Nine Lives by Aerosmith

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Nine Lives by AerosmithThe last in a string of albums over a decade long commercial run, Nine Lives saw Aerosmith return to their traditional record label as well as return to their core blues-rock sound. Released in Spring 1997, a year later than originally intended, this album was produced through an arduous process, which included two distinct recording processes with two different producers as well as some internal personnel issues which further delayed its release.

Aerosmith had re-signed to a $30 million contract with their early career label, Columbia Records in 1991, but first needed to fulfill their contractual obligation with Geffen Records. Hence, the 1993 blockbuster studio album Get a Grip as well as the 1994 quasi compilation, Big Ones (which included the new hits “Dueces Are Wild” and “Blind Man”) were released on Geffen. The next studio album was originally slated to be released by Columbia in 1996 and the band entered the studio with producer and composer Glen Ballard in Miami.

However, Aerosmith’s drummer Joey Kramer needed to leave these sessions due to medical reasons and these early versions of the songs were deemed unsatisfactory by the record label. During this same period, the group also fired their long time manager and they appeared to be in disarray before re-grouping in New York in September 1996 along with Kramer and new producer Kevin Shirley. Here, the band decided to scrap the previous tracks and re-record the album from scratch.


Nine Lives by Aerosmith
Released: March 18, 1997 (Columbia)
Produced by: Kevin Shirley and Aerosmith
Recorded: Avatar Studios and The Boneyard, New York City, September–November 1996
Track Listing Group Musicians
Nine Lives
Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)
Hole in My Soul
Taste of India
Full Circle
Something’s Gotta Give
Ain’t That a Bitch
The Farm
Crash
Kiss Your Past Good-Bye
Pink
Attitude Adjustment
Fallen Angels
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Paino, Keyboards, Percussion
Joe Perry – Guitars, Dulcimer, Vocals
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass, Chapman Stick
Joey Kramer – Drums
Nine Lives by Aerosmith

 

Each song on Nine Lives features a co-writer from outside the quintet. Things do not start strong with the title song’s multi-tracked cat wails nearly ruining the entire album when it is a mere 15 seconds old and, what’s even more offensive, this meow effect is not even original, as vocalist Steven Tyler had used it before on the song “Cheshire Cat” from the 1982 Rock In a Hard Place. Co-written by Ballard, “Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)” is an accessible bluesy rocker with a comic edge and a generous use of horn arrangements, which all worked to make it a radio hit.

The album really starts to become interesting with the Desmond Child 6:10 – an underrated power ballad, “Hole in My Soul”, with an excellent melody in the pre-chorus and chorus and a slightly unhinged slide lead by Joe Perry. Desmond Child, who also helped pen the equally excellent “Ain’t That a Bitch”. This later track features a cinematic entrance with strings and distance brass before the song proper kicks in as pure blues rock with Tyler’s vocals stealing the show above much musical atmosphere. This includes several subtle guitar licks, just enough strings to maintain the slightly surreal atmosphere and a slight but effective descending bass solo by Tom Hamilton.

Aerosmith in 1990s

“Taste of India” is a sixties-style psychedelic twist during a wild intro before finding an interesting beat and hard rock riff by rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford. This fusion of several styles and the pointed sarangi by guest Ramesh Mishra, make this a true original. Further sub-genres are explored through the album’s heart with the country-tinged Southern rocker “Full Circle”, the harmonica-laden heavy blues of “Something’s Gotta Give”, the urban atmospherics of “The Farm” and the frenzied, driving punk rocker, “Crash”.

The true climax of the album comes with the clever and entertaining “Pink”. Co-written by Richard Supa, this track is accessible, bluesy and original.  The song found both international commercial success as well as scored the band their fourth Grammy award of the decade for best song by a duo or group. The album’s remaining tracks, “Kiss Your Past Goodbye”, “Attitude Adjustment”, and “Fallen Angels” are all fine tunes on their own but suffer due to the album’s vast length as well as the juxtaposition to other fine tracks like “Pink”, which far overshadow these more standard tunes. In this sense, less may have been more for this album.

Nine Lives topped the US album charts and reached the Top 10 in nearly a dozen other countries, making it a worldwide hit by any commercial standard. The momentum carried into the next year when the non-album single, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” became Aerosmith’s first and only number one pop song, marking the ban’s final high-water mark of a long and fruitful career.

~

1997 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1997 albums.

 

Toys in the Attic
by Aerosmith

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Toys in the Attic by AerosmithAerosmith scored their first real commercial success with their third album, Toys in the Attic. Released in 1975, this album establishes a distinct rock sound for the group with more attention paid to mass appeal and represents the high-water mark of the group’s initial 1970s phase. Beyond the spawning of a couple of big hits, the album is filled with solid tracks, which are mainly solid blues-based rock with just enough sub-genre edge to make it a very interesting listen from cover to cover.

Having signed with Columbia, Aerosmith released their self-titled debut early in 1973, which closely reflected the live sound the group had been forging through their first three years together. While the album was not a commercial success, it laid the groundwork for their core blues rock sound. The following year, the band released their second album, Get Your Wings, which was the first of five Aerosmith albums to be produced or co-produced by Jack Douglas. The production and approach showed a slight move by the group towards more pop/rock arrangements.

Douglas brought the band to New York at the beginning of 1975 to start work on Toys in the Attic. Lead vocalist Steven Tyler co-wrote most of the original material along with several of the group’s musicians. Tyler also came up with the ideas for the album’s theme and cover when he found a disfigured teddy bear in the attic of his home.


Toys in the Attic by Aerosmith
Released: April 8, 1975 (Columbia)
Produced by: Jack Douglas
Recorded: Record Plant, New York, January–March 1975
Side One Side Two
Toys in the Attic
Uncle Salty
Adam’s Apple
Walk This Way
Big Ten Inch Record
Sweet Emotion
No More No More
Round and Round
You See Me Crying
Group Musicians
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Piano, Harmonica
Joe Perry – Guitars, Vocals
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass
Joey Kramer – Drums

Co-written by lead guitarist Joe Perry, the title track “Toys in the Attic” sets an unambiguous heavy metal vibe, which may even verge on the edge of punk with its forward approach. This works well as a hard rock opener but does sort of deceive the listener as for the overall tone of this album. That deception is short-lived, as the moderate and jazzy “Uncle Salty” commences with a custom approach and great sonic dynamics which bring out every instrument. This track was co-written by bassist Tom Hamilton, who adds a steady and melodic bass to compliment Tyler’s fine melodies throughout and multiple vocal parts in the outro.

One of the group’s most overlooked and underrated tracks, “Adam’s Apple” is an upbeat blues rocker with some great riffs by Perry and Hamilton and an interesting lyrical take on the Biblical story of Eden. The hit “Walk This Way” got its start with a pre-concert warm up riff by Perry. On the recording, Douglas does his finest production work from the opening simple but effective dance beat by Joey Kramer through the crisp intro/interlude riffs, which feature perfectly mirrored guitars by Perry and Brad Whitford. This track may also be the source of invention of rap, with Tyler rhythmically delivering his lyrics on young lust and loss of virginity through the verses. The overall great arrangement which uses each element to maximal effect for commercialization, which resulted in the song reaching #10 on the pop charts in 1977.

