[Album Review] "Honkin' On Bobo" – Aerosmith (original review)

Honkin' On Bobo - AerosmithAlbum Title: Honkin’ On Bobo
Artist: Aerosmith
Year: 2004
Running Time: 43m 55s

Track listing: 1 Roadrunner; 2 Shame, Shame, Shame; 3 Eyesight to the Blind; 4 Baby, Please Don’t Go; 5 Never Loved a Girl; 6 Back Back Train; 7 You Gotta Move; 8 The Grind; 9 I’m Ready; 10 Temperature; 11 Stop Messin’ Around; 12 Jesus is on the Main Line

Being an Aerosmith fan is difficult. Ok it’s not difficult in the sense of feeding a family of four on the breadline, or negotiating peace in the Middle East.

But it’s hard mentally. Because you love them. You love the way Steven screeches and oozes charisma. You love silent and violent axeman Joe Perry, defining Mr Cool with his open-shirt and curly Italian barnet. You love Tom for ‘Sweet Emotion’ and his cracking sense of humour, and the way Brad and Joey hold the whole thing together in the shadows.

And you love the way these five people have created some stonkin music spanning four decades. It wasn’t the same when Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay were around. I mean “Rock in a Hard Place” was a hugely under-rated album, but it didn’t feel like Aerosmith without Joe and Brad. Did it?

And despite all this love, it seems that every three or four years when the Boston Bad Boys (and yes I do hate calling them that – it’s the ultimate cliché) release a record, the music press round on them for another lackadaisical sell-out. Never mind the catchy hits or the quality ballads, it’s just not “Rocks”.

Sigh.

It’s 2004 and after 10 years of talking about it, Aerosmith have finally released that blues album. You didn’t know? Who did!? Columbia are about as interested in the album as I am in contracting rickets. So with no promotion and no single, “Honkin’ On Bobo” has sexily exposed itself to the world, peering around the corner like a chastised child.

It’s a covers album, with one original as garnish. I know – covers. I hate them too. I don’t even like Aerosmith’s covers. Save for ‘Train Kept a Rollin’, I’ve been underwhelmed by ‘Big Ten Inch Record’, ‘Walking the Dog’, ‘I’m Down’…I mean they’re *ok* but ok isn’t what Aerosmith is about.

So here we have eleven covers of numerous blues tracks from the early-to-mid twentieth century. I make it sound very grand, don’t I. And I’m not going to pretend to know anything about blues music. I don’t even like blues music. Actually, I really think this is going to suck. I don’t like blues, I don’t like covers.

But somehow “Honkin’ on Bobo” (an ironically cute sounding title) just about crawls over the finish line. I mean it was borderline disappointment for a while but the tremendous harmonies and slide guitar of ‘Jesus is on the Main Line’ gave it that little bit of oomph just when it needed it. And boy did it really need it at the end of this record because things were running out of steam big time.

Let’s start at the top. ‘Roadrunner’ is a slightly hokey Bo Diddley tune, which is good fun for its sub-four minute running time. As an album opener, I don’t think it works. I always prefer a hard-edged initiation like ‘Toys in the Attic’, ‘Young Lust’, ‘Nine Lives’ or ‘Beyond Beautiful’. If you’re looking for one of those on “Bobo” then look no further than the outstanding ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’. This is one of the best Aerosmith performances in close to thirty years. The band have an absolute blast on it – totally fuelled-up rock n’ roll. Perry and Whitford duel like it’s 1976, Hamilton and Kramer tear the place up and Steven Tyler is in his demon-screamin’ element.

Between those two songs are two fairly middling efforts. The warp-speed ‘Shame Shame Shame’ is similar to the aforementioned 1975s cover, ‘Big Ten Inch Record’. It’s fine, but forgettable. ‘Eyesight to the Blind’ is a more traditional, wheezy, bar-room blues number. Some great vocals and harmonica from Tyler (who shines throughout the record), but it’s not a song I’d be returning to an awful lot.

