THE RISE AND fall and rise of Aerosmith has been rock’s most up-beat cautionary tale of the last few years.
This three-CD/cassette set starts in 1966 with a justifiably rare single from the first pro group in which Steve Tyler (né Tallarico) sang, Chain Reaction, and ends in 1982 when the sorry remains of this once mighty Boston band heaved their collective carcass off to another label in search of the up-turn which was to come in 1985 when hot-shot rappers Run DMC rediscovered the Aerosmith oldie, ‘Walk This Way’, and in turn Aerosmith forsook chemical solace and rediscovered their winning streak.
Back in the ’70s Aerosmith didn’t bask in the critical favour they do now, the general snipe being that they were little more than Stones clones. Not only does hindsight throw into relief the enjoyable differences, but stresses how much more Guns N’Roses owe to Aerosmith than Aerosmith owe to the Stones.’ You See Me Crying’ from 1976 has exactly the mood of mournful yet humorous self-pity that W. Axl – as limited a vocal stylist as Tyler – is striving for in his own ballads; and the synchromesh of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford’s guitars in the more up-tempo numbers finds its echo in Appetite For Destruction et al.
The Stones comparison was not least cosmetic: Tyler and Perry (the Toxic Twins, as they became known) bore a striking likeness to the Glimmer Twins, Mick’n’Keef. Although, unlike the redoubtably Gothic Charlie and Bill, drummer Joey Kramer and bassist Tom Hamilton resemble no one in particular, and their tough yet funky contribution is too easily overlooked; on ‘Last Child’, it is revealed how the band were listening to The Meters at the time, and one can believe it. Even as the songwriting slipped, the rhythm boys motor along so greasily you can live with say ‘Jailbait’, though it would never make anyone’s best of.
Which brings us to what Jimmy Young calls VFM-value for money. Lovingly enshrined in an Art Deco-style case with the obligatory 64-page booklet which includes the story, track-by-track quotes, a few lyrics and some pictures, Pandora’s Box has 31 previously released songs and 21 live cuts, alternate takes and rarities. Will this latter stuff be made separately available for the fan who doesn’t fancy shelling out for tracks already owned? Probably not. Yet nor are these rare tracks so good that they deserve to have driven out such gems as ‘Uncle Salty’ (an intriguing cross-breed of Faces-type funk and Beatley harmonies from 1975’s terrific Toys In The Attic; that album and its equally happening successor, Rocks, would fit neatly on a single CD – some hope).
Despite high times aplenty, Pandora’s Box is a career overview which offers a patchy, expensive introduction to the newcomer, and falls irritatingly between the stools of rarities collection and definitive compilation.
© Mat Snow, Q, March 1992