[Album Review] "Nine Lives" – Aerosmith (original review)

Nine Lives - AerosmithAlbum Title: Nine Lives
Artist: Aerosmith
Year: 1997
Running Time: 65m 57s

Track listing: 1 Nine Lives; 2 Falling In Love (is Hard on the Knees); 3 Hole in my Soul; 4 Taste of India; 5 Full Circle; 6 Something Gotta Give; 7 Ain’t That a Bitch; 8 The Farm; 9 Crash; 10 Kiss Your Past Goodbye; 11 Pink; 12 Falling Off; 13 Attitude Adjustment; 14 Fallen Angels

I’ve felt recently that Aerosmith are somewhat an under-valued band in the higher echelons of music critique. They are, of course, my favourite band and as a result I am fairly biased. But when you see the praise heaped on other long standing bands of twenty years plus (Rolling Stones, Bee Gees, The Who), it makes you wonder what bands like Aerosmith have to do to get the recognition they deserve. Their albums are normally met with a clearly defined divided reaction – half of the critics are fans and subsequently gently praise their efforts while the other half have a bit of a snigger at the ageing legends, pan the albums and spin their latest fad CD.

“Nine Lives” was an album that encountered such a reaction on its release. It was a long time coming for a record that had encountered many problems along the way: various internal arguments, rumours of drug abuse for a band that had been clean for 10 years, the sacking of long time manager Tim Collins, various producers and a general feeling of fatigue.

The results therefore are somewhat predictable; moments of mastery mixed in with elements of mediocrity.

This album is very much about diversity as Aerosmith aim to tread some new ground. There are no better examples of this than the songs that touch on the drug abuse experience of the past. ‘The Farm’ is one of the best Aerosmith cuts ever, heavy and aggressive, placing the listener in a sort of parallel universe and ‘Crash’ sees them crossing into the punk genre for the first time with Steven Tyler even adopting a pseudo English accent.

There are some other good rockers here; ‘Something Gotta Give’ is a reasonable guitar-driven track with a line that is set to become a t-shirt print of the future (‘does the noise in my head bother you?’), the title track is reminiscent of Aerosmith rockers of the seventies and ‘Falling in Love (is hard on the knees)’ is quintessential Aerosmith, sexual innuendo and horns a la ‘(Dude) Looks Like a Lady’.

Aerosmith are of course masters of the ballad and ‘Hole in my Soul’ is an emotional but predictable cry from the heart not too dissimilar to their classic, ‘Dream On’ and ‘Kiss Your Past Goodbye’, while an average premise for a ballad, is musically superior to much of the album. The best one here though is ‘Ain’t that a Bitch’ which is set for classic status too. It opens with a lone saxaphone setting a scene suggestive of 1940s New York and the lone man in the trench coat and hat. A bit like that David Bowie video, ‘Absolute Beginners’. It then explodes into an emotional tirade, telling you that ‘love is like the right dress on the wrong girl; you never know what you’re gonna find’. A case of once bitten, twice shy maybe.

Other tracks on it worth catching are ‘Pink’ (a catchy acoustic number featuring the trademark harmonica and tinged with pleasant harmonies) and ‘Attitude Adjustment’ (another tale of love gone wrong).

There are some decidedly weaker moments; two of the weaker moments were pencilled in as singles actually. ‘Taste of India’ is a mediocre rocker with an indian sound, ‘Full Circle’ sounds like a “Get a Grip” leftover and ‘Fallen Angles’ is an eight minute otchestral ballad which, while sounding terrific, is about 5 minutes too long.

