Album Review: The Black Crowes – “Shake Your Money Maker”

The first song I truly remember hearing by the Black Crowes was “Jealous Again,” at the time it was being promoted as a single, and I remember at the time it didn’t do too much for me.  I also remember hearing “Hard to Handle” being promoted as a single; while this was a little better to me than “Jealous Again,” it still hadn’t quite sold me on the band.  However, around of the spring of 1991, when I heard “She Talks to Angels,” I was finally convinced to give the Black Crowes another chance.  After “She Talks to Angels” had its run on the pop chart, “Hard to Handle” was re-released as a single.  Hearing this again made me realize it was actually a good song, and that I hadn’t really given it a fair listen originally.  At the time Shake Your Money Maker was released, it peaked at number four on the Billboard 200 album chart.  It took me almost ten years to actually get around to buying Shake Your Money Maker, but when I did, I was able to purchase a digitally remastered version; this is the version that I am reviewing.

Shake Your Money Maker opens with “Twice as Hard,” which was released as a single and peaked at number eleven on the Billboard mainstream rock tracks chart.  This is a very straight ahead rock song with a heavy emphasis on the electric guitar.  It really makes for a great opening song for the album.  This is followed by “Jealous Again,” which was a single from the album.  It peaked at number five on the mainstream rock tracks, and at number 75 on the Billboard Hot 100.  It’s an upbeat song, but it’s not as heavy as “Twice as Hard.”  For the instrumentation, “Jealous Again” has the electric guitars, but you can also prominently hear a piano.  You can really hear the southern rock influence on this song.

The next song on Shake Your Money Maker is “Sister Luck,” which was released as a single from the album.  This is a slower song, and you can also hear a Lynyrd Skynyrd influence in the guitars; to me, the guitar sound made me think of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe.”  This is followed by “Could I’ve Been So Blind,” which picks the tempo of the album back up.  To me, this is one of the more pop-friendly songs on the album, and I really think it should have been released as a single.

“Seeing Things” was released as a single from the album, and peaked at number two on the mainstream rock tracks.  This song slows the pace of the album back down, and the focus of the song musically is on the piano; however, there is some percussion and only a minimal amount of guitar.  Parts of this song really made me think of Joe Cocker’s recording of “With a Little Help From My Friends.”  This is followed by “Hard to Handle,” which is a cover of an Otis Redding song from the 1960s.  This is one of the most pop-friendly songs on the album, and it was released as a single twice.  When it was first released, “Hard to Handle” peaked at number one on the mainstream rock tracks chart.  When it was released the second time, the song peaked at number twenty-six on the Billboard Hot 100.  “Hard to Handle” is a very upbeat song that has an emphasis on the percussion and piano.

“Thick N’ Thin” opens with the sound of a car crash, and then launches into a very southern rock sounding song.  It’s heavy on the piano and percussion, and it’s one of the shortest songs on the album.  This is followed by “She Talks to Angels,” which was another single released from Shake Your Money Maker.  The single peaked at number thirty on the Billboard Hot 100, and at number one on the mainstream rock tracks.  This song is a slow track that is very focused on the acoustic guitar, and includes some percussion and piano.  Lead singer Chris Robinson has said that this song is about a goth girl he knew that was “into heroin.”

“Struttin’ Blues” really picks the tempo of the album back up.  There is heavy emphasis on the electric guitar, and the song is almost as driving as “Twice as Hard.”  The last song from the original pressing of the album is “Stare it Cold,” which basically continues the sonic sound of “Struttin’ Blues”; the only real difference is that the electric guitar isn’t emphasized as heavily, and that there is more of a focus on the piano.

This pressing of the album includes two bonus songs and a hidden song after the bonus tracks.  The first bonus track is “Don’t Wake Me.”  It’s a good song, but I can see why it wasn’t included on the original album; it’s much more driving than any of the other songs on the album, and it really would have stood out too much.  The other bonus song is an acoustic recording of “She Talks to Angels.”  This recording puts more of an emphasis on the piano, and places less emphasis on the acoustic guitar; making this change in instrumentation does give the song a different sound.  The unlisted song is “Live Too Fast Blues/Mercy, Sweet Moan.”  This track only lasts for one minute and seventeen seconds, but it’s very hard to hear due to the poor audio quality of the song.  From what I could hear, it didn’t sound like this track really had anything of any real substance.  I thought this hidden track was a waste.

Shake Your Money Maker has a good mix of sounds to it, and I think it can be appreciated by listeners who enjoy southern rock music, or by listeners who enjoy listening to pop music.  And for those listeners who may not already be familiar with southern rock, Shake Your Money Maker could work as a “gateway” album to introduce people to southern rock.

I wrote this review after listening to a copy of Shake Your Money Maker that my husband and I purchased.


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