|Aerosmith - Toys in the Attic|
|Music Disc Reviews SACD|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Tuesday, 30 September 2003|
I have been debating whether, during my youth, I listened to Toys In the Attic more than Dark Side of the Moon. It has to be close, with the edge going to Dark Side, but the influential chops of Joe Perry spoke to me in loud and clear terms as a teen learning to play hard rock guitar in the mid-1980s. 1975’s Toys In The Attic is the definitive old-school Aerosmith album that captures the cocky, blues-based sound of one of the world’s most popular rock bands at their creative best.
While the members of Aerosmith were able to beat world-class drug additions to enjoy major commercial success in the 1980s and again in the 1990s, Toys In The Attic still remains the one Aerosmith album you have to own – assuming you (strangely) would only want to own one.
The SACD of Toys In The Attic has other similarities to Dark Side of the Moon in that the mastering was done by James Guthrie, the same engineer who recently remixed DSOTM into surround, with help from Doug Sax. Unlike DSOTM, Toys In The Attic is not a hybrid disc, and is therefore incapable of playback on a regular CD player.
I focused most of my listening attention on the surround mix. Like Dark Side, Toys In The Attic is an adventurous mix that uses the wide 360-degree audio palate of 5.1 sound to paint music all around your listening room. It is a challenge to keep an aggressive mix tasteful, yet Toys pulls off the feat, starting from the opening title track. On “Toys In The Attic,” you can hear subtleties like frontman Steven Tyler’s vocal trickeries mixed into the rears, which pleasantly adds to the depth of the song. On “Uncle Salty,” one can hear increased depth on the SACD in stereo and especially in surround, in comparison to the CD version.
The album picks up for its three hit songs, starting with the immortal “Walk This Way.” Most noticeable for me on the track is how great the bass sounds. It is round, warm but deep and resolute. Percussion, like the cowbell, is mixed into the rear speakers, giving the track new audio life despite hundreds of thousands of spins on the radio, not to mention at home for Aerosmith fans. Joe Perry’s main riff stands out far more on SACD surround than on CD. It has more detail and life on SACD, giving the attentive listener more audio flavor from guitar and amp, compared to the overall mix. CD’s lower resolution tends to take these fine details and blur them. On this SACD mix, fans can get closer to the inner details of mix.
Of the three hits, I always slighted “Big Ten Inch Record” for not being the same kind of bad-ass rock tune that “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion” are, but on the SACD in surround, “Big Ten Inch Record” might be the most compelling mix on the record. The added horns, piano and other instrumentation allowed the engineers to layer more compelling sounds around the soundstage. The horns sound especially great, more dynamic and resolute than other instruments recorded for other tracks on the album.
The last big hit on Toys In The Attic is “Sweet Emotion,” which right from the start is a fun mix. Percussive effects find their way all over the sound stage as the song builds intensity. The drums are mixed in the fronts and rears, as far as I can tell, adding to the three dimensionality of the track. Like “Walk This Way,” the bass also sounds very good on this track.
If you have an SACD player and love classic rock music, this album is a must for you. The mix is another winner in terms of transforming classic stereo music into surround. Stereo loyalists have an upgraded two-channel mix that is better than the CD to enjoy and us surround sound enthusiasts have all sorts of new ways to enjoy an old favorite of an album. One thing that disappointed me about Toys In The Attic on SACD is the fact it is not a hybrid disc. The album is the kind of record that could attract mainstream consumers to the format, but one that only SACD enthusiasts can buy at present. To say this limits the record’s audience is to understate the problem. Furthermore, with a relatively short 1970s rock album, Columbia should have added a few additional tracks to the SACD mix, like the Run DMC “Walk This Way” cover, perhaps. If there wasn’t room on the disc, the label might have considered adding a bonus DVD-Video disc containing the music video of that song, along with some band footage from the era and/or an interview from 2003 with the band about the record. Consumers demand more for their $16 these days at their record store or online retailer. For audio enthusiasts, this excellent mix and added resolution will be worth the cost of admission, but with an album like Toys In The Attic, the potential to use the album as an introduction to the SACD format has been wasted.