REVIEW/GUEST SHOT: Aerosmith – Music From Another Dimension! (2012 deluxe edition)

It’s always great to have a contrasting point of view when it comes to a new release.  So, my buddy Tommy Morais, one of the top-rated reviewers on the Canadian Amazon site, is back to give us his two cents.  Tommy got the standard edition of the new ‘Smith, while I got the deluxe.  Neither of us had read the others’ review when we did this.

I’ll go first.  Here’s my take on the deluxe:

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AEROSMITH – Music From Another Dimension! (Deluxe Edition)

When an album is a decade or so in the making (hello, Axl!), it is only certain to create one thing:  expectation.  And it’s difficult to approach the new Aero-platter without expectation, seeing as the pre-release hype was absolutely gonzo.  “Sounds like our old stuff!  Sounds like Rocks!”  Etc. etc. etc.

The truth of the matter is, on Music From Another Dimension! there are elements that sound like classic Aerosmith.  Mostly, it’s in Joe Perry’s riffs.  Otherwise, this album is firmly in Get A Grip territory, minus Bruce Fairbairn’s trademark flourish.

The opening track, the dumb-titled “Luv XXX” contains one of those vintage 70’s sounding Joe Perry riffs, as does the next song “Oh Yeah”.  Both are really decent songs, with “Oh Yeah” getting points for cool female backing vocals.  Perhaps if “Oh Yeah” had been on Pump rather than this album, it would have been a hit single.

“Beautiful” is the first song that I strongly dislike.  Not only does it have a dull chorus, but Tyler thought it would be a good idea to spend the verses rapping.  Not exactly a return to Rocks, is it Steven?  There is seldom anything as embarrassing as a rock band attempting genre-hopping into rap, unless that’s already your modus operandi, like Rage Against the Machine for example.  Rush pulled it off once (“Roll the Bones”) but Aerosmith come off as desperate.

The first ballad, “Tell Me”, is up next.  An acoustic ballad along the lines of a song like “What It Takes”, this is an acceptable song, but it lacks a decent chorus.  Nothing outstanding.  I enjoy Tom Hamilton’s rolling bassline underneath.

Then comes “Out Go the Lights”, which captures the Aerofunk of old.  It has some funky harmonica and the return of the girls on backing vocals.  Joey Kramer’s unmistakable drums sound absolutely massive.  I think this one must be one of the oldest tunes on the album.  It shares one section with “My Girl” from Pump, indicating a probable genesis back in 1989.  It also shares a melody with the next song, the overrated single “Legendary Child”.  “Legendary Child” is overproduced with too many layers of vocals, but Tom’s bass just kicks you in the nuts.  It’s strange to hear one melody used more than once on an album, but that is perhaps because of the patchwork nature of the recording, and the fact that Aerosmith dug back into the archives for unfinished songs.

Let’s just skip “What Could Have Been Love”, which is basically the same as any Aero-ballad since Get A Grip.  Instead, go straight to “Street Jesus”, an monolithic slab of riffery.  This one could have been on Rocks or Toys.  The whiplash-inducing tempo will leave you out of breath!

But why, oh why Aerosmith, did you bookend that awesome song with another typical Aero-ballad?  And this one a duet with Carrie Underwood?  So contrived.  I really can’t see Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton (who co-wrote the song) sitting around at home going, “You know, we really need to get a country singer on our album.”  Nothing against Carrie Underwood, I would have jumped at the chance to record with Aerosmith too.

“Lover Alot” is another single, and even though it’s uptempo, it suffers from lack of melody and really dumb repetitive lyrics.  Tyler’s normally a very clever lyricist.  This is just below him.

Ah don’t you know that she loves you a lot
Why don’t you know, don’t you know what you got
I even know that she loves you a lot
Why don’t you know that she loves you a lot
Ah don’t you know that she loves you a lot
Why don’t you know, don’t you know what you got
I even know that she loves you a lot
Why don’t you know, don’t you know, don’t you?

Seriously.