Aerosmith in 1975The only cover on the Toys in the Attic is “Big Ten Inch Record”, a song written by Fred Weismantel and recorded by Bull Moose Jackson in 1952. The band pretty much stuck to the original rockabilly approach complete with piano, a horn section and an impressive harmonica lead by Tyler. “Sweet Emotion” starts with Hamilton’s cool and haunting bass line accompanied by Perry’s slow but effective talk box. During the verses, Tyler delivers another quasi rap with Kramer’s steady drum beat holding the steady pace until the song concludes with heavy section featuring a full band arrangement of intro section complete with several overdubbed guitars. The lead single from the album, “Sweet Emotion” was Aerosmith’s first Top 40 hit.

The album concludes with three diverse gems which tip the scales to make this an absolute classic. “No More No More” is a simple and bright rock gem with elements of everything Aerosmith does best. The music is straight-forward and direct, while lyrics about the trials and rewards of being in a working rock and roll band with the final verse features ascending chord changes climaxing with the song’s underlying theme lyric;

time’s there a changin’, nothing ever stands still, if I stop changin’ they’ll be writing by will, it’s the same ol’ story never get a second chance to advance to the top of the hill…”

“Round and Round” is built around Whitford’s doomy, Black Sabbath-like riff, with the bridge sections featuring a nice use of overdubbed, soaring guitars that give this otherwise repetitive track some real flavor. The song’s outro builds a lot tension which is not relieved before the song ends. The heavily orchestrated closing ballad, “You See Me Crying” is a fantastic closer with a whole different sonic signature than rest of the songs. However, this was also  a source of frustration within the band, which left a few members off this track and which would not be performed live by the band for over three decades. Still, the result of this layered piano ballad is a tremendous closer for the album featuring a tone that is melancholy but with music that is animated and bursting at the seams, leaving nothing to wither here.

Toys in the Attic reached #11 on the US charts and has sold over 8× Platinum since its release. The album’s popularity launched Aerosmith into the upper echelon of contemporary rock acts in the mid to late seventies and even sparked the group’s older material (such as the track “Dream On” from the 1973 debut album) to reemerge into prominence.

~

1975 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1975 albums.

 

Top 9 Rock Festivals of All Time

This week Classic Rock Review joins the celebration of the 45th Anniversary of the historic 1969 Woodstock Music Festival. In conjunction with Top 9 Lists, we present a list of the Top 9 Rock Festivals of all time, along with a bonus list of Top 9 Single Day, Single Location Concerts.

Woodstock from behind the stage

1. Woodstock

August 15-18, 1969
Bethel, New York

This remains the mother of all music festivals, held at a 600-acre dairy farm owned by Max Yasgur. A series of coincidental events unfolded which effected the location and operation of this festival, which grew to become a “free” event for over 400,000 attendees. Regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history, 32 acts performed during the rainy weekend, starting with Richie Havens, and concluding with a memorable performance by Jimi Hendrix as the crowd dispersed mid-morning on Monday, August 18th. Woodstock was immortalized in a later documentary movie as well as a song by Joni Mitchell, who was one of many major acts that did not attend by later regretted it.

Woodstock Performers: Richie Havens, Sweetwater, Bert Sommer, Tim Hardin, Ravi Shankar, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Quill, Country Joe McDonald, Santana, John Sebastian, Keef Hartley Band, The Incredible String Band, Canned Heat, Mountain, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin with The Kozmic Blues Band, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker and The Grease Band, Ten Years After, The Band, Johnny Winter, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Sha Na Na, Jimi Hendrix and Gypsy Sun Rainbows

Buy Woodstock soundtrack
Buy Woodstock: Three Days of Peace & Music DVD

2. Monterey Pop Festival

June 16-18, 1967
Monterey, California

Jimi Hendrix at MontereyCredited as the event which sparked the “The Summer of Love”, The three-day Monterey International Pop Music Festival had a rather modest attendance but was soon recognized for its importance to the performers and significance to the sixties pop scene. The lineup consisted of a blend of rock and pop acts with memorable performances by The Who and Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Monterey Pop Performers: Jefferson Airplane, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Booker T. & the MG’s, Ravi Shankar, The Mamas and the Papas

Buy Monterey Pop Festival Live album

3. Live Aid

July 13, 1985
London and Philadelphia

Live Aid, PhiladelphiaStill the largest benefit concert 30 years on, Live Aid was a also the first live multi-venue event, with over 70,000 at London’s Wembley Stadium and close to 100,000 at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. Organized by musician Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats as relief for the Ethiopian famine, the concert evolved from Band Aid, a multi-artist group who recorded “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in 1984. Live Aid was also one of the largest worldwide television broadcasts, with an estimated audience of 1.9 billion in about 150 nations. Memorable performances and moments included those by Queen, U2, Dire Straits, a reunited Black Sabbath, and a loose reunion by members Led Zeppelin, the first since their breakup in 1980.

Live Aid Performers: Status Quo, The Style Council, The Boomtown Rats, Adam Ant, Spandau Ballet, Elvis Costello, Nik Kershaw, Sade, Sting, Phil Collins, Branford Marsalis, Howard Jones, Bryan Ferry, David Gilmour, Paul Young, U2, Dire Straits, Queen, David Bowie, Thomas Dolby, The Who, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Band Aid, Joan Baez, The Hooters, Four Tops, Billy Ocean, Black Sabbath, Run–D.M.C., Rick Springfield, REO Speedwagon, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Judas Priest, Bryan Adams, The Beach Boys, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Simple Minds, The Pretenders, Santana, Ashford & Simpson, Madonna, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Kenny Loggins, The Cars, Neil Young, The Power Station, Thompson Twins, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin (announced as “Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, Tony Thompson, Paul Martinez, Phil Collins”), Duran Duran, Patti LaBelle, Hall & Oates, Mick Jagger, Eddie Kendricks, David Ruffin, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, USA for Africa

Buy Live Aid DVD

4. Isle of Wight Festival

August 26-30, 1970
Isle of Wight, UK

Isle Of Wight Festival, 1970In sheer numbers, the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival may be the largest ever, with estimates of over 600,000, which is an increase of about 50% over Woodstock. Promoted by local brothers Ronnie, Ray and Bill Foulk, the 5-day event caused such logistical problems (all attendees had to be ferried to the small island) that Parliament passed the “Isle of Wight Act” in 1971, preventing gatherings of more than 5,000 people on the island without a special license. Memorable performances included late career appearances by Jimi Hendrix and The Doors, and The Who, who released their entire set on the 1996 album Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970.

