So much has been made of Chris and Rich Robinson's public spats over the past couple of decades that it's easy to forget that the Black Crowes were once among rock's greatest revivalist bands. Their bluesy swagger and strutting riffs drew comparisons to Faces and peak period Rolling Stones; at their best, the Black Crowes reminded fans that before indie and before grunge, there was simply rock 'n' roll.

The last time the Black Crowes recorded an album of new songs in a studio was 2008's Warpaint; since then they've released several live records (including 2009's Before the Frost ... , which presented unheard material in front of an audience) and an acoustic revisioning of their catalog, Croweology, over two CDs.

With Happiness Bastards, the Robinson brothers lead a revamped lineup (only bassist Sven Pipien's tenure with the group goes back more than five years) through 10 new tracks that simultaneously unpack the baggage that led to their 2015 split and celebrate the four decades since they formed in Atlanta as Mr. Crowe's Garden.

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While it doesn't quite repeat the loose and playful energy of band milestones Shake Your Money Maker (1990) and The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (1992), there's a casual reignition of purpose to Happiness Bastards. From the start, when Rich's dirty guitar kicks into the opening song "Bedside Manners," the Black Crowes revisit the '70s markers found in their most satisfying records: slide guitar, Stones-y keys, heavy organ.

It doesn't stop there. Decade touchstones from the Allmans to Zeppelin are recalled at other points on the album. Lyrically, it's thin - "Do you want some, baby? / ... Your touch gives me such a thrill," Chris sings in "Rats and Clowns" - but Happiness Bastards is rarely short on riffs and rousing performances (check out the molten "Flesh Wound"). The best song, "Wanting and Waiting," may sound like a rewrite of the Black Crowes' debut single "Jealous Again," but there's reassurance in their passion, which hasn't softened much over three and a half decades. It's good to have them back.

The Black Crowes Albums Ranked

From their lightning-bolt introduction to their reunion LP more than three decades later, they've rarely strayed from form.

Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci

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