Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Aerosmith - Rocks - Side 1

Recently some dudes I know on Facebook said "Aerosmith sucks." While it's true that starting with Permanent Vacation (1987), everything they've done has sucked but they crossed a line when they said even the old stuff sucked, too. 70's Aerosmith sucks? No way. There are classic rock bands I don't like but wouldn't say they sucked. I'm not really into Cheap Trick or Queen but I would never say their 70's stuff sucked. (Their 80's stuff totally sucks, in case you didn't know that already). Ted Nugent and Kiss come with a lot of baggage so it doesn't upset me if people rag on them. But Aerosmith had a pretty good track record in the 70's. Their first album from 73 has some great moments, Get Your Wings from the following year is even better and 75's Toys In The Attic is a classic. But if you're only going to get one Aerosmith album, then Rocks is it.

Back in 76, Nugent's Free For All and Rocks rarely left my turntable and they both still get a lot of play to this day. Side one of Rocks is so killer. I've always considered it one of the best sides in hard rock music. Side two is also good but it has a ballad. Since this is Ripple and they encourage total artistic freedom I'm only going to review side one and not the whole album.

"Back In The Saddle" is such a kick ass way to start off a record. Joe Perry's playing a 6-string bass to give it an extra heavy sound. The song explodes when the band kicks in and Steven Tyler screams "I'M BACK!!!" If that doesn't inspire you to open a fresh beer and knock some shit over then you should go home and re-arrange your Barbara Streisand mp3's. This is classic rock that rocks HARD!! Joe and Brad Whitford layer tasty guitar licks all over each other while Joey Kramer (admittedly a pretty mediocre drummer) pounds the beat and Tom Hamilton (a good bassist) lays down the groove. The first Sex Pistols song I ever heard was "Bodies" and it immediately made me think of "Back In The Saddle." I still think the Sex Pistols album sounds a lot like this era of Aerosmith.

The pace drops a bit for the funky "Last Child." I always liked the version from Live Bootleg where Tyler changes the lyrics to "been dealing tonight." Brad Whitford wrote the music for this one and lays down a great solo. He's often considered the rhythm guitarist but he's way more than that. The Whitford/Perry team worked really well together back then. As the song fades out there are some sirens that overlap into the next song and this is where things really take off.

"Rats In The Cellar" opens up with a sledgehammer riff and some nice call and response between the band and Joe's fills. The song takes off on a monster power boogie groove and Tyler yells about New York City drug deals. About a minute and half into the song Steve blows a decent harp solo before the guitars take over. They go back to the chorus one last time before setting up an outrageous Yardbirds-inspired outro jam. Everyone is soloing at the same time and just when you think it's about to fall apart they stop on a dime. Joey Kramer does a big drum fill and you can hear Tyler yelp as he jumps off the drum riser and the song crashes to an end. KICK ASS!!!

There's barely time to catch your breath as Perry fires up the raunchy riff to "Combination." This is a good example of them taking their Stones influence and making it rock harder than the Stones ever did. The lyrics are once again about drugs and Joe and Steve sing them together. Joe's solo is a good one and they wrap up the song with a feedback drenched power jam.

The reason why I rarely listen to side two of Rocks is because side one gets me so worked up I need to follow it with something truly spectacular like In Rock, Master Of Reality or Powerage. If there 90's crap bothers you that much just pretend they died in a plane crash in 79. ROCKS ROCKS


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