Isle of Wight 1970 Performers: Judas Jump, Kathy Smith, Rosalie Sorrels, David Bromberg, Redbone, Kris Kristofferson, Mighty Baby, Gary Farr, Supertramp, Howl, Black Widow, The Groundhogs, Terry Reid, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, Fairfield Parlour, Arrival, Lighthouse, Taste, Rory Gallagher, Chicago, Procol Harum, Voices of East Harlem, Cactus, John Sebastian, Shawn Phillips, Joni Mitchell, Tiny Tim, Miles Davis, Ten Years After, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Doors, The Who, Sly & the Family Stone, Melanie, Good News, Ralph McTell, Heaven, Free, Donovan, Pentangle, The Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, Richie Havens

Buy Message to Love, The Isle of Wight Festival DVD

5. Ozark Music Festival

July 19-21, 1974
Sedalia, Missouri

Ozark Music Festival stage“No Hassles Guaranteed” was the motto of the Ozark Music Festival, held at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in 1974. While this festival offered an impressive lineup of artists as well as a crowd upwards of 350,000 people, the Missouri Senate later described the festival as a disaster, due to the behaviors and destructive tendencies of the crowd.

Ozark Music Festival Performers: Bachman–Turner Overdrive, Aerosmith, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Blue Öyster Cult, The Eagles, America, Marshall Tucker Band, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Boz Scaggs, Ted Nugent, David Bromberg, Leo Kottke, Cactus, The Earl Scruggs Revue, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Electric Flag, Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Joe Walsh and Barnstorm, The Souther Hillman Furay Band, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Charlie Daniels Band, REO Speedwagon, Spirit

6. US Festival

May 28-30, 1983
Devore, California

Steve Wozniak’s US Festivals were staged on two occasions in September 1982 and May 1983. The second of these was packed with a lineup of top-notch eighties acts who performed in an enormous state-of-the-art temporary amphitheatre at Glen Helen Regional Park.

1983 US Festival Performers: Divinyls, INXS, Wall of Voodoo, Oingo Boingo, The English Beat, A Flock of Seagulls, Stray Cats, Men at Work, The Clash, Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Triumph, Scorpions, Van Halen, Los Lobos, Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul, Berlin, Quarterflash, U2, Missing Persons, The Pretenders, Joe Walsh, Stevie Nicks, David Bowie

7. The Crossroads Guitar Festival

June 4-6, 2004
Dallas, Texas

Crossroads Festival 2004 adStarting in 2004, the Crossroads Guitar Festivals have been held every three years to benefit the Crossroads Centre for drug treatment in Antigua, founded by Eric Clapton. These concerts showcase a variety of guitarists, with the first lineup at the Cotton Bowl stadium in 2004 featuring some legends along with up-and-comers hand-picked by Clapton himself.

2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival Performers: Eric Clapton, Johnny A, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Ron Block, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Doyle Bramhall II, JJ Cale, Larry Carlton, Robert Cray, Sheryl Crow, Bo Diddley, Jerry Douglas, David Honeyboy Edwards, Vince Gill, Buddy Guy, David Hidalgo, Zakir Hussain, Eric Johnson, B.B. King, Sonny Landreth, Jonny Lang, Robert Lockwood, Jr., John Mayer, John McLaughlin, Robert Randolph, Duke Robillard, Carlos Santana, Hubert Sumlin, James Taylor, Dan Tyminski, Steve Vai, Jimmie Vaughan, Joe Walsh, ZZ Top, David Johansen

Buy Eric Clapton: Crossroads Guitar Festival 2004 DVD

8. Live 8

July 2, 2005
Locations world wide

Pink Floyd at Live 8Held 20 years after he organized Live Aid, Bob Geldof’s Live 8 was even more ambitious, being held in nine different locations around the world on the same day. Timed to coincide with the G8 conference in Scotland that year, the goal was to raise money to fight poverty in Africa. The most memorable moment from the concerts was at Hyde Park in London where the classic lineup of Pink Floyd reunited for the first time in over two decades.

Live 8 Performers: U2, Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox, Mariah Carey, R.E.M. The Killers, The Who, UB40, Pink Floyd, Elton John, Bob Geldof, Velvet Revolver, Madonna, Coldplay, Robbie Williams, Will Smith, Alicia Keys, The Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, Linkin Park, Jay-Z, Rob Thomas, Sarah McLachlan, Stevie Wonder, Maroon 5, Deep Purple, Neil Young, Buck Cherry, Bryan Adams, Mötley Crüe, Brian Wilson, Green Day, a-Ha, Roxy Music, Dido, Peter Gabriel, Snow Patrol, The Corrs, Zola, Lucky Dube, Jungo, Pet Shop Boys, Muse, The Cure

Buy Live 8 DVD

9. Woodstock ’94

August 12-14, 1994
Saugerties, New York

Organized to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the original Woodstock festival, Woodstock ’94 was promoted as “3 More Days of Peace and Music”. in fact, this concert took place near the originally intended location of that first show and other similarities such as common performers, similar crowd size, rain, and mud.

Woodstock ’94 Performers: Blues Traveler, Candlebox, Collective Soul, Jackyl, King’s X, Live, Orleans, Sheryl Crow, Violent Femmes, Joe Cocker, Blind Melon, Cypress Hill, Rollins Band, Melissa Etheridge, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, John Sebastian, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Aerosmith, Country Joe McDonald, Sisters of Glory, Arrested Development, Allman Brothers Band, Traffic, Santana, Green Day, Paul Rodgers Rock and Blues Revue, Spin Doctors, Porno For Pyros, Bob Dylan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Peter Gabriel

Read more on Woodstock ’94 from our recent Comebacks and Reunions special feature


Bonus Top 9 List: Best Single Day, Single Location Shows

The Who at Concert for New York City

1. The Concert for New York City October 20, 2001. New York, NY
2. The Band’s Last Waltz November 25, 1976. San Francisco, CA
3. Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Celebration May 14, 1988. New York, NY
4. Concert for Bangladesh August 1, 1971. New York, NY
5. Knebworh Festival June 30, 1990. Knebworth, UK
6. Texxas Jam July 1, 1978. Dallas, TX
7. Farm Aid September 22, 1985. Champaign, IL
8. Canada Jam August 26, 1990. Bowmanville, Ontario
9. Altamont Free Concert December 6, 1969. Tracy, CA

~

Ric Albano

Get Your Wings by Aerosmith

Buy Get Your Wings

Get Your Wings by AerosmithAfter their raw but potent debut in 1973, Aerosmith really started to forge their classic 1970s rock sound with their second album, Get Your Wings. This was due, in small part, to the arrival of producer Jack Douglas, who would go on to produce a total of seven albums with the group. Douglas helped Aerosmith translate their sound to the studio process of the 1970s and found a nice niche somewhere between blues and rock n’ roll to help launch the group into the mainstream for the first time. In a way, Get Your Wings shows Aerosmith at the crossroads of both finding the rock sound that would proliferate in the 1980s while continuing with the raw, barroom-style tunes of their earliest days.

