One of the things i like most about writing for Blogcritics Magazine is when something wonderful and wonderfully unexpected comes up as a review opportunity. One time it might be a book that looks utterly fascinating that never would have caught my eye, as it’s in a genre I’m not that big a fan of. Or, as is the case with The Magic Door by the Chris Robinson Brotherhood (CRB), it’s an album featuring one of my favorite vocalists of all time that I had no idea was even being released.
I love those times.
The Magic Door, now that I have had time to listen to it and find out what it’s all about, is the second release by Chris and the Brotherhood in 2012. The first release, Big Moon Ritual, has been in continual rotation in my headphones since it was released in June. My hopes were high, therefore, when I saw this album available to review here at BC.
I was not disappointed. All of the things I loved about the first release are there in spades on The Magic Door, and then some.
This is an album that oozes melody in nearly syrupy thickness as it plays. One example is the opening licks of the sole “cover” track, Hank Ballard’s “Let’s Go, Let”s Go, Let’s Go,” where the CRB settle into a groove that just speaks to the fact that the band had played together for 118 shows before ever setting foot in the studio to record this album.
Thanks to that road-tested readiness, they are able to exude a looseness and loveliness in this song that just perfectly sets up what’s in store as you settle in to listen to the other six tracks on the album. CRB seems to strike this wonderful balance between all of the very best things I love about a good “jam” band such as the Grateful Dead or Phish, while still keeping that R&B and soul-blues essence that fuels Chris Robinson’s “other” band, the Black Crowes.
Let me put it like this. The way I described the sound of this band and this album in particular to a friend of mine was for him to imagine the lovechild of Jerry Garcia and Greg Allman that was adopted and raised by Mahalia Jackson. It’s just a slithery and sensual earful of southern blues-rock goodness.
The Magic Door is just a perfect companion to the debut release by the CRB, Big Moon Ritual, which was just as wonderful but featured a few more powerful and driving melodies. If Big Moon Ritual was the exploratory drive to see what Chris Robinson and guitarist Neal Casal could discover together, then The Magic Door is the relaxed drive back home as they shared stories back and forth concerning what they’d seen “out there” together.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love the direction Chris Robinson has taken in his new band—and that’s what it feels like. Instead of a side-project, it’s an actual band in and of its own right that is just as valid if not road-tested as the Black Crowes. I recommend both of their albums as worthy purchases.
If I were going to choose just one of them, though, I think my favorite of the two would have to be this one. The Magic Door is just wonderful. You can press play on this and just find something new and wonderful each and every time you listen to it.
This release gets a solid 8/10 from me. If you’re a fan of either the Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, the Black Crowes or, like myself, the voice of Chris Robinson in general, you will love this album.