[Album Review] “Permanent Vacation” – Aerosmith (original review)

Permanent Vacation - AerosmithAlbum Title: Permanent Vacation
Artist: Aerosmith
Year: 1987
Running Time: 51m 43s

Track listing: 1 Heart’s Done Time; 2 Magic Touch; 3 Rag Doll; 4 Simoriah; 5 Dude (Looks Like a Lady); 6 St. John; 7 Hangman Jury; 8 Girl Keeps Coming Apart; 9 Angel; 10 Permanent Vacation; 11 I’m Down; 12 The Movie

Bearing in mind the relatively poor attempt that was “Done With Mirrors”, one can only be blown away by “Permanent Vacation” which saw Aerosmith return to the top of the charts thanks to a number of Top 30 hits and a couple of sure-fire classics too. This would never had happened though had the band not got their act together.

With the realisation that it was do or die for them, they all agreed to attend a 12 step clean-up program. Several months later, one and all emerged bleary-eyed but sober for the first time in more than 10 years. Combined with this was the sudden duet with rap act, Run DMC, who covered their 1975 hit, ‘Walk This Way’. This was the first great rock-rap cross-over and it was a huge top 10 hit all over the world. Aerosmith were back but they had a new album to record and this could very well be their last chance.

Geffen recruited a number of song doctors to help create that radio friendly feel and when producer, Rick Rubin, didn’t have time to finish producing the album, Bruce Fairbairn was brought in to steady the teetering ship and the album was completed. A nervous Aerosmith crossed their fingers and hoped for positive feedback. They needn’t have worried…

Kicking off the release schedule, an all-time classic rocker, the impetuous ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady) which is packed with sass, brass and glazed with sauce. Choc full of sexual humour and innuendo to beat the band, ‘Dude’ is lyrically steets ahead of anything on “Done with Mirrors” and is home to a bristling Joe Perry solo that plays like the opening ceremony to the re-launched Aerosmith Games.

The wonderful ‘Rag Doll’ was a hit too and is arguably an even better song than ‘Dude’. A bluesy-rocker with a drum sound that would knock out the population of China, terrific slide guitar from Perry, a foot-tapping rhythm that is one of Whitford’s best, the sublime Margarita horns shoving the irrepresable chorus along and a Tyler vocal performance that can only be described as memserising.

The other big hit off the album is in fact Aerosmith’s most successful single ever. ‘Angel’ saw the Boston bad boys return to contemporary ballad paradise with an emotional rollercoaster that seems a little bit too ‘staged’ to be realistic like ‘Dream On’ or ‘Seasons of Wither’ for example. It is though a very anthemic, and subsequently, enjoyable number.

The top track though is the all-out blues attack of ‘Hangman Jury’. Complete with Mississippi ambience sounds, experienced harmonica, acoustic guitar and seasoned blues-style vocals from Tyler, ‘Hangman Jury’ expertly tells the tale of a young man who is charged with the murder of his wife: ‘what ya do with your gun that’s loaded, shot dead when your heart exploded, tell me baby now doncha worry, like-a-lyin’ to the Hangman Jury’. Superb stuff.

Aerosmith explore the musical universe as much as is humanly feasible and also find time for their quintessential sound. ‘St John’ a finger-clicking R&B beauty manoeurved authoritively by Whitford, Kramer and Hamilton. It is a track that would seem rather out-of-place on anything but an Aerosmith album.

‘Simoriah’ rolls out in an optimistic 60s mood but quickly degenerates into a loose track desperately needing a melody and keeping up the 60s feel is the Lennon/McCartney boogie, ‘I’m Down’ which is faithfully re-created complete with nimble piano work from Tyler and a spirited performance from the rest of the band who just seem to be having a blast.

On more familiar ground is the up-tempo, horn-driven ‘Girl Keeps Coming Apart’ which is a funky ode to dance music of the era (Joey Kramer performs brilliantly with a continuous threatning beat), ‘Permanent Vacation’ is dragged tunefully along by its Mediterranean influences and a throbbing Hamilton performance, ‘Magic Touch’ is half-carried by Perry’s steel guitar but it never rises above mediocre and the thundering ‘Heart’s Done Time’ which opens the album, is devestating in its delivery.

Finally, and closing the album in atypical style, is the dark instrumental, ‘The Movie’. The track was apparently an experiment in musical imagery and the minds eye will be working overtime on hearing it. The song powers along on an abrasive rhythm and a pensive snare drum, breaking down midway for an eerie Gaelic voice over before detonating with a gates-of-oblivion guitar solo from perry.

‘Permanent Vacation’ is not a classic album but it did contain many breathtaking moments. Perhaps lobbing a couple of tracks off the final twelve (it was originally whittled down from 28!) might have helped the whole thing sound a little bit more consistent but overall, it is a great disc.


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