Aerosmith: Rocks (CBS)

AMERICA HAS until now avoided a head-on confrontation with the big British production or stage bands.

Since Led Zeppelin first smote the music biz on the far side of the Atlantic back in ’69, America seemed to reel somewhat under the pressure, and when we followed up with ELP, Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd and the heavy metal men, Heep, Purple, Sabbath and so on, Americans preferred country rock, singer songwriters – almost anything except the type of arranged music with glamorous lead vocalist package.

There was Grand Funk Railroad of course, but nothing quite like Queen, to add to the long British honours list. That was – until Aerosmith. I suppose it was the mixture of instrumental prowess, musical attack and dash of flair that attracted me to the first Aerosmith album when it arrived on our shores virtually unheralded a couple of years ago. I’m still not a rabid fan of the band – we haven’t even had a chance to see them yet. And of course they are bound to upset most critics by appearing to follow a time-honoured course. Dull stuff for rock writers really, just another group that appeals to the vast mass of kids.

I can almost see the heads bobbing to the beat of ‘Back In The Saddle’ at the Odeon, Hammersmith, even now. What have this hugely successful combo (in America) got to offer then, I can almost hear resentful sceptics sniff with hostility and suspicion? A certain je ne sais quoi. Steven Tyler is the arrogant, ill-tempered lead vocalist of the saturnine features who looks as if he might give Freddie Mercury a severely slapped wrist if they crossed laser beams. But most impressive is the relentlessly riffing guitars of Joe Perry and mighty Brad Whitford. While Steve is shouting out the vocals on ‘Last Child’, listen to the Whitford guitar (he co-wrote it with Steve) dig into as nasty a riff as has been blasted forth since Jeff Beck was hooked up with Carmine Appice. Not to put too fine a point on it, they cook, and the guitars send those icy fingers along the spine.

Dig the way the hi-hats belt in a la John Bonham on the fast ‘Rats In The Cellar’, a kind of tribute to the canyons of New York City. Solid vocal harmonies, driving guitars – what more could a simple rock fan request? And for more laidback tastes there are the chiming chords and Who-like aggression of ‘Sick As A Dog’, a most listenable stomper followed by the even more raucous ‘Nobody’s Fault’, with Tyler getting almost apoplectic. Joey Kramer is the man in the engine room, a blari of flailing crash cymbals and detonating tom toms, and he kicks along a boogie epic like ‘Get The Lead Out’ with angry vehemence. Depending on your philosophy, it’s irresistible stuff that will get knees pumping in the three quid seats, and groans from scribblers in the freebies.

But at the risk of being cut dead at the annual rock writers’ convention, I find the sensuous rhythms and animal pulse of ‘Lick And A Promise’ (just one of many erotic selections), a strangely heady brew. They could keep up this eclectic hullaballoo based on the familiar backlog of rock riffs all night, and I’d feel no pain.

© Chris WelchMelody Maker, 10 July 1976

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