Sunday, 22 January 2017

"Rocks" by AEROSMITH (1993 Columbia CD Reissue - Vic Anesini Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Back In The Saddle Again..."

In 1975 - Aerosmith's 3rd album "Toys In The Attic" was a vinyl monster stateside - clocking up over 8-million LP sales and a two and half year chart reign (128 weeks in total). Their 4th platter "Rocks" went one better – jumping the Top Ten and eventually peaking at No. 3 amassing quad-platinum status with indecent haste – a paltry four million albums sold amidst a blizzard of questionable underwear, white powder lines and thundering riffage. In 1976 Aerosmith were literally Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll incarnate.

Yet over here in Blighty most Rock lovers seemed utterly indifferent to their excess and musical success. Aerosmith didn't hit the UK charts until 1987 with "Permanent Vacation" – another anthem - only this time on Geffen Records and not their 1970ts spiritual home of Columbia. Even the mighty - and let's call it what it is - damn cool strut of "Walk This Way" didn't sell on 45 in the UK (CBS Records 4878) on initial release – it was stumbled on much later as 90s radio re-discovered its swagger for a generation already looking back.

Forty-one years on and "Rocks" is cited by everyone from Soundgarden, Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crue, Metallica and a whole host of other hard-hitting Rock ‘n’ Roll bands as one of their seminal influences – a boozy debauched little whippersnapper with bad hair and enflamed nostrils - naughtily leering at the big pucks of the lithesome hockey team in the locker-room. Which brings us to its digital incarnation...

This 1993 Columbia CD Reissue/Remaster celebrates that Rock beast with a stunning Don De Vito/Vic Anesini Remaster (shame about the lack on Bonus Tracks though). Back in the saddle again indeed – here are the diamond details...

UK released 8 November 1993 (reissued several times since including September 2011) - "Rocks" by AEROSMITH on Columbia 474965 2 (Barcode 5099747496523) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 1976 album and plays out as follows (34:35 minutes):

1. Back In The Saddle
2. Last Child
3. Rats In The Cellar
4. Combination
5. Sick As A Dog [Side 2]
6. Nobody’s Fault
7. Get The Lead Out
8. Lick And A Promise
9. Home Tonight
Tracks 1 to 9 are their 4th studio album "Rocks" - released May 1976 in the USA on Columbia PC 34165 and June 1976 in the UK on CBS Records S 81379. Produced by JACK DOUGLAS and AEROSMITH - the album peaked at No. 3 in the USA. "Home Tonight" written by Steve Tyler - "Combination" written by Joe Perry - "Back In The Saddle", "Rats In The Cellar", "Get The Lead Out" and "Lick And A Promise" written by Steve Tyler and Joe Perry - "Last Child" and "Nobody’s Fault" written by Steve Tyler and Brad Whitford and "Sick As A Dog" written by Steve Tyler and Tom Hamilton.

STEVE TYLER - Vocals, Keyboards, Electric Bass on "Sick As A Dog"
JOE PERRY - Lead and Rhythm Guitars and Vocals
Six String Bass on "Back In The Saddle"
Lap Steel Guitar on "Home Tonight"
Electric Bass on "Sick As A Dog"
BRAD WHITFORD - Lead and Rhythm Guitars
TOM HAMILTON - Bass and Electric Guitar on "Sick As A Dog")
JOEY KRAMER – Drums, Percussion and Backing Vocals on "Home Tonight"
Paul Prestopino – Banjo on "Last Child"

The mediocre double-sided four-leaf foldout-inlay of "Toys In The Attic" gets extended for "Rocks" into a six – a six-square long concertina effect (twelve leaves of photos on both sides in total). They repro 'The Record Plant Studios' Tape Boxes - the rear sleeve with its recorded data and throw in new colour collages of Aerosmith memorabilia. But there's no new liner notes for something that clocked up four million sales in the USA alone - a trend with Sony when it comes to anything that isn't a Deluxe Edition (visually their releases are o.k. rather than great). And surely someone could have located outtakes or live stuff and made this an 'Expanded Edition' with some decent Bonus Tracks to please long-suffering fans. But alas...

What we do get by way of compensation however is a stunning new 24-bit digital remaster from original tapes by DON DeVITO and Mastering Engineer supremo VIC ANESINI - an Audio transfer name I actively seek out when looking for exceptional CD Remasters. Anesini has had a long association with Sony and all things Columbia - Santana, Simon & Garfunkel, Elvis Presley, Mott The Hoople, Janis Joplin, Carole King, The Jayhawks, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mountain, Nilsson and many more. Bringing out the power of those riffs and just how tight the band were was always the priority with this most 'Hard Rock' of LPs - and the team behind this transfer have achieved that.

Having established speed and attack on the mission-statement album "Toys In The Attic" the year prior – "Rocks" is even more down and dirty – returning with a 1976 big-arena swagger that's exemplified in the amazing opener "Back In The Saddle". This thing is HUGE and immediately you’re hearing Van Halen's self-titled debut in the two-year future – G n' R's "Appetite For Destruction" 11 years after that – all screaming vocals and fantastic rocking guitars with Joe Perry riffing away like a demented golem in search of some shinny ring. That's followed by the funky chug of "Last Child" where a Tallahassee Lassie is getting to the boys. That 'punk in the street' anthem is followed in turn by the very Ronnie Montrose blasting of "Rats In The Cellar" - rapid-fire rock that makes you want to do indecent things to a floor mop as you pose in the kitchen - lead guitarist by the soap suds. Side 1 ends on a typically great Aerosmith rocker "Combination" - talking about the shape I'm in - always moving on - restless - one step away from something - guitars wailing as Tyler sings "...I traded you for me..."

Side 2 opens with a melodic "Sick As A Dog" with more than a hint of a Boston/Foreigner combo sound - Tyler singing 'please' like he's begging a dealer for mercy. Or is he slagging off some socialite that thinks she's hot to trot when the truth is that life has taken its toll and you're not that young anymore. And just when you think they must be running out of killers – they roll out the Ted Nugent assault of "Nobody’s Fault" – an ultra-Produced wall of Hard Rock –an aural Chieftain Tank of guitars and voices trampling your living room with squeaky wheels and a mad driver with weeks of greasy stubble - giggling as he chews on his half-smoked Havana. "Get The Lead Out" threatens to do just that – strip your bathroom bare – and don't you just love those guitar-sounds Perry produces as the song fades out. Back to Rock 'n' Roll and Gurls with "Lick And A Promise" – a wall of rock sound that actually reminds me of The Sex Pistols debut - the kind of sound that would destroy the world in 1977 (well over in the U of the K anyway). It ends on the only concession to pace – the 'say goodnight to you' of "Home Tonight" – a tearful goodbye that for me is the least convincing song on an otherwise flawless Rock LP.

Boston's Aerosmith would tear it up yet again with their 5th platter "Draw The Line" in the lead up to Christmas 1977 - another winner that like “Toys In The Attic” went to No. 11 on the US album charts. But this is where their locker-room legend and guitar mayhem really started. 

Dude looks like a winner - and the CD Remaster is dirt-cheap too...

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