into the packaging. Listen to this Foo album, which sounds ok, versus something like In Utero. I do want to see Sound City and I'm a fan of Dave.

If you want ot hear a real analog recording musicain, try John Frusciante. Listen to the new reissue of The Empyrean. His recordings are some of the best souding done in the last 10 years. He bought up much of the analog equipment from studios that were closing in L.A. in the early 2000s. Some recording and equipment info: 

http://www.emusician.com/news/0766/john-frusciantes-creative-explosion/1...

Back on topic: Although I'm just a casual fan of this album, I may have to pick this up one day. 

Good review!

AndyPrice44's picture
A great album

I am telling my age a bit here. This was my favorite album when it first came out. I purchased it immediately on cassette tape and me and my brother used to jam this in my mothers volkswagon when I was 10 and he was 6. Hell, even my mom liked this album. Needless to say, When I heard the announcement that analogue productions were re-releasing  this album on a 45rpm vinyl I had to have it. This sounds so much better than my memories of that cassette tape from so long ago. It also beats the red book CD version and the numerous downloads I have of this album. Analogue productions has done a really fine job with the pressing on this album and it has become one of my favorites in my collection. I highly recommend this one.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture
Counting Crows vinyl LP

I have a German pressing of August and Everything After and always loved T-Bone Burnett's production on this and some of his own solo albums 'Proof Through The Night' especially. What the hell happened to his production values? I have a couple of recent albums he has produced and I find them to be an 'organic mudbath', he has put this 'sonic signature' on them all...

The Secret Sisters - Debut

Gregg Allman - Low Country Blues

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sands

Elton John & Leon Russell - Union

to name but a few.

James, Dublin, Ireland

jgossman's picture
It's not just T-Bone

 

I seems like most pop recordings are trying too hard to capture the sound of classic recordings by using tube mics and digital effects to try to emulate the distortions of magnetic tape and tube head amps.

Sadly, they miss the magic of all and you just end up with a muddy shitty flat recording.  I used to look for his name in the credits.  After the last 10 years of music buying I have to really like the music to buy one produced by him.

Michael Fremer's picture
What happened?

That German pressing has 30 minutes of music on a side! If you like this album you will not believe how much better it can sound.... As for the others, sadly I agree, but I'm sure much of it has to do with budgets and ProTools....

soundman45's picture
The Crows Fly

I've always enjoyed the production on this album. Very open sounding and fat.

I can't wait to hear it on vinyl. Good job T-Bone.

Michael Fremer's picture
"Can't wait"

You'll flip!