Aerosmith toured constantly from their earliest days of 1971, through the support for their 1973 debut Aerosmith. Later that same year, they finally took a break and headed into the New York studio to concentrate on this second album for about a solid month. Front man and lead vocalist Steven Tyler continued his compositional dominance by writing three songs solo and co-writing every other song with the exception of the album’s single cover song.

Guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford also continued their dual-axe attack, trading lead and rhythm duties and seamlessly switching between blues-rock and more standard fare hard rock. With this arrangement, many early critics of the band deemed them clones of the Rolling Stones, but that comparison was overtly simplistic as Aerosmith was surely blazing their own, bold trail even at this very early juncture in their career.


Get Your Wings by Aerosmith
Released: March 1, 1974 (Columbia)
Produced by: Ray Colcord and Jack Douglas
Recorded: The Record Plant, New York, December 1973-January 1974
Side One Side Two
Same Old Song and Dance
Lord of the Thighs
Spaced
Woman of the World
S.O.S. (Too Bad)
Train Kept a’ Rollin’
Seasons of Wither
Pandora’s Box
Group Musicians
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Piano, Guitar
Joe Perry – Guitars, Vocals
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass
Joey Kramer – Drums, Percussion

 

The most popular song on album starts things off with “Same Old Song and Dance”, built around Perry’s crisp guitar riff. With some edgy lyrics, dueling guitars, interspersed horns, and a tenor sax lead by session man Michael Brecker, the song proved to be a minor hit in the short term and a concert staple for the long run. Tyler’s “Lord of the Thighs” is built on an effective drum beat by Joey Kramer, who drives the intro which builds nicely with each instrument coming in turn. Tyler’s vocals are especially deep and bluesy as the song goes through three definitive sections, ending with Perry’s riff-infused outro with several effect-rich overdubs. The song was the last recorded for the album as Aerosmith needed one more song and locked themselves in the rehearsal room until they came up with this one.

Perhaps the most underwhelming song on the album, “Spaced” is a song that is entertaining nonetheless. With a subtle but eerie beginning to Tyler’s vocals closely follow Perry’s guitar riffing, the song is a lament to man-made mayhem. “Woman of the World” is a song which dates back to the mid sixties and Tyler’s former band, The Strangeurs. Co-written by then-band-mate Don Solomon, the song’s intro follows same basic pattern of “Lord of the Thighs”, but soon finds its own way as a very entertaining and rewarding tune with cool melodies and potent riffing. The ending jam contains a harmonica solo by Tyler, sandwiched between leads by Perry and Whitford.

The second side of Get Your Wings kicks off with “S.O.S. (Too Bad)”, which previews some of the more raw, sleeze songs Aerosmith would use on albums like Draw the Line. A hard rock song, with underlying riffs and topical textures, this short and energetic song fills the same space that punk rock would soon occupy. The album’s only cover, “Train Kept A-Rollin'”, actually caused a chasm between the band and producer Douglas. This unique album track fused two distinct versions at differing tempos and put them together back-to-back, with the second one incorporating some “live” elements. Because the band disapproved of the method, Douglas also brought in two session guitarists, each to play lead on respective halves of the song. The addition crowd noise at the end of the track was treated and synthesized to form the “wind” effects that led into the next song.

“Seasons of Wither” is one of the best Aerosmith songs ever and is Tyler’s strongest recording effort. Beyond vocal duties, the singer also picks out the unique acoustic notes that give the tune such an eerie yet beautiful feel. Further, although Get Your Wings is a somewhat weak album for bassist Tom Hamilton, he truly shines on this song, nicely complimenting Tyler’s unique acoustic riffs with moderate and measured notes that drive the song from phrase to phrase. “Seasons of Wither” paints pictures of a vivid scenery which is at once foreboding and romantic and ends with one of the most efficient guitar leads ever, very short with a single, sustained note taking up last few bars of the song. The album finishes strong with a rare compositional credit for drummer Joey Kramer. “Pandora’s Box” is a pure rock n’ soul which bookends the album finely with the return of brass section present in the opener “Same Old Song and Dance” and was heavily inspired by 1960s Motown and blue-eyed soul.

Get Your Wings only reached #74 on the album charts which, at the time, was a big disappointment for the band who had (rightly) felt that they had recorded something special. In time it has sold more than three million copies and proved to be the starting point for their greatest run of quality albums.

~

1974 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1974 albums.

 

Pump by Aerosmith

Buy Pump

Pump by AerosmithThe second distinct phase of Aerosmith‘s fame hit full stride in 1989 with the release of Pump, the band’s tenth overall studio album and their third release since reuniting in 1985. And much like their third overall release Toys In the Attack back in 1975, this album was a tremendous commercial success. Pump sold over seven million copies, is the only Aerosmith album to score three Top 10 singles on the Billboard pop chart, and became the fourth bestselling album overall for the year 1990. The album is also notable within the Aerosmith collection for its inclusion of a variety of instrumental interludes which precede several of the album tracks, adding a sense of diversity to the mix.

However, the overall musical quality of Pump is more mixed than its impressive commercial accolades may indicate. This was the second of three sequential studio albums with producer Bruce Fairbairn, which were all recorded in Vancouver, BC, Canada. All of these albums employed an overt attempt to further commercialize the band, with hook-heavy material trumping Aerosmith’s strong tradition of more raw and improvised-style, heavy, blues rock. On the bright side, guitarist Brad Whitford explained that the album title was a celebration of how “pumped up” the group was to kick their various substance abuse habbits, and this was especially evident in lead vocalist Steven Tyler, who put forth his greatest effort of his long career.

The group spent of the bulk of the winter of 1988-89 working on this album, first getting together to rehearse in December 1988 near their homes in Massachusetts and then migrating across the continent to the studio in Vancouver in Early 1989. Nearly 20 songs were written, with Fairborn splitting these compositions into “A” and “B” lists as far as “single” consideration. A few of the tracks not included on Pump were the later 1997 hit “Hole In My Soul” and the country-flavored “Sedona Sunrise”, which was later included on the 2006 compilation Devil’s Got a New Disguise.


Pump by Aerosmith
Released: September 12, 1989 (Geffen)
Produced by: Bruce Fairbairn
Recorded: Little Mountain Sound Studio, Vancouver, BC, February–June 1989
Track Listing Group Musicians
Young Lust
F.I.N.E.
Love In An Elevator
Monkey On My Back
Janie’s Got a Gun
The Other Side
My Girl
Don’t Get Mad, Get Even
Voodoo Medicine Man
What It Takes
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Harmonica
Joe Perry – Guitars, Vocals
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass, Vocals
Joey Kramer – Drums
 
Pump by Aerosmith

 

Pump commences with a super-sexed triology of tunes filled with not-so-subtle innuendos, almost to the point of absurdity. Tyler later admitted this was almost over-compensation for all the years of fame they spent wasted and disinterested in sex. The Opener “Young Lust” is simple and cheap, yet not terribly trite. Co-written by lead guitarist Joe Perry and hired hand Jim Vallance, this is a strong and frenzied number that, if nothing else, proves the group was not going “adult contemporary” as the 1980s wound down. A fairly impressive drum solo by Joey Kramer bridges into the follow-up “F.I.N.E.” This second song is much more melodic and original than the opener, closer to seventies-era Aerosmith in approach and dynamics. The expert use of both guitarists with distinct rock textures act as a canvas for Tyler’s strong vocals. The song’s title is an acronym for “Fucked Up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional”, coining a Hollywood catch-phrase for the nineties, with the only real drawback of “F.I.N.E.” being a few lame attempts at comedic lines.

