Monday, February 16, 2015

shake your money maker

The Black Crowes were not afraid of losing face with the hard to handle struttin' blues of this revitalized roots rock redemption.  Brothers Chris and Rich Robinson started the group in 1984 as Mr. Crowe's Garden while they were students at Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia.   A demo tape led to a record deal with Def American in 1989.  Their debut album 'Shake Your Money Maker' was produced by George Drakoulias and engineered by Brendan O'Brien at Soundscape Studios in Atlanta; and at Chapel Studios, Paramount Studios, and Grandmaster Studios in Los Angeles.   The sessions featured  Chris Robinson on vocals;   Rich Robinson on guitar;  Jeff Cease on guitar;  Johnny Colt on bass guitar;  and Steve Gorman on drums;   with Laura Creamer on background vocals;  Chuck Leavell on piano and organ;  and Brendan O'Brien contributing "a potpourri of instruments".    The album also credits Greg Fulginiti and Leon Zervos on mastering;  Kevin Shirley on mixing; David Bianco on remixing;  Lee Manning as assistant engineer and mixing engineer; Tag George as assistant engineer;  and Rick Rubin as executive producer.   'Shake Your Money Maker' takes it's name from the blues song by Elmore James.    It went to number sixty-one in the Netherlands, thirty-six in the UK, and number four in Canada and the US.  It has sold over seven million copies.

Rich remembers:  "Well, Shake Your Moneymaker I was writing some songs when I was 17, like “She Talks to Angels.” And Chris was 19 and then 20 when we really started the process of that whole album. Then, I was recording it when I was 19. So, we were still kids. We loved music and, basically, that record was our love of music, writing these songs and doing this thing. It was successful beyond our dreams. No one ever thought it would be like that, but it was also us sort of standing up for the first time...It’s definitely been backwards…[slight laugh] We sold seven million albums and then worked backwards. That’s a weird thing. And I remember on Shake Your Moneymaker it was funny, Chris and I got invited to the Edge’s birthday party when we were playing in Ireland and Bono was there and he said that it’s great, but it’s also really hard. I remember him saying that. And it was funny, you know, I was like 20, I’m happy to be here. When you look back, it’s definitely this thing. It’s not the natural way but in a sense, we’ve also weathered a lot. We were the interim between heavy metal and grunge...We’ve always been an island. We’ve always just been the Black Crowes. Never looking back, never been part of this thing. We’ve just really been autonomous. It’s been good and it’s been hard at the same time. It’s easy to get swept up into this movement, if you want to call Seattle Music a movement back then, but the funny thing is, they were doing the same thing we were in a sense. We loved the Stones and Zeppelin and the Faces and the Band and they loved Black Sabbath and Zeppelin, you know what I mean? You listen to Soundgarden or listen to Pearl Jam even today; they’re a rock ‘n’ roll band today. And so, it’s just funny how just a label can do something, but we weathered it and we’re still here. And being ourselves or being an island has given us a lot more freedom to be whatever we want. Now that we’re 20 years in and we do everything on our own, it’s the most freeing thing in the world. And I think it’s one of our strengths."

The tension between Rich and Chris has created problems for the band.  Chris considers:  "The fighting did stem from being brothers and songwriting partners. We sat around with guitars and were writing songs together. That's not easy. Being siblings is not easy. Being fellow songwriters is not easy, but being both is really a bit much ... I guess people who haven’t done what we’ve done would think it’s been difficult; but how difficult was it? I mean, I never sent a tape anywhere. Basically, we always knew that when it’s time to make a record, someone’s gonna find us and we’re gonna make a record...We just wanted to go with the label that would give us the freedom to do whatever we wanted in the studio.  We could have signed with a lot of different labels, but we knew to avoid the hassles...I don’t think something that safe is healthy.  There’s no room for anything weird to happen, so what good is it?...We just decided to work up a couple of soul classics and see how they went, and that one turned out real good. Plus we’re all huge Otis fans anyway ... It was slightly annoying when our first album came out. You know, we got labeled and that was it. Somehow the press and the public have the desire to label everything and it was our first album. We were little more than kids and I remember thinking, 'Hey, we need a bit of time! Could we have some time, please?'"

Gorman adds:  "But now we're the Black Crowes and I don't think we owe anything to anyone. We made it all on our own. I really used to hate it when we got compared to other bands all the time, but now I think it's quite all right. You know, if people compare us to the Rolling Stones or the Allman Brothers, then it's OK, really OK. They're great bands. And I'd rather be compared with some of the most famous and influential bands of all time than with some shitty band who got the spotlight for ten seconds and then nobody knows or remembers them anymore."

"Twice As Hard"  hit number forty-seven in the UK and eleven on the US hot mainstream rock tracks chart.

"Jealous Again" went to seventy-six in the UK, seventy-five on the US pop chart, and number five on the US hot mainstream rock tracks chart.

Their cover of"Hard To Handle" lit up the charts at number forty-five in the UK, twenty-six on the US pop chart, and number one on the US hot mainstream rock tracks chart.

"She Talks to Angels" flew to number seventy in the UK, thirty on the US pop chart, and number one on the US hot mainstream rock tracks chart.

"Seeing Things" saw it's way to number seventy-two in the UK and number two on the US hot mainstream rock tracks chart.

'Shake Your Money Maker'
full album:

All songs written by Chris Robinson and Rich Robinson, except where noted.

"Twice As Hard" – 4:09
"Jealous Again" – 4:35
"Sister Luck" – 5:13
"Could I've Been So Blind" – 3:44
"Seeing Things" – 5:18
"Hard to Handle" (Allen Jones, Alvertis Isbell, Otis Redding) – 3:08
"Thick n' Thin" – 2:44
"She Talks to Angels" – 5:29
"Struttin' Blues" – 4:09
"Stare It Cold" – 5:13
"Live Too Fast Blues/Mercy, Sweet Moan" – 1:17 

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