Black Crowes double feature! Check out Deke‘s review of Shake Your Money Maker by clicking here!
THE BLACK CROWES – Shake Your Money Maker (originally 1990, 1998 American remaster)
In 1990, just on the cusp of a musical revolution, a new band emerged from Georgia to challenge everything that was going on in rock and roll. The biggest rock bands in the world had been playing around with the blues, but now there was a new band who lived and breathed it. The Black Crowes were unlike all the other bands (except maybe the London Quireboys) and their debut album Shake Your Money Maker shook the money tree!
With George Drakoulias in the producer’s chair, the Crowes laid down one fine debut album. They drew influence from the 70s: Bands like the Stones and Skynyrd, as well as the old Mississippi Delta bluesmen. The slide-drenched “Twice As Hard” certainly didn’t sound like a new band in 1990, but its honest authenticity has kept in a fan favourite for decades. Listen to Rich Robinson’s slide and dig in. Vocalist Chris Robinson’s bluesy drawl delivers a hell of a chorus. “Twice As Hard” is perfect in every measure.
Rolling right into the first single “Jealous Again” the Crowes sound like the offspring of the Stones at their boogie-woogie best. During the summer of 1990, you simply could not escape these songs. Unlike many of their contemporaries they still stand tall.
The Stones had their “Angie”, the Crowes have their “Sister Luck”. Shake Your Money Maker is a well rounded album with a few piano based slow tracks. You want authenticity? That’s Chuck Leavell on keys (he’s been playing with the Rolling Stones for decades). Back to the rock, “Could I’ve Been So Blind” kicks it with a shot of caffeine and a great chorus. Thing go slow again on the organ based blues “Seeing Things”. The Crowes were just kids but it sounds like they have years and years of pain to pour into these songs. “Seeing Things” is a tour de force!
One of the most well known singles from Shake Your Money Maker was the old Otis Redding cover “Hard to Handle”. Bringing the boogie back, the Crowes had a huge hit with this cover. It must be noted that there are two different versions of this track. Radio stations were serviced with a very rare “horn mix” that brings in a brass section. (This extremely rare promo CD is catalogue number PRO-CD-4896.) The remix still gets occasional radio play. Unfortunately the album only has the original mix. (There were plenty of live and acoustic B-sides made for these singles too.)
“Thick N’ Thin” begins with a car crash, and this is one of the most energetic tracks in the Crowes catalog. Like the Faces on adrenaline, “Thick N’ Thin” is a blast. Fast paced rock and roll with boogie woogie piano gets the feet moving. One of the fastest songs gives way to the slowest one. “She Talks to Angels” is the only one that deserves the tag “ballad”. Acoustics guitars, organ, and Chris’ plaintive voice took it to #1 on the US album rock charts. It’s still just as stunning today.
Moving in for the close, “Struttin’ Blues” is relatively nondescript compared to some of the prior ass-kickers. They save most kick-ass for last: “Stare It Cold”. It starts as a standard Stones-y rocker, but then it picks up speed right to the end, brilliantly ending the debut album on a hell of a good impression.
The 1998 remaster contains two bonus tracks and a few anachronisms: music videos, a screen saver and “a link to the Crowes’ website!” With the benefit of hindsight, we would have preferred more bonus tracks, but in 1998 this was cutting edge stuff. The bonus cuts include “Don’t Wake Me”, a slide-drenched add-on. As a song it’s not the most memorable, but that slide guitar is priceless. The second is an “acoustic” version of “She Talks to Angels”. The emphasis is on piano, and it sounds live in the studio.
Huge credit must go not only to the Black Crowes but also to producer Drakoulias. His reputation speaks for itself but this album still sounds fantastic. It does not sound like it was recorded in 1990. The drums and all the other instruments are full and clear. The brothers Robinson wrote all the original tunes, and as it turned out they were a classic batch. Shake Your Money Maker is not original or innovative, but it is timeless.