by Mott the Dog
In 1979 Aerosmith released their sixth Studio album
‘Night In The Ruts’. The recording of the album had not run smoothly
to say the least, in fact lead singer Steve Tyler and lead guitarist Joe
Perry could not be left in the same room for fear of an instant fight
starting up. The result was that Perry left the band halfway through
recordings and Jimmy Crespo was brought in on suggestion of Aerosmith
producer Jack Douglas to complete the recording.
The results were patchy, although when the album was
released to the public no mention was made of Perry not having completed
the recordings, nor was Crespo given any credits. (So the album still
went into the charts on advance sales alone such was the popularity of
Aerosmith at the time.)
It was not until the band actually went out onto the
road that Crespo’s position in the band was announced along with Joe
Perry’s new solo career with his new band Joe Perry’s Project. The
resulting concerts from the new look Aerosmith were often disastrous
mainly due to the bands excesses. Steve Tyler was often so out of it
that he could not finish the set, the rest of the band, old and new
members, were not exactly helping matters either.
At the end of the tour second guitarist Brad Whitford
left the band to go off and form a new band with ex-Ted Nugent
guitarist/vocalist Derek St. Holmes (one self titled album in 1981 - not
bad either). Now to lose one guitarist is unfortunate, to lose two is
Aerosmith fell into disarray, all of the band members
were nearly broke through their own indulgences, even though all six
previous albums had gone platinum and they could sell out any stadium in
the United States of America.
With more of an eye on the finances than musical
endeavour, Jack Douglas herded together what he could find of the
remaining members of Aerosmith, added second guitarist Ritchie Dufay as
a replacement for Brad Whitford, and put them back in the studio.
Although the sessions were never easy, the combination of Tyler’s
natural talent, the rock solid rhythm section of Tom Hamilton and Joey
Kramer, plus the unbridled enthusiasm of the two new axe slingers, they
managed to come up with a pretty fine cocktail of a rock ‘n’ roll
It is noticeable that Jimmy Crespo takes at least
partial song writing credits for six of the ten songs. Jimmy Crespo’s
style of lead guitar work is also a million miles from that of Joe
Perry’s. There are two covers (the old chestnut ‘Cry Me A River’
plus a song from Ritchie Supa ‘Lightning Strikes’, written when he
was trying out himself for the band.) But it is still a fine edition to
any record collection. Is it an Aerosmith album without Perry and
Whitford on it? (Is ‘Banana’s’ a Deep Purple album without
Blackmore or Lord?) Well, it says Aerosmith on the cover.
The album gets off to a rocking start with
“Jailbait”, a really raunchy rocker with a great hook by Jimmy
Crespo’s guitar that rocks you to your very boots.
This is immediately followed up by a typical one-two
of another assault on your rock ‘n’ roll senses with the belting
‘’Lightning Strikes’’. Now if this song had been included on any
Aerosmith album but this one it would be acclaimed as an all time
Aerosmith classic - a real scorching rocker that should have given this
version of Aerosmith a huge hit single.
This is followed by two Aerosmithish (sic)
chunks of Funk/Rock ‘’Bitches Brew” and the wonderful “Bolivian
Ragamuffin’’. There is then a wonderfully over the top cover of
“Cry Me A River” - Steve Tyler throws so much pathos into this, he
probably attempted to throw himself down the river afterwards. Jimmy
Crespo must have nearly broken his back trying to reach some of those
notes. I bet when the original band got back together this song was
never discussed to be put in the set list.
“Prelude to Joanie” is a nice tilt into the
centrepiece of the album. On “Joanie’s Butterfly’’, the whole
band gels beautifully on this song and it is amazing to think they had
to be coerced into getting back in the studio. Title track “Rock In a
Hard Place (Cheshire Cat)” is a good solid stadium rocker which if the
band could have collectively stood up at the same time would have had
them stomping in the aisles in live concert. The album starts with a
bang with it’s first two songs, but I’m afraid goes out with a bit
of a whimper on the last two studio cuts here: “Jig Is Up” and
“Push Comes to Shove”. The best thing that can be said about these
two is, nice titles boys, but a bit too much Aerosmith by numbers.
“Rock In A Hard Place” was the first Aerosmith
album not to go Platinum and the only Aerosmith album never to get into
the American Billboard Top 30. But it should not be summarily dismissed
as it does have its moments, certainly standing up better today than its
predecessor’s “Night In The Ruts”.
In 1985 sensed prevailed and the original members of
Aerosmith got back together, collectively cleaned up their act (even
alcohol and cigarettes are not allowed back stage at an Aerosmith
concert these days), and went on to reclaim their place at the top of
the International Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus.
Not without several hitches along the way though.
Their first reunited album “Done With Mirrors” (1985) was not a
success, either, only briefly flirting with the charts and to this day
has never gone platinum, which makes it a failure in the high
expectations world of Aerosmith.
It took a collaboration with Rap masters Run D.M.C.
on the Aerosmith penned “Walk This Way” (1986) to get them back in
the charts, before the hits started to flow from the second reunited
album “Permanent Vacation”, after which Aerosmith more or less went
on to become a permanent fixture on MTV.
Today Aerosmith is still at the very top of the tree,
going into their later years with grace and dignity, which is very
surprising as at the beginning of the Eighties no one would have given
much chance of any of them being alive by the turn of the Century.
In 2004 Aerosmith released an album of blues covers,
“Honking On Bobo”, which topped the album charts worldwide, and they
toured American stadiums on the back of this. 2005 was designated as a
year off, during which time Joe Perry did his first solo album for
twenty years, “Joe Perry’’, which Rolling Stone Magazine has
called the ultimate guitarist album. But expect Aerosmith to re-group in
2006 and hit back hard.
Steve Tyler: Vocals, Piano, Harmonica
Ritchie Dufay: Guitars
Jimmy Crespo: Guitars
Tom Hamilton: Bass
Joey Kramer: Drums
Cry Me A River
Prelude to Joanie
Rock In Hard Place (Cheshire Cat)
Jig Is Up
Push Comes To Shove