For a band with such a reputation for shelving whole albums there’s a good argument for By Your Side being the forgotten Black Crowes album.
Easily better than anything since The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion and more economical than their most celebrated release, it was also tighter than the band’s debut. In many ways it was the band’s best album to date, rolling the different parts of what made their first two albums so great together, while omitting the unsavoury flavours of their previous two.
“Go Faster” is a great opening track and it sets the tone for the rest of the album – It’s well produced, ballsy, bluesy classic rock by a band that had been to hell and back. Although a number of tracks do fall into the ‘blues rock by numbers’ category (“Horsehead”, “Heavy”, “Diamond Ring”), there’s also a lot of fun to be had here, be it the call and response gospel-rock of “Go Tell The Congregation”, or the closing duo of “Then She Said My Name” and “Virtue And Vice”, giving the band their finest closing numbers of any of their albums.
Flawed then (it wouldn’t be a Black Crowes album without the flaws), but it was the album that really should have put them back on track commercially due to it’s surprising accessibility.
Why didn’t it? Because they just didn’t fit in anymore. The USA were limbering up for the onslaught of the questionable pleasures of Nu-Metal and the UK had just suffered five years of tedious retro-rock with a whole host of sub-par janglers. Nobody was really interested in The Black Crowes anymore and this album sadly disappeared without trace. Columbia records dropped them like a stone and they went on hiatus following their next album.
Surely By Your Side deserved a better fate than that.