“Love In an Elevator” begins with a female spoken-word intro known as “Going Down” while the song proper is pure Tyler and Perry, following each other in riff and melody. The verses contain some anthemic chanting in the spirit of Def Leppard and Perry’s mult-part lead is somewhat interesting with odd backing sound motifs thrown in during this extended mid section, including some backwards-masking and vocal harmonization this continues in the outtro with some trumpets by Fairbairn. Released as a single, the song peaked at number 5 on the Billboard pop chart. “Monkey on My Back” starts with Perry’s slow but heavy, bluesy slide guitar. This song’s overall feel is messy and distant, much like material from 1977’s Draw the Line, which gives it a bit of nostalgic touch, while scorning the excess of those old days with it’s telling of the consequences of heavy drug use.

Bass player Tom Hamilton, an oft-forgotten member of Aerosmith, co-wrote the classic “Janie’s Got a Gun”, which brought the group their first and only Grammy award. This masterpiece of arrangement and production is a true rock classic with beautiful sonic breezes coming from all directions – from the bouncy, high-pitched bass riff and slamming percussive effect of the verses, to the masterful use of keyboards and strings to the storybook passages of distinct song sections. The song tackles serious subject matter in a tackful and creative manner and it solidifies Aerosmith as a notch above most rock bands in their class. While there is little guitar presence (for such a guitar-centric group), “Janie’s Got a Gun” is certainly in the top echelon of pieces through their multi-decade career.

Many of the musical interludes on Pump were done by Randy Raine-Reusch, with his most impressive being the “Dulcimer Stomp” intro to “The Other Side”. Another Top 40 single, the song proper contains a nice arrangement of horns, harmonized vocals and plenty of pop hooks, while economically using guitars, with just small and subtle bits of riffing. The real weak spot of the album follows in the next trio of songs. “My Girl” contains very little substance or soul, while “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even” has a decent bluesy beginning before it abruptly screams into something totally uninteresting. co-written by Whitford, “Voodoo Medicine Man” seems to make an attempt at something dramatic and deep, but this ultimately doesn’t amount to much beyond the opening verse and the somewhat interesting mid section.

“What It Takes” really salvages the latter part of this album, by returning to the group’s mid seventies practice of performing a power ballad to conclude their albums. Co-wriiten by long time collaborator Desmond Child, Aerosmith perfects the song type they invented a decade and a half earlier, with their secret being more “power” than “ballad”, exuding all the emotion without resorting to any lame, sappy maneuvers. Fairborn’s generous use of accordion and Perry’s interesting pre-bridge guitar lead is only trumped by the song’s outro, the best moment on the album. True performance magic in the fantastic, improvised vocals by Tyler show the true heights of the singer’s talent. While “Janie Got a Gun” is the creative masterpiece which ended the original side one, “What It Takes” is the performance masterpiece to end Pump on the highest of notes.

With the greatest commercial success of their career, Aerosmith found a whole new audience and used this as an opportunity to tour and release a couple compilation albums in the early nineties. Their next studio release would not come until 1993 with the album Get a Grip.

~

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1989 albums.


1989 Images

 

Get a Grip by Aerosmith

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Get a Grip by AerosmithAerosmith made an amazing comeback in the late 1980s, as the band which was essentially dead at the beginning of that decade sprang back with a second act unlike many others in rock history. However, with their first release of the 1990s, Get a Grip, the band kind of “jumped the shark” in providing manufactured, crowd-tested anthems with extra vanilla production techniques and cheap, low grade lyrics. Further, the group attempted to mask is hyper-commercialized approach by adding some boilerplate social commentary. As tacky as this approach was artistically, it certainly worked commercially as Get a Grip became Aerosmith’s best-selling studio album worldwide with sales of over 20 million copies.

Produced by Bruce Fairbairn, the album employees outside composers and performers more than any other Aerosmith album, with compositions by only band members being more the exception than the rule. Joey Kramer, a quality drummer since the band’s inception with their debut album two decades earlier, is reduced to providing almost mind-numbing drumming and hardly ever adding any variation to the most basic of 4/4 beats. This may just be the most egregious of several examples where the band just decided to play it safe and not really variate from their late eighties formula, even regress at times.

The album was actually rejected by Geffen in its original form during the summer of 1992 and the band returned to the studio to record more “radio-friendly” material, ultimately delaying the album’s release by about 6 months. Get a Grip would be the final album Aerosmith would record for Geffen Records.

 


Get a Grip by Aerosmith
Released: April 20, 1993 (Virgin)
Produced by: Bruce Fairbairn
Recorded: A&M Studios, Hollywood & Little Mountain Sound, Vancouver, Jan-Nov 1992
Track Listing Band Musicians
Intro / Eat the Rich
Get a Grip
Fever
Livin’ On the Edge
Flesh
Walk On Down
Shut Up and Dance
Cryin’
Gotta Love It
Crazy
Line Up
Amazing
Boogie Man
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Piano, Harmonica
Joe Perry – Guitars, Vocals
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass, Vocals
Joey Kramer – Drums
 

Get a Grip by Aerosmith

 
The tackiness of the album is evident from the jump with the terrible “Intro” with jungle noises, behind a cheesy rap by vocalist Steven Tyler and sampling of “Walk This Way”. This leads to “Eat the Rich”, co-written by hired songwriter Jim Vallance, which starts as a decent enough, riff-driven rock song but is unfortunately tarnished by cheap and cheesy lyrics and a few tawdry lines thrown in for pure “shock value”. Then, as if to just underline the total suckiness of the song, it ends with a loud belch. Still, this song was a hit and appeared on a few future compilations.

Vallance also co-wrote the title song “Get a Grip”, a frantic rap which gets repetitive. Better than the opener, but still pretty weak. “Fever” is the best of the opening trio because of strong rock and blues influences by lead guitarist Joe Perry. This still feels a bit cheap and, by this point in the album, it feels like this band of 40-somethings is trying just a bit too hard to be  hip and hard rocking.

