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Aerosmith - Topic

Get a Grip Play

Coming on the heels of the commercially and artistically successful Pump, the fitfully entertaining Get a Grip doesn't match its predecessor's musical diversity, but it's not for lack of trying. In fact, Aerosmith try too hard, making a stab at social commentary ("Livin' on the Edge") while keeping adolescent fans in their corner with their trademark raunch-rock ("Get a Grip" and "Eat the Rich"), as well as having radio-ready hit ballads ("Cryin'," "Amazing," and "Crazy"). It might be a studied performance, but since the album sounds good, many listeners will be willing to overlook those flaws and simply enjoy the ride. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Draw the Line Play

Renting out an abandoned convent on the outskirts of New York City to record the follow-up to the hellacious Rocks may not have been the best idea, but 1977's Draw the Line still managed to be another down-and-dirty Aerosmith release. While it wasn't as awe-inspiring as their last two albums -- the members have said that the music suddenly got "cloudy" around this time (due to in-band fighting/ego clashes, excessive living, etc.), Draw the Line catches fire more times than not. Unlike their most recent album successes, the band shies away from studio experimenting and dabbling in different styles; instead they return to simple, straight-ahead hard rock. The album-opening title track features a gloriously abrasive Joe Perry slide guitar riff and has been featured in concert ever since, while the punk-esque "Bright Light Fright" featured Perry's first ever lead vocal spot on an Aerosmith record. Other highlights include a reworking of the blues obscurity "Milk Cow Blues," which Perry's pre-Aerosmith group, the Jam Band, played live, as well as "I Wanna Know Why," "Critical Mass," "Get It Up," "Kings and Queens," and "Sight for Sore Eyes." Draw the Line would turn out to be the last true studio album from Aerosmith's original lineup for nearly a decade. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Rocks Play

Few albums have been so appropriately named as Aerosmith's 1976 classic Rocks. Despite hard drug use escalating among bandmembers, Aerosmith produced a superb follow-up to their masterwork Toys in the Attic, nearly topping it in the process. Many Aero fans will point to Toys as the band's quintessential album (it contained two radio/concert standards after all, "Walk This Way" and "Sweet Emotion"), but out of all their albums, Rocks did the best job of capturing Aerosmith at their most raw and rocking. Like its predecessor, a pair of songs have become their most renowned -- the menacing, hard rock, cowboy-stomper "Back in the Saddle," as well as the downright viscous funk groove of "Last Child." Again, even the lesser-known tracks prove essential to the makeup of the album, such as the stimulated "Rats in the Cellar" (a response of sorts to "Toys in the Attic"), the Stonesy "Combination," and the forgotten riff-rocker "Get the Lead Out." Also included is the apocalyptic "Nobody's Fault," the up-and-coming rock star tale of "Lick and a Promise," and the album-closing ballad "Home Tonight." With Rocks, Aerosmith appeared to be indestructible. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Rock in a Hard Place Play

Rock in a Hard Place is the sound of Aerosmith at their most "out of it." Not to say it's a horrible album by any means -- in fact, there are more than a few pleasant surprises -- but without the guitar team of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, it didn't possess the magical chemistry of their '70s classics. Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay filled in for the departed duo, and it turned out to be the group's most studio-enhanced and experimental record up to this point. To keep up with the then-current musical climate, vocoders and synthesizers can be subtly detected, as heard on the space-age "Prelude to Joanie" and in the beginning to the otherwise tough rocker "Lightning Strikes," which served as the album's lone single/video. "Jailbait," "Bitch's Brew," "Bolivian Ragamuffin," and the title track showed the band could still rock out despite their three-year layoff between albums, a cover of "Cry Me a River" showed their gentle side, while the psychedelicized "Joanie's Butterfly" was the album's surprise highlight. But it didn't take an expert to know that Aerosmith was not the same after the loss of the aforementioned members. And so did the band, who welcomed Perry and Whitford back into its ranks two years after Rock in a Hard Place. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Done with Mirrors Play

Joe Perry returned to the fold in 1985, and Aerosmith turned out their finest record since Rocks. Unlike the records that preceded it, Done with Mirrors is powered by the same smart-assed lyrics and filthy guitars that formed the core of Aerosmith's best songs. It didn't receive the commercial or critical attention that Permanent Vacation did two years later, but Done With Mirrors is the better album; it marks the beginning of their remarkable comeback. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Night in the Ruts Play

