Counting Crows flew onto the radar in late 1993 and soared to stardom at a rather unlikely time — one of heavy guitar distortion, growling angst, and ubiquitous flannel. They entered that scene a straight-ahead rock band with heartland flavor and a mopey, dreadlocked singer who aired his grievances in whispers as often as wails through what felt like poetry originating from his most vulnerable and insecure depths. Hell, maybe the timing was just lousy enough to be perfect, because millions across the world connected.
That “somewhere in the middle of America” Adam Duritz sings about in “Omaha” could just as well have been a coastal city or someplace far across “the green apple sea.” “Round Here” was about your town (and mine), and Mr. Jones was our mutual drinking and daydreaming buddy. That record, August and Everything After, gave an unsatisfied generation of adolescents and twentysomethings — many of us college kids from the right side of the tracks — a more subtle but no less disturbed language to say, “I’m not doing alright. This isn’t who I’m supposed to be.” Over 20 years later, that feeling still resonates with many of us — time and time again.
As the band readies the release of their seventh studio album, Somewhere Under Wonderland, it feels like as good a time as any to assess how the Crows’ records stack up alongside each other. Maybe most surprising is that no two records sound anything alike; hear an instrumental snippet from a song and you immediately know what album it belongs to. For added fun, we decided to include their four official live releases. Anyone who has attended a Crows show over the years can attest that what Counting Crows do onstage defines the band as much as their studio work. So, read on to see what record gets the coveted “One for sorrow.” It’s not the album you think.