Released on January 5, 1973 (Columbia Records)
Review by Tyson Briden:
The thing I love most about writing for Sleaze Roxx is recollecting the memories that so many of these anniversary albums invoke. Aerosmith’s debut album is one that I have thought about for the last few days and I wondered how I would approach it. This album has been a significant part of my life over the last thirty some years. The story that follows in terms of this album isn’t exactly something that is of great importance to anyone, but maybe me. Still, I think for my own personal satisfaction, I need to tell it.
In 1986, the album Night Songs was released by the band Cinderella. This is kind of where our story begins. Had this Cinderella album never been released, I may not have ever discovered Aerosmith. Well that’s kind of far-fetched considering the band’s resurgence in the late ’80s, but in 1986, the band was still a short year away from being relevant again. I had read an article where Cinderella singer/guitarist Tom Keifer had stated that Aerosmith had been a huge influence. Let’s remember also that Bon Jovi had just released the Slippery When Wet album. It was the biggest album on the radio at the time. Who was opening for Bon Jovi on the Slippery When Wet tour? Well of course, Cinderella. So as I write on, you will see the relevance to the two bands I have just mentioned. Just bear with me please.
Upon reading the Tom Keifer article, it got my wheels turning. If Tom Keifer liked this Aerosmith band so much, then I am sure I will too. If they sound anything like Cinderella, then I will truly become a fan. In December of 1986 on a Christmas shopping trip to the Oshawa Center in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada with my Mom, I was determined to find music by this band Aerosmith. As I strolled into the Sam The Record Man store, I quickly went to the Aerosmith section. As I started carousing through the Aerosmith tapes, I quickly discovered that they had released quite a few albums. Oh no, where do I begin? It was at this time that I started checking the copyright dates on the back of the cassettes. I think my best bet is to go with the one that has the earliest date. Start at the beginning and work my way forward. I chose the one with a really bad album cover. A photo of this burned out looking band with the sun, clouds and the earth in the background. Whoever thought this one out really didn’t have much faith in the band. What a bad cover, but I prevailed, hopefully the music was better than the cover. You know that old saying “Never judge a book by its cover”.
On this day not only was I seeking out Aerosmith, but a band I have previously mentioned, Bon Jovi. Do you see the relevance now? Since I had loved Slippery When Wet so much, I needed to seek out the band’s other albums. On this day, I was looking for 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit. With the Aerosmith tape grasped tightly in my hand, I made my way over to the Bon Jovi section. Easily, I found my next victim and quickly snatched it up. Seems like a pretty successful tape buying day don’t you think?
Of course that night, I listened to both albums intently. At first, I wasn’t sure about the sound of the Aerosmith tape. It was very different sounding from the ’80s bands I had been listening too. I would say a little more basic sounding? Not the case as I would come to find out later in life, but at the time it was strange, but still very cool. The next day. I would go to school and tell my grade seven teacher Mr. Plitz about my latest acquisition. He was quite familiar with Aerosmith. It put a smile on my face knowing that someone I respected, who was slightly older than me had an affinity for the same band as me. This was the start of something good.
Aerosmith has become a favorite band of mine since that day in 1986. The very album we are talking about, I own on remastered CD and remastered vinyl. To this day, I still listen to it quite regularly. It has an essence that all other Aerosmith albums do not possess. The first thing that comes to mind is the sound of the ride cymbal. It is so predominantly noticeable in the mix. Right from the first song “Make It”, that ride makes its presence felt. Although I do think the snare drum sounds quite flat with the toms sounding thin, but hey I am sure the budget on the album wasn’t quite as much as say an artist like Bruce Springsteen who was a label mate of Aerosmith. I remember once reading a quote by a member of the band that stated “For every dollar Columbia spent on Aerosmith, they spent a hundred on Bruce Springsteen.”
In terms of Steven Tyler’s vocals, I have always found that Tyler’s vocals are different to what would be heard on every release afterward. We could say he sounds slightly more nasally. On “Somebody”, Tyler might sound nasally, but that cool vocal swagger that only Tyler possesses is out there for all to enjoy. In listening, I have found that on this album there are glimpses of what the band would become, but it still seemed they were finding themselves. Of course this album features the song “Dream On.” From what I recall, it took three times of releasing it as a single before people finally got it. This is something that is unheard of these days. This was in a time where a record label saw a band as an investment. They gave the artist time to grow. Think of three of the greatest ’70s American rock bands of all time — Aerosmith, KISS and Cheap Trick — all paid their dues before people finally took notice. As for the techniques used in the recording, there are certain aspects that really add an earthy mystique and feel to this album. Tyler’s vocal stylings in certain spots follow exactly what the guitars are doing. “Write Me” is a perfect example. As well as in “Make It” where Tyler is singing the notes in the bridge.
