Aerosmith are due to release their first album of original material in 13 years later this year, so it seems like a good time to look back at what they’ve done so far…
Aerosmith – 1973
Although they weren’t overnight sensations on the basis of this album, everything there is to love about Aerosmith is here, including stone-cold classic tracks like Dream On and Mama Kin. The Tyler/Perry songwriting team was still in its formative days, with just Movin’ Out making it onto an album made up largely of solo Tyler songs and a rollicking cover of Rufus Thomas’s Walkin’ The Dog. A solid debut, full of promise for what would come over the next couple of years.
Get Your Wings – 1974
Appropriately-named, Get Your Wings not only saw the early version of that famous Aerosmith logo, but it also saw the band start to take flight, helped along by producer Jack Douglas and the burgeoning Tyler/Perry axis. From the opening riff of Same Old Song And Dance through to the barnstorming cover of Train Kept A-Rollin’, this was another big step towards greatness. A year later, they would achieve it.
Toys In The Attic – 1975
All of the ingredients that were simmering away on those first two albums boiled over in 1975 when they reconvened with Douglas for Toys In The Attic, which has a tracklisting of 70s rock gold. When you’ve got nine tracks and three of them are Walk This Way, Sweet Emotion and Toys In The Attic, you’re onto a winner, and the ‘filler’ was on another level too, from the saucy Big Ten Inch Record to the ballad You See Me Crying to the proto-heavy metal Round And Round. An absolute classic.
Rocks – 1976
Amazingly, a year later and they were back with another incredible record, quite literally Back In The Saddle but showing no signs of exhaustion. Artists no less than Kurt Cobain, James Hetfield, Nikki Sixx and Slash were inspired by it and its raw and relentless production and guitar riffs. Again, they go heavy on Nobody’s Fault (one of my personal favourites, certainly) and amp it up on Last Child and Rats In The Cellar too. Another pretty much perfect rock ‘n’ roll album.
Draw The Line – 1977
Making an album every year for five years in a row, as well as touring and acquiring hefty drug habits, was starting to take its toll by 1977, and you can hear it on Draw The Line. Recorded in an abandoned convent (which possibly gives away a lot about the creative processes involved), it’s got some fantastic songs on it, like the title track and Kings And Queens, but it’s a bit of a comedown from the two albums that preceded it, as well as a warning sign of the chaos to come.
Night In The Ruts – 1979
The title may have come from a spoonerism of ‘Right In The Nuts’, but it’s not a bad approximation of Aerosmith’s situation as the 70s drew to a close. The band were forced out on the road halfway through recording the album and lost Joe Perry on that tour so had to finish it off without him. So it’s a surprise that the album is as good as it is, at least keeping up the standards from Draw The Line, with an effective cover of Remember (Walking In The Sand) and plenty of decent bluesy rock numbers. But their time at the top was over.
Rock In A Hard Place – 1982
Another very prescient album title, the recording of this one cost them their other original guitarist, with Brad Whitford following Perry out of the door in 1981. With Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay now on six string duties, it’s a surprisingly decent album, especially opening trio Jailbait, Lightning Strikes and Bitches Brew. It’s a credit to Dufay and Crespo that you don’t necessarily notice the absence of Perry and Whitford, certainly when you compare it to the two previous albums. They were in a hard place but they could still rock.
Done With Mirrors – 1985
As the title suggests, Aerosmith were done with snorting drugs off mirrors (and doing drugs in general) and were back together! Perry and Whitford had returned and they were ready to reclaim their crowns as the kings of American hard rock. Unfortunately, Done With Mirrors wasn’t the album to do that for them, despite kicking off with the excellent new version of Perry’s Let The Music Do The Talking. Ted Templeman was the producer, but couldn’t recapture either their magic or that of Van Halen (his most famous other production work) with a patchy album and production that sounds half-finished. To borrow a Carl Wilson metaphor, it was a ‘punt rather than a touchdown’.
Permanent Vacation – 1987
Two years later, the touchdown arrived. Perhaps realising with the lack of success of Done With Mirrors that they needed to change with the times, Aerosmith moved towards a more MTV-friendly sound on Permanent Vacation, helped by bringing in outside songwriters and Bon Jovi producer Bruce Fairbairn. Some older fans might still look at this as being the end of the ‘old Aerosmith’ but the new one got its wings here with the likes of Dude (Looks Like A Lady), Rag Doll and Angel, and it’s a very confident-sounding album from them for the first time in a decade.
Pump – 1989
Their second coming reached its creative peak two years later with this sex-obsessed rock ‘n’ roll romp. Pretty much a perfect collection of slick late 80s MTV fodder, hits like Love In An Elevator, Janie’s Got A Gun and What It Takes established Aerosmith at the top of their game again, while raunchy opening duo Young Lust and F.I.N.E. are as joyously entertaining as any songs they’ve ever written. Without a single weak track, Pump is up there alongside Toys in The Attic and Rocks as an Aerosmith masterpiece.
Get A Grip – 1993
The good times and sexual innuendos continued four years later with Get A Grip and its teat-tastic front cover. Twin ballads Crazy and Cryin’ helped keep the band flying high on TV with famous videos starring Alicia Silverstone (with Liv Tyler in Crazy – a classic video if ever there was one) while the likes of Eat The Rich and Shut Up And Dance offered some solace to fans who were bemoaning their ongoing transformation into slick balladeers rather than bluesy rockers.
Nine Lives – 1997
The band sought to address that with their next album, their first for Columbia since Rock In A Hard Place, making a conscious effort to rock out a bit more, releasing the funky Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees) as first single and including heavy stuff like The Farm, Something’s Gotta Give, Attitude Adjustment and the title track. However, by the time it was re-released with a non-Hindu-bothering front cover, I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing was tacked onto the end and Aerosmith rose to the pinnacle of the power ballad world.
Just Push Play – 2001
Perhaps unsurprisingly, after finding themselves hijacked by such a huge song, there was a sense of ‘what next?’ about Just Push Play, which effectively marked the end of the band’s second golden age of success. The market wanted another I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, while the older fans wanted anything but that, and the band delivered something that wasn’t much of anything. Beyond Beautiful, Jaded (another appropriate title) and the title track are all pretty good, but it fades into mediocrity too soon. Something had to change.
Honkin’ On Bobo – 2004
And, to be fair to them, they tried to remedy it by going back to their roots, away from the overbearing co-writers and co-producers who fans were blaming for a band that had become dangerously ‘safe’. With Jack Douglas back on production and a more streamlined approach to recording, this collection of blues covers (and one original) sounds so much more fresh and vibrant than Just Push Play and seemed like it would be the perfect way for the band to make a clean start with their next album. Unfortunately, for various reasons, it’s taken them eight years to follow it up…