Sound — 9
After last year's Warpaint, which was met with severely mixed opinions throughout the Black Crowes fanbase, the Crowes return with what I believe to be their best album since 1997's abandoned Band (which was eventually released as the first disc of Lost Crowes in 2006). The songs sound complete and the band appears cohesive, characteristics that some suggest Warpaint was lacking. Both parts of this double album- the released Before the Frost... and the free download ...Until the Freeze -were recorded live over the course of five sessions in front of a studio audience at Levon Helm's barn in Woodstock, NY in February and March, 2009. The music captured at these sessions covers a wide variety of styles, ranging from the rousing rock and roll of Good Morning Captain and Been A Long Time (Waiting On Love), to the disco beat of I Ain't Hiding, the middle-eastern vibe of Aimless Peacock- sitar and all -and the country pickin' of Garden Gate. Larry Campbell was featured as a guest musician at three of the five sessions, and his impact can be heard all over both Before the Frost... and ...Until the Freeze, where he plays violin, banjo, and pedal steel guitar. One of the album's many highlights, in my opinion, is the vocals, which often contain harmonies from rhythm guitarist Rich Robinson, keyboardist Adam MacDougall, and bassist Sven Pipien, and for the first time ever on a Black Crowes record, lead vocals compliments of Rich Robinson. Also of note is bassist Sven Pipien, whose bass parts are high in the mix and rightfully so, as his performance is very, very good.
Lyrics — 7
After reading the lyrics to both Before the Frost... and ...Until the Freeze, my overall impression is that they are decent, but nothing too spectacular. There are some great lyrics on both albums (I like Last Place That Love Lives on Before the Frost... and Fork In The River on ...Until the Freeze) but there are also some lines that I think Chris and Rich could have done better (see the entire And The Band Played On). That said, I think most of the vocals on this album, whether it be from Chris (who sounds great in my opinion), Rich, Sven, or Adam, are very good. Also of note- Before the Frost... features three songs written solely by either Chris or Rich (Chris wrote I Ain't Hiding and Last Place That Love Lives while Rich wrote What Is Home). This is the first time to my knowledge that a Black Crowes song has been credited to Chris or Rich (or anyone else for that matter) individually.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, I think this is a very good, and most certainly diverse collection of songs between the two albums. Is it as good as The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, Amorica, or Three Snakes and One Charm? In my opinion, no, but it's hard to compare it to those albums, because of how different these two discs are. The Black Crowes have taken a turn in somewhat of a new direction, that started with Warpaint and has now continued nicely with Before the Frost...Until the Freeze.