Classics Live! II

REVIEW: Aerosmith – Box of Fire Bonus Disc (1994) and conclusion

AEROSMITH – Box of Fire Bonus Disc (1994 Sony, only included in the Box of Fire)

Sony did a sonic makeover to the Aerosmith catalogue in ’93, using their new Super Bit Mapping technique. Each CD received a well due remastering job, and improved packaging, as you have seen here throughout this series. In 1994 these albums were released again inside the near-definitive Columbia box set, Box of Fire. Back when I was working in the Record Store, we stocked this one for over $200 brand new. I remember looking at that sealed box longingly, wishing I could peer inside.

The bonus CD included in Box of Fire was an added little reward for those fans who waited to shell out for the full box, rather than buy the CDs individually. In defense of Sony for the double-dip, I distinctly remember them announcing in advance the the future box set would include all the albums and additional goodies. Because of that, I did indeed wait to shell out for Box of Fire. I bought it used, at the store that Joe Big Nose manages today. It was in good shape. I just needed to replace a few broken CD trays, and the outer plastic sleeve was also missing (not a huge deal). I later found that plastic sleeve at another one of our outlets, and the owner “Billy Bob” gave it to me himself! (Thanks man, you have no idea how much that makes an OCD collector like me happy.)

The Bonus Disc has five tracks.

1. “Sweet Emotion” (1991 remix by David Thoener). Remember the music video they released in late 1991 to promote the Pandora’s Box set? That video featured a remix of “Sweet Emotion”, and it was released as a limited as a limited CD single. It’s a little longer and has a few things mixed louder.

2. “Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”. A later track (1987) from the Less Than Zero soundtrack. I’m always in favour of getting one of Aerosmith’s numerous soundtrack contributions on an Aerosmith disc. I hate buying a soundtrack for one or two songs. Wanna know what Aerosmith sound like produced by Rick Rubin? This old rock n’ roll cover indicates, it’s kinda dry.

3. “Subway”. A cool instrumental jam from the Draw the Line sessions, but originally released on the 1991 “Sweet Emotion” CD single.

4. “Circle Jerk”.  Another instrumental from the same period.  Most fans who collect Aerosmith already had this one.  It was the unlisted “hidden” bonus track at the end of Pandora’s Box.  These two jams are simple and unadorned.  They were unreleased for a reason, although they both could have evolved into cool heavy rock songs.

5. “Dream On” (MTV Anniversary).  This live version from 1991, complete with orchestra, was from an MTV thing later released on a CD of its own. I’d rather have the song on this. It’s a brilliant version, best appreciated by the Aerosmith connoisseur.

The Bonus Disc is housed in a simple cardboard CD sleeve. This slips into a gap inside the Box of Fire, easy to miss and sometimes missing! If you’re buying a Box of Fire, make sure it’s intact.

Wrapping up this exhaustive look at the Box of Fire and all the albums inside, there is very little left to add.  The packaging is cool; a sturdy box with orange flame emblazoned all over.  The front door opens “garage style”, with a little plastic “match” as a handle, painted to look as if burned.  Each CD, housed in its own jewel case, slides easily in and out.  It’s a simply lovely way to display your Aerosmith collection, open or closed — when lined up, the CD spines form an Aerosmith logo!  Each disc is numbered 1-12 (except the Bonus Disc), and can be differentiated from the regular retail versions by the numbered spines.  If you bought these albums separately, they do not have the numbers or the coordinated spines that form the Aerosmith logo.  That’s how you can tell the difference!

I’m glad to have taken the time to listen to the entire Box of Fire, in sequence, from start to finish.  That’s something I haven’t done since I first bought it.

4/5 stars (for Bonus Disc and Box of Fire overall)

AEROSMITH BOX OF FIRE complete reviews:

Disc 1: Aerosmith (1973)
Disc 2: Get Your Wings (1974)
Disc 3: Toys in the Attic (1975)
Disc 4: Rocks (1976)
Disc 5: Draw the Line (1977)
Disc 6: Live! Bootleg (1978)
Disc 7: Night in the Ruts (1979)
Disc 8: Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits (1980)
Disc 9: Rock in a Hard Place (1982)
Disc 10: Classics Live! (1986)
Disc 11: Classics Live! II (1987)
Disc 12: Gems (1988)
Disc 13: Box of Fire Bonus Disc (1994)

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REVIEW: Aerosmith – Classics Live! II (1987)

CLASSICS LIVE II_0001AEROSMITH – Classics Live! II (1987 Columbia, 1993 Sony)

Hot on the heels of Classics Live came Classics Live II!  Today you can get them together in one set, because they really are companion albums with no overlap between them.  All songs here were recorded by the classic lineup of Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton, and Joey Kramer, and there are a couple neat surprises in the tracklist.

“Back in the Saddle” always works as an opening track, especially since this one comes from the 1984 Aerosmith reunion tour.  They truly were back in the saddle, though just as wasted as ever!   It has its sloppy moments and sour notes, but more energy than some of the previous live stuff.  This rendition will never be considered a definitive live take of the song, but it does document that oft-forgotten mid-80’s period.

“Walk This Way” opens with the announcement that it was Tom Hamilton’s birthday!  That would make it their New Year’s Eve gig in Boston in ’84.  Joey’s drums are a little “thuddy” sounding, and I put the blame on producer Paul O’Neill (Savatage) who doesn’t always capture a drum sound to my tastes.  “Movin’ Out” is one of my underdog favourites from the first Aerosmith album and I’ll always dig its slow, heavy drawl.  It’s so great to hear Tyler sing that familiar ad-lib that he does live:  “No-one knows the way but Joe Perry.”  Following that is “Draw the Line”, another brilliant classic done live all loosey-goosey.  “Same Old Song and Dance” follows that same tradition, with a teasing opening to make the crowd go nuts.

“Last Child” brings the funk as always, but my favourite has to be “Let the Music Do the Talking”.  Although it was recorded before Done With Mirrors, this was the first new Aerosmith song to get a live release.  Of course it’s technically a Joe Perry Project song, but Aerosmith’s version kicks that one in the ass.  This live one is pretty awesome.  Closing the album with “Toys in the Attic” guarantees that the ending is just as exciting as the beginning.  Killer version.

The coolest thing to me about Classics Live II is that even though it’s called II, it doesn’t sound like a second volume of a live album.  Considering that “Walk This Way”, “Back in the Saddle”, “Toys in the Attic” and “Same Old Song and Dance” are all on here, it could easily have been the first volume.  It is easily the equal of part I.

3.5/5 stars

AEROSMITH BOX OF FIRE review series:

BOX OF FIRE THUMBDisc 1: Aerosmith (1973)
Disc 2: Get Your Wings (1974)
Disc 3: Toys in the Attic (1975)
Disc 4: Rocks (1976)
Disc 5: Draw the Line (1977)
Disc 6: Live! Bootleg (1978)
Disc 7: Night in the Ruts (1979)
Disc 8: Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits (1980)
Disc 9: Rock in a Hard Place (1982)
Disc 10: Classics Live! (1986)
Disc 11: Classics Live! II (1987)