REVIEW: Aerosmith – Honkin’ On Bobo (2004)

AEROSMITH – Honkin’ On Bobo (2014 Columbia)

Sometimes we take one for the team. For no reason other than to get it done, we take out albums we strongly dislike just for the sake of writing them up. Sometimes there are pleasant surprises and time has been kinder than our memories have been. And sometimes you’re just Honkin’ on Bobo, whatever the fuck that means. It could be code for Sucking the Big One.

Necessary background:  After 2001’s putrid Just Push Play, Aerosmith were eager to strip it back to basics and record an album live in the studio.  They returned to producer Jack Douglas and picked an album’s worth of blues covers to Aero-fy.  This is a formula that rarely works out well for rock bands, and Aerosmith fell into the blues cover trap with both feet.

The only exception is one new original, a ballady blues called “The Grind”.  It happens to be one of the best tracks, though firmly within that Aerosmith bluesy ballad niche that they carved out for themselves in the early 90s with “Cryin'” and “Blind Man”.  That this is an album highlight is a warning as sure as a watchman yelling “iceberg dead ahead!”  We’re about to take on water, and there aren’t enough lifeboats.

One of Aerosmith’s issues since the mid to late 90s is how they’ve become a caricature of themselves.  Bob Diddley’s “Road Runner” is thick with Aerosmith clichés to the point that it sounds like an Aerosmith covers band filling their set out with standards.  “Road Runner” isn’t limber, it’s thick in the thighs with thuddy rock tropes.  Joey Kramer injects some life into “Shame, Shame, Shame” but it only makes you wish Aerosmith had tackled the track in 1974 instead of 2004 so it wouldn’t sound so contrived.  “Eyesight to the Blind” (Sonny Boy Williamson) isn’t convincing, as Tyler huffs through the song like a burlesque singer.  “Baby Please Don’t Go” makes you crave AC/DC’s superior version, although the groove on this one is positively unearthly.  It’s an unbelievable groove that perhaps should have been made into an Aerosmith original rather than a throwaway cover.

Aretha’s “Never Loved a Man” is transformed into “Never Loved a Girl”, and with the Memphis Horns on board there’s some value to it, but compared to Aretha they sound like rookies.  Like an amateur artist copying a master with crayons.  “Back Back Train” is actually OK, and it might be that Joe Perry is a more appropriate vocalist for a blues classic.  Tyler’s histrionics wear thin on this album, but Perry’s laid back singing works better.  Tyler surely doesn’t aid the sluggish “You Gotta Move”.

A dreary “I’m Ready” (Muddy Waters) is still a long way from the end.  “Temperature” also drags along, Tyler turning it into a parody.  Fleetwood Mac get the Aero treatment on “Stop Messin’ Around”, at least the second Mac cover that Aerosmith have done after “Rattlesnake Shake”.  Please welcome Joe Perry back to the microphone on “Stop Messin’ Around”, and please keep Tyler away!  Unfortunately it’s a boring tune (blazing fretwork aside), and so is the closer “Jesus is on the Main Line”.

Even the most stalwart defender must concede that Honkin’ On Bobo isn’t a blues album for a blues lover.  It’s a blues-rock forgery that occasionally captures the odd highlight for posterity, but is otherwise expendable.  In other words if you’re in a Zombie apocalypse looking for CDs to chuck at the undead, Honkin’ On Bobo can be flung guilt-free.

1.5/5 stars

And once again, it’s the return of the dreaded flaming turd!

 

 

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42 comments

  1. I’ve never even heard of this one. There’s probably a good reason for that.

    Contrarian opinion of the day- hearing this version of Baby Please Don’t Go would male me crave Van Morrison instead of AC/DC

    Also, the title says 2014 but the article says 2004.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I never bought this as I was burnt out on cover albums and the Just Push Play album was underwhelming so to speak (but the tour for it was a great show), The last decent Aero album was Nine Lives as far as I’m concerned.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Never bought this, in fact, never heard it. I guess hearing the toilet flush is about equivalent, so I guess I have heard it. You’ve reviewed ’em all now, pretty cool! I am still deciding on my next series and I might do a You Pick It Special Edition to let the readers decide which artist I do next after Kiss (or during). I still have 6 months to go on Kiss but I’m itching to do another as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Did u notice the bands mentioned in the article? Haunt, Eternal Champion, Sumerlands, Enforcer…Did not see this one coming. I only knew of Enforcer beforehand, Sumerlands sounds interesting. Eternal Champion cover reminded me of He-man. I’ll see if I can locate my copy of Hollywood Cowboys…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for sharing the post Mike and thanks so much for today’s livestream! I’ve got a list of Van Halen songs/albums to check out.

        So awesome the guy working on Def Leppard’s boxset reached out to you. Pretty weird that they never had the tracks themselves, but you saved the day, so props to you Mike! Did you ever get a chance to meet the band by any chance?

        Like

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