As I write, I also have to make note of what kind of influence Aerosmith have had on so many bands. Two of the eight cuts have been covered by prominent ’80s bands. Who remembers Ratt doing “Walkin’ The Dog” on their debut EP? Of course Guns N’ Roses’s take on “Mama Kin” from the Lies album was simply brilliant. I spoke with John Corabi years ago. He mentioned Aerosmith as one of his biggest influences. To this day Babylon A.D. still adds “Rats In The Cellar” from Aerosmith’s Rocks album into their live set. In terms of coolness, there is no one that even compares to Aerosmith.
As I close out, I wonder if anyone has thought to themselves about the tape that I originally purchased. Probably not, but I need to add this little bit of information. Sadly, and I hate to say it, it’s long gone. I believe it got chewed up beyond all recognition, never to be heard again. But I will say this, in the contents of my Aerosmith Pandora’s Box, if you were to remove all the pieces including the plastic that holds its contents, underneath you will find that original tape cover. For some reason, I suppose as a reminder of what this album has meant to me, I have held onto it for nostalgic purposes for all these years. I will add that beside it is an unused Ozzy Osbourne/Slaughter/Ugly Kid Joe ticket to a show that never happened at the CNE Grandstand in Toronto, Ontario, Canada back in the early ’90s. I believe on the No More Tours Tour… All and All, Aerosmith’s debut album is a masterpiece throughout.
Review by John Stoney Cannon:
A major part of music history. Since their first reported stage sighting at a Massachusetts high school in late 1970, Boston rockers Aerosmith have released over two dozen albums including studio releases and compilations along the way enduring band fights, drugs, line-up changes, and more comebacks than ought to be legal. While early on compared to The Rolling Stones and The New York Dolls (both influential bands themselves), Aerosmith still possess a swagger long since forgotten by the Stones and a shelf life way longer than the Dolls. I for one can pinpoint highlights of my life thanks to all three bands but certainly with me having lived my formative rock and roll years in the mid-late ’70s, Aerosmith have had the biggest impact of the three. Yeah, I would eventually grasp on to albums like the raw Sticky Fingers as well as the Dolls‘ amazing debut in the latter part of the seventies but by then I was already a full on Aerosmith nut, particularly of the band’s fifth album Draw The Line, an album that still runs through my blood each listen as it did when I was a kid barely out of elementary school.
That’s hardly a mind-blowing statement though, pretty much everything Aerosmith put out in the ’70s including the turbulent Night In The Ruts took the band straight to the pay window and into the hearts of rock fans worldwide creating just the first incredible chapter of a legendary rock and roll career. Which makes looking back on the band’s eponymous debut a bit of chuckle as initially, interest in the band was mild (not even Rolling Stone Magazine was interested in giving it a listen) and on top of that, the band had to suffer through those Rolling Stones / New York Dolls comparisons and their new label deciding to give a bigger push to another future legend’s debut in Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings From Asbury Park. Matter of fact, by the time Aerosmith put out the second album the following year, the last thing they probably expected was for that first one to not only be the source of future classic tracks, but three years later for “Dream On” to get a new rebirth on its way to becoming one of rock and roll’s all time classic tunes. But then again, the Aerosmith story is one of rebirth after rebirth so maybe for now, it’s better just to go back to the beginning when it was all just, the band’s first attempt at consummating their relationship in order to plop out their first-born.
Over the years, everything has been written about Aerosmith — the fights, drugs, no-shows, highs, lows, in-betweens — but in the end, none of it has managed to stop the one thing Aerosmith has been so consistently great with — the songs. Even for all the talk of the band’s greenness, lack of proper studio support, and frontman Steven Tyler choosing to scale back his vocal style at the 11th hour, Aerosmith’s debut is a rocking album. Perfect? Maybe not but for a young, raw band cutting their teeth playing in front of Northeast upstate teens at camps, high schools, and colleges, you could certainly do much worse. Hell, the best part of the album has to be the rawness and the fact that it sounds exactly like an exact representation of what Aerosmith was at the time, a tight-knit live rock and roll band.
Kicking off with “Make It”, a track written as if to light a fire under the band to conquer the rock and roll masses, Aerosmith deliver in a way different from other Aerosmith albums in that the drums’ sound live with the hi-hat and snare punctuating each track and topped with a loose bass. Not that the band didn’t have a great back-end sound later on but here, the meager production manages to do something cool — capture the live rawness of the music while allowing it to breathe. Nothing on Aerosmith’s first album sounds remotely cluttered yet still rocks with a cool live sound where you can hear each musical piece in all its dirty looseness.