Song doctor Mark Hudson’s “Livin’ On the Edge” is the first real quality song on the album, featuring Brad Whitford on acoustic guitar accompanied by almost-Eastern-sounding lead guitars and good quality melodies. There is also a decent bridge arrangement with some slight piano and the song’s only real issue is the artificially elongated ending, which reprises after a few false stops, extending the song about a minute and a half longer than it should be without much true benefit for the listener. The song was a Top 20 hit on the Pop charts. “Flesh” was co-written by long time collaborator Desmond Child and starts with a synthesized and sound-effect-drenched opening, before finally kicking with decent musical and melodic elements featuring Whitford on lead guitar. Perry’s “Walk On Down” is just as weak lyrically as other material but is a bit interesting because of Joe Perry’s vocals. “Shut Up and Dance” may be the nadir of this album. Composed by jack Blades and Tommy Shaw (then of Damn Yankees), there is a decent hook in the chorus but the verses are really cheap and repetitive.
 

 
“Cryin'” was co-written by Taylor Rhodes and is, perhaps, the best song on the album. A ballad performed at maximum volume, the production value is top-notch and the song contains a great fade-out coda, reminding us that Aerosmith can really extend a song organically when they really want to. Both Perry and Whitford play guitar solos while Tyler adds a harmonica solo.

Bassist Tom Hamilton adds some funky bass to the groove “Gotta Love It”, which also contains some biting guitar riffs. Child returns and adds some mandolin to the ballad “Crazy”, which has a decent enough vibe once you get past the corny intro. The song was another chart success for the band and also earned the band a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal in 1994. “Line Up” features Lenny Kravitz in a fusion between Motown and heavy rock along with a bluesy slide guitar and a slight horn section.

Leaving aside the experimental “Boogie Man”, the album truly completes with “Amazing” by Richard Supa. This excellent piano ballad with great chord structure and perfectly arranged instrumentation, almost single-handedly redeems the album with a great outtro similar to “What It Takes” on their previous album, but a lame 1940s-like spoken radio announcement completely rips the listener from the moody vibe and reminds him how cheesy this album really is right to the end.

Although a commercial phenom, Get a Grip tainted Aerosmith’s reputation for authentic rock quite substantially. They would redeem themselves a bit with their next album, the fine Nine Lives in 1997, which was much more substantial musically but less successful commercially.

~

1993 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1993 albums.

 

Aerosmith

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Aerosmith 1973 debut albumAerosmith emerged as a blues rock alternative in a music sea of glam rock and prog rock of the early 1970s. Their impressive 1973 debut album doesn’t contain anything particularly innovative musically, but still manages to forge some unforgettable moments. The album is also the band’s most authentically bluesy release (something they’d try to replicate three decades later with the 2004 cover album Honkin’ On Bobo) and some of these extended blues numbers were the longest songs the band would ever release. Band leader and lead vocalist Steven Tyler wrote the bulk of the original material and uses a bit of an exaggerated “blues” voice, something he would soon abandon.

Tyler began performing as a drummer in his native New Hampshire as early as 1964. In nearby Massachusetts, guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton formed a free-form and blues group called the Jam Band (commonly known as “Joe Perry’s Jam Band”). Eventually the performers were united in 1970 in Boston by drummer Joey Kramer, a Berkley student who had gotten to know all the above musicians. With Kramer on drums, Tyler moved to “frontman” and the new band chose a name inspired by Harry Nilsson’s album Aerial Ballet. Another Berkley student, Brad Whitford joined as rhythm guitarist in 1971, completing the classic quartet which makes up the band to this day.

By the time their debut album was released, the band had been playing constantly for nearly three years, helping to forge a confident boogie-blues and riff-based hard rock sound. Producer Adrian Barber captured this sound in a raw yet professional manner, avoiding the typical stumbles and haziness that normally comes with a debut.


Aerosmith by Aerosmith
Released: January 5, 1973 (Columbia)
Produced by: Adrian Barber
Recorded: Intermedia Studios, 1972
Side One Side Two
Make It
Somebody
Dream On
One Way Street
Mama Kin
Write Me a Letter
Movin’ Out
Walkin’ the Dog
Group Musicians
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Piano, Harmonica
Joe Perry – Guitars
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass
Joey Kramer – Drums

Aerosmith’s recording career begins with an excellent example of their early sound. “Make It” is a mixture of fuzzy but clean riffs and some distant whining guitars above a solid rhythm with about medium quality recording. “Somebody” a pure, riff-driven rocker follows. It appears the band was going for the accessible radio hit (which probably would have worked for the later, more polished Aerosmith) but it never did quite catch on and just lays there for the enjoyment of us future music lovers. This song has an interesting middle section, which slowly develops but works towards a whiny, bluesy guitar mimicked in sync by Tyler’s ad-libbed voice.

The original recording of “Dream On” is unique, surreal, and timeless song, which can often be overlooked as the classic signature song that it is. This may be due to the fact that it has been way overplayed on rock radio and, let’s face it, the band kind of butchers it live. The song is unique on this album, driven by piano, mellotron, and high pitched vocals by Tyler, and ringing guitar notes by Perry. It was the band’s first single, but only reached #59 in 1973. It did much better during a second release in 1976, reaching the Top Ten after Aerosmith had broken through to the main stream.

The first side closes with “One Way Street”, the perfect fusion of blues and rock which represents the heart of the album. Whitford takes over lead guitar on this one, which is a multi-part jam with some finer details touched up by Hamilton’s bass and Tyler’s harmonica. “Mama Kin” is the second song on the album which remained a signature throughout their career. It starts with a long intro section of Perry’s steady but strong riff and works in much stop/start action by the rest of the musicians. Guest David Woodford provides saxophone to the mix and Perry adds some backing vocals.

The rest of side two contains solid yet relatively unknown tracks. “Write Me a Letter” was recorded with a real live feel to it, sounding like it was done in a club. The guitars are crisp and Kramer’s drumming is especially sharp and dynamic, rising above the rest of the band. “Movin’ Out” was co-written by Perry and is another strong blues with a real Celtic undertone to it. The album completes with “Walkin’ the Dog”, the only cover song on the album, written by Rufus Thomas. It may also be the most Zeppelin-esque of any song on the album, very upbeat and entertaining and a strong way to finish the album.

By all commercial metrics, Aerosmith was a flop upon its release and, like its top single, was issued new life only after the band broke through with success on their mid 70s albums. However, musically this album stood the test of time and decades later sounds fresh and entertaining.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of 1973 albums.

 

Permanent Vacation by Aerosmith

Permanent Vacation by AerosmithIn spite of their much celebrated “reunion” in 1984, two years later Aerosmith was still a band in turmoil. Their 1985 album Done With Mirrors did not do so well commercially and various members of the band were still struggling with the alcohol and drug habits which caused their initial split in 1979. Still, the band was determined to get back to the top of the rock world and made a concerted effort to make their next studio album the vehicle on which to make that rise. Permanent Vacation pretty much accomplished this goal, but not before some tough decisions were made. The band’s label, Geffen Records, insisted that they would only fund this recording if all five band members complete a drug and alcohol rehab program (which they did). Also, after listening to the demos, Geffen insisted that outside songwriters be brought in to work with the band members, a tough condition to accept for a band that had previously recorded eight albums of all original material over the preceding fourteen years.