“We All Fall Down” is the fourth ballad, but a decent one.  I can hear some serious emotion coming out of this one.  Like “Amazing” from Get A Grip, this one has something special to it that speaks to me, be it the melancholy melody or the lyrics, I don’t know.

Joe Perry’s first lead vocal of the album, “Freedom Fighter”, is a surprisingly strong tune.  I really like this one.  Granted, it has the vibe of something that could have been on Joe’s last solo album, but that’s not a bad thing.  It’s a great song even if Joe ain’t the greatest of singers.

“Closer” isn’t really a ballad, more of a blues, featuring some smokin’ Joe guitar.  It’s good to have some Aero-blues on a well balanced album, although I think the melody leaves a bit to be desired.  This goes straight into the organ intro of “Something”, which is another bluesy number, and Joe’s second lead vocal.  Better than “Closer”, this one really hits the spot.

“Another Last Goodbye” is the fifth ballad.  It’s a basic Steve piano ballad, and I don’t mind this one either.  It sounds sincere and has a live vibe.   This is what a song like “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” should have been.

That ends the album proper, but the deluxe edition has a cool bonus disc.  A really cool bonus disc, well worth buying.

“Up on the Mountain” is a great little number featuring Tom on lead vocals with Steven backing him. Then Joe gets a third lead vocal on the incredible “Oasis in the Night”.  Lots of lap steel here.  This sounds like something that Joe might play on his front porch on a hot summer night.  Just a cool tune.  Finally, “Sunny Side of Love” is a melodic Aerosmith tune that probably should have been on the album proper, replacing some of the weaker songs.

Aside from Carrie Underwood, there are a slew of guest appearances that you can’t even hear — Johnny Depp, Julian Lennon, and so on.  Who cares?  Nobody buys an Aerosmith album because Johnny Depp is on it.

There’s a DVD too with live stuff on it.  Typical live Aerosmith, it’s nice to have something recent, this is just an added bonus.  Nothing really “must-have” here.

I think Music From Another Dimension!‘s biggest weakness is its length.  15 songs (+3) could easily have been trimmed to 10 (or 13).  When you trim the fat though, it’s a solid…

4/5 stars

And now, without further delay, here’s Tommy!

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AEROSMITH – Music From Another Dimension! (standard edition)

It’s been eleven years since the last Aerosmith studio album, 2001’s Just Push Play (and there’s also been the 2004 covers album Honkin’ On Bobo) which was really a product of its time with the band collaborating with producers that gave them a clean modern pop sound. This time around they brought back producer Jack Douglas who worked on some of the band’s best albums in the 1970’s. With the inner problems in the band and the near breakup, Steven Tyler doing American Idol fans were beginning to wonder if there was any recording going. It took a long time but Aerosmith’s 15th studio album, Music From Another Dimension is here. Initially the band said it would be a throwback to Toys in the Attics (1975) and Rocks (1976) and there are glimpses of that, but there’s also glimpses of the 80’s and 90’s Aerosmith too and a LOT of ballads. It’s as if all eras of the band are blended in one album and that’s their sound in 2012. I got to hand it to them, for a band of men in their 60’s there’s some pretty rocking material here, and I find that the band does vocal harmonies quite a lot this time around and it’s working rather well (actually they sound like they wouldn’t be out of place on a Def Leppard album). There’s some good but to me it’s an overall underwhelming Aerosmith album.

