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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Livin' on the Edge Play

Get a Grip turned out to be one of Aerosmith's most contrived and contemptible records, but fans never would have known from advance EP Livin' on the Edge, which whips out two extra, exceptional treats. First, two stripped-down demos of the apocalyptic, Yardbirds-referencing "Livin' on the Edge" bring out the quintet's individual contributions much clearer than the glossed-over album version. And the dilapidating finale fits the song better as well. Aerosmith gets their rocks off with a silly swagger in "Don't Stop," one of those arena chant flip-offs/outs only the Beantown boys can give cred. The lid really blows with "Can't Stop Messin'": a masturbation ode the Toxic Twins co-authored with team-up marvels Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw detailing the classifieds, he-shes, and the religion of the hand. Production by the late, great Canadian Bruce Fairbairn stuffs this package until the inevitable explosion, then begins another wind-up with mouth-harp, a killer ascending chorus and cutting-edge guitar-sonics for the close of a disc with all the wit and grit Get a Grip should have writ large. The dirty old men of Aerosmith deliver in less than 30 minutes, with not a hang-dog ballad or stiff hip-hop beat in sight. ~ Doug Stone, Rovi

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

The Essential Aerosmith Play

Almost all the heavy-hitters are hauled out for The Essential Aerosmith, from "Mama Kin" to "Jaded," and including both versions of "Walk This Way." Some of the songs are presented in a remixed form -- "Draw the Line," "Pink," "Just Push Play" -- but all of the new mixes are good, possibly even improvements, and the newer song, "Girls of Summer," is strong (its companion, "Lay It Down," isn't as noteworthy). So, all the parts are in place -- why doesn't it feel definitive, then? After all, there are no big songs or hits missing (apart from the cover of "Come Together," which isn't much of a loss), just fan favorites and album tracks like "Lick and a Promise," and "Chip Away the Stone". The reason it doesn't feel definitive is that the classic Columbia recordings are wrapped up by track ten, and then the best of their late-'80s comeback is wrapped up by the end of the first disc, which leaves disc two pretty much devoted to everything from Get a Grip on -- an era not widely considered their best, even though it had a number of hits, plus a couple of good songs along the way ("Crying," "Deuces Are Wild"). So, even though this delivers everything it should and will certainly be the one Aerosmith set most casual listeners will need, it doesn't quite capture the essence of the band the way their greatest albums do (whether they're Rocks or Pump). ~ 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

Aerosmith/Get Your Wings/Toys in the Attic [1998] Play

In the summer of 1998 -- and again in 2005 -- Sony repackaged and re-released Aerosmith's first three albums -- Aerosmith, Get Your Wings, and Toys in the Attic -- as a slip-cased box set. Since this box set features the remastered versions from 1993, it's a good bargain in one sense; if you haven't replaced your old CDs or want to acquire all of these albums at once, this is a convenient way to do it. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

The Collection: Aerosmith/Get Your Wings/Toys in the Attic [2004 Long Box] Play

Columbia/Legacy's Collection: Aerosmith/Get Your Wings/Toys in the Attic may boast three of the legendary Boston rockers' best albums, but that's all you get. The liner notes included in the long box are just the inserts from the individual releases and the records themselves are not remastered, resulting in a sparse pre-'80s overview for fans who hate jewel cases. ~ James Christopher Monger, Rovi
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