The greatest celebrities I’ve ever met

Celebrity has been with us for about 30 years now and it’s gone from strength to strength. From the very first famous person, helicopter pilot Jan-Michael Vincent, to bleached female cyborg Yazz, through the glory days of diminutive real-life wizard Harold Potter, celebrity has brought us many minutes of enjoyment.

There’s nothing more exciting than meeting a celebrity. I mean it’s way better than getting married, or becoming a parent, or running a marathon, or successfully pulling off a bank heist. It’s simply great.

And in my four decades plus, I have met my fair share of celebrities.

Now I’m not talking about planned engagements like my sit-down interviews with Irish laugh manufacturer Ed Byrne or the sadly-deceased former Minister Seamus Brennan. And I’m not talking about my incidental brush on a staircase with INXS or a casual “hello” on Dame Street with satirical comedian Hugh Dennis.

I’m talking about unexpected meetings with celebrity, rendezvous that were not foreseen and therefore left me little time to plan my palaver in advance.

So what is a “famous” person?

Famous people are defined as “someone what’s been on the TV or the radio or in the newspaper but not for reasons of murder or stealing or advertising of the Subway Diet”.

So without further ado, here are my top five unexpected brushes with celebrity.

#1

When? 1986Maurice Pratt

Who was it!? Maurice Pratt

Who? The most famous marketing director of 1980s supermarket chain, Quinnsworth.

How’d you meet him? They wheeled him in to our school to do presentations on sports day. He presented me with tennis medals I’d won earlier on in my career (1984 and 1985).

What do you remember? I still remember his marketing director-like professionalism as he shook my hand. I was, of course, blown away by meeting a celebrity like him at such a young age. He offered me a sweet deal on those fat pens with four different coloured inks too.

#2

When? 1993Justin Edinburgh

Who was it!? Justin Edinburgh

Who? Tottenham’s floppy-haired full back from yesteryear.

How’d you meet him? I was sitting in the crowd at a Tottenham pre-season friendly in Drogheda and he was in the row ahead of me.

What do you remember? I reached over and in my most polite voice asked him to sign my program. He did so while chewing gum in a manner than only cocky Grange Hill characters used to be able to. So Justin can write and chew gum at the same time. I lost the program but I remember his signature being quite dramatic and among the most impressive I’d witnessed at that time.

Here’s Justin getting sent off in a cup final for bitch-slapping a girl.

#3

When? 2002Richie Moran

Who was it!? Richie Moran

Who? Former footballer who played fleetingly for third division Birmingham City in 1990.

How’d you meet him? Through mutual friends in an English bar in Christchurch, New Zealand.

What do you remember? Having a great booze up with him. Well, until he shoved a short Scottish guy off a tall stool for addressing him as “boy”. Given Richie’s documented recounting of the racism he encountered as a player, perhaps it’s understandable why he took this Scottish colloquialism the wrong way. Richie regaled us with tales about Lou Macari and John Barnes and it was a lot of fun.  He subsequently wrote a book about his travels but I did not read it so I don’t know if he mentioned me. Probably not.

#4

When? 2008John Morrison

Who was it!? The Miz and John Morrison

Who? Only one of the hottest acts of the day in WWE sports entertainment.

How’d you meet them? Well I had to hang out drinking with the WWE head of security for six hours in a Stuttgart hotel bar.

What do you remember? Morrison and The Miz strutted in to the hotel lobby at about 4am, excitedly rambling on and on to their security guy, before Morrison stops mid sentence, points at me and says “Wait. Who the fuck are you?”. He then proceeded to offer me a signed photo before the pair made their way to the elevators to pack for their 6am flight.


#5

When? 2008Whitford Kramer

Who was it!? Brad Whitford and Joey Kramer

Who? Two thirds of the under-appreciated part of Aerosmith.

How’d you meet them? A friend in the know brought us to the London hotel where the band were staying ahead of their 2008 Hyde Park gig.