I’ll praise this album as a very good effort, and perhaps with the exception of “Pump”, their best since 1976. I say respect the Boston bad boys; they do it for you you know…

3star

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[Album Review] "Classics Live II" – Aerosmith

Classics Live II - AerosmithAlbum Title: Classics Live! II
Artist: Aerosmith
Year: 1987
Running Time: 38m 47s

Track listing: 1 Back in the Saddle [1976]; 2 Walk This Way [1975]; 3 Movin’ Out [1973]; 4 Draw The Line [1977]; 5 Same Old Song and Dance [1974]; 6 Last Child [1976]; 7 Let the Music do the Talking [1985]; 8 Toys in the Attic [1975]

The follow up to “Classics Live!” came a year later and was of a similar quality to the original. With the exception of ‘Draw the Line’ [1978] and ‘Let the Music do the Talking’ (1986), all recordings came from 1984, just prior to the release of “Done with Mirrors”. How the band must have wished they could come up with more classics like these for that album.

The regular concert opener at the time, ‘Back in the Saddle’ launches in enigmatic form, Whitford and Perry causing an electric current of energy that would rival any live performance. All time classic, ‘Walk this Way’ is introduced with a ‘Happy Birthday’ sing-a-long to Tom Hamilton (new years eve) and is performed as well as ever with the new chorus style that evolved over time already in place.

‘Movin’ Out’ is given an airing here due to the recent re-union of Mssrs Tyler and Perry and the fact that this was the first song they wrote together. It is interesting to here it live but it has always been a rather mediocre tune to me, although the mellow mid-section sounds excellent.

The all-out action blast of ‘Draw the Line’ is as memorable as ever and ‘Same Old Song and Dance’ builds the anticipation greatly by teasing everyone with a false intro for about 30 seconds. Vocally though, Tyler sounds tired.

The itchy attraction of ‘Last Child’ is the best performance on the album with Whitford and Co creating a groove than sounds even better now than it did eleven years before. ‘Let the Music do the Talking’ is the only “Done With Mirrors” track included although I wish it had have been ‘My Fist Your Face’.

The finale couldn’t be more fitting – ‘Toys in the Attic’ – the duel vocal assault of Tyler and Perry showing that they are indeed back in the saddle again.

A good album indeed especially with the inclusion of the “Rocks” tracks.

3star

[Album Review] "Classics Live I" – Aerosmith

Classics Live! I - AerosmithAlbum Title: Classics Live!
Artist: Aerosmith
Year: 1986
Running Time: 37m 54s

Track listing: 1 Train Kept a Rollin [1974]; 2 Kings and Queens [1977]; 3 Sweet Emotion [1975]; 4 Dream On [1973]; 5 Mama Kin [1973]; 6 Three Mile Smile/Reefer Head Woman [1979]; 7 Lord of The Thinghs [1974]; 8 Major Barbara

With dwindling record sales, Aerosmith released a couple of live albums in order to try and save their careers. Rather cynically, each one contained a minimal amount of songs and should have been released as one album. However, both are extremely good and capture the band at their best. This album was recorded between 1973 and 1987.

There are several automatic classics here. The brilliant ‘Train Kept a Rollin’ kicks things off in a strained but pacy manner and it is followed by the dynamic ‘Kings and Queens’ – a flawed classic. ‘Sweet Emotion’ is not very far behind and Tom Hamilton’s greatest bass moment launches us into the all out metal attack of one of the greatest rock songs of the seventies.

‘Dream On’ and ‘Mama Kin’ are next and both are irrepresible in execution. The former benefits from the more lavish instrumental application that it gets on stage and the latter becomes an extreme stadium jam thanks to the spirited participation from the excited crowd.

A “Night in the Ruts” double header ensues with ‘Three Mile Smile’ and ‘Reefer Head Woman’ making up one track. ‘..Smile’ sounds funkier than ever and is rather excellent and the 90-seconds of the blues stomper ‘Reefer..’, is much appreciated.

You can’t help thinking that the crowd were anticipating ‘Walk this Way’ as Joey Kramer thumps the intro to ‘Lord of the Thighs’ but the conditioned sleaze of ‘LOTT’ sounds wonderful thanks to Tyler and the Boys playing with the pace. However, it does outstay its welcome for a couple of minutes.