The “song doctors” which were hired fired for this project were Desmond Child and Jim Vallance. Child was a Florida resident who had a minor hit with his band Rouge in 1979 before deciding to dedicate his time to strictly songwriting. He penned some hits for bands like Cher, Kiss, Bon Jovi, Poison, and Joan Jett before writing pop hits for Aerosmith starting with this album, through the 1990s. Vallance was best know for his songwriting partnership with Bryan Adams which lasted through his first five solo albums and all of Adams’ early hits. Vallance also wrote songs for Kiss, Bonnie Raitt, and Northern Lights, and would also help to write several hit songs for Aerosmith through the mid 1990s. Permanent Vacation was recorded in Vallance’s hometown of Vancouver and produced by Bruce Fairbairn.

As for the band members of Aerosmith themselves, they credit the fact that they successfully “cleaned up” for reawakening their musical zest. This was most evident right out front with vocalist Steven Tyler, who especially shined on this album with his strong and dynamic singing, catchy hooks, interesting lyrics, and even a return to his blues roots with prolific harp playing. The combination of the polished pop songs, classic-era rockers, and a judicious amount of experimentation made for a successful combination on this album with very few weak points throughout.


Permanent Vacation by Aerosmith
Released: August 18, 1987 (Geffen)
Produced by: Bruce Fairbairn
Recorded: Little Mountain Sound Studios, Vancouver, BC, March–May 1987
Side One Side Two
Heart’s Done Time
Magic Touch
Rag Doll
Simoriah
Dude (Looks Like a Lady)
St. John
Hangman Jury
Girl Keeps Coming Apart
Angel
Permanent Vacation
I’m Down
The Movie
Band Musicians
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Piano | Joe Perry – Guitars, Vocals
Brad Whitford – Guitars | Tom Hamilton – Bass | Joey Kramer – Drums

The album begins with a couple of riff driven rockers by Tyler and lead guitars Joe Perry along with one each of the “song doctors”. “Heart’s Done Time”, co-written by Child, provides an intense intro section and some autobiographical lyrics which seem to tell of the band’s rocky journey to this point in their career. “Magic Touch”, co-written by Vallance contains some signature Perry-style muddy guitar riffs with decent, melodic vocals by Tyler.

“Rag Doll” was one of three charting hits from the album and brings in yet another professional songwriter, Holly Knight, who collaborated with Vallance and Tyler in a swinging hybrid between 1940s “hit parade” and 1980s “hair rock”. A strong horn section along with Perry’s slide guitar sweeten the song nicely and add a contrast like no other to the album. The following “Simoriah” contains textured riffs and soaring vocals, returning the band to the full-fledged rock n roll realm.

“Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” -was co-written by Child and became the band’s biggest hit in years. This clavichord led, brass intensive was originally written as “Cruisin’ for a Lady” but was updated after Tyler met the band Mötley Crüe and derived from their California “dude” talk, this new title, refrain, and narrative.

The most interesting songs on the album bookend the end of side one and beginning of side two, as each returns to some of the band’s vintage roots. The earthy blues of “St. John” hearkens back to Aerosmith’s very first album in 1973 and is more blues than rock, although there is still plenty of both. The excellent, harmonica-driven “Hangman Jury” starts as a perfect rendition of acoustic blues, with porch swing on a summer night effects included, before breaking into an upbeat Aerosmith rocker circa mid-1970s. In fact, the opening rendition was so perfect that that the band was later sued by blues man Lead Belly’s estate for royalties.

“Girl Keeps Coming Apart” is a frenzied and exciting song, led by the driving drums by Joey Kramer, the funky guitars and harmonies by Perry, and plenty of sonic splashes from horns and harmonicas throughout. Unfortunately, the album’s momentum is broken by the power ballad “Angel” which, although a big radio hit, is the tackiest and most caricature-driven song. Aerosmith had a hand in creating this type of song, as they finished many of their 1970s albums with lighter fare, but with “Angel” they went just a tad too far and it is probably the weakest moment on the album. The Caribbean-influenced title track follows, which was co-written by guitarist Brad Whitford and is quite fun and entertaining.

Of the scores of artists that attempted to cover Beatles songs over the years, Aerosmith has done the best job. I’ve long opined, to much controversy, that their 1978 cover of “Come Together” was superior to the 1969 original, and the same may be true of “I’m Down” on this album, which adds some great sound to the famous Shea Stadium performance of the song by the Beatles 22 years earlier, which looked like a lot of fun but really couldn’t be heard over the screaming fans. The album concludes with “The Movie”, a weird instrumental credited to all five members of the band, but driven mainly by the pulsating bass line of Tom Hamilton, many added synthesized effects, and a spoken female voice in a foreign language.

Permanent Vacation is considered Aerosmith’s true comeback album and went on to sell over five million copies in the U.S. alone. It would reinvent Aerosmith through the rest of the 1980s and throughout the 1990s, as they pretty followed the same formula and found continued commercial success.

~
R.A.


1987 Images

 

Draw the Line by Aerosmith

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Draw the Line by AerosmithAerosmith‘s fifth album in 1977 came after the phenomenal success of 1975’s Toys in the Attic and 1976’s Rocks. Although the momentum continued to an extent with Draw the Line, this album is vastly different from those predecessors. It doesn’t sound quite as polished as their previous three albums, which is probably due in equal parts to the band’s desire to return to the blues-based rock of their first album and the musician’s own impaired state of mind during this well-documented time of excess. Lead singer Steven Tyler’s vocals are most deviant as he retreated to a darker, growling and wailing style voice.

The music on Draw the Line is murky and uneven. But lost in this murkiness is some legitimately excellent musical moments. The band abandoned studio experimentation for a simple, straight-ahead hard rock approach. Lead guitarist Joe Perry delved further into his loose style of Stones-inspired blues raunch, freely floating just above the band’s rhythm section. Jack Douglas co-produced the album with the band and also got involved in co-writing four of the album’s songs. The album was recorded in an abandoned convent outside of New York City called The Cenacle. However, this former holy place set the scene for the devilish situations which had an adverse affect on the album.

The sessions at The Cenacle were marred by in-fighting, extreme excess, and much drug use. This obviously had a negative effect on some of the songs, especially a few on the second side which appear to not be fully developed. As Tyler recalls; “The negativity and the drama sucked the creativity out of the marrow of my bones.”


