After two albums which had established them as the great hopes for American retro rock in the 90s, The Black Crowes hit bumpy ground with Band, an album they spent a significant amount of time and energy recording, before it was shelved, only for some of its material to be recycled for Amorica, the band’s much-anticipated third album.
Quite how much the experience of Band had left The Black Crowes drained is perhaps something we’ll never know, but it was undeniable that Amorica was a much different beast from the band’s two previous albums. There was something a little more claustrophobic about it, a little more enthusiastic to show that The Black Crowes could potentially be a lot more than be the soulful bluesy rockers that they had already proved themselves to be. Perhaps it was the fact that the pair of albums that had sealed their reputation were somewhat at odds with the then fashionable grunge scene, but there was something about Amorica that gave the impression that the band were prepared to challenge a few assumptions about them.
Amorica was arguably The Black Crowes edgiest and most contemporary sounding album to date, expanding as it did on the jam sounds of The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. It also sounds like they had a bit more of a recording budget, as the whole thing has a slightly more of a mid-90s production style to it courtesy of Jack Puig, rather than the more rough-hewn and organic sound which had been the signature of George Drakoulias. This means that for the first time The Black Crowes sounded dangerously close to contemporary, which means that Amorica now sounds of its time, but at least charmingly so.
For some fans, Amorica was where The Black Crowes started to lose their way, however there were at least as many, if not more, of their fans who thrilled at this slightly different approach. Less obviously in thrall to their late 60s / early 70s heroes, Amorica is still a soulful heavy blues rock album, but it makes the effort to demonstrate that The Black Crowes were not a band comfortable with resting on their laurels. Amorica is the sound of the band taking a few chances, some of which pay off, others don’t. That’s the thing with chances though, nothing is guaranteed, but without sticking your neck out, you become stagnant.