Milk Cow Blues

REVIEW: Aerosmith – Draw the Line (1977)

I posted my original review for Draw the Line back in 2013, but what you see below is brand new — a complete redux.  For Deke‘s review of Draw the Line over at Arena Rock, click here!

DRAW THE LINE_0001AEROSMITH – Draw The Line (1977 Columbia, 1993 Sony)

The intial batch of Aerosmith platters (particularly Get Your Wings, Toys In The Attic, and Rocks) are all but undisputably great records. Most agree that, for a couple years anyway, Aerosmith created some of the great most important rock music in America. Draw The Line, Aerosmith’s fifth, was considered at the time to be a drop in quality although it has certainly aged well and fared better in hindsight. Compared to Rocks, perhaps it stumbles behind like a drunk tumbling out of the bar, but it is still a magnificent piece of rock and roll damnation.  And you gotta love the cover art caricature, by Al Hirschfeld.

The drug problems had sunk in, a monkey it would take them another decade to shake, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by the title track. Even though they were basically only recording music in order to keep paying for drugs, they still managed to create some legendary music on the title track.  This is desert island material, one of those songs that I don’t want to live my life without. To this day nobody has written anything as perfectly manic as “Draw The Line” from start to finish. They may have been falling apart, but musically they were capable of cranking out breakneck rock and roll of the highest quality.   It was Van Halen’s frontman David Lee Roth himself who proved the mettle of “Draw the Line” in a scientific way.  When all else failed, he used it to drive a yak heard away in the Himalayas!

And I still have no idea what Steven Tyler is singing after the lead solo break.  This is what it sounds like to me:  “OOOH check mate don’t be late take another pull, that’s right, impossible, when you gotta be yourself you’re the boss of the toss so dice the price baby baby and Draw the Line…”  I’m certain that’s not entirely right, and who knows what the fuck it means, but I’m not going to go and look up the lyrics.  Do you know why?  Because Draw the Line didn’t come with lyrics. If Steven Tyler wanted me to know what the hell he’s singing there, he’d have written it down.

Much like they did with “Nobody’s Fault” from Rocks, thrash metal pioneers Testament covered “Draw the Line”, which was released on their Signs of Chaos compilation.  Once again, it’s a perfect fit for the thrashers.

It doesn’t end there with “I Wanna Know Why” being one of the catchiest of the early ‘Smith rockers.  Those Tyler piano touches and Aerosmith horns make it the most “rock and roll” of the tracks.  It’s brassy, sassy and shows no indication of the decay setting in at all.  “Critical Mass” was also great, a song that grooves along smoothly.

Although Aerosmith fared well in the past marrying funk and rock, “Get it Up” doesn’t work as well.  While the band were playing beyond what you’d expect them to be able to, their songwriting was starting to fizzle.  Joe Perry’s “Bright Light Fright” kicks the decibels, but sounds unfocused and haggard.  The saxophone solo is a highlight, but listening to “Bright Light Fright” is like watching a drunk partying in top gear.  You know the crash is inevitable, and soon.

Turning sharply back towards jaw-dropping quality, “Kings and Queens” is regal and mighty.  Listen for the banjo lying underneath.  Oh if Aerosmith could only achieve lofty heights like “Kings and Queens” today!

“The Hand that Feeds” is a crap song, but “Sight for Sore Eyes” is better.  Aerosmith seemed to be leaning on the funkier side on the latter half of Draw the Line.  They close it with a chugging blues, a cover of “Milk Cow Blues” perhaps showing that Aerosmith didn’t have enough ideas of their own, perhaps not — they have always done covers.  Regardless, “Milk Cow Blues” is well executed, sounding very live and reckless in the studio, just like it should be.

This is impaired Aerosmith, but not entirely off the rails yet!


4/5 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)