The ups with MFAD are the strong rock tracks. In fact the album starts off rather with a string of three solid rock songs. “LUV XXX” starts out with a spoken intro before kicking it into high gear, I wish the entire album was like this, it’s genuinely one of the best Aerosmith songs that’s been done since the 1970’s. It has that vibe from Toys/Rocks era and it’s fantastic. “Beautiful” is commercial Aerosmith at its best, it’s catchy, the vocal harmonies are excellent and the songs is very likeable as a whole. “ Legendary Child“ is a Grip a Grip era song that never saw the light of day. I was intrigued at first and when I listened to it I thought to myself “this could work”, and it does it rocks and it’s catchy enough I really like this one. “Can’t Stop Loving You” with Carrie Underwood is puzzling, having her on an Aerosmith album is obviously not going too well with some of the fans and it’s just not that good of a duet. “This Could Have Been Love” was chosen as the single and no surprise, it’s a ballad. I actually like this one, even if it’s a 1990’s Aero ballad rehash sounding or cheesy or sappy, I can acknowledge all of this but it still works for what is. “Street Jesus” has more of a classic rock edge to it, with even some jamming parts and the result is a longer, more vintage sounding track that works fairly well, it’s one of those the hardcore fans will enjoy the most. The Joe Perry sung track “Freedom Fighter” is one of the best songs on this album for me, it’s got a good Perry riff and even thought his voice isn’t particularly great the song manages to rocks.”Another Last Goodbye” is a fitting ballad to end the album with but it’s overshadowed by the fact that there are too many other ballads to truly stand out.

The first half of the album, I have generally good things to say about and it sounds promising and it makes you think that yes, maybe Aerosmith has some of the old rock sound we love back and it’s going to be an entire album like this. Then there’s the second side, filled with ballads and it really breaks the album’s flow. A big part of the problem is that the album suffers from the too much ballads syndrome that was present on albums like Get A Grip, and they sound mostly like 1990’s Aerosmith ballads. Six/seven (depending on who you ask) ballads on an album is just too much, and I like ballads but these are for the most part just sappy and rehashed songs that they’ve already done, except not as good or passionate. There’s just no overlooking that many ballads is overkill. The worst part is a duet with Carrie Underwood, no offense but what’s she doing on an Aerosmith album? Especially one which was reported as “back to their roots”. I found some of the lyrics here to be the band’s most juvenile yet, which is rather humorous coming from men in their sixties. Then again the album has 15 tracks, maybe a little too much and if they removed some of the ballads and Diane Warren songs (still using outside writers it seems) it would have come across as a tighter effort, it comes across as a modern version of Get A Grip (some good rock songs, plenty of ballads and it has over 14 songs and an outtake from that album as well) . Most of those ballads sound like they’re trying to be part II of “Amazing”, “Crying” or “Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”. 15 songs may just be a little too much, if they cut some of it down it would have made for a shorter, tighter more Rock album, that’s my take on it.

Like many fans, it’s hard for me to hide my disappointment. Still better than Just Push Play that’s for sure, but I expected more from the hype Aerosmith had around this release. There are things to like but some that . I listened to it a few times by now and I can honestly say my rating is a 2 ‘ out of 5. Some of the Rock tracks are reminiscent of classic Aerosmith and energy charged tunes but overall it comes off as an album that didn’t know what direction it wanted to take. There have been some great releases by Classic bands this year, but sadly Aerosmith’s is not one of them I’m afraid.

2/5 stars

tommy

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28 comments

  1. Ok, I’ve not heard this yet so I can’t add anything insightful. I’ve mostly liked the odd song that I’ve heard online and in shops but the amount of ballads mentioned in both (excellent) reviews and the oft mentioned-comparison to Get a Grip (another album that had waayy too many ballads) leads me to believe I wouldn’t enjoy this very much.

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      1. Well that’s it in a nutshell. Albums loaded with filler really depress me. I’m not a “skip button” sort of a guy! There’s no harm in me and Aerosmith just calling it a day.

        I don’t even have a problem with ballads. But when you’re loading your album with them… what’s wrong with just one? And I bet they all sound the same.

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        1. Well, there are different flavours of ballads. I believe I picked out two that I liked. In particular the final song is one I liked.

          I think for some bands, like Aerosmith, it’s time to think about calling it a day. Put out one solid album that blows everyone away and pack it in. Kiss could conceivably do that with Monster although I doubt they will. But that is the kind of album I WANT to remember Kiss by.

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  2. I like the review and admit that I left Aerosmith a long time ago…because when they released Rocks they were a rock band…a really good rock band…then something happened and they became REO Speedwagon ( who at one time were a rock band themselves, a really marginal rock band) There are so few that can remain relevant over a long period of time…U2, Neil Young and Red Hot Chili Peppers are some I repect- but so many exceed their shelf life and get stale.