What do you remember? We met the rock veterans at the top of a staircase. Brad was very nice, chatting to our friends young daughter and making her day/year/decade. I tried to engage Joey in a cute story about how they were playing a few miles from my Dublin home next week but even though I could hear them from my bedroom I still bought a ticket. He looked at me stony faced and refused to shake my outstretched hand.

Since all celebrities are brilliant, my assumption is that this was not actually the real Joey.


JaredBut I’m only 41.  So I probably have another 10, 20, 30, 7 years left. Who knows?

I have plenty of time to meet more celebrities. If you are famous and would like to go for a pint, let me know. Not you, Jared.

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[Album Review] “Music From Another Dimension” (Deluxe Edition) – Aerosmith

Album Title: Music From Another Dimension

Artist: Aerosmith

Year: 2012

Running Time: 80m 38s

Track listing: 1. LUV XXX; 2. Oh Yeah; 3. Beautiful; 4. Tell Me; 5. Out Go the Lights; 6. Legendary Child; 7. What Could Have Been Love; 8. Street Jesus; 9. Can’t Stop Lovin’ You; 10. Lover Alot; 11. We All Fall Down; 12. Freedom Fighter; 13. Closer; 14. Something; 15. Another Last Goodbye [Deluxe CD] 1. Up On The Mountain; 2. Oasis in the Night; 3. Sunny Side of Love

I’ve finally unveiled rock legends Aerosmith’s grand plan for protecting their legacy – subliminal revisionism.  I recall being somewhat underwhelmed by 1997’s “Nine Lives”; a brash, sprawling follow-up to multi-platinum mainstream hit-machine “Get a Grip”.  Four years later it seemed like a minor classic in comparison to the eclectic “Just Push Play”.  Now, in 2012, even “Just Push Play” may be considered under-appreciated when laid side-by-side with “Music From Another Dimension”.

It’s the record that almost never got made what with Steven Tyler falling off stage, Steven Tyler going to rehab, and Steven Tyler becoming a mainstream TV star.  In fact the only time the other band members entered public consciousness was when Steven Tyler was talking trash about them or they were threatening to form some sort of New Aerosmith without him.

And if you thought all that tension and middle-aged angst would translate in to an inspired, angry opus, you’d be dead wrong.  The presence of Jack Douglas – legendary producer of “Toys in the Attic” and “Rocks” – suggested a return to the attitude and swagger of the mid 70s.  But there’s very little he can do with the dearth of strong material and a band that seem at odds with themselves.

It’s part-Aerosmith album, part-Joe Perry solo record, part-Steven Tyler solo album and the deluxe version even features a debut lead vocal from bassist Tom Hamilton. If it sounds like a patchwork, it really is – an overlong one.

There are high moments for sure.  Joe Perry’s infectious, Stones-inspired “Oh Yeah”, enhanced by horns and female backing vocals, finds the group in their element.  Similarly, the seven-minute “Out Go the Lights” recalls the good-time groove of “Get the Lead Out” and “Lick and a Promise“, while Brad Whitford’s “Street Jesus” is a very good 21st century “Jailbait“.  “Lover Alot” – in spite of it’s seven (!) co-songwriters – is an efficient rocker without pretensions and I’m willing to admit that its complete antithesis – Diane Warren-penned ballad “We All Fall Down” – does overwrought sentiment very well.

Then there’s the near-misses.  “Beautiful” combines a punchy rhythm, with Tyler’s menacing semi-rap (‘I was earjacking, eavsdropping/down on my knees so I can hear what she was sayin’ … Now I got to thinkin’/About my high-speed, dirty deeds’), a fantastic guitar section from guitarists Brad Whitford and Perry but just when the song should be exploding with a crescendo, it gets dragged down by an insipid chorus.

Opener “LUV XXX” is a little lackluster in spite of its crunching riffs and reasonable hook, while the formulaic “Legendary Child” walks that fine line – a lazy rehash of “Walk This Way” or a sassy tribute to their own history?

But the ballads, oh the ballads.  In isolation any one of the country-like “Tell Me”, the uplifting but by-numbers “What Could Have Been Love”, Carrie Underwood duet “Can’t Stop Loving You”, or piano-driven album closer “Another Last Goodbye” would be fine.  But there’s five of them.  On a fifteen track rock album.

