10 Best Counting Crows Songs
Back in the day, it seemed that Counting Crows were built to last. Right when modern rock's rougher side was all over mainstream radio, this group of Berkeley, Calif., musicians incorporated accordion, harmonica, organ, mandolin and pedal-steel guitar into their rootsy mix of Americana-speckled alt-rock. Frontman Adam Duritz was magnetic, leading the band through concerts that didn't just go through the motions. And they wrote songs with genuine pop hooks. But then modern rock bottomed out (or maybe people just got annoyed with Duritz's white-guy dreads), and Counting Crows were tossed in the has-been heap with the Everclears, Semisonics, Barenaked Ladies and dozens of other groups that came of age during modern rock's golden era. It's a shame, because the band was better than that, as the 10 Best Counting Crows Songs prove.
The twangy 'Daylight Fading,' from Counting Crows' second album, is one of 'Recovering the Satellites'' less moody tracks, drifting into the rootsy territory that was covered on the debut album's best songs. It was the third single released from 'Satellites' (the band's only No. 1 LP), just missing the Top 50.
With a vaguely hip-hop beat ushering in the song, 'Hanginaround,' No. 9 on our list of the Best Counting Crows Songs, leads the group's third album into some new directions. As 'This Desert Life''s first single, it stalled at No. 22. It's a slightly tougher cut than what fans were used to from the Crows, which partly explains why the album wasn't as popular as its predecessors. Modern rock's declining influence on the pop charts didn't help.
The best song on the band's fifth album, 'Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings,' returns to the clean, uncluttered production and Americana-steeped alt-rock landscape of 'August and Everything After.' Even though the album debuted in the Top 10, it quickly disappeared. 'You Can't Count on Me' didn't even make the Top 100. Too bad -- it's a good song.
The Counting Crows' best song in years is heard in the opening scene of 'Shrek 2' and is featured on the movie's soundtrack. It was also nominated for an Oscar, and it's the last time they hit the Top 40. No surprise, since the group sounds like it's having loads of fun with the baggage-free love song. It's the Crows at their lightest.
The first single from the band's second album wasn't a huge hit -- it didn't even crack the Top 40. That probably had something to do with 'Recovering the Satellites'' more somber tone and the way the record falls together with more focused intensity than the debut. While it made for a stronger album overall, it wasn't so easy singling out songs for radio play. But there are plenty of strong cuts on the record. This one -- No. 6 on our list of the 10 Best Counting Crows Songs -- is among the best, a rough rocker that strips away some of the debut's varnish.
In 1994, the Counting Crows' record company was sitting on a gold mine of alt-rock gold. Nirvana, Weezer, Hole, Beck and Sonic Youth were all signed to the same label. The compilation album 'DGC Rarities Volume 1' features LP outtakes by these bands. The Crows' contribution, 'Einstein on the Beach (For an Eggman),' became the group's only modern-rock No. 1.
By the time 'Rain King' was pulled for airplay from the Crows' debut album, one of the record's outtakes had already hit No. 1 on the modern-rock chart (see No. 5 on our list of the 10 Best Counting Crows Songs). But 'Rain King' was a no-brainer. With its springy melody, mandolin-fueled riff and super-catchy chorus, it was always an obvious choice for a single. It just had to wait its turn.
This big ballad from the Crows' second album is one of their most musically rich songs, filled with mournful accordion, a warm guitar solo and one of Duritz's most restrained performances. 'A Long December' is also one of their best-ever songs and the centerpiece of the densely produced 'Recovering the Satellites.'
The opening song on the band's debut album pretty much signals what you can expect from Counting Crows: tuneful, folksy and a little bit pretentious. 'Round Here,' a highlight of the band's live shows back when they were super-popular, absorbs some L.A.-based Americana, thanks to producer T Bone Burnett, who polished 'August and Everything After' for radio dominance.
No. 1 on our list of the 10 Best Counting Crows songs is the one that started it all for the band -- and that unfortunately pegged them to early-'90s alt-rock. 'Mr. Jones,' which packs a heavy-duty chorus, deservedly was a hit. But the fame it brought the band weighed heavily on them, which Duritz occasionally addressed in concert versions of the song that altered lyrics depending on his mood.