The album moves up a notch for the middle third. ‘Never Loved a Girl’, a gender-swapped version of a song made famous by Aretha Franklin is a groovy motherf-cker of a song. I know I’m being repetitive but Tyler has rarely sounded better than he does here. If Columbia got their thumb out of their asses and started supporting this record, they’ve got two massive hit singles on their hands (this and ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’).

Ladies and Gentlemen … singing ‘Back Back Train’ … Mr Joe … F-cking … Perry. I’ve got the Joe Perry Project albums. I’ve listened to Joe sing. Man, has he improved in 20 years. Actually scratch that – just listen to 1997s ‘Falling Off’ to see how much Joe P has hit his stride vocally. Any chance of a fourth Joe Perry release while Steven is doing his inevitable solo album, you think? ‘Back Back Train’ is probably the most interesting cut on “Bobo”. It’s dirty, gritty, sleazy, dangerous… it’s Aerosmith. It also features the phenomenal talents of Tracy Bonham on backing vocals, who adds some white to Joe Perry’s black.

Ok put out that cigarette. It’s time to pick your feet up off the ground and get dancing again. Bear in mind I don’t know blues music from Blues Clues. Apparently ‘You Gotta Move’ is a Mississippi Fred McDowell tune that the Stones covered on 1971 on their “Sticky Fingers” album. And apparently, Aerosmith have re-shaped the song as their own by adding a Bo Diddley beat and turning the original upside down. Whatever they’ve done, it sounds bloody marvellous. It’s the longest track at five-thirty, but it never outstays it’s welcome thanks to that irrepressible Diddley beat and a terrific arrangement. And that mid-track guitar/harmonica/contemporary vocal detour is better than carnal pleasure. Man I’m on fire here!

And hey I’m gonna give ‘big ups’ to the only original here, ‘The Grind’. Yes it’s an Aerosmith ballad all dressed up in a blues-suit and just about everyone in the whole world can tell. Boys, you’re fooling no one. It’s not as strong as ‘Lay It Down’ from the “Oh Yeah” album, but it’s pretty good – even if it does only takes Steven 31 seconds to say ‘ass’. Old habits die hard.

Then we kind of hit a problem. I’m not that taken on the next couple of tracks. Willie Dixon’s ‘I’m Ready’ starts off quite well. I’m thinking ‘this is totally cool’. This is what Brad had in mind when he wrote the criminally under-rated ‘Round and Round’ in 1975. The arrangement is strong – in fact they’ve made this song sound better than it really is. But this number is just missing a hook and it’s about a minute too long.

‘Temperature’ is frustrating too. It’s another bar-room style croak, similar to the earlier ‘Eyesight to the Blind’. There’s loads of harmonica and Tom Hamilton produces a damn cool bassline, but it’s just a little ordinary. At under three minutes though it’s inoffensive.

The Aerosmith concert-standard, ‘Stop Messin’ Around’ gets it’s first ever studio airing. Joe Perry grabs the mic again, as he does during live performances, and again more than holds his own. It’s fun, it’s polished. It’s really an excuse for a jam and that’s good enough for me.

And hey here we are at the finish line! With the momentum slowed down in the last ten minutes, the traditional gospel tune ‘Jesus is on the Main Line’ gives the album something a little different at a critical time. The combined efforts of Tyler and Tracy Bonham’s vocals, Perry’s slide guitar, and a backing chorus including Tom, Joey and Steven’s daughter, Chelsea, close the album out in a rather curious but noteworthy fashion.

I have to say, I really thought that when I started this review, I’d give this album three stars. Now I’ve finished and connected more with the music I’ve decided it definitely deserves three and a half. Does this make it the best Aerosmith album since 1989s “Pump”? It does, funnily enough. Honk honk!
3halfstar

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[Movie Review] Freddy vs Jason

Freddy Vs JasonStarring: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland
Director: Ronny Yu
Genre: Horror
Cert: 18
Released: 2003

There’s nothing like a good slasher movie. And indeed, not to put too fine a point on it, this is nothing like a good slasher movie.

