Album Title: Joe Perry
Artist: Joe Perry
Running Time: 51m 27s
Track listing: 1 Shakin’ My Cage; 2 Hold On Me; 3 Pray For Me; 4 Can’t Compare; 5 Lonely; 6 Crystal Ship; 7 Talk Talkin’; 8 Push Comes to Shove; 9 Twilight; 10 Ten Years; 11 Vigilante Man; 12 Dying To Be Free; 13 Mercy
Joe Perry has been threatening this for twenty years – a fourth solo album. The previous three came in the guise of the Joe Perry Project (reviews of the first two ‘Let the Music Do the Talking’ and ‘I’ve Got the Rock N Rolls Again’) and a recent Australian ‘best of’ generated a small bit of interest in the veteran rockers back catalogue. His early music was characterised by killer riffs (‘Let the Music do the Talking’, ‘Shooting Star’, ‘No Substitute for Arrogance’) and the safety first approach of letting someone else handle most of the singing. This time Perry takes the mic for the whole record (with the exception of the instrumentals, natch) but the killer riffs are still prominent.
Like a statement of intent, the bluesy rock-n-roll guitar of ‘Shakin’ My Cage’ kicks us off, a throbbing slab of retro-metal that could have been plucked from the early 80s if the listener didn’t know better. Like much of the album, it doesn’t pull up any trees (‘Once in a while you get a dream that comes true/Once in a while you get a room with a view’). But forget that, and indeed try to forget Perry’s fairly monotone vocal delivery because it’s the music that does the talking here (chuckle). We slide straight in to the similarly tempoed ‘Hold On Me’ whose rather excellent opening riff isn’t matched by the disappointing chorus. And seriously, try to ignore the lyrics (‘Hey, come on over and sit down/You gotta know that I’m not down’). There’s some great guitar work and some good solos in the opening pair. The Arabian-tinged ‘Pray for Me’ is a slow, interesting rocker that probably deserves better vocals than Perry can provide (damn, I said I would ignore that).
But the album gets it’s first bit of magic in ‘Can’t Compare’. Without fail the previous three tracks feature a repetitive chorus where the song title is just repeated a number of times and Perry struggles to insert any inflection in his vocals to brighten things up or add a bit of variety. But ‘Can’t Compare’ is a nice slice of rock with a brilliant chorus (‘Love, nobody said it’s fair/Without you it’s despair’) and a riff that’s the equal of anything that’s come before it. What I quite like about the vocals on this one is that Perry lets loose a little more, not worrying about keeping his key like he seems to be in the early tracks. Great solo in the middle too – real top notch stuff.
Unfortunately he reverts to type on ‘Lonely’. Great opening and a real good metal riff gives you great hope before it descends in to another laborious chorus (‘Told me I won’t be lonely no more x ad infinitum). The first of two covers, ‘Crystal Ship’, from the Doors 1967 debut record adds a touch of psychedelia while Woodie Guthrie’s ‘Vigilante Man’ is a brilliant hard-rock cover of a 50s folk classic. Ironically Perry performs both with an intense confidence – his familiarity with the material clearly giving him a ‘bunt up’ as such.
‘Talk Talkin” is another straight-on rocker which is kinda neat and catchy but pales when it comes to the much better ‘Push Comes to Shove’, a song that possibly could have done a job on Aerosmith’s 2001 album “Just Push Play”. Again the chorus is repetitive but the riff is excellent.
Ballad-hater Joe Perry goes all ballady on us with ‘Ten Years’, a song he wrote for his wife Billie on their tenth anniversary. The music is nice, the message is cute but, and not wishing to sound like a broken record, the lyrics are the sort of thing you might put together in Song Writing 101 Class (‘When you smile at me/It’s a brand new day/When you smile at me/It takes my breath away/When you smile at me/My sun comes out/When you smile at me/It makes me wanna shout’). Now I don’t want to belittle what is obviously a heartfelt moment for Joe and Billie, but I’d love to see Joe shouting his head off when Billie fires a little crack of a smile at him. I digress: nice enough song.
‘Dying To Be Free’ totally rocks at the beginning, has a cool chorus and a great bridge but Joe again fails to lift the chorus out of the ‘average’ category. Still it’s good – in parts.
The two instrumentals on here are a mixed bag. ‘Twilight’ is a take it or leave it number that depending on my mood could be a skipper. Album closer ‘Mercy’ sounds very ‘Aerosmithy’ and pretty much asks to be turned up to 11 – killer bass, great licks from Perry.
So even though I’ve been somewhat critical of Perry’s latest solo album, it’s not that bad. There’s just a lot of average moments in amongst the brilliance of the legendary axeman and if you can get past the dodgy vocals (although the covers are sung brilliantly), ropey lyrics and dull choruses (with the exception of ‘Can’t Compare’) this is a rock album the type of which is rarely released these days. Looking forward to Aerosmith studio album #15.