The end of the record seems almost like it was tacked on when no one was looking.  Two sturdy Joe Perry vocal vehicles (“Freedom Fighter”, “Something”) and the noirish curiosity “Closer” (co-written by Joey Kramer) are okay but don’t seem very necessary.

And if it seems like the album will never end you can make it last even longer by shelling out a few extra bucks for the deluxe edition.  Hamilton’s 80s rocker “Up on the Mountain” is a victory for the popular axeman who survived throat and tongue cancer while Perry picks up the mic again for “Oasis in the Night”.  The eighty minute carnival ends with the “Jaded“-lite pop song “Sunny Side of Love”; a surprisingly good radio-friendly hook – certainly miles better than those “Girls of Summer“.

The album lacks hits.  There’s not really anything as good as “Beyond Beautiful” or “Jaded” and in fifteen years time we’ll still be hearing “Pink” on rock stations.  But for all that, it’s encouraging to see Tyler and Perry writing together again (“Luv XXX”, “Out Go the Lights”) and great to hear meaningful contributions from Whitford, Hamilton and Kramer.

It’s overlong, clunky and mostly average but I’m sure in a decade I’ll wonder how it wasn’t considered for a Grammy.

The Aerosmith Album Project: "Rocks"

Aerosmith - Rocks

Album title: Rocks
Year: 1976
Track Listing: 1. Back in the Saddle; 2. Last Child; 3. Rats in the Cellar; 4. Combination; 5. Sick as a Dog; 6. Nobody’s Fault; 7. Get the Lead Out; 8. Lick and a Promise; 9. Home Tonight
Running Time: 34m 30s
Units sold/certifications: 4 million (US)
Chart performance: #3 (US)

By-the-by Intro
James Hetfield: “When I was 15, I went over to watch this band rehearse. All I had was this little combo amp, and they had a real PA, the smell of the gear, the smell of tubes burning … I got hooked. In the back they had some Aerosmith records, and they played “Rocks”. At that point, I fell into the rock & roll fever. That was it.”

Slash: “I chased the most beautiful girl – who was twice my age – for about three months. And when I finally got into her apartment, she played me “Rocks” for the first time. I listened to it about four or five times, completely forgot about the girl, and split the apartment. That’s what Aerosmith means to me.”

Track by track

Back in the Saddle
it seems to be recurring that we talk about Aerosmith “signature tunes” but there’s no doubt that the wild west-themed “Back in the Saddle” is up there with the best of them. A musically powerful rocker, it is built on a thumping bass line from Tom Hamilton and growling guitar from Joe Perry and Brad Whitford. Lyrically it is about a horny cowboy who arrives looking for “Sukie Jones” (“she turned to give me a wink/that’d make a grown man cry”). It’s not long before he gets down to it (“come easy, go easy, all right until the rising sun/I’m calling all the shots tonight, I’m like a loaded gun”) and we’re led in to a fantastic foot-tapping middle-eight before collapsing in to what seems like an ecstatic, perhaps erotic drunken screech from Tyler (“ridin’ hiiiigh….!”). Quite fantastic.

Rating: *****

Last Child
At this point of Aerosmith’s career, as bona-fide major rock stars, it was starting to become apparent that the lifestyle was taking its toll (as was alluded to lyrically on previous album “Toys in the Attic”). They could certainly write some amazing music as evidenced by “Last Child”, a fearsome funk stomper with Brad Whitford absolutely on fire as co-writer and performer. Lyrically though it’s hard to know what Tyler is on: “Take me back to a south Tallahassee/Down cross the bridge to my sweet sassafrassy…my hot tail poon-tang sweatheart/Sweathog, ready to make a silk purse/From a J Paul Getty and his ear/With a face in a beer”. Having said that it could be argued that the song is all the more endearing for what sounds like clever wordplay mauled by drug-inspired confusion.