By the time Aerosmith's sixth studio release was issued, 1979's Night in the Ruts, guitarist Joe Perry had finally left the band after years of drug-fueled bickering with singer Steven Tyler (forming the Joe Perry Project by year's end). Most of the tracks were completed before Perry's departure, with replacement Jimmy Crespo filling the few empty spaces. And while the band looks back upon this period as hazy and frustrating, Night in the Ruts is a surprisingly coherent and inspired album. Although it's not up to par with such classics as Toys in the Attic or Rocks (although it could have been if the band weren't in such a state of turmoil at the time), it was definitely leaner and more focused than their last studio release, Draw the Line. Highlights include the striking opening rocker, "No Surprize," which recounts the band's early history, as well the driving yet melodic "Chiquita," the jamming "Three Mile Smile," the furious "Bone to Bone," and a pair of covers -- the Yardbirds' "Think About It" and the novelty number "Reefer Head Woman." The only lowlight is a weak cover of the Shangri-Las' "Remember (Walking in the Sand)," which was inexplicably issued as a single and included on 1980's Greatest Hits. While the album performed respectfully on the charts, the ensuing tour did little to boost sales -- it was marred with canceled dates and lackluster performances brought on by Tyler's substance abuse. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Honkin' on Bobo Play

Aerosmith prove that a band can be inspired by the blues and play the blues without ever feeling like a blues band. Then again, the nature of the blues is that every musician who plays it stamps his or her own identity on a set of familiar chord changes and songs. While it might not feel like the blues, Aerosmith do indeed stamp their identity on each track on their long-promised blues album, the atrociously named Honkin' on Bobo. Other rockers who have cut full-length blues albums have always played the music with a kind of scholarly reverence, taking care to pay tribute to their influences. Not Aerosmith. They turn up the amps and cut loose, playing slick and sleazy blooze-rock that feels indebted to second-generation blues-rock instead of blues forefathers. But that's the nature of the band. Surely, they loved Chess and country blues as much as they loved the Stones, but they are so thoroughly the children of Mick and Keith, they can't help but sound like a rock & roll band no matter what they do, no matter what they play. That might mean that Honkin' on Bobo is something that could be close to anathema to blues purists, since it's a rock album pure and simple, but chances are the bandmembers don't care, since they're just here to have a good time playing songs they love.
Besides, the song selection proves they're no purists. There are some warhorses with "Road Runner," "Baby, Please Don't Go," "I'm Ready," and "Eyesight to the Blind," but there's also a heavy dose of Fred McDowell, a Fleetwood Mac tune, a little-known Little Walter song, an obscure song from the obscure band Freedom, a Smiley Lewis number, and one casual original. While the warhorses are predictable, the rest is not, and the album itself is a bit of a surprise, too. Every indication, from the awful title and silly album art to the notion that the band was going back to its roots, suggests that this is going to be an embarrassment from a band that has been no stranger to embarrassment during the '90s. Instead, it's the best flat-out rock album Aerosmith have made in ages, ever since Joe Perry rejoined the band for Done With Mirrors. Re-teaming with producer Jack Douglas, who helmed all their greatest albums in the '70s, Aerosmith sound reinvigorated, even liberated from the need to have a hit power ballad, and they tear through these 12 songs with an energy they seemed to lose sometime after Pump. Sure, they can still be tasteless and ridiculous, whether in Steven Tyler's vocal affectations or in the band's oversized riffs, but again, that's the nature of the band -- no other band does sleaze better. When they do it well, it can be irresistible rock & roll, and it's been a long, long time since they've sounded as good as they do here. Despite that awful title, Honkin' on Bobo is a real surprise and a real return to form for Aerosmith. (Special thanks to legendary pianist Johnnie Johnson, who plays on a couple of cuts here and lends the band just a little genuine blues grit.) ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Just Push Play Play

