Album Reviews

Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Big Moon Ritual

on June 08, 2012, 7:57am
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There was a time when The Black Crowes were the 90’s answer to the mid 1970’s Rolling Stones, Generation Y had its very own Steve Marriott, and all that was good about southern rock was bottled between the brothers Robinson and their
cohorts. Unfortunately (depending on who you ask), the band had the kind of volatility that only brotherhood can breed between individuals, and the revolving door of guitarists in the band-which was already known for their long winded on-stage jamming–slid from southern rock titan to noodling jam band. With the Crowes on “indefinite hiatus,” Chris Robinson has released an album with former Ryan Adams and the Cardinals lead guitarist Neal Casal (under the Brotherhood moniker) that thoroughly scratches his pysch-jam itches via a string long-winded romps through the land of Birkenstocks and Ben & Jerry’s with Big Moon Ritual.

Even in contrast to Robinson’s still decidedly “jammy” New Earth Mud project, Big Moon Ritual is a much less driven affair than anything we’ve heard from him. Robinson and Casal weave several winding adventures through the Grateful Dead-approved world of twinkling guitars and laid back drums. Chock full of Casal’s deft, linear guitar work and Robinson’s still unbelievably soulful voice, the album lacks the fire Robinson trademarked in the pre-Luther Dickenson-era Crowes. Casal’s own solo records have a similar meandering vibe to the songs, and as a foil for Robinson, they make an excellent duo in this style, though the album never quite picks up or provides a moment of massive impact.

Starting with the tease of an opener “Tulsa Yesterday”, Big Moon Ritual is a well crafted exercise in the more relaxed part of jam-town. All of the album’s seven tracks clock in at seven or more minutes, with “Reflections On a Broken Mirror” providing the more memorable parts of music on the album, carrying a Pink Floyd-stripped synth line and soothing background vocals that almost soothe the sting of Robinson’s lyrics (e.g. “My baby loves me like an autoharp”). Yet regardless of how popular Big Moon Ritual may prove to be for fans of the jam, one can’t help but feel Robinson’s talents as gospel shouting rock ‘n’ roller are being squandered here.

Essential Tracks: “Reflections On a Broken Mirror”, “Beware, Oh Take Care”

 

5 comments

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4dlickz
August 30, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Dude, the Crowes are so 1989. Using them as your comparison for this album limits yourself and quite possibly your own musical knowledge. Not only are there some licks of the Dead, Chris almost pirpsfully channels some Lennon and Allan Brothers.
He absolutely shows he learned some stuff “jamming” with Jimmy Page.

God forbid like the 90’s he just left all this knowledge in the past.
You might wanna. Listen to Rosalee one more time for a real pretty lie thing to light your candle

E.
July 10, 2012 at 5:37 am

Ianhamglen: Very well said and a very apt review I think. I have always loved the Crowes but always realized that the main talent from that band lay with Chris & his influences and his talents. Chris has been moving toward his niche for years now but I feel has finally found a comfortable home and a great group of musicians to foster that. I love Big Moon Ritual so much and have listened to it daily since I purchased it. I am always pleasantly reminded of the Dead & Floyd just with Chris’s twist. I highly recommend this album!

MC
June 21, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I usually agree w/ COS reviews. But this one is way off. It;s not good because Chris Robinson should be singing a different type of song? WTF ? Pretend its not him then listen to it again…

curtis
June 19, 2012 at 11:05 am

this review is awful, the album is great and the crowes did their best work with luther

Ianhamglen
June 9, 2012 at 7:12 am

David Von Bader’s review obviously takes a view that long winding jams are a bad thing. This is not true for everyone – something that blinkered reviewers often forget. Noodling with no purpose can be nice- good even but what makes it great are the songs that are so robust that they can stand up to a bit of twisting back and forth and enable a musician to explore & interpret. In this regard Chris Robinson, Neal Casal et all have the benefit of rock solid songs. It appears that fm the reviewer grudgingly admits that The Black Crowes had some value at the outset of their career but complains because the songs on this album some 22 years later aren’t the same three minutes 40 s (or so) long.If all musicians listened to critics we would be left with 5 templates of what is acceptable and a million bands that copy them (if they want that then listen to the top 40 and see what happens.). All you have to do here is open up the ears & listen. This is damn fine music , played by a damn fine band – it’s that easy. Five stars – no problem.     

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