The Chris Robinson Brotherhood: Phosphorescent Harvest

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The Chris Robinson Brotherhood
Phosphorescent Harvest
(Silver Arrow/Megaforce)
2.5 out of 5 stars

Over the years the Black Crowes’ catalog reflects diluted, diminishing returns. What started out as a strutting combination of rugged Faces’ boogie and soulful Southern rock, ultimately dissipated into a band going through the motions, albeit one with the potential for another gem. On-again/off-again Crowes reunions, and the many live albums that have resulted from them, bear this out. As do the erratic solo careers of brothers Rich and Chris Robinson.

The latter has floundered, searching for direction amid the Americana landscape with a few different backing outfits. The most recent, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, is now on its third studio set. He has found a songwriting muse in guitarist Neal Casal (the duo co-penned all but two tracks here), and while the tunes are slightly more melodically sturdy, the eclectic, some might say jumbled, mix of styles creates a diffuse, confusing album that never finds its footing despite some impressive moments. From dreamy soul balladry (“Wanderer’s Lament”) to Little Feat styled rocking (“Jump the Turnstile”) to old Leon Russell-ish boogie (“Shore Power”), Grateful Dead American Beauty-era trucking (“Beggars Moon”) and spaghetti Western dust (“Badlands”), the tunes have clear ties to the right influences but never transcend them to result in anything unique.

Robinson’s once powerfully gritty voice has been sanded down considerably to the point that his singing seems secondary to songs that aren’t able to support themselves with by-the-numbers arrangements that often feel uninspired or worse, forced. That’s the kiss of death for music that needs to float and sting with the ability to take unexpected turns. There are highlights here but not enough to leave all but the most rabid Black Crowes fans hoping for much better from a once riveting frontman who can’t seem to consistently catch that ever elusive groove he so effortlessly used to harness.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Once again, a reviewer that has to compare the Robinson Brothers and the Black Crowes to everyone the bands remind them of. Everybody has influences. Not all are knock offs. Also, this album is a natural progession of a band that has already recorded 2 critically acclaimed pieces of work. Critically acclaimed by critics that reviewed the band on it’s own merits and not one trying to review it as a Black Crowe album, which it was never intended to be!

  2. Seriously doubt he made it past “Shore Power” before putting Mumford and Sons back in his earholes. Also the Crowes debut, great as it is, is widely acknowledged as their most derivative while “Before the Frost” from 2009 probably contains their strongest songwriting, not least of which in tge lyrics department. Check out someone like Stephen Thomas Erlewine’s opinion for anything that matters musically (I don’t always agree with him either but he’s usually always on the money and always makes a great case).

  3. Don’t be swayed by this negative, misleading and uninformed review. CRB’s Phosphorescent Harvest is a compelling and refreshing contemporary contribution to the great Psych-Prog-Improv tradition, while delivering on sophisticated song craft. If you dig any of the following, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll LOVE Phosphorescent Harvest: Steve Hillage’s “Fish Rising,” Herbie Hancock, Bernie Worrell, Mel Tillis, Pink Floyd, electrofunk, doo-wop, Southern soul, cowboy music, psychedelia, mid-century avant-garde electronic composition, English prog, Kenneth Anger’s “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome,” Robert Altman’s “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” and perhaps most importantly, Sci-Fi.

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