There are 12 seconds of pristine silence before a mournfully beguiling guitar riff signals the start of Counting Crows' penetrating epic "Round Here," the song that opens the San Francisco sextet's 1993 debut, August and Everything After. Those dozen mute seconds are a statement in and of themselves -- sometimes the less said, the more poignant the impression.
Certainly, lead singer-songwriter Adam Duritz knows a thing or two about poignancy. The dread-locked frontman has a striking talent for sketching deeply emotional narratives littered with sadly insistent images of angels, rain, circuses, and a girl named Maria.
August and Everything After is one of the most intensely personal albums of the '90s, and though Duritz continued baring his soul with 1996's Recovering the Satellites and 1999's This Desert Life, this first record still stands as his strongest suite of material.
Musically, August and Everything After is a retro rock-infected outing, gathering comparisons to the Band, Van Morrison, and Bob Dylan, whom Duritz name-checked in the Crows' omnipresent radio smash "Mr. Jones." Perhaps the most concise foretelling of greatness laid down on tape, the song's catchy guitar hook and Duritz's earnest yearning -- "We all want to be big stars, but we don't know why, and we don't know how" -- made for an instant classic.
Lovingly produced by T-Bone Burnett (Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison) and recorded in an old mansion in the Hollywood Hills, the album's 11 tracks flit from the somber lullaby "Raining in Baltimore" to the rejuvenating self-glorification of "Rain King." Aside from the fact that it is one of the biggest selling debuts ever, August and Everything After is truly a sweeping masterpiece that remains as a timeless monument to hopes and heartaches that everyone can understand. - Nevin Martell
1. Round Here
3. Mr. Jones
4. Perfect Blue Buildings
5. Anna Begins
6. Time and Time Again
7. Rain King
8. Sullivan Street
9. Ghost Train
10. Raining in Baltimore
11. A Murder Of One