Give Aerosmith credit for not only realizing something was wrong after Nine Lives relatively flat-lined, but deciding to do something about it. Ditching the outside producers who initially liberated but eventually straitjacketed them, Steve Tyler and Joe Perry seized control of the boards, working with the assistance of Mark Hudson and Marti Frederiksen. (Forever the Stones fanatics, Tyler and Perry dubbed this crew the Boneyard Boys, just like how Mick-n-Keef are the Glimmer Twins.) So, this isn't really a full-fledged band affair and Hudson and Frederiksen's fingerprints are all over the place, but that doesn't matter since the end result is tighter, savvier, and better than anything since Pump. It's still far from perfect, however, since it suffers from a dearth of memorable material, and the group members' steadfast refusal to act their age results in a couple of embarrassing slips into stodginess (the "f*ckin' A" chorus on the title track, a song improbably titled "Trip Hoppin'," or the ludicrous "Avant Garden"). These mean that the record doesn't come close to matching the twin comebacks of Permanent Vacation and Pump, but it's a sleek, classicist hard rock record that sounds good -- better than Aerosmith has sounded in nearly a decade, as a matter of fact, particularly when the group gets a hook as tuneful as that of "Jaded." Aerosmith sounds good enough on Just Push Play that it almost makes you forgive the Heavy Metal refugee on the front cover, a sexy robot illustration that looks far more out of date than the music sounds. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Toys in the Attic Play

After nearly getting off the ground with Get Your Wings, Aerosmith finally perfected their mix of Stonesy raunch and Zeppelin-esque riffing with their third album, Toys in the Attic. The success of the album derives from a combination of an increased sense of songwriting skills and purpose. Not only does Joe Perry turn out indelible riffs like "Walk This Way," "Toys in the Attic," and "Sweet Emotion," but Steven Tyler has fully embraced sleaziness as his artistic muse. Taking his cue from the old dirty blues "Big Ten Inch Record," Tyler writes with a gleeful impishness about sex throughout Toys in the Attic, whether it's the teenage heavy petting of "Walk This Way," the promiscuous "Sweet Emotion," or the double-entendres of "Uncle Salty" and "Adam's Apple." The rest of Aerosmith, led by Perry's dirty, exaggerated riffing, provide an appropriately greasy backing. Before Toys in the Attic, no other hard rock band sounded like this. Sure, Aerosmith cribbed heavily from the records of the Rolling Stones, New York Dolls, and Led Zeppelin, but they didn't have any of the menace of their influences, nor any of their mystique. Aerosmith was a gritty, street-wise hard rock band who played their blues as blooze and were in it for a good time; Toys in the Attic crystallizes that attitude. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Get Your Wings Play

Often overshadowed by the subsequent twin highlights of Toys in the Attic and Rocks, Aerosmith's 1974 second album, Get Your Wings, is where Aerosmith became Aerosmith -- it's where they teamed up with producer Jack Douglas, it's where they shed much of their influences and developed their own trademark sound, it's where they turned into songwriters, it's where Steven Tyler unveiled his signature obsessions with sex and sleaze. Chief among these attributes may be Douglas, who either helped the band ease into the studio or captured their sound in a way their debut never did. This is a leaner, harder album, bathed in grease and layered in grit, but it's not just down to Douglas. The band itself sounds more distinctive. There are blues in Joe Perry and Joey Kramer's interplay, but this leapfrogs over blues-rock; it turns into slippery hard rock. To be sure, it's still easy to hear the Stones here, but they never really sound Stonesy; there's almost more of the Yardbirds to the way the group works the riffs, particularly evident on the cover of the early 'Birds classic "The Train Kept a Rollin'." But if the Yardbirds were tight and nervy, Aerosmith is blown out and loose, the sound of excess incarnate -- that is, in every way but the writing itself, which is confident and strong, fueled by Tyler's gonzo sex drive. He is the "Lord of the Thighs," playing that "Same Old Song and Dance," but he also slows down enough for the eerie "Seasons of Wither," a powerful slow-churning ballad whose mastery of atmosphere is a good indication of how far the band has grown. They never attempted anything quite so creepy on their debut, but it isn't just that Aerosmith is trying newer things on Get Your Wings, it's that they're doing their bloozy bluster better and bolder, which is what turns this sophomore effort into their first classic. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Music from Another Dimension! Play

The aging yet seemingly indefatigable rockers return with this, their 15th studio album and first since 2004. The Aerosmith sound ain't broke and they don't try to fix it, turning in another timeless set of lascivious, melodic, crunchy, bluesy hard rock which features a guest appearance from Oklahoman country-pop megastar Carrie Underwood on the track "Beautiful". It includes the single "Legendary Child" from the movie G.I. Joe: Retaliation, as well as a new song ("We All Fall Down") written by Diane Warren, who wrote their 1998 mega-smash "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" from the film Armageddon., Rovi