The final track is not actually a live track but rather a hidden gem that was originally meant for release on “Get Your Wings” and gets its ‘studio’ release here. ‘Major Barbara’ is a melodic but slightly raw romantic ode that would have fit nicely on “Get Your Wings” but whose inclusion here is gratefully accepted.

Overall it is an excellent package in its own right but it would have been nice to have a few more songs included.

3star

[Album Review] "Aerosmith" – Aerosmith (original review)

Aerosmith - AerosmithAlbum Title: Aerosmith
Artist: Aerosmith
Year: 1973
Running Time: 35m 54s

Track listing: 1 Make It; 2 Somebody; 3 Dream On; 4 One Way Street; 5 Mama Kin; 6 Write Me (A Letter); 7 Movin’ Out; 8 Walkin’ The Dog

Since this is where the Aerosmith story begins, a brief history shall be relayed. Aerosmith were formed in 1970 with original guitarist, Ray Tabano, replaced by Brad Whitford soon after. In 1972 they clinched a remarkable five year/five album recording contract with Columbia.

This is the first of them and there is a lot of quality on show here and is certainly a good sign of things to come from the Boston Bad Boys. The top tracks on here are probably ‘Dream On’, ‘One Way Street’ and ‘Mama Kin’.

‘Dream On’ is a classic cut – a ballad with a haunting melody and message. ‘Everytime I look in the mirror; all these lines on my face getting clearer; the past is gone; it went by like dusk to dawn’. A rather strange state of mind for an energetic 25 year old but Tyler continued ‘dream on, dream until your dreams come true’. He clearly knows that life is short and that you got to keep aiming for the top; ‘you gotta lose to know how to win’.

‘One Way Street’ is a 7-minute epic complete with foot-tapping rhythm, funky harmonica, stunning cymbals and sombre piano that demonstrates the blues connection that Aerosmith have and ‘Mama Kin’ simplistically hones into view, struts its funky thang and hot-tails out of there like a naughty schoolchild.

‘Write Me’ has an irrepresible guitar/drum backbone all coated nicely with an attractive vocal performance from Steven Tyler and a stropping Tom Hamilton bassline while ‘Make It’ and ‘Somebody’ are decent slices of Aerosmith-style rock n roll.

‘Walkin’ the Dog’ is a cover version of the 1963 Rufus Thomas hit which apparently is about doing some yo yo trick. I wonder. ‘Movin’ Out’ is arguably the closest to rickety that we get here – a moody rocker where Tyler bemoans getting caught up in the urban sprawl. It is raw and reasonably inventive and is the only (original) track here that Tyler co-wrote; guitarist Joe Perry penning the notes with him.

All in all it is a pretty solid debut from the Bostonians who clearly are heavily influenced by bands like the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds. It is a little thin in spots but overall the star quality appears to be there.
3star

[Album Review] "Carry on up the Charts" – The Beautiful South

Carry on up the Charts -The Beautiful SouthAlbum Title: Carry On Up The Charts
Artist: Beautiful South
Year: 1994
Running Time: 51m 5s

Track listing: 1 Song For Whoever; 2 You Keep It All In; 3 I’ll Sail This Ship Alone; 4 A Little Time; 5 My Book; 6 Let Love Speak Up Itself; 7 Old Red Eyes Is Back; 8 We Are Each Other; 9 Bell Bottomed Tear; 10 36D; 11 Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud); 12 Everybody’s Talkin’; 13 Prettiest Eyes; 14 One Last Love Song

From the ashes of the silly but brilliant Housemartins came the less wacky Beautiful South. This collection tracks is from their inception in 1989 to their present day situation, as it was, in 1994. There have been a few additions and purges from the line up in that time but damned if I know what they were. The one constant figure I am sure of is the former ‘Martins lead singer, Paul Heaton.

