Chris Robinson Brotherhood, ‘Phosphorescent Harvest’ – Album Review
Releasing their third studio album in just under two years, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood have been working on securing their place in the world of rock and roll — specifically, stepping outside of the shadow of the Black Crowes. A founding member of the Crowes, Chris Robinson wants to make sure that the CRB is not considered a side project, which should be no problem with the band’s latest endeavor, ‘Phosphorescent Harvest.’
Opening with ‘Shore Power,’ Robinson and company set the stage for what will likely be one of the most infectious albums of 2014. Track after track, the band creates layers and layers of cosmically beautiful music and vocals, while developing an experience that never feels rushed or overdone. In fact, once ‘Shore Power’ kicks off with its immediately funky rhythm, ‘Phosphorescent Harvest’ feels more like one long song rather than 10 individual tracks.
The album has a sort of unpredictable consistency to it; just when you think you’ve got a grasp on the music, the CRB shift gears while maintaining a sense of familiarity. ‘Clear Blue Skies’ is a perfect example as it begins with an almost folk-rock feel to it, but halfway through, the band takes things in an extraterrestrial direction. Few bands can pull off this type of transition, yet it seems as though it comes natural to the CRB. Without compromising their creation, they take listeners on a memorable ride.
For fans who scored ‘Betty’s S.F. Blends Volume One,’ the Record Store Day Black Friday release from the CRB in 2013, there will be two recognizable tracks on ‘Phosphorescent Harvest’: ‘Badlands Here We Come’ and ‘Tornado,’ both of which appear on Side B of the first LP of ’Betty’s S.F. Blends.’
Those who pick up the CD edition of ‘Phosphorescent Harvest’ will be greeted with a bonus 11th track in the form of ‘Humboldt Wind Chimes,’ a song that fits in perfectly with the rest of the album. With a spacey ambience, ‘Humboldt Wind Chimes’ explores the CRB’s instrumental side, forging a relaxing experience to close out the album.
As with most releases affiliated with Robinson, the best overall experience surrounding ‘Phosphorescent Harvest’ lies in the vinyl edition. With the CRB, the music is not the only element a listener needs to consume; there is art and a ritual that also plays a part with the experience. Released as a double-LP in a high-quality gatefold jacket, ‘Phosphorescent Harvest’ comes pressed on one orange and one purple record. In addition to the two LPs, fans get a bonus 7-inch that includes ‘Humboldt Wind Chimes’ backed with ‘Star Crossed Lonely Sailor.’
The true beauty of the vinyl release is found in the artwork (see below). The painting that adorns the front and back of the jacket, ‘Hudson River Sunset Deluxe,’ is designed by Larry Carlson. Listening to ‘Phosphorescent Harvest’ while staring at the 12-inch jacket adds an other-worldly level to the release. The records are housed in sleeves that extend the painting, and for long-time fans, they’ll recognize the work of Alan Forbes — who has worked with Robinson since designing the first logo for the Crowes — on the inside of the gatefold jacket.
Produced by Thom Monahan, who has done every CRB album to date, ‘Phosphorescent Harvest’ finds Robinson backed with a familiar band consisting of Neal Casal on guitars, Adam MacDougall on keys, Mark Dutton on bass and George Sluppick on drums – this has been the make-up of the CRB since the first album was released in 2012. ‘Phosphorescent Harvest’ is, at times, reminiscent of classic rock jam bands. Overall, though, the CRB take the album in a completely new direction, heading toward a future of their own making as if they’re the only ones with the roadmap.
‘Phosphorescent Harvest’ is available via Silver Arrow Records in CD, digital and vinyl format. Get your hands on the album here.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood, ‘Phosphorescent Harvest’ – Vinyl Edition