Rating: *****

Rats in the Cellar
I have linked the studio version above in spite of some live versions being available on YouTube simply because it’s so outstanding. A full pelt rocker which looks back in barely-disguised disgust at Aerosmith’s down and out days in New York (“Goin’ under, rats are in the cellar/Goin’ under, skin is turnin’ yella/Nose is runny, losin’ my connection/Losin’ money, gettin’ no affection). Sonically it’s absolutely incredible with a whispering Tyler overdub sitting spookily behind his main vocal on the verses and producer Jack Douglas throwing as much musical chaos in to the four minutes as he can.

Rating: *****

Combination
The Joe Perry-penned “Combination” is effectively a vocal duet between Tyler and Perry about the drug and drink excesses that the band were engaging in (“My heart says no but my head says stay/My work is finished, or so I’ve been told/Can’t part the three of us, once we got a hold”). As is the case throughout the album, the guitar work is fantastic in what is a more straight-forward but no-less entertaining song.

Rating: ****

Sick as a Dog
Perhaps they were bored but “Sick as a Dog” is notable for bassist Tom Hamilton picking up the guitar for the first half of the song while Joe Perry plays his bass – only for the pair to swap back for the final guitar solo. The song absolutely smokes musically, bouncing along on the upbeat riff, drifting in to a slowed-down middle-eight before picking up again for that closing Perry solo. The track itself is rumoured to be about the first time Tyler met Mick Jagger (“Please, I just got to talk to you/Please, well keep your head out of the loo”). Do they say “loo” in America?

Rating: ****

Nobody’s Fault
I risk repeating myself but I’m pretty sure Aerosmith have not rocked as hard and heavy as they did here. “Nobody’s Fault” reflects the seventies paranoia over the San Andreas Fault and the scaremongering with regard to California falling in to the sea (“Holy lands are sinkin’/Birds take to the sky/The prophets are all stinking drunk/I know the reason why”). The song deals with the ignored warnings (“Man has known/And now he’s blown it”), how the noble men “spoke” (“but how discouragin’/When no one really hears”) and that California is more at risk as it has “too many houses on stilt”. The song closes with a clever disclaimer: “We did an awful job/Now they say it’s nobody’s fault”.

Rating: *****

Get the Lead Out
If you were feeling overwrought by the intensity of “Nobody’s Fault” then there’s nothing like a good dose of Aerosleaze to sort you out. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what the “lead” in the title might be a euphemism for (“Won’t you grab my shaker/I got to meet your maker/Get out the lead/Get out of bed/Get the lead out”). The riff is familiar and inviting, the lyrics even more so (“I’ll show you my fist/Take hold of my wrist/We really can’t miss”). Utter filth and all the better for it.

Rating: ****

Lick and a Promise
Aerosmith were really in their groove on “Lick and a Promise” – high-energy stadium rock with the sort of feel-good positivity that they didn’t always exude when talking about the rock n’ roll lifestyle. Tyler sings about the relationship between the audience and a singer called Johnny (“Backstreet boogie in the house of delight/Where they steal the show/The money come sour but the ladies are sweet/It’s a love affair”) and the perks of the lifestyle (“He started thinking ’bout the fortune and fame/With the young girls down at his knees”). The crowd-assisted chant of “na na na na” is perfect too – but it’s no surprise as Jack Douglas’ work on “Rocks” was classy from start to finish.

Rating: ****

Home Tonight
After rocking for a little over 30 minutes the band sign off with the powerful ballad “Home Tonight”. The lyrical message is simple (“Now it’s time to say good night to you/Now it’s time to bid you sweet adieu”) and the track is characterised by a gentle keyboard and percussion accompaniment through the verse before the band kick back in for the bridge and chorus (“Baby, don’t let go/Hold on real tight/’Cause i’ll be home tonight”). As for Joe Perry’s solo? Well, it’s arguably the sweetest piece of music the band produced in their entire career.

Rating: *****

Summary
This was definitely the peak of Aerosmith’s powers. Marginally more consistent than “Toys in the Attic” and strong in just about every respect, captured here are the final moments before the band were to effectively implode in their own personal drug-and-booze orgies that had been slowly chipping away at them for years. There’s nothing short of four-star here and every track melds perfectly in to each other in what is a well-paced, brilliantly-produced, superior collection of songs.