First up is ‘Song For Whoever’, a subtle pop ballad featuring a delicate piano and bass backbone and it is followed by ‘You Keep It All In’, a jaunty tune which uses the unique presence of three different lead singers to create something that sounds a little different. My favourite tune on the album though is probably ‘A Little Time’, a lamentable vocal duel between two lovers, played by singers Dave Hemmingway and Briana Corrigan. The astute use of sax and piano is crucial to the tormented sound it portrays.

Top marks for coolness go to ‘My Book’ which sees Heaton grab the mic again in order to describe his life in a serious of unfortunatle situations and analogys. ‘This is my life and this is how it reads, a documentary that no one believes, Albert Steptoe in Gone With The Breeze, Mother played by Peter Beardsley, father by John Cleese’. It broods but is still fun and accessible.

‘Old Red Eyes is Back’ is another Heaton creation. Using just a piano backing for the verse, the chrous sees the rest of the band drop by and pick the tempo up rather well. A wonderful little tune. Hemmingway and Abbott takes over the vocals again for the beautiful ‘Bell Bottomed Tear’. Lyrically it’s a bit obtuse – ‘this is the way that I lay and this is the woman you laid'(!) – but it’s a really nice piano and guitar-based strain.

Speaking of lyrics, ’36D’ is hardly the most conventional track ever recorded – a plea to large-chested prostitutes to clean their act up! Good tune though with an infectious chorus. Strange though all the same! ‘Good As Gold’ was another sassy, bouncy ride through Tunesville which saw the debut of Jacqueline Abbott as lead vocalist and ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ was always a nice tune and the BS have done a good job here – melodic and sonorous..

‘We Are Each Other’, ‘Prettiest Eyes’ and ‘Sail This Ship Alone’ are decent cuts too but ‘One Last Love Song’ and ‘Let Love Speak Up Itself’ will probably bore you to bell-bottomed tears!

Paul Heaton and guitarist, David Rotheray co-wrote every original song on this disc and they have certainly mastered popular music and the secrets of perfect melody. This collection is a fun distraction for just about anybody.

3star

[Album Review] "Appetite for Destruction" – Guns N Roses

Appetite for Destruction - Guns N RosesAlbum Title: Appetite for Destruction
Artist: Guns N Roses
Year: 1987
Running Time: 53m 48s

Track listing: 1 Welcome to the Jungle; 2 It’s So Easy; 3 Nightrain; 4 Out Ta Get Me; 5 Mr Brownstone; 6 Paradise City; 7 My Michelle; 8 Think About You; 9 Sweet Child O’ Mine; 10 You’re Crazy; 11 Anything Goes; 12 Rocket Queen

It was the record that kick started the re-birth of hard rock in the late eighties. The orginial Guns N Roses line up of Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler only managed one actual full studio album before things started to fall apart and the personnell began to change. But what an album it was, and well over a decade since its release, it is still a bona fide classic.

Rose is not the greatest vocalist in the world, but it is clear that as a song-writer he pulls no punches. The almost-metal assualt of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ and ‘It’s So Easy’ are perfect showcases for what GnR are all about. Slash demonstrates why he was to become one of the most respected gutarists of his age while the Adler/McKagan/Stradlin combination give the lead guitarist a powerful rhythm to hang his memorable hooks on.

Even though they are raucous, there is a definite Stones/Aerosmith groove about GnR’s music. ‘Nightrain’ is bluesy, ‘Mr Brownstone’ could almost makes you dance and ‘Think About You’ is a crooning rock classic.

When they do slow it down a little, the results are equally as memorable. ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ with it’s acoustic melody and seering lead licks is an all time classic, while ‘Rocket Queen’ successfully mixes a hybrid of styles before roaring off to a rocking conclusion.

‘Out Ta Get Me’ and ‘You’re Crazy’ are fast and furious, ‘My Michelle’ and ‘Anything Goes’ fall into the more whimsical category of hard rock but are just as enjoyable as the rest of the album.

No turkeys, just twelve magical slices of rock music.

5star