Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Review: Aerosmith, "Honkin' on Bobo"

It's a shame these are cover songs because this is the album that a lot of Aerosmith fans have been waiting on for more than 25 years.

There are no synthesizers, no horn sections and no bows to radio airplay. It's just the five members of Aerosmith (with occasional help from vocalist Tracy Bonham and pianists Paul Santo and Johnnie Johnson) rocking out on some of their favorite blues tunes. The result is a very warm, organic record that recalls the band's best work of the 1970s. And why shouldn't it? Some of the band's hottest songs in the '70s were covers of old blues tunes.

Hearing the band put their stamp on "Shame, Shame, Shame" or Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready" will make you think you're listening to one of Aerosmith's classic albums like "Toys in the Attic" or "Rocks." The songs would certainly fit right in there.

A real surprise on this album are the two Joe Perry sung tunes, "Back Back Train" and "Stop Messin' Around." In the past, Perry songs have been like an afterthought, perhaps throwing a little bone to the guitarist. On this collection, they're two of the best songs. Perry's smooth, smoky voice is a perfect fit with the bluesier numbers.

The only weak spot on the album is, surprisingly, the only new Aerosmith song, "The Grind." It sounds like the same ballad we've heard them do seven or eight times since the early 1990s. But the energetic numbers like Bo Diddley's "Road Runner" and "Baby, Please Don't Go," and the down and dirty numbers like Sonny Boy Williamson's "Eyesight to the Blind" and "Never Loved a Girl," a reworking of Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved a Man," will soon make you forget that one misstep.

This is what Aerosmith should sound like. Here's hoping the Boston bad boys will throw us some new rock 'n' roll in this vein in the near future.

Get "Honkin' on Bobo."

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