5star

The Aerosmith Album Project: "Toys in the Attic"

Toys in the Attic - Aerosmith
Toys in the Attic - Aerosmith

Album title: Toys in the Attic
Year: 1975
Track Listing: 1. Toys in the Attic; 2. Uncle Salty; 3. Adam’s Apple; 4. Walk This Way; 5. Big Ten Inch Record; 6. Sweet Emotion; 7. No More No More; 8. Round and Round; 9. You See Me Crying
Running Time: 37m 11s
Units sold/certifications: 8 million (US)
Chart performance: #11 (US)

Track by Track

Toys in the Attic

Although not a big deal in Europe in the mid seventies, “Toys in the Attic” was the album that put Aerosmith firmly on the map in the US. There was no YouTube or file sharing back then and the positive press was hard to come by across the Atlantic. But it didn’t worry American music fans who embraced the band’s best and most consistent collection of songs yet. The title track remains a mainstay on American radio to this day. Suspected to be a reflection of the band’s drug fuelled existence (“voices scream, nothing’s seen, real’s a dream”), the toys in the attic were said to refer to the paranoia and mischief playing out in their junk-filled minds. If they were a band in disarray no one would guess it – quite phenomenal. Notably recorded by REM on their cult covers album, “Dead Letter Office“.

Rating: *****

Uncle Salty

“Uncle Salty” touches (as the band did again 14 years later on “Janie’s Got A Gun”) on the subject of child abuse. A young girl is left unloved by her parents (“her mammy was lusted, daddy he was busted”) and Uncle Salty saw this girl’s decline in mental health (“when she cried at night no one came/”And when she cried at night, went insane”). Eventually when she was old enough (“They left her to be trusted ’til the orphan bleeds”) it was thought that she would fend for herself but “soon she found her mother’s love for all the others/The pushers and the shovers, was the life to lead”. The closing refrain of “it’s a sunny day outside my window” contrasts strongly with the darkness that the girl lives in. And it’s unclear who Uncle Salty is, what role he played in the girl’s life and if perhaps his name is a euphemism for something more sinister. Brilliant mid-tempo rocker.

Rating: ****

Adam’s Apple

How many bands were comfortable turning biblical tales in to sleazy rock? “Adam’s Apple” re-tells the Bible’s account of the beginning of mankind (“Back when Cain was able/Way before the stable”) and the day Adam found himself face to face with Eve (“Conscience was related/Man he was created/Lady luck took him by surprise/A sweet and bitter fruit it surely opened his eyes”). Things turn sexy (“Well she ate it/Lordy, it was love at first bite”), temptation appears (“So the story goes but you see/The snake was he/And she just climbed right up his tree”) and nobody knew any better (“She ate it/Never knowin’ wrong from right”). Outrageously melodic, lyrically sharp-as-knives and brilliantly arranged.

Rating: *****

Walk this Way

It’s hard to put “Walk this Way” in to its mid-70s perspective since it latterly became the song that saved their careers alongside Run DMC in 1986. Back in 1975, fresh from ripping on a biblical yarn, Tyler turned his hand to sexual coming of age. The teenage “backstroke lover, always hidin’ ‘neath the covers” would soon learn about real sexuality (“you ain’t seen nothin’ ’til you’re down on a muffin/Then you’re sure to be a changin’ your ways”). The song (whose lyrics, Tyler claims, were written on the wall of the recording studio just before they went in to lay the track down) goes on to suggest all manner of innuendo (“See-saw swingin’ with the boys in the school/your feet flyin’ up in the air/Singin’ hey diddle diddle/With your kitty in the middle of the swing like you didn’t care”). The 1986 re-recorded cross-over version brought it to a brand new audience, adopted slightly different notes in the chorus (Aerosmith were already performing these notes in concerts) and it sounded hard-hitting and fresh. “The simple ideas are the best,” Joe Perry said of the riff he had penned.

