REVIEW: The Black Crowes – Shake Your Money Maker (remastered)

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.

4/5 stars

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34 comments

  1. Haha..perfer the Beard Years!! Silly HMO…
    Well done Mikey!
    Had no idea there was two studio versions of Hard To Handle!!?
    We actually spun the whole Stones vibe as well and your rights props to George for capturing the sound!
    Can’t wait till Fridays review now!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Geoff will tell you that there are are 9 decimal points between 4 and 5, so you could have gone higher than 4 and still leave room for the other impressive albums. (This one is impressive to me as well).
        Either way, I am glad you gave it a 4. It is not a 3.5 album. Nope. No way.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Maybe 10 years ago…15 years ago…I would have gone 3.5. However I’ve been hearing it with fresh ears more recently and really enjoying the sonics and the guitar work more than ever.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Great musicians.

          I just listened to a few 90’s albums that I had originally wrote off with fresh ears.
          There was some great stuff I heard. I may have to write about it.
          Great how we can apreciate music more as we age.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Not just appreciate music more…but differently. Do you know what I mean? I might be able to “feel” something differently today. On the other hand there are plenty of songs I can’t relate to anymore! Any of those old Bon Jovi heartbreak ballads used to be my bread + butter. But I can’t relate anymore. Which is of course a good thing since it means I’m happy.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Just today I had an album on I had never heard. I got goosebumps on my arms like pimples. Hair on my neck standing up.
          The best feeling ever.

          Music is so awesome.

          I get the Bon Jovi thing. Plus stuff we thought was awesome can get dated.
          Some of that 80’s keys, shit drumming and bad production really does it for me now. I was used to it then, but won’t put up with it now.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. Oh yeah for sure. In the 80s a lot of bands went way over the top with the snare drum sounds to the point they don’t sound like drums anymore. And a lot of keyboards and sequences sound terribly dated.

          It’s funny, last week when I did Queesryche, I was listening to a lot of the old digital sounds they had. Bleeps and bloops and whatnot. In 1986 that must have taken forever to program. Days of work I’m sure. Now a kid does it on a tablet.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I, too, prefer some of the later releases from these guys. Their new releases were always Day One purchased by me. Such a shame all the drugs and egos created such a revolving door in personnel. Still, their discography is a treasured stack of discs in my collection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shame that they couldn’t keep it together but I’m confident the Crowes will return again. I think they’re due. Their last studio album, Before the Frost/Until the Freeze, is a favourite for me.

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  3. Nice review, Mike. You make a good case for it being a 4, but I’d give this one a 3, personally. Loads of good songs, but they didn’t quite have their distinctive strut. Nor did they have Marc Ford.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I played this album… or that I paid too much attention to the CD or credits. Certainly wasn’t aware that Cease didn’t perform much of the guitar.

        I see he was playing with some American Idol chap.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Around the time of Southern Harmony, Rich said in a guitar magazine that during recording of the first album, Jeff didn’t show much interest in recording. Rich apparently offered him more solos but Jeff said “nah, you play them.”

          I think having Mark and Eddie Harsch in the band really added some experience and the band grew immensely.

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        2. No wonder he got chucked. Guess it’s intimidating to have a player like Rich alongside you… probably why Ford had such an impact. He’s a damn good player. Damn good. One of my favourites.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Perfect closing line Mike – when I got to this one on the 1001, it felt like I’d heard it before.
    But it also felt like it could have been released in ’73,’03 or somewhere in between, it just works!

    Liked by 1 person

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