Classic Rock Review

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The Black Crowes Shake Your Money Maker (1990)


By 1990, the hard rock sound, which peaked in the early 70s, had long since worn out its welcome. It had progressed to the point of becoming a ludicrous parody of itself. Groups like Motley Crue, Poison and Def Leppard were the logical progression of the 70s hard rock sound. They took the look, sound and theatrics of the 70s rockers to ridiculous proportions.

This was thanks in part to Kiss, who proved that image could be more important than music. By the late 70s, rock groups were taking things a step further and exaggerating the look and style of Mick Jagger, Robert Plant and Steven Tyler.

By the early/mid 80s, the hard rock look and sound pioneered by the aforementioned names had reached the point of absurdity. Hair metal was all the rage and MTV had ushered in a video era where the look was now just as important as the music, if not more so. With this new image, the quality of the music suffered immensely. This new generation of rockers was so enraptured with the rock and roll lifestyle that they completely forgot about musicianship and artistry. This music is now affectionately known as Cheese Metal or Hair Metal. Music that seems laughable nowadays, with snicker-inducing hair and fashion to match. Music that could, in no way, be taken seriously by any true lover of music.

The trend wore on and throughout the late 80s, many now-forgotten hair metal groups came and went. Then, in 1990, a group came out of Georgia with a completely different ideology. This group, The Black Crowes, was making music that was completely out of style in this world of hair spray and spandex. Their debut, Shake Your Money Maker, was full of tight, fiery spurts of boogie-rock, the likes of which had not been heard on a major record since the mid-70s. Songs like “Twice As Hard” and “Jealous Again” stood out like a sore thumb amidst the dreary sea of synthesized, phony hard rock of 1990. This was rock that went back to the basics. This was rock that was genuine. Rock that forsook image and style and concentrated on the music and the interplay between musicians.

Shake Your Money Maker was a godsend for rock fans who were tired of rockers who leaped about on the stage in tight pink pants while flames erupted from the stage floor. This is real rock and roll. This is not an image. This is music. The Black Crowes took the influence of the best of the early 70s scene. Lead singer Chris Robinson encapsulated the 70s rock lead singer. Summoning a bit of Rod Stewart (The Faces), Steve Marriot (Humble Pie), Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Paul Rodgers (Free/Bad Company) and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) with each song, Robinson took the lead-singer image and idea back to its roots.

The guitar work of Rich Robinson and Jeff Cease was concise and bluesy, recalling the Mick Taylor-era Rolling Stones. The stinging slide guitar on “Twice As Hard”, must have been a revelation since nearly every bit of blues influence had been drained since the hair-metal revolution. Songs such as “Could I’ve Been So Blind”, “Seeing Things” and “Thick N’ Thin” resuscitated the deceased blues-rock form with vibrance that was sorely lacking from even the best of the mainstream rock acts.

Shake Your Money Maker proved that good, old-fashioned rock and roll had not died. The Black Crowes brought it back to life. Los Angeles’ Guns N’ Roses was the only other group to come close to retro blues-rock with their “Appetite For Destruction”, but they were too nihilistic and nasty to truly channel the spirit of classic early 70s rock. Shake Your Money Maker and its follow-up “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion” was overshadowed by Nirvana’s “Nevermind”, which took rock and roll in a new, unexplored direction. However, The Black Crowes were really the only group to give classic rock lovers their fix of hard riffs, tasty solos and bluesy, wailing vocals.

Shake Your Money Maker is an important album, and an oasis in the desert of the 1990 rock scene. This is probably the only 1990 album that sounds as if it could have been recorded in 1973. In 30 years, Shake Your Money Maker will still sound great, whereas most of 1990’s other musical offerings will be long forgotten, and more than likely, unlistenable.

May 21, 2013 - Posted by | The Black Crowes Shake Your Money Maker |

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