Draw the Line by Aerosmith
Released: December 1, 1977 (Warner Brothers)
Produced by: Jack Douglas & Aerosmith
Recorded: The Cenacle, Armonk, NY, 1977
Side One Side Two
Draw the Line
I Wanna Know Why
The Critical Mass
Get It Up
Bright Light Fright
Kings and Queens
The Hand That Feeds
Sight For Sore Eyes
Milk Cow Blues
Group Musicians
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Piano, Harmonica
Joe Perry – Guitars, Vocals
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass
Joey Kramer– Drums

 

Draw the Line contains many tracks which are quite good but may take a while to adapt to as they are not immediately accessible. “I Wanna Know Why” is a straight-out rocker, with a nice piano lead by session man Scott Cushnie, a nice lead by rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford and good vocal hook by Tyler. “The Critical Mass” is much more interesting. This forgotten classic, includes a harmonica lead by the singer, whining guitars by Perry above a thumping bass of co-writer Tom Hamilton. Lyrically, the song is one of many that apparently explores the dark side of drug abuse as evident in the opening lyric;

Arriving in boats, black-hooded coats, tormentors climbed into my room
I crawled under my bed, covered my head, but they’re flushin’ me out with a broom..”

“Get It Up” was the band’s attempt at a pop song that, ironically, failed to move up the charts. It features a strong drum beat by Joey Kramer and a heavy dose of slide guitar by Joe Perry.
Perry then takes lead vocals on the next song “Bright Light Fright”, one of the rarest songs of the era for Aerosmith, which has almost never been played live by the band.
Backup vocals by Karen Lawrence
 

 
The true gems of the album are the songs which open each side. “Draw the Line”, whether intentionally or not, sounds distant and “vintage”, almost like its recording was caught by accident. The song features much back-and-forth interplay between guitarists Perry and Whitford that sounds improvised but works beautifully. The highlight of the song is Tyler’s climatic “screamed” final verse. “Kings and Queens” is the most original song on the album, written by Tyler, Whitford, Hamilton, Kramer, and Douglas and driven by unorthodox (for Aerosmith) instrumentation, including piano and synths, a bass lead by Hamilton, mandolin by Douglas, and banjo by guest Paul Prestopino. The song’s lyric delves into a swords-and-sorcery epic something usually reserved for more prog-rock oriented bands like Genesis or King Crimsom.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album is much less inspired with “filler” songs that are not quite terrible, but not really up to spec with the quality one might expect from Aerosmith during their finest era. “The Hand That Feeds” is the best of the three due mainly to the guitar work of Whitford. “Sight For Sore Eyes” was co-written by David Johansen of the New York Dolls, but falls short of being fully developed. The closer “Milk Cow Blues” is a blues classic which was originally written and recorded by Kokomo Arnold in and covered by such acts as Robert Johnson and Elvis Presley. But unfortunately, Aerosmith does not really advance this song much at all.

Soon after Draw the Line, internal fueding led to the departure of both guitarists Perry and Whitford for more than half a decade, resulting in a couple of albums with other guitarists. The reunited Aerosmith did make a remarkable comeback in the late eighties, reaching pop heights like never before. However, music of the same quality from the mid seventies would not quite be created again.

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1977 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1977 albums.

 

Rocks by Aerosmith

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Rocks by AerosmithWe commence our look at 1976 with a review of the fourth of four great albums by Aerosmith that launched their career during their classic period of the 1970s. Starting with their self-titled debut in 1973, Get Your Wings in 1974, and Toys In the Attic in 1975, Rocks is probably the most aptly named of these as it completes the slow metamorphosis of the band from the heavy blues sound of their to a pure, raw rock band. The album was a commercial success and became a great influence on the prolific hard rock and heavy metal sound throughout the next decade and a half.

Although Rocks is less pop-oriented than the band’s previous album, it carries on many of the same trends that began with that album. These include exploring (and/or inventing) different sub-genres like rap rock and funk and finishing up with a “power ballad”, which was still a fresh concept for hard rock bands in the mid seventies. However, Rocks is by far the most cohesive Aerosmith album. It is solid from top to bottom and a real jam with a mixture of tight riffs and improvised leads throughout. The production is at once clean and dense and the overall sound is still fresh-sounding to listeners three and a half decades later.

The content of the album ranges from themes of longing and nostalgia, to darker themes of impending doom and death, to songs which celebrate the rock n roll lifestyle in general. The music includes strong input and participation from each band member with compositions being penned by four different songwriters.

 


Rocks by Aerosmith
Released: May 3, 1976 (Columbia)
Produced by: Jack Douglas & Aerosmith
Recorded: The Wherehouse, Waltham, MA, February-March, 1976
Side One Side Two
Back in the Saddle
Last Child
Rats in the Cellar
Combination
Sick As a Dog
Nobody’s Fault
Get the Lead Out
Lick, And a Promise
Home Tonight
Band Musicians
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Harmonica
Joe Perry – Guitars, Vocals
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass, Vocals
Joey Kramer – Drums, Vocals

 

“Back In the Saddle” launches Rocks as it would launch concerts for years to come. The song starts with a dramatic build-up before giving way to an understated main riff with droning lead guitars by Joe Perry. It contains a cowboy-influenced double-entente lyric, repleat with sound effects to match the mood and lead singer Steve Tyler’s screaming hook. The song is one of the heaviest on the album along with “Rats In the Cellar”, a song that borders on heavy metal, but with a nice bluesy harmonica solo by Tyler. The song was inspired by the death of the group’s drug dealer and should jave been taken as a dark omen. “Combination” features dual lead vocals by Perry and Tyler with some nice instrumental sections including a frantic outtro.

Aerosmith in 1976

The hit song “Last Child” was co-written by guitarist Brad Whitford and is a very upbeat and entertaining song. It features Perry on the lap steel and guest Paul Prestopino on banjo and is a great example of the hip-hop rock that the band formulated in the mid-seventies, starting with “WalK This Way” and “Sweet Emotion” on the previous album. There is a great lead section and outtro, which makes ths song a classic. The “Home Sweet Home” theme is later reprised on the Tyler piano ballad “Home Tonight”, which once again features Perry on the lap steel as well as Hamilton, drummer Joey Kramer, and producer Jack Douglas performing background vocals.

The album’s second side includes some of the basic, straight-up rockers which somehow never seem to fade over time. “Sick As a Dog” was co-written by bassist Tom Hamilton, who plays guitar on the song while both Perry and Tyler play bass. “Get the Lead Out” is a good time, dance-promoting song that goes off on a few nice musical tangents while “Lick and a Promise” is about rock groupies and more generally, the rock audience audience.

The album’s best song is “Nobody’s Fault”, a great song with fantastic hook and poetic (albeit apocalyptic) lyrics;

“Holy lands are sinking, birds take to the sky
The prophets are all stinking drunk and I know the reason why…”

Co-written by Brad Whitford, this is a heavy song, almost metal, that uses thick analogies to tell of a coming, inevitable doom. Several members of the band have cited this song as among their favorites ever.

While it appeared like the band was ever-climbing in 1976, they were in fact at the apex of their early career which would falter due to hard drug use among band members. Although Aerosmith would put out a couple more decent studio albums plus a live album by the decade’s end, these paled in comparison to the great early albums. The band would soon face turmoil that would derail their career for nearly a decade before they would make of the great comebacks in rock history.

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1976 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of 1976 albums.