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Counting Crows - 'Underwater Sunshine' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/a8/ca/f2/2221_countingcrowsunderwatersunshine_1338484387.jpg Hot

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Won't be to everybody's tastes, but existing fans will certainly appreciate its charms.

It’s been four years since Counting Crows previous album ‘Saturday Nights And Sunday Mornings’, so it’s a little disappointing that the multi-platinum selling San Franciscans latest release is a set of covers. However, after further investigation, ‘Underwater Sunshine,’ complete with the subtitle ‘(Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation)’, is an eclectic mix of tunes that are largely obscure selections, so to many people they will seem like new songs anyway. Says frontman Adam Duritz, “There are a million great songs written every day, many on records you discover that you wish your friends could appreciate as much as you do. You may or may not know these songs, they were recorded for major labels, for indies, and in some cases for just a few friends to hear, and hopefully they’ll be heard by a few more people now.”

A good portion of the album is made up of ballad-oriented material, giving it a fairly laid-back appeal, but the interpretations are delivered in the Crows very own Americana style, with liberal smatterings of Folk, Country and Blues, and was mostly recorded live in one take, giving it a very fresh, vibrant sound. It even has two songs from the band members’ pre-Crows projects; Sordid Humour’s ‘Jumping Jesus’ is a moody contemporary rock number, and Tender Mercies ‘Mercy’ and ‘Four White Stallions’ are well-arranged blues-laden ballads.

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Of the songs I personally know well, The Faces ‘Ooh La La’ is passable, but offers little more than the original, in fact it’s not even as good as Rod Stewart’s own 1998 version, and I really could do without the terminally dull ‘Coming Around’ from the dreadfully dull Travis, but the lively version of Bob Dylan’s ‘You Ain’t Going Anywhere’ is very enjoyable. Also entertaining is their take on Country Rocker Gram Parsons ‘Return Of The Grievous Angel’, and folk superstars Fairport Convention’s ‘Meet On The Ledge,’ delivered in a contemporary rock style.

Regarding the less well-known selections, Coby Brown’s ‘Hospital’ is an unusual indie/folk hybrid, Kasey Anderson & The Honkies ‘Like Teenage Gravity’ is a slow-burning serene ballad with hints of a Southern Rock style, Pure Prairie League’s ‘Amie’ is an irresistibly catchy mandolin-laden folk song, very much like Train’s ‘Hey Soul Sister’ in style, and Dawes ‘All My Failures’ is a wonderful meandering bluesy number.

It certainly won’t be to everybody’s tastes, and unlikely to win Counting Crows an army of new converts, but existing fans will certainly appreciate its charms, and it will undoubtedly fill a gap until the next studio album arrives.

Ant Heeks

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