Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rocks

Aerosmith broke out in 1975 with Toys in the Attic, but in 1976, they created their finest work. Rocks album stands as one of the best pieces of sleazy, bluesy hard rock of the decade. It's lean and mean while it slides, rocks, boogies, and grooves, never wasting a moment. The opening track, "Back in the Saddle" might be about a cowboy's one-night stand, but it could just as easily describe the band hitting its stride.

Actually, the cowboy imagery might not be too far off. On Rocks, Aerosmith comes off as a bunch of outlaws, vagabonds who cannot be tamed. Steven Tyler's sexually charged lyrics manage to come off as both funny and kind of dangerous. Plenty of groups sing about sex and women, but Aerosmith sound like they know about both firsthand with some suggestive lines.


"Mmm, come easy, go easy
Alright 'til the rising sun 
I'm calling all the shots tonight 
I'm like a loaded gun. 
Peelin' off my boots and chaps 
I'm saddle sore 
Four bits gets you time in the racks 
I scream for more."


The album rocks and drives, from the galloping intensity of "Back in the Saddle" and the sliding riffs of "Combination" to the speedy, almost metallic "Rats in the Cellar" and the massive "Lick and a Promise." These songs are loud, brash, and full of swagger and swing. Aerosmith is often compared to the Rolling Stones for their bluesy, gritty rock style, and it's a fitting comparison here. No song goes on too long, and the music has a sublime, laid-back confidence to it. These guys know how good they are, and they are going to drag you in. On "Get the Lead Out," Tyler sings:

"Do ya like good boogey

Like the real boogey woogie
Hear the juke box singin'
Get the dance hall swingin' 
Won't ya grab my shaker 
Got to meet your maker 
Mmm, get out the lead, get out of bed, get the lead out."


The second track, "Last Child," has a positively funky feel as Tyler sings about "My hot tail poon tang sweetheart" but also feel nostalgic when it slows down in the pre-chorus lines of "Home Sweet Home. Mama, take me home, sweet home" before diving right back into the groove with Tyler declaring, "I'm just a punk in the street."

Yet, Aerosmith also get tender or at least more emotional on other songs. The album closer, "Home Tonight," is a straight-up power ballad with a piano melody. For an album built on grit, sleaze, and sex, it's a surprisingly sincere and romantic song to go out on, but somehow, it works and makes for a great capper.  Rocks takes the listener on a rollicking ride and then brings you for a bit of quiet remembrance.

"So baby, don't let go 

Hold on real tight 
'Cause i'll be home tonight 
Tonight."


The band has never sounded better on a studio album. Tyler shrieks and howls like no other while still capable of a sleazy turn-of-phrase. Joe Perry remains one of hard rock's best guitarist while his fellow axman Brad Whitford provides appropriately heavy but swinging rhythms. Bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer are also in top form.

Standout Songs
Back in the Saddle - The album opens on a high note from which it never dips.
Combination - Joe Perry sings and rocks an awesome riff.

Favorite Moment
That opening riff of "Combination" is just monstrous.

Album Cover
Five arranged diamonds, one for each member of the band, surrounded by black. Direct and polished, letting you know you can expect top-of-the-line quality music within.

Track Order
1) Back in the Saddle
2) Last Child
3) Rats in the Cellar
4) Combination
5) Sick as a Dog
6) Nobody's Fault
7) Get the Lead Out
8) Lick and a Promise
9) Home Tonight

Personnel
Steven Tyler - Vocals
Joe Perry - Lead Guitar
Brad Whitford - Rhythm Guitar
Tom Hamilton - Bass
Joey Kramer - Drums

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