Rating: ****1/2

Big Ten Inch Record

It’s hard to believe that Bull Moose Jackson’s original (from 1952) actually existed. But it’s true. And Aerosmith, being fond of the blues and sexual innuendo, couldn’t not cover it – double negative but it was necessary. The singer has this girl he wants to impress (“Believe me, this chick’s no sinch”) and he knows how to impress her (“I really get her going/When I whip out my big ten-inch”). Only for the fact you already know the title of the song you may have a second where time stands still.  But the chorus kicks in with “…Record, of a band that plays the blues”. Each verse leaves you with the ten-inch cliffhanger and the song – at the risk of sounding like I come from the 50s myself – is an absolute hoot.

Rating: ****

Sweet Emotion

“Sweet Emotion” ticks so many boxes: great intro, outro and arrangement, fantastic musicianship from bass line to solo and snappy lyrics. A radio favourite, featured in many TV shows and movies and a seminal rock tune that became the band’s mainstream breakthrough. its enduring legacy is the perceived influence the track had on many peers and the fact that it was remixed and re-released as a single in the 90s. Rolling Stone listed it at #408 in its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (behind “Dream On” and “Walk This Way”).  The lyrics were inspired by tensions between the band members and the various wives who were becoming more and more influential in matters: “You talk about things that nobody cares/Wearin’ out things that nobody wares/You’re callin’ my name but I gotta make clear/I can’t say baby where I’ll be in a year”.

Rating: *****

No More No More

A lot of fans cite “No More No More” as one of Steven Tyler’s more outstanding lyrics of the time. Although he could not be accused of having a cerebral moment, certainly compared to the raunch that came before, “No More No More” was a wilfully sober look at what his life was becoming (already touched on with “Toys in the Attic”). “Blood stains the ivories on my daddy’s baby grand/Ain’t seen the daylight since we started this band”, laments Tyler, who goes on to describe the “Store bought clothes fallin’ ‘part at the seams”, the “Tealeaf readin’ gypsies fortune tellin'” his dreams and the stark admission that “If I don’t stop a changin’ I’ll be writin’ my will”.

Rating: *****

Round and Round

In the context of “Toys in the Attic”, “Round and Round” is a curiosity, but a quality one at that. Brad Whitford notches his first song writing credit as he drags Aerosmith in to psychedelic-touched heavy metal. With the band struggling to come to terms with their rise in to superstardom Tyler specifically laments the surreal changes (“Now everythin’ changes/Ain’t nothin’ the same”) that are occurring: “If you believe in me/Like I believe in you/You wouldn’t be tellin’ me things/That weren’t exactly true”. There’s some head-down, duelling and pumping guitar work from Whitford and Perry as they add their own angst to the confusion. The closing minutes swirl chaotically with the repeated lyric of “I’m going round and round”. Rightly looked back on as a classic song.

Rating: ****1/2

You See Me Crying

After the intensity of “Round and Round” it seems fitting that the album closes with the beautiful piano-ballad “You See Me Crying”. Matching Steven Tyler’s pained lyric (“Honey, what ya done to your head?/Honey was it the words I said?”) over the ivories, orchestration, typical quality guitar work from Perry and Whitford and, arguably, the best guitar solo on the record, produces what might actually be the best song.  The mood of the track – about a guy dealing with a broken relationship – is summed up perfectly with the single line “You see me cryin’, I’m back to the lost and found”. It was noted for the length of time it took to record and produce with many complex guitar and drum parts and at one point the then-President of Columbia Records came in during the recording process and said “You guys got an incredible thing going here. I just came from a Herbie Hancock session and this is much more fun!”

Rating: *****

Summary

The first of back-to-back five-star Aerosmith albums it is probably not as revered as it should be, certainly not in Europe anyway. Even the weakest moments are still more than worthy and the leap the band made musically from their second to third record was even greater than the previous jump from “Aerosmith” to “Get Your Wings”.

