A fixture of the early 90s Bay Area scene, Counting Crows drew from influences like R.E.M., Gram Parsons and Van Morrison to create a folk-oriented, jangly take on alternative rock. In the nearly 25 years since rocketing to stardom with August and Everything After, they’ve racked up pop hits like “Mr. Jones”, “A Long December” and “Accidentally in Love” while cementing a legacy as one of their generation’s most innovative live bands.
Let’s go beyond the hits and get to the deep cuts and 8-minute epics that have kept these hometown heroes going strong.
“Anna Begins” (1993)
Hits like “Mr. Jones” and “Rain King” helped the band’s debut album go multi-platinum, but August and Everything After is packed with unforgettable deep cuts like “Anna Begins.” The band’s musicianship really shines when they perform the song live, where it’s been performed as a loose, jazzy acoustic jam and an anxiety-inducing electric version.
“Have You Seen Me Lately?” (1996)
Fans of the band’s folkier songs may have been a little shocked by Recovering the Satellites, a dark and occasionally aggressive record that saw Duritz grappling with the challenges of his newfound celebrity status. A centerpiece of the album, “Have You Seen Me Lately?” erupts with fuzzed-out guitars and lyrics about the surreal experience of hearing yourself on the radio while your life changes in unsettling ways.
“Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” (1999)
Clocking in at nearly 8 minutes, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” is a rollicking, country-tinged marathon of a song. As the band gallops along, Adam Duritz goes full-Dylan with verse after verse of surrealist lyrics about Pioneertown, a circus gone wrong and the perils of falling in love with someone you only know from the movies.
A lot of Counting Crows songs tend to unravel, revealing something new with each verse. Take “Miami,” for example. It starts with a simple, tinny-sounding drum loop. Then a jangly guitar kicks in and, before you know it, you’re wrapped up in sweeping strings and one of Adam Duritz’s most powerful vocal performances.
“When I Dream of Michelangelo” (2008)
Hardcore fans might have noticed a quick reference to Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam on “Angels of the Silences” - more than a decade before this standout track from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings. This time around, it’s the central theme in a gorgeous ballad about remaining grounded and knowing your place in the face of adversity.
“Palisades Park” (2014)
The band’s Born to Run-era Springsteen influence has never been more apparent than on “Palisades Park”, the epic opening track from 2014’s Somewhere Under Wonderland. Without giving too much away, it all starts in the boxing ring before shifting to a dramatic story about experimentation and the complicated lives of two friends in 1970s New York.