With their angst-filled hybrid of Van Morrison, the Band, and R.E.M., Counting Crows became an overnight sensation in 1994. Only a year earlier, the band was a group of unknown musicians, filling in for the absent Van Morrison at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony; they were introduced by an enthusiastic Robbie Robertson. Early in 1993, the band recorded their debut album, August and Everything After, with T-Bone Burnett. Released in the fall, it was a dark and somber record, driven by the morose lyrics and expressive vocals of Adam Duritz. The only up-tempo song, "Mr. Jones," became their ticket to stardom, and Counting Crows enjoyed a significant amount of success throughout the '90s and beyond.
What made Counting Crows unique was how they were able to balance Duritz's tortured lyrics with the sound of the late '60s and early '70s; it made them one of the few alternative bands to appeal to listeners who thought that rock & roll died in 1972. Recovering the Satellites followed in 1996, and "A Long December" was a Top 10 hit on both the Modern Rock and Adult Top 40 charts. The band issued the two-disc Across a Wire: Live in New York in 1998, and the following year saw the release of Counting Crows' third studio album, This Desert Life. In the midst of recording and collaborating with Ryan Adams on his sophomore album, Gold, Duritz joined his band in the studio as well. The fruit of those sessions was the Steve Lillywhite-produced fourth album, Hard Candy. The next year saw the release of the best-of Films About Ghosts, and in 2004 Counting Crows reminded fans of their ability to write a hit single with "Accidentally in Love," which appeared on the Shrek 2 soundtrack. Two years later, New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Hall, recorded from a show on February 6, 2003, was made available to the public. In 2008 the band issued Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, a concept record divided into two halves; the more rowdy, upbeat rock of Saturday night soundtracks and the mellow alt-country side of Sunday morning hangovers.
In 2009 the band parted ways with their longtime major label home Geffen Records, but continued to tour and write new material as feverishly as ever. Duritz struggled with mental problems and prescription drug addiction following the split with Geffen, working on solo material which he released in part online. 2011 saw the release of August and Everything After: Live at Town Hall, the band's third official live album, and in 2012 the band offered up Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation), a collection of cover songs to tide fans over until the release of an album of new material.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine