John Kalodner: John Kalodner

REVIEW: Aerosmith – Big Ones (1994)

AEROSMITH – Big Ones (1994 Geffen)

There is an informal rule that a band should have at least three albums out before they entertain the idea of a live or “greatest hits” release.  Aerosmith obviously had lots of albums out in 1994, but on two different labels:  Columbia, and Geffen.  Their 1994 best of, not-so-cleverly titled Big Ones, drew from only three Geffen albums.  Therein lies its weakness, though Aerosmith have often had issues trying to balance their classic and pop hit eras on compilations.  Big Ones is easily made redundant by later compilations, but how is it for a straight listen?

A long one:  73 minutes with lots of hits and perhaps a few too many ballads, although there is no denying their chart power.

Three songs were new to the majority of buyers.  “Deuces Are Wild” was a fine ballad, one of their best from this era.  It wasn’t entirely new; it was written for Pump and considered for Get A Grip before being released in 1993 on the Beavis and Butt-head Experience CD.  The other two were brand new recordings:  “Walk on Water” and “Blind Man”.  Fans who dug the heavy Aerosmith on tunes like “Eat the Rich” will enjoy “Walk on Water” as one of their harder rockers.  OK song, but long forgotten now.  Unfortunately “Blind Man” is just another ballad, this one similar to “What It Takes” from Pump.  It’s the better of the two new songs, but sadly another ballad is not what Big Ones needed.

Making this CD even less valuable to buyers, every single track is on the later album Young List: The Aerosmith Anthology (2001).   Even the three new songs!

Otherwise Big Ones plays much like a run-though of Aerosmith’s radio staples that you can hear on the FM dial just about everywhere.  Each and every big hit from the three massive Geffen albums is here.  How often do you need to hear “Crazy”, “Cryin'”, “Amazing”, “Janie”, “Rag Doll”, “Angel”, “Dude”, “Elevator” and the rest?  That is up to you.

Even the cover art is devoid of imagination.

2/5 stars

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REVIEW: Aerosmith – Done With Mirrors (1985)

Part one of an Aerosmith two-parter!

AEROSMITH DONE WITH MIRRORS_0001AEROSMITH – Done With Mirrors (1985 Geffen)

This review comes by request of, well, several readers.  Done With Mirrors was Aerosmith’s first record on their new deal with Geffen.  That means it wasn’t included in the massive 13 disc Box of Fire that I reviewed recently.  I intended to get around to Done With Mirrors anyway, but the reader anticipation adds an interesting sort of pressure.

I know some people, like Deke over at Arena Rock, hold this album in high esteem.  “36 minutes of classic Aerorock,” in his books.  I know that Done With Mirrors is a bit of a cult favourite album in some ways.  The band ignore all but one song in their live sets, but some fans have loved it since it came out.  I think it’s possible that some readers, knowing my love for underdog albums, are hoping I’m going to come out with some really appreciative glowing observations about the album.

The fact of the matter is, I’ve never been a fan of this album.  “Let the Music Do the Talking” is probably my second favourite Aero-tune ever, right after “Chip Away the Stone”.  As an album, I have always found Done With Mirrors to be so-so at best, and I’ve never really warmed up to it over the years.  Why is that?

I decided to do something different for this review, and listen to the album as background music while working on something else.  I came away with some strong impressions, so I immediately gave it another listen.  Rather than go song-by-song, I’d rather just talk about the feeling I get from the album now.

I used to think the production (by Ted Templeman) sucked.  I think it could use some embellishment, but hot damn! Aren’t Joey’s drums sounding fucking awesome?  Yes they are.  I’d say Joey’s the MVP on Done With Mirrors, as he is so rock solid consistent right through!

I used to think the songs (all but “Let the Music Do the Talking”) were pretty much just crap.  I think anyone would have to admit that these are not the catchiest tunes Aerosmith have ever written in their storied career.  They do, however, rock.  They rock hard.  “My Fist Your Face” is exactly what it sounds like — a fist right in your face!

I used to think that Steve and the band sounded tired compared to the earlier material, or what came after.  I still think that’s true, but even tired, Aerosmith were capable of blowing out the speakers with bluesy riffs and Steve’s scats.  If you pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll hear that Steve’s as sassy as ever.  I love the name-dropping of “Joe Perry, oooh Mr. Style.”

Compared to, say, Pump, Done With Mirrors doesn’t fare too well.  Letting it stand on its own and just enjoying it as a batch of rockers, it’s actually not as bad as I remembered.  Maybe all these years I just haven’t been letting it in.

Big surprise:  How swampy and cool “She’s On Fire” is.  No idea why it never clicked with me before.  I can say the same for a few songs on this album.  While very few would make my own personal road tapes, there aren’t any to skip.  It’s a fair chunk of solid, hard rocking Aerosmith.  No ballads, no fluff, no embarrassing forays into other genres.

Finally, gotta love the cover art and double meaning.  I’ve always been fond of the packaging way before hearing the album.

Assigning a number rating is hard.

I’d say somewhere between 3.5 4/5 stars.

REVIEW: Aerosmith – The Other Side (1990 EP)

Welcome to the Week of EPs! No sooner do I finish the Record Stores Tales before I’m off on yet another series!  Each day this week, I’ll be checking out a variety of EP releases, both famed and obscure. Let’s start with a major band: Aerosmith.