Ok, I’ve jumped ahead of myself here. I don’t normally get in to the opinion part of my diatribe until the last few paragraphs. But at least we’ve been honest with each other. This is just not very good.

I’m not a watcher of either movie series – “Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Friday the 13th”. The Freddy and Jason in “Freddy Vs Jason” (incase you don’t know) are the central characters from those respective movie franchises. Freddy Kreuger is the child-killer who began a reign of terror in 1984 and despite suggesting in 1991 that he was finished slashing the hell out of terrified victims in their nightmares (“Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare”), he returned one more time in 1994 (“Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”).

Jason Voorhees made his name in the latter series as a hockey-mask wearing, one-man slaughter machine. After drowning at a kids summer camp in 1957, Jason returns 23 years later to murder loads of people. Like the “Nightmare” series, Jason seemed to wave goodbye to his celluloid existence in 1993 with “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday” before returning once again in 2001 in “Jason X” (set in space, of course).

So with both characters seemingly returning from the grave once, the stage was set for a showdown between the two. And in “Freddy Vs Jason”, this is accomplished through Elm Street’s least-favourite resident’s seemingly ingenious ressurection of The Crystal Lake Killer, Jason. Why? Well Freddy is in a sort of purgatory at the moment. The residents of Elm Street have managed to keep him out of their nightmares by simply forgetting about him. Freddy sends Jason back to Elm Street to commit some murders in his name, refresh the memory of the inhabitants, subsequently resurrecting himself and making him all powerful again.

So it’s a great idea, yeah? Unfortunately not. Jason starts to enjoy himself way too much and quickly begins a path of destruction that leaves Freddy without anyone to kill. He’s created a monster and now he must put an end to it in a “final” showdown between the two. Sorry, I used quotes around the world final there because the chances of this being a final outing for either character are as slim as a supermodel on the Atkins.

The problem with doing sequel after sequel like this is that originality becomes hard to maintain. While the initial movies are entertaining, the formula starts to wear thin pretty quick and the only reason for watching the follow-ups is if you are bored on a Friday night and you’ve got a six pack in the fridge. “Childs Play”, “Children of the Corn”, “The Amityville Horror” – they’ve also spurned multiple sequels. They’ve all ended up clouding the legacy of the original movies.

And “Freddy Vs Jason” is about as tired a movie as these things can get. It’s a shame that there is not as much energy on show as there is in the typically furious and venomous music of Type O Negative whom open and close the feature.

Special effects are the order of the day, of course. While mildly impressive in parts (the way in which a victim in Jason’s dream transforms into the face and body of numerous other people is decent enough), there’s nothing groundbreaking. Even the deaths are no great shakes, as morbid as that sounds. One bed-ridden victim meets a rather gruesome end, but other than that it’s all quite bland.

Director Ronny Yu has done this sort of thing before. He took the reins of 1998’s “Childs Play 4: Bride of Chucky”. You’d think he would have developed some semblance of a flair for shocking in that time. Where’s the tension? Where’s the excitement? It’s deadly predictable fair, and relies far too heavily on the slashing antics of Jason and his trusty sword to stimulate you much.

The limited talents of the largely disposable teen cast ensure that our hopes are not set too high. The beautiful Monica Keena (“Orange County”, TVs “Dawsons Creek”), Kelly Rowland (from Destiny’s Child) and Jason Ritter (interestingly, Yu directed Jason Ritter’s much loved, and sadly now-deceased father, John, in “Bride of Chucky”), are the feisty students who get to take on the murderous tag team of Freddy and Jason.

Really, I can’t be bothered any more.

News just in – coming soon – “Jason vs Freddy 2”. I’m not joking.

I’ll probably still watch a sequel, but if Yu (rumoured to be making a return behind the camera) doesn’t come up with something a bit more intriguing, humourous and involving, it’ll be another waste of 90 minutes.

But can you blame the studio? A jaded franchise rakes in three times its budget. It’s a no-brainer. If only life could be that easy for all of us.

1star