|Aerosmith - Honkin' on Bobo|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Jeff Fish|
|Tuesday, 30 March 2004|
What happens when one of the greatest rock bands of all time decides to record an album of blues standards? You get an album full of passion and fun, that’s what happens! Aerosmith went back to its roots and for all of us who were their fans back in the early to mid ‘70s, we get a reminder of how great this band can be. While the late 1980s saw the comeback and cleaning up of Aerosmith, the music wasn’t nearly as passionate as their earlier releases and (in my opinion) was way over-produced. Gone were the gritty guitars of Brad Whitford and Joe Perry. In their place was this homogenized tone that pretty much made Aerosmith sound like everyone else who was releasing albums in that same period. Aerosmith pretty much stayed in that same zone for about the next 10 years with great success, but the music was suffering because of that. In 2001, Aerosmith made their first self-produced album, Just Push Play. While it may not have been their best album, the record had more passion in it than any of the band’s other releases of the past 10 years or so. It also gave them a chance to test out and use to their new personal recording studios.
Which brings us up to Honkin’ On Bobo. This is not an album of Tyler/Perry blues compositions, although there is one new track on the CD, but a celebration of the roots of Aerosmith. This is blues on steroids, the type of blues that you would have heard in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s. Led Zeppelin, Free and Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac come to mind as to the type of blues that you’re going to hear on this disc. On “Baby Please Don’t Go,” the guitars sound as if they were recorded from outer space with this hair-raising wicked tone and a driving rhythm reminiscent of their first albums. Tyler’s voice throughout this disc is simply incredible. How this guy still does it after all these years is truly remarkable to me. I picked this album up the day of its release, along with Eric Clapton’s “Me and Mr. Johnson,” and while both of these releases celebrate the blues, Aerosmith decided not to be so reverential. They wanted to shake things up, and boy, did they!
The thing I like most about this disc is Aerosmith’s ability to take these songs to the next level. It’s not like the songs were lacking in anything before, but it was almost like listening to Led Zeppelin’s first album (not that this album will have that type of influence or is in that catagory, but…). But the Led Zeppelin disc saw the band messing with blues songs; it was all about the attitude. And that is what I like the most about this disc, Aerosmith’s attitude. The playing on this album is all topnotch, but it’s fun as well. You can hear the absolute blast that they must have had making this album. I recently read an interview with Jimmy Page and Joe Perry together and they were taking about the old days of recording, when bands would all play in the same room, recording together and capturing the vibe. Well that is exactly what Aerosmith did for this release, using smaller guitar amps, for instance, but playing together in the same room while recording and capturing this great vibe. Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton lay down this groove throughout the entirety of the release that is unrelenting. It almost wouldn’t be possible for the rest of the band to step up when hearing and reacting to a groove like that.
For example, on “I’m Ready,” the band has this swamp groove going, with slide guitars making it sound like they were recording in Chicago sometime in the mid-60s. Tyler’s vocals, as I mentioned earlier, are some of the best that he’s recorded in years. You can hear the passion in his voice, adding his conciseness to the collective that we call the blues. Blues purists will probably have a problem with this record since it’s not truly the blues – it’s Aerosmith playing the blues – and that is the thing I like the most about this record. This album makes me want to pick up my guitar and go learn a whole bunch of classic blues tunes to make them “new” again. This is the album I suggest that most Aerosmith fans have been wanting for the last 20 years. If you’re a fan, get it! If you’re new to Aerosmith and want to hear what one of the greatest American bands of all times sounds like, get it! And if you’re just a fan of great rockin’ blues, most certainly get it! An album well worth the wait.