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    1. LOL…REO Speedwagon! Well put. I think the change really happened around the time of Permanent Vacation. It was clear to me that they were going for a radio hit driven sound. Having said that they’ve done good albums since (I like Pump best) but they are also not the same band. Even though it’s the same five guys, it’s really not the same band. And I think there are a lot of people who have lost interest because of that. The bands you mentioned (U2, Neil, RHCP) have all changed their sound from album to album and taken chances, where Aerosmith tend to really play it safe.

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  3. I buckled and bought the regular version off of iTunes for $7.99,I’m not gonna pay $18.99 for the deluxe ,the deluxe just does not interest me ,but since iTunes dropped the regular version by 4 bucks..what the hell….I still wish they would have kept there mouths shut in regards to the Rocks comparison…..laughed at the R.E.O comment……good call…

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    1. I don’t know if anybody actually believed that this was going to sound like Rocks. I know I didn’t. Regardless of Jack Douglas being present, I don’t think Aerosmith can just re-create a sound like that. They have had way too much success with modern radio and ballads to really do it.

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  4. How long can a band go on and claim relevance when this… THIS is what they offer to people? I watched all of that Letterman performance linked in the post and that’s five minutes of my life I cannot get back. Brutally bad. Seriously, you’re on national TV, you wanna play a memorable song because (potentially) millions of people will see and hear you (if they don’t go take a leak or get food from the fridge while you play). And you choose… that? Nope, no way.

    I really like the guest shot -double review format. Well done to both of you. I haven’t bought an Aerosmith album in so long, and then I hear (and read) all of this.

    I think it might be time to say it’s over. Surely they don’t need the money. So go take up golf or something.

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      1. Sure, probably. But after that much time, and given all the water under the bridge, it might also be the easiest thing in the world to let it go! And it doesn’t mean he has to stop playing. Why beat a dead Aero-horse when you can say enough is enough, thanks for the memories and letting me afford my own Caribbean island. Now I’m gonna go make my own music over here. All the best to you, boys!

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        1. Joe Perry’s done a couple decent solo albums in between Aero-albums. I think he has what it takes to keep going on his own.

          Could you imagine how great a Joe Perry solo disc would be, if he called in all his buddies to sing guest vocals a-la Slash? Awesome.

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        2. I think Joe Perry’s biggest problem is that he’s not a good enough songwriter on his own. He needs a great co-writer to make things work. Perry’s solo albums aren’t bad, but way to uneven. I think the guest vocalist thing you mentioned could work very well though, if he got a helping hand in the song writing department.

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  5. As an Aerosmith fan, it felt really nice to state that this album was a pretty rootsy thing and huge (as in HUGE) step up from the disaster that was Just Push Play. Of course, there are too many ballads on here and most of them aren’t that great, but with so many songs on the album, there are more real rockers on this album than in a long time. Well, I have also reviewed it but it seems like we agree on most things, Mike. Except maybe on Legendary Child.

    http://etainmentnewsreviews.wordpress.com/classic-rock/classic-rock-reviews-2012/aerosmith-music-from-another-dimension/

    And if you’re an Aerosmith, you really need to… no, you actually MUST check out White Flame from Finland who with their latest album Cougar made the best album of 2012. They’re not Aero-clones by any means, but the influence shows a lot and they have a lot of other influences in the mix as well, like both Extreme and Mötley Crüe. And they made a really cool cover of Roxette’s The Look. Read this and maybe I could convince you into getting a copy.

    http://etainmentnewsreviews.wordpress.com/hard-rock/hard-rock-reviews-2012/white-flame-cougar/

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    1. You’re costing me far too much money Jon :) Well Flying Colours will be arriving at the house this week, we’ll see how much I have left for my music budget after :) Thanks!

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      1. Haha. Sorry about that. But I can’t help spreading the word when I hear new stuff that deserves to get lots and lots attention. And I have lots more to share… ;-D

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