After plenty of soul searching and a smart shift back to the sound that helped them first take flight, Counting Crows are flying high again.
The band's fourth studio album is definitely its best since 1993. Instead of the long and whining, drawn out songs that lead singer Adam Duritz fell in love with in the mid-to-late 1990s, Hard Candy is crisp and tight, packed with three- and four-minute shots of radio friendly fare. Not everything is quite as blatantly pop as the lusty lead single “American Girls,” but there's no denying Duritz and company have put their faith back in hooks and melody, making this a set that sounds perfectly suited for hot summer nights.
At a time when rock is being dominated by hyper-aggressive, metal-edged acts, Counting Crows aren't afraid to showcase some very vintage flavors on this 13-song collection. There's a decidedly Byrds-like quality to the captivating title track, while Allman-esque twin guitar leads cut through the Band-inspired beauty of “If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel is Dead).”
Counting Crows used several producers for Hard Candy, including Steve Lillywhite, whose prior work with acts like U2, the Rolling Stones, and Talking Heads always showed his knack for getting to the heart of the songs. Pairing him with Counting Crows was a smart move, one that helped get the band thinking in the right direction again. This is what Counting Crows do best. And after a prolonged slump, it's good to have them back in top form.