5star

[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

[Album Review] "O, Yeah" – Aerosmith

Ultimate Aerosmith Hits - AerosmithAlbum Title: O, Yeah: Ultimate Aerosmith Hits
Artist: Aerosmith
Year: 2002
Running Time: 142m 7s

Track listing: [DISC 1] 1 Mama Kin; 2 Dream On; 3 Same Old Song and Dance; 4 Seaons of Wither; 5 Walk This Way; 6 Big Ten Inch Record; 7 Sweet Emotion; 8 Last Child; 9 Back In The Saddle; 10 Draw The Line; 11 Dude (Looks Like A Lady); 12 Angel; 13 Rag Doll; 14 Janie’s Got a Gun; 15 Love In An Elevator; 16 What It Takes  [DISC 2] 1 The Other Side; 2 Livin’ On The Edge; 3 Cryin’; 4 Amazing; 5 Deuces Are Wild; 6 Crazy; 7 Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees); 8 Pink (the South Beach mix); 9 I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing; 10 Jaded; 11 Just Push Play (radio remix); 12 Walk This Way (w/ Run DMC); 13 Girls of Summer; 14 Lay It Down; Bonus Tracks: 15 Come Together; 16 Theme from Spiderman; 17 Toys In The Attic

I know, I know. It’s like the fourth greatest hits collection from Aerosmith. Well, actually it’s the sixth apparently. Following on from last year’s release from Geffen (“Young Lust”), this collection differs as it encompasses the band’s entire career on one release for the first time. And just like the previous collection, this one is wroth having too.

Starting with hits from their eponymouse 1973 debut album (‘Dream On’, ‘Mama Kin’), we get a collection that surprisingly brings us the perenially under-rated ‘Seasons of Wither’ and the jazzy big-band cover version of ‘Big Ten Inch Record’. The seventies hits continue on disc one with massive hits singles ‘Walk This Way’, ‘Sweet Emotion’, ‘Back in the Saddle’ and ‘Draw the Line’ before jumping forward a decade to the comeback era of ‘Dude’, ‘Angel’ and ‘Rag Doll’.

On disc two, the hugely successful “Get A Grip” album is well represented with end-of-the-world lament ‘Livin’ On The Edge’ and the infamous ‘Alicia Silverstone’ trio of ‘Cryin’, ‘Crazy’ and ‘Amazing’. The move to Sony brought more hits with ‘Falling in Love’ and a remix of the Grammy award winning ‘Pink’ as well as recent smash hit ‘Jaded’ and a remix of the title track of their “Just Push Play” album.

I know that thirty years of existence means that you can’t include everything, and while it is a relief that the likes of marginal tracks such as ‘Eat the Rich’, ‘Shut Up And Dance’, ‘Hole in my Soul’, ‘Blind Man’ and ‘Walk On Water’ are not here, it is also disappointing to note that tracks from 1982’s “Rock In a Hard Place” and 1986’s mediocre “Done With Mirrors” have been omitted. There’s also no room for ‘Angel Eye’ from the “Charlies Angels” soundtrack or the brilliant ‘Sunshine’ from 2001’s “Just Push Play”.

And why is the classic ‘Toys in the Attic’ only a bonus track on some releases of the album while two versions of ‘Walk This Way’ are included? A mystery.

But overall it’s a great collection and a fitting testament to a band that have survived because they have adapted so well. A new alubm is slated for release in 2003 – a return to ‘blues roots’ they say, but they’ve been saying that for years. I’ll believe it when I hear it. Meanwhile, enjoy.

4star

[Album Review] "Young Lust" – Aerosmith

Young Lust - AerosmithAlbum Title: Young Lust – The Aerosmith Anthology
Artist: Aerosmith
Year: 2001
Running Time: 158m 45s

Track listing: [DISC 1] 1 Let the Music Do the Talking; 2 My Fist Your Face; 3 Shame On You; 4 Heart’s Done Time; 5 Rag Doll; 6 Dude (Looks Like a Lady); 7 Angel; 8 Hangman Jury; 9 Permanent Vacation; 10 Young Lust; 11 The Other Side; 12 What It Takes; 13 Monkey on my Back; 14 Love in an Elevator; 15 Janie’s Got a Gun; 16 Ain’t Enough; 17 Walk This Way (with Run-DMC)  [DISC 2] 1 Eat the Rich; 2 Love me Two Times; 3 Head First; 4 Livin’ On the Edge (acoustic); 5 Don’t Stop; 6 Can’t Stop Messin; 7 Amazing (orchestral); 8 Cryin’; 9 Crazy; 10 Shut up and Dance; 11 Deuces are Wild; 12 Walk on Water; 13 Blind Man; 14 Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees) (live); 15 Dream On (live); 16 Hole in my Soul (live); 17 Sweet Emotion (live)