As a kid, my usual listening at home involved turning the lights out in my room, putting on a pair of huge earmuff headphones complete with annoying curly cord, and cranking the stereo way up until all that was left in my world was the back and forth fury of stereo music and the dim light from the console. Through the years some of my favorite “’phone” tunes have been rock songs where the music would bounce back and forth like the beginning of Rush’s 2112 (which scared the daylights out of me) and the drum roll in the middle of Ted Nugent song “Paralyzed.” The beginning of the second track from Aerosmith’s debut starts off similarly with the first guitar to the left before the rest of the band drops in and it only adds to the idea of hearing a band jump in live. “Somebody” is not only a cool rock track, in my opinion, it stands as the first true example of the Aerosmith “sound” as opposed to opening track “Make It” and you can just hear future ‘Smith tunes in this and “Mama Kin”, a song just a few notches down on the album. For any criticism of the band’s debut, it is clear throughout that Aerosmith had already begun to cultivate a sound and style that would not only carry them through close to fifty years of rock and roll, but along the way influence generations of future rock stars.
While the band was barely a blip on the radar when recording its first record, time has given Aerosmith the right to boast a few tunes that have totally infected popular culture and maybe no other Aerosmith song outside of “Walk This Way” has had a lasting appeal like the band’s opus power ballad “Dream On.” Released originally on the band’s debut, the song’s original stab as a single died a quick death (despite massive response in the Boston radio market) only to seek a massive return when released again in single form a few years later. Tyler has claimed that “Dream On” is the only song on Aerosmith sung in his “true” voice due to his insecurities about how he sounded on tape. This fact is also funny as at the time, Tyler was the most seasoned member of the group having already reached a sort of semi-celebrity status locally and being comfortably sitting in his role as senior member of the band. In the seventies, this was all unknown to me as all my teenage brain knew was this was raw, killer, heart-pounding rock and roll and in “Dream On”, I had a powerful motivator of a tune to pull out at times when I needed a push, which for an unsure kid in a foreign country trying to deal with school, the first bits of confusion due to girls, and a hyperactive tendency to try and cram as much into a single day, was quite often.
“One Way Street” is one of a pair of near forgotten blues style gems on the album along with the ultra cool “Write Me A Letter” and while both are similar by making use of classic blues progressions and groove with a nice concentration on low end, “One Way Street” flows nicely with the addition of pretty stellar harmonica and piano courtesy of Tyler while the latter chugs along in a groove reminiscent of British rock acts of the early ’70s. Both tracks perfectly sandwich fan favorite “Mama Kin”, a driving tune covered over the years by the likes of Guns N’ Roses and Buckcherry and performed by bar bands from California to Connecticut. If that 1-2-3 punch of blues and rock wasn’t enough, Aerosmith follow up with the down low, ass shaking groove of “Movin’ Out”, perhaps the most all over the place ‘Smith tune on the platter. If I was giving the golden ticket to go back and see the band around this time period play one song live, it would be this one. With so much going on and the way it was pulled off so well in the studio, one can only imagine the power it must have had blaring in your face from just a few feet away. Chills man… chills.
Now I managed to figured out early on that the early blues tunes were actually well hidden metaphors for everything from sex to drugs to alcohol but I have to admit to being totally ignorant and filled with disbelief when told by an older kid that the closing tune on the album was not only a cover of an old blues song, but that it was about sex. Actually I laughed it off only to end up with a stone faced “OH!” moments later after the kid boombox blasted it through the neighborhood ballfield. Maybe I kinda knew all along but over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that pretty much every Aerosmith song is about sex or drugs if even in some way indirectly. But that’s cool. While it some ways it now seems silly to think about Gene Simmons actually crooning “Dr. Love” to a girl or David Lee Roth belting out “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love” to try and impress a groupie these days…for some reason, and maybe it’s due to the kinda metaphoric wordplay of Aerosmith songs, I don’t cringe picturing Steven Tyler belting it out to some unsuspecting young lass.
Yeah, the years have somehow been kind to Aerosmith since that first album in 1973 and I guess for me as well. Their songs have been there through fun times, romantic times, hard times, and even a few drunken times and maybe what we have in common more than the songs of Aerosmith is that little idea of rebirth just when the old is starting to tie things down. I know I’ve found that in my life again as of late and in so, I’ve learned that the best way to rise from the mud is not just press towards a better future, but embrace the best parts of the past and continue to “Dream On.”
01. Make It
03. Dream On
04. One Way Street
05. Mama Kin
06. Write Me
07. Movin’ Out
08. Walkin’ the Dog
Steven Tyler – vocals
Joe Perry – guitar
Brad Whitford – guitar
Tom Hamiliton – bass
Joey Kramer – drums
Produced by Adrian Barber
Engineered by Adrian Barber and Caryl Wienstock
Reviewed by Tyson Briden and John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, January 2018
Aerosmith‘s “Dream On” song:
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Aerosmith‘s “Somebody” song:
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