Aerosmith Play

In retrospect, it's a bit shocking how fully formed the signature Aerosmith sound was on their self-titled 1973 debut -- which may not be the same thing as best-executed, because this album still sounds like a first album, complete with the typical stumbles and haziness that comes with a debut. Despite all this, Aerosmith clearly showcases all the attributes of the band that would become the defining American hard rock band of the '70s. Here, the Stones influences are readily apparent, from the Jagger-esque phrasing of Steven Tyler to the group's high-octane boogie, but the group displays little of the Stones' deep love of blues here. Instead, Aerosmith is bloozy -- their riffs don't swing, they slide. They borrow liberally from Led Zeppelin's hybridization of Chess and Sun riffs without ever sounding much like Zep. They are never as British as Zeppelin -- they lack the delicate folky preciousness, they lack the obsession with blues authenticity, they lack the larger-than-life persona of so many Brit bands. They are truly an American band, sounding as though they were the best bar band in your local town, cranking out nasty hard-edged rock, best heard on "Mama Kin," the best rocker here, one that's so greasy it nearly slips through their fingers. But the early masterpiece is, of course, "Dream On," the first full-fledged power ballad. There was nothing quite like it in 1973, and it remains the blueprint for all power ballads since. The rest of the record contains the seeds of Aerosmith's sleazoid blues-rock, but they wouldn't quite perfect that sound until the next time around. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Permanent Vacation Play

The much-ballyhooed reunion of the original Aerosmith lineup had pretty much fallen flat on its face after 1985's hit-and-miss Done With Mirrors. Realizing that the band simply couldn't do it alone, A&R guru John Kalodner capitalized on the runaway success of Run-D.M.C.'s cover of "Walk This Way" and decided to draft in the day's top hired hands, including knob-twiddler extraordinaire Bruce Fairbairn and career-revitalizing song doctors Desmond Child and Jim Vallance. Together, they would help craft Permanent Vacation, the album which would reinvent Aerosmith as '80s and '90s superstars. Yet, despite the mostly stellar songwriting, which makes it a strong effort overall, some of the album's nooks and crannies haven't aged all that well because of Fairbairn's overwrought production, featuring an exaggerated sleekness typical of most mid-'80s pop-metal albums. Furthermore, Desmond Child's pedantic writing often compromises the timeliness of even the best material. On the other hand, pre-fab radio gems like "Rag Doll" and "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" remain largely unassailable from a "delivering the goods" perspective. But remember kids, this is Aerosmith, so that can only mean one thing: a guaranteed number of incredible tracks for any time and place. These include the earthy voodoo blues of "St. John" and the excellent hobo-harmonica fable of "Hangman Jury." And, although some of the remaining cuts lean to the filler side, both the awkwardly Caribbean title track and the cover of the Beatles' "I'm Down" are well executed. Finally, the crowd-pleasing schmaltz of "Angel" showcases the band at the peak of its power ballad cheese. A valiant effort, this album proved to be the crucial catalyst in reintroducing Aerosmith to the masses, but if you're looking for an even better example of the band's renewed strength, check out Pump first. ~ John Franck & Ed Rivadavia, Rovi

Pump Play

Where Permanent Vacation seemed a little overwhelmed by its pop concessions, Pump revels in them without ever losing sight of Aerosmith's dirty hard rock core. Which doesn't mean the record is a sellout -- "What It Takes" has more emotion and grit than any of their other power ballads; "Janie's Got a Gun" tackles more complex territory than most previous songs; and "The Other Side" and "Love in an Elevator" rock relentlessly, no matter how many horns and synths fight with the guitars. Such ambition and successful musical eclecticism make Pump rank with Rocks and Toys in the Attic. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Made in America Play

The budget-line release Made in America rounds up a few Aerosmith staples -- "Back in the Saddle," "Toys in the Attic," "Seasons of Wither," "Walk this Way" -- adding "Chip Away the Stone" (which seems to be the de rigueur "rarity" to show up on post-Gems compilations) and then including a previously unreleased live "One Way Street." The latter is a nice touch, as these kinds of releases rarely have anything rare, but this is hardly enough for fans to seek this out. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Pandora's Toys Play

The 1995 Pandora's Toys is a bit of a curious comp. Appearing four years after the box set Pandora's Box, this single disc cherry-picks 12 highlights from that three-disc box -- but instead of pulling oddities and rarities from those three discs, this has the big big hits that everybody knows ("Sweet Emotion," "Dream On," "Walk This Way," "Mama Kin") balanced with radio hits that remained staples into the mid-'90s ("Draw the Line," "Seasons of Wither") with just a couple minor alternate takes, like a live "Big Ten Inch Record" and an alternate "Chip Away the Stone," for good measure. It's not a bad listen by any means -- all 12 tracks are good -- but it's too close to a hits collection to be a true sampler of the box. All that means is that anybody looking for rarities should go to Pandora's Box, while those looking for a hard-rocking snapshot of the band's '70s peak should be satisfied with this. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Classics Live!, Vol. 2 Play

