AEROSMITH – Gems (1988 Columbia, 1993 Sony)
It’s impossible to view the 1988 compilation Aerosmith Gems as anything but purely a companion piece to 1980’s Greatest Hits. It purposely avoids overlap with that prior album, while providing a slice of the heavier side of ‘Smith. Since Greatest Hits pretty much included all the major greatest hits, Gems tends to focus on underplayed fan favourites.
Let’s check ’em off one by one.
1. “Rats in the Cellar”. I’m on record for liking albums to start with a corker! This one has an absolutely furious pulse, which in turn will set your pulse racing!
2. “Lick and a Promise”. Solid album cut and underplayed favourite.
3. “Chip Away the Stone”. Here is the reason I first bought Gems! This amazing Richie Supa song was only available on a 7″ single, and in live form on Live! Bootleg. Getting a CD copy on an Aerosmith album is a no-brainer winning reason for fans to buy Gems. “Chip Away the Stone” was accompanied by an awesome music video, ensuring that a new generation of Aero-fans got acquainted with it, in the wake of Permanent Vacation. This song can’t be topped!
That’s Richie Supa in the music video too, with the ‘stache.
4. “No Surprize”. Decent album cut from Night in the Ruts. A laid-back Aero-rocker.
5. “Mama Kin”. Believe it or not, good ol’ “Ma’ Kin” wasn’t on Greatest Hits! Including it on Gems was another no-brainer, since Guns N’ Roses put it on their Lies EP in ’88, instantly ensuring that millions of kids were hearing it.
6. “Adam’s Apple”. I’m always in favour of Joe Perry breaking out his slide guitar.
7. “Nobody’s Fault”. Brad Whitford’s apocalyptic metal stomper always deserves more exposure.
8. “Round and Round”. Same with this one. The songs are like a reflection of each other.
9. “Critical Mass”. From Draw the Line, when Aerosmith were reaching critical mass themselves. Regardless of the chemicals in their veins, “Critical Mass” retains the trademark Aero-groove.
10. “Lord of the Thighs”. Concert favourite, and about damn time we got a song from Get Your Wings!
11. “Jailbait”. Whoah nelly, hold on to your hats! Just when you thought Aerosmith were so wrecked they couldn’t even stand up, they surprised with the vintage-sounding “Jailbait”. Since material from Rock in a Hard Place was included, my only disappointment is that “Lightning Strikes” is nowhere to be found on Gems.
12. “Train Kept a Rollin'”. Closing with this one is natural. Aerosmith introduced this Yardbirds song to a new generation of rock fans in ’74, and then they did it for me in ’88!
I do need to address the elephant in the room, regarding the Box of Fire box set, in which Gems was included. I’m not really sure that throwing in an entire greatest hits album consisting of music that is on the other CDs, all but one song, was necessary. Couldn’t the soul exclusive, “Chip Away the Stone”, have just been included as a bonus track on one of the other CDs?
But that’s not the fault of Gems, an otherwise fine companion piece to Greatest Hits.
Come back tomorrow for the final review in this Aero-series!
AEROSMITH BOX OF FIRE review series:
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)