The Black Crowes: Shake Your Money Maker “Milestone” feature review (CDNow)

The Black Crowes
Shake Your Money Maker
(American)

With the luxury of a decade having passed since it’s release, Shake Your Money Maker can now comfortably stand as one of the great classic rock albums. How? Well, like the best classic rock albums, it stands less as a snapshot of the time when it was released than as a pure and powerful distillation of all that makes rock ‘n’ roll so damned great. Sure, even a decade later, it’s painfully easy to hear the maddening array of influences that caused critics to run with fear when they first encountered it. The Faces, Aerosmith, Beggars Banquet, the Faces (oh wait, I already said that) and other culprits make their presence in the Robinson Brothers’ hearts amply known. But rock ‘n’ roll was just as codified in 1975 as it was in 1990 and the fact that this album was made in the post-Poison/pre-Rage Against The Machine era does absolutely nothing to dilute the groove-thick swagger that permeates it.

In fact, it could easily be said that the sound of this album was much more a kick in the balls than the records by which it was so obviously influenced. After all, in 1975, great rock ‘n’ roll records were as easy to find as eightballs of coke. But in 1990, although all those poufy-haired “rock” bands professed a love of raunchy, straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll, the closest any band then got to the spirit was Guns N’ Roses, a band so obsessed with stardom they forgot how to rock. For The Black Crowes to debut with an album so seemingly retro was – ironically enough – pretty progressive. That they made their mark with an Otis Redding cover (“Hard To Handle”) made it that much cooler. However, beyond that unlikely hit, Money Maker is an outstandingly solid album. Only occasionally pulling back the infectious, aggressive strut that marks full-on rockers like “Twice As Hard,” the aptly titled “Struttin Blues” and the ferociously groovy “Jealous Again” (as well as the head-rattling bonus track, “Don’t Wake Me”) to delve into some atmospherically funky balladry (“She Talks To Angels”), it’s clear that The Black Crowes were all about making an album that would be as much fun for them to play live as it would be for you to play at your next beer bash.

And, though it would be easy to mock the band’s transition from the pretentiously dramatic Mr. Crowe’s Garden to the rock powerhouse that is the Black Crowes, one must remember how uncool rock ‘n’ roll was in 1990. It was hardly a calculated financial move to bank on recycling Ron Wood’s riff catalog. But it was certainly one that paid off well. And, to their credit, since Shake Your Money Maker, the Black Crowes have done nothing except get better at making rock ‘n’ roll. There have been no concept albums. There have been no collaborations with Method Man. There have been no PopMart-style tours. There has just been highly potent rock that continues to kick ass and will most certainly continue to do so.

First appeared December 2000 at CDNow.com.

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