When Aerosmith got wind that their then-former record label, Columbia, was going to release a follow-up to the lifeless Classics Live!, the band wisely decided to get more involved this time around. The result is arguably the band's finest live album, even though it may be a bit short (not even 39 minutes in length). But the performances are vibrant and focused -- almost all were taken from the reunited lineup's New Year's Eve, 1984 gig at the Orpheum Theater. The only criticism is that, again, the majority of the tracks were already released as live versions (on 1978's Live Bootleg), and only three make their in-concert debut on record. Still, positively smoking versions of "Back in the Saddle," "Walk This Way," "Same Old Song and Dance," "Last Child," "Draw the Line," and "Toys in the Attic" rock out like no other Aerosmith live recording. The album's undisputed highlight is a fantastic rendition of the autobiographical early nugget "Movin' Out," as well as the title track from the Joe Perry Project's 1980 debut, Let the Music Do the Talking (which was subsequently re-recorded for Aerosmith's Done with Mirrors). Although Live Bootleg may contain more songs, the more succinct Classics Live! Vol. 2 succeeds with it's consistent, fiery performances. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Devil's Got a New Disguise: The Very Best of Aerosmith Play

Aerosmith greatest-hits compilations can be sorted into three categories: ones that compile the band's 1970s prime with Columbia Records (of which Greatest Hits [1980] and Gems [1988] are the benchmarks, especially the former); ones that compile the band's subsequent run with Geffen Records (Big Ones [1994]); and ones that ostensibly span both eras via cross-licensing (O, Yeah! Ultimate Aerosmith Hits [2002]). Devil's Got a New Disguise falls into the final category, as it spans Aerosmith's entire career to date, from "Dream On" and "Mama Kin" (from the band's 1973 eponymous debut) to a pair of new studio recordings ("Sedona Sunrise" and "Devil's Got a New Disguise"). Like O, Yeah!, unfortunately, it pays short shrift to the Columbia recordings, compiling a measly five songs: "Dream On," "Mama Kin," "Sweet Emotion," "Back in the Saddle," and "Last Child." The remainder of the 18 songs are Geffen recordings, beginning with the Run-D.M.C. version of "Walk This Way" and then moving on to Permanent Vacation (1987), bypassing Done with Mirrors (1985) as well as numerous other latter-day albums, namely Nine Lives (1997), A Little South of Sanity (1998), Honkin' on Bobo (2004), and Rockin' the Joint (2005). Such selective sampling doesn't bode well for comprehensiveness, yet it does result in a perfectly listenable album without any bad songs (unlike most of the double-disc Aerosmith best-ofs like O, Yeah! and Gold, which are comprehensive yet troublesomely bogged down by subpar material that doesn't really warrant compilation). After all, Aerosmith struggled to craft engaging material in the wake of Pump (1989), their last truly great album, so it's actually for the best that those latter-day albums are bypassed here. Truth be told, Devil's Got a New Disguise is simply a trimmed-down version of O, Yeah!, and while it's perfectly listenable, it also leaves much to be desired from the standpoint of comprehensiveness. If you were to own one and only one Aerosmith album and consequently wanted a broad, if inevitably cursory, overview, Devil's Got a New Disguise fits that niche well; however, you'd be better off with both the Columbia-era Greatest Hits and the Geffen-era Big Ones, two well-compiled best-ofs that complement each other ideally, and satisfactorily cover practically all of the band's key material without any overlap whatsoever. ~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi

Collections Play

This 2007 international budget-line release from the Sony BMG Collections series samples from Aerosmith's classic '70s recordings, but it's not really a hits collection. Unless "Mama Kin" and "The Train Kept A Rollin'" count -- and maybe the radio hits "Lick and a Promise" and "Lord of the Thighs" -- there are no hits here at all, actually, just album tracks that seem to be randomly chosen (with the exception, of course, of "Chip Away the Stone," the song that must be contractually obligated to be on two-thirds of all Aerosmith comps). There may not be many hits and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the selections here but it's still a fun listen, provided it's found at a budget price. [Collections was reissued in 2008 packaged in a limited edition steel box as part of Sony's Steel Box Collection.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
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