Another greatest hits collection from Aerosmith, but actually nothing to do with the band rather complexly. Geffen have thrown together the best of Aerosmith from their years with the label (roughly 1985 to 1996), but the band were not consulted in any way about the project. So is that a good or a bad thing?

“Young Lust” is one of those rare collections. We thankfully do not just get the hits, we also get a number of non-studio album tracks, a few rarities and those album tracks that are fan favourites but did not receive radio play, or a single release.

Starting at the beginning is a trio of tracks from the much maligned “Done With Mirrors” album from 1985. Recorded during the tail end of Aerosmith’s drug and alcohol abuse, the album failed to perform well in the charts, and only moderately from a critical and creative point of view. Still, the best of it is here – the Joe Perry Project tune ‘Let the Music do the Talking’, catchy rocker (and album best) ‘My Fist Your Face’ and brooding Led Zep-styled ‘Shame On You’.

Comeback album “Permanent Vacation” is well represented with the three hits (‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’, ‘Angel’, ‘Rag Doll’) and the best of the rest included (outstanding cut ‘Hangman Jury’ and ‘Heart’s Done Time’ along with the title track). The trick is repeated with their career-best release, “Pump”. The popular hits, ‘Janies Got a Gun’, ‘Love in an Elevator’, ‘What it Takes’ and ‘The Other Side’ are all here, and they are ably accompanied by the unnerving raunch of ‘Young Lust’ and Tyler’s story of addiction, ‘Monkey on my Back’. Shame that ‘FINE’ is not included mind you.

The first disc finishes off with the reasonable ‘Ain’t Enough’, a Japan-only recording, and the career-saving ‘Walk this Way’ re-recording with Run DMC, as fresh now as it was 15 years ago.

The peak of Aerosmith’s commercial success came with “Get a Grip” and there cannot be many fans who don’t own it. So it is too Geffen’s credit that they have tried to vary things a little by including alternative versions of big hits ‘Amazing’ (orchestral version) and one of the decades best tracks, ‘Living on the Edge’ (acoustic). The inevitable inclusion of the over-exposed ‘Cryin’ and ‘Crazy’ is expected, and also here are mediocre rockers ‘Eat the Rich’ and ‘Shut up and Dance’. Thankfully we also get the brilliant ‘Head First’ and funky ‘Don’t Stop’ (only available as B-sides before this) as well as Europe-only release, ‘Can’t Stop Messin’. Soundtrack releases ‘Love me Two Times’, a cover of the Doors classic, and Beavis and Butthead Experience recording, the superb ‘Deuces are Wild’ (why this wasn’t an album track I will never know) are thrown in for good measure also

Completing the album are the two new recordings for the “Big Ones” greatest hits release in 1994, ‘Blind Man’ and the better of the two tracks, ‘Walk on Water’. The last four tracks are taken from the live Geffen release, “A Little South of Sanity”, a handy way for them to include tracks recorded for Columbia on 1997’s “Nine Lives” – ‘Falling in Love’ and ‘Hole in my Soul’ as well as 70s classics, ‘Sweet Emotion’ and ‘Dream On’. Pity that they couldn’t give us a live version of ‘Pink’ somehow.

This is pretty much a flawless collection, although who is going to buy it is another thing. Die-hard fans will have much of it (although it is a convenient way of getting your hands on hard to find stuff like the B-sides), while casual listeners may be put off by the fact that they don’t recognise around a dozen or so of the tracks.

But you can’t knock 34 tunes, and this is the best representation of the bands career during this time. Get your hands on the “Greatest Hits 1973-1988” as well and you will have a great cross-section of one of rock’s finest bands all in 2 albums.
4star