One of the biggest soap operas of the last few years isn’t anything you could watch on TV or a reality show, no, the biggest one is called Aerosmith. The band from Boston that once made it huge in the 70’s, watched it all go down the drain due to drugs, split up, just to get back together again a few years later, enter rehab and then become one of the biggest rock bands of all time again with multi-million sellers like Permanent Vacation, Pump and Get A Grip. However, the band fell back into drugs after the intense touring of their their last studio album, the awful Just Push Play (2001). Even though they managed to release an album full of covers, Honkin’ On Bobo in 2004, the album was more a case of a band in turmoil that needed to get something out on the market to tour with than anything else.
It was after that the whole soap opera misadventure started. The news of a new album started right after the release of the cover album, but were constantly interrupted by either touring or internal fighting. Then all hell broke loose. All of a sudden, lead singer Steven Tyler got the idea that he should record a solo album to mark the “brand” Steven Tyler to the world, an idea that, of course, came from a drug hazed mind, leaving the rest of the band to do what the heck they felt like. The rest of the band, also in a drug and alcoholic haze, were pissed off, to say the least and started getting ideas about replacing the singer and both Sammy Hagar and Lenny Kravitz were contacted. There was even talk of Sebastian Bach auditioning for the job. Of course, Steven Tyler is irreplaceable, but Joe Perry, more than anyone else was angry, wasted and felt abandoned by the singer and he even talked to the press about it. Just say no, kids!
Now, the band had recruited their old producer Jack Douglas to do their cover album and he was also the one to produce their new, delayed album. The band managed to gather with Douglas to plan the new album despite all the drugs and fights and the first thing he did was to send the boys to rehab to clean up once and for all, before anything at all could be recorded. When that was done, everything ran smoothly under Douglas’ guiding hands and the guys managed to cut the album pretty quickly after that. With Douglas as a producer rumours started to leak that the band had gone back to their roots and that the songs were more in tune with their 70’s stuff like Get Your Wings, Rocks and Toys In The Attic than their MTV and radio friendly late 90’s stuff where ballads ruled and when they started to leak songs, it looked like the rumours were true and expectations started to grow. So have Aerosmith given us a full on 70’s album here?
No, they haven’t. Not all the way through, anyway. What is clear after just one listen is that this album rocks a lot harder and is way more back to their roots than anything they have done since the mid nineties. On the other, the band knows very well that they have an audience that loves them for their more cheesy balladly stuff. So the album is, although very good, a bit uneven at times. But what is good is that the album has a majority of rockers and it is in those songs that the band feels the most alive and there is a spark in the music that we haven’t heard from Aerosmith in a long, long time. I couldn’t help but smile when the three first songs “Luv XXX”, “Oh Yeah” and “Beautiful” kicked loose with a classic 70’s Aerosmith sound, back to the roots just the way I had hoped. But already by song # 4, the first ballad tags along, “Tell Me”. It’s ok, but it sounds like a re-write of “Cryin'” and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to grasp what they’re aiming for. “Out Goes The Lights” is awesome, sounds like a mix between “Rag Doll” and the sound they had in the 70’s and “Legendary Child” is just f**cking fantastic, sounds like they have put “Walk This Way”, “Sweet Emotion” and the Get A Grip sound in a blender. And it is when they rock that this album comes alive for real. “Secret Jesus” is a fast rocking classic Aerosmith tune, the raunchy “Freedom Fighter”, sung by Joe Perry, is really cool, “Something” is a cool, slow and bluesy rocker and the album’s only cool ballad is named “We All Fall Down”, but still, the song isn’t great, just good.
The ballads are this album’s big problem. “What Could Have Been Love” is a useless “Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” clone, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, which features the voice of country singer Carrie Underwood is a “What It Takes” re-write and will probably be a hit and the album’s closer “Another Last goodbye” is just pure dull. And, there are too many of them. The deluxe version of the CD features some cool bonus tracks such as the classic sounding “Up On The Mountain” sung by Tom Hamilton and the slow, acoustic based “Oasis In The Night” sung by Perry would have improved the album, had they been included instead of a couple of the ballads. The useless “Sunny Side Of Love” should have been left hidden deep in the studio vaults forever, though.
For the most part, this is a brilliant come back album, but the ballads draws the rating down a bit, they’re too many and too dull. Still, this is easily the best Aerosmith album since Pump and it has taken them back to their 70’s roots, for the most, with just a little twitch of their 80’s sound. I’m really glad that they got their shit together and managed to get this piece of music out and so should any Aerosmith fan out there. Let’s just hope and pray that when the tour starts, they will base the set on the rockers and leave the ballads at home. If they do, the next few years might just belong to Aerosmith again.
Jon Wilmenius (8/10)
1. LUV XXX
2. Oh Yeah
4. Tell Me
5. Out Go The Lights
6. Legendary Child
7. What Could Have Been Love
8. Street Jesus (6:43)
9. Can’t Stop Lovin’ You (Duet with Carrie Underwood)
10. Lover Alot
11. We All Fall Down
12. Freedom Fighter
15. Another Last Goodbye
16. Up On The Mountain (Bonus Track)
17. Oasis In The Night (Bonus Track)
18. Sunny Side Of Love (Bonus Track)