THE OTHER SIDE_0001AEROSMITH – The Other Side (1990 Geffen EP)

The first time I bought this, it was on cassette in a mall in Calgary, Alberta in August of 1990.  I also bought Judas Priest’s Hero Hero at the same store, also on cassette.  A completist even then, there was no way I was leaving without The Other Side.  Of all my finds on that trip, this one I had never seen before.  I later replaced it on CD while working at the Record Store.

The Pump CD is a great album, probably my favourite.  The two songs from Pump that are on this single are “My Girl” and “The Other Side”, neither of which are really as great as the rest of Pump.  That’s in my opinion; “The Other Side” was a popular hit.  Notably, “The Other Side” lacks its intro, “Dulcimer Stomp” which may make it interesting for some.

The CD also has two useless remixes of “The Other Side”.  The “Matt Dike ‘Honky Tonk’ Version” is just as offensive as the “Club Mix”.  Maybe the Matt Dike version is slightly less offensive, but the added backing vocals and dance vibe is just crap.  Neither mix adds anything of value to the song, but they are dragged out to 5:09 (Matt Dike mix) and an agonizing 7:04 (Club mix).

The main track that I bought the disc for was “Theme from ‘Wayne’s World'”.  I actually had no idea what Wayne’s World was, although my cousin Geoff apparently did.  Back then, I wondered what the hell this was.  There were no liner notes to help either.  This track is a mere 1:29, and it’s a straight up recording of the Saturday Night Live performance by Aerosmith of that song.  I didn’t give a shit, I love it now.  Perfect filler for the end of a mix CD!

Since this CD consists of two album tracks, two pointless remixes and a 1:29 song, you must be sure not to pay too much for it.  As a kid I rarely played it, and the same can be said of the adult version of me.

2/5 stars

THE OTHER SIDE_0002

REVIEW: Aerosmith – Permanent Vacation (1987)

AEROSMITH – Permanent Vacation (1987 Geffen, Japanese import)

Ahh, the much-ballyhooed Permanent Vacation! Granted, it was a step up from previous two studio albums (Done With Mirrors and Rock in a Hard Place) but it’s nothing compared to Toys or even Draw The Line. This is the birth or the new pop Aerosmith, the Aerosmith guided by David Geffen and John Kalodner. This is the new Jim Vallance and Bruce Fairbairn Aerosmith. On the whole, it’s not bad and it sure was a big hit in the late 80’s. But let’s be fair — if Aerosmith had come out with Rocks in 1987, would it have gotten airplay? Of course not – Rocks was far removed from what was happening in 1987. This was Aerosmith in survival mode, employing outside writers, the biggest producers, and going for broke. If we’d known back then that Aerosmith would never be able to return to their old school ass-kicking rock and roll (aside from the awesome Pump of course), I think we would have been a lot less excited.

“Heart’s Done Time”, the opener, ain’t bad. In fact it’s one of the best tunes, Joey’s traps reminding us that this was still Aerosmith.  The song has some rock to it, while remaining accessible. The next track, “Magic Touch” is more of the same:  strong chorus, fairly hard rocking guitars and drums. I prefer both songs to the well-known hits. Then it’s “Rag Doll”. Damn, I’m so sick of that song. I never liked it even when it was new. I think it’s filler.  I’m glad for them that it was a huge hit, but I never felt the need to put it on a mix tape.

This is followed by some filler, “Simoriah”, one of the many tunes on this album that were never played live (Joe Perry’s big beef with the album is that half of it wasn’t played live). “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” is probably the most overplayed singles of Aero-history. I know it’s a huge hit, but come on…the Aero of old never would have written this. However it’s the kind of Aerosmith song that people today know, therefore, people want to have it. Shame it’s not “Coney Island Whitefish Boy”….

“St. John” – more filler! “Hangman’s Jury” is good though, a nice bluesy swampy acoustic number.  This is the kind of thing from Aerosmith’s roots and it comes off as the most sincere.  This is followed by “Girl Keeps Coming Apart”, a song which, aside from some killer playing by the boys in the backline, is skip-worthy. The song keeps falling apart! Up next is the last of the singles, “Angel”, a song which I actually like a lot. I like the lush production; I love the choruses, the verses, and the guitar solo. I think this song is still pretty excellent.

The title track is next, a catchy number with no outside writers, and co-written by Brad Whitford. This is proof that Aerosmith are at their best when they are just five guys writing and playing together. There’s some embellishment with jungle noises and tropical sounds, but the song is a winner. Another winner is the Beatles cover “I’m Down”, but I don’t know why they needed to pad an already long album with a cover. Still, totally listenable. The final track is a lame instrumental called “The Movie”. Honestly, most Aerosmith instrumentals are boring. They’re just not that kind of band. This ends the album on a decidedly dull note.

I give the band credit for sobering up, and working hard on this album. Fairbairn (rest in peace) was known as a bit of a taskmaster, he made his bands work hard, and I’m sure Kalodner did too. I think that they were so intent on a charting hit that they lost sight of the roots of Aerosmith. Songs like “No Surprize” or “Nobody’s Fault” sound like a completely different group of guys than the band on Permanent Vacation. As a result, I rarely play this album today. After all, when I can’t turn on the radio without hearing “Dude” and “Rag Doll”, why would I want to?

3/5 stars

More AEROSMITH at mikeladano.com:

AEROSMITH – Draw The Line (1977, Columbia)
AEROSMITH – ”Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” (1987 Geffen 12″ single)
AEROSMITH – Get A Grip (1993 “cow hide” cover)
AEROSMITH – Music From Another Dimension! (Deluxe Edition)
Record Store Tales Part 95:  Aerodouche Dandy