I have decided to start listening and reviewing music in A-Z order by artist. One album for each letter, and when I get to Z I will start again. I guess there may be alot of ZZ Top and Frank Zappa later on!
Anyway up first is Pump by Aerosmith, released in 1989, when I was 14. This was the first of their albums I had (I cant say bought, as a friend copied it on to tape for me, backed with Chers album Heart of Stone from the same year. Taping is killing music kids, dont forget.). I was aware of Walk This Way with Run DMC (who in the 80s wasnt?), but their other music had passed me by. My school friendship group was mainly into UK Indie, so that was the Housemartins, the Wonderstuff, The House of Love and so on. Hard rock crept in a little in the form of Iron Maiden, but not really the blues rock that Aerosmith brought to the table. I had also missed the previous album at the time (Permanent Vacation) which is a surprise now, as I know the big singles and could have sworn they were after Love in an Elevator. Strange how your memory plays tricks.
So it was Love In An Elevator that I first knew, which I recall with its cheeky video, and tongue in cheek lyrics, that a young lad of 14 was instantly drawn to! The song itself is a classic, and a great example of the more glam metal angle the band had taken. The backing vocals are also reminisent of Def Leppard on their Hysteria album, and before the grunge boom of the early 90s, was the way alot of hard rock was headed. The track also keeps a solid beat, with hard riffs, and attempts a little pschyadelic breakdown, changing the pace before coming back into focus. For the MTV generation, this was an ideal fit.
That may have been my entry to the album, but it starts 2 tracks earlier with Young Lust, a title also used for a best of in later years. No one could really accuse Steven Tyler and the band of being young, having formed in 1970, and by the late 80s they were in their 40s, which at the time seemed very old for a rock band. Similar to the Stones the UK music press derided them for being oldies, and were obsessed (and still are) with the next big thing, but in hindsight the Stones and Aerosmith were just continuing the blues tradition, playing on when teeny boppers were growing up. Incidentally around the same time Neil Young didnt get the same agism afforded those acts. Young Lust is a bombastic opening to the album, hitting at pace, and bringing Tylers mouth organ out for a run. Similar to Elevator though, the lyrics werent going to win any prizes.
F.I.N.E follows, the first of the tracks to use Desmond Child as co-songwriter. He had also co-written Dude, and other tracks with Bon Jovi and Cher. F.I.N.E again bursts through the speakers, a heavy baseline backing some wisecracking and sleazy lyrics, some dirty chuckles coming in quite frequently. When you add Elevator after this, the first three tracks are as good a start of any album that year, and show why it sold so well.
Monkey On My Back initially slows things down, starting with a dreamlike few bars, before bringing in the pounding drums that would be used alot by Guns n Roses on their Use Your Illusion albums. In fact, this track could be a companion to You Could Be Mine, with very similar guitar. Of course GnR have never denied their debt to the toxic twins. I’m a big fan of this type of groove, and have alot of time for the choppy guitar effects.
Janies Got A Gun follows, starting with a short interlude (these smaller pieces are used at various points through the album, setting the mood for what was to come). This is the first proper slow track, but with words about child abuse and incest, not a pleasant subject, but not one that stopped the song being released as a single. I love the drums again here, and Steven Tylers vocals have that little raspiness that he uses so well in the bigger ballads. It also continues the psychedelic feel, showing their roots in the early 70s.
That finishes the old side one, and if you did flip the disk, side two opens with another short intro before The Other Side, which features a heavy lift from Standing On The Shadows Of Love, so much so the band had to give credit for it. The track is classic Aerosmith though, riffing throughout, and a heavy swing to the song. This could have been made at any time of their career.
My Girl, despite the name, doesnt lift from any other tracks. Again it is classic hard rock. To be honest, though I do like the song, I feel the album does start to sound a bit cliche at this point.
And no more so than with the next song, Dont Get Mad, Get Even. It has all the right elements, but the lyrics sound laughable coming from Steven Tyler. Now if Axle Rose or Bon Scott had been the one sneering these, then you would believe them, and feel threatened, but in Aerosmiths hands it sounds try hard, and not a little laughable. The mid side sag hits hard with these two mildly forgettable tracks.
Next up Hoodoo / Voodoo Medicine Man keeps the rock going, despite the awful title. But this is just a prelude to what I feel is the song of the album, What It Takes. Now Aerosmith to my mind invented the big power ballads – Dream On has to be first of its kind, and they have since kept them going, but this song is my go to. Loud, in the car on the way home after a late night at the office, nothing beats it. ‘Tell me what it takes to let you go’ has helped me through some tough times (and to be fair still does). ‘Tell me how the pains supposed to go’. It has a pleading element, without being weak, it has a yearning for lost love, and addressing that love to ask why. It is great, nothing less.
And that wraps it up – all in all a good rocking album for the first review. Some tracks may be of their time, some may be formulaic, but overall it rocks, and what more do you expect or want from the band. This kind of sound was replaced by grunge in the US, and lost to Britpop and so on in the UK, but the band still toured and released music recently. I actually saw them play Wembley in 1999, the Toxic Twin Towers ball, supported by Black Crowes and Stereophonics amongst others, and that was a great night. These days, they are probably remembered more for the ballads, and being a bit cheesy, but what is wrong with that. It was an era of spandex, big hair, and big visuals, which got lost when authenticity of the next things came along.
The album can be found quite cheaply on Amazon these days, and I would recommend getting it (link above)