In 1979 Aerosmith released their sixth Studio album ‘Night
In The Ruts’. The recording of the album had not run smoothly to say the
least, in fact lead singer Steve Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry could not
be left in the same room for fear of an instant fight starting up. The result
was that Perry left the band halfway through recordings and Jimmy Crespo was
brought in on suggestion of Aerosmith producer Jack Douglas to complete the
The results were patchy, although when the album was
released to the public no mention was made of Perry not having completed the
recordings, nor was Crespo given any credits. (So the album still went into the
charts on advance sales alone such was the popularity of Aerosmith at the
It was not until the band actually went out onto the road
that Crespo’s position in the band was announced along with Joe Perry’s new
solo career with his new band Joe Perry’s Project. The resulting concerts
from the new look Aerosmith were often disastrous mainly due to the bands
excesses. Steve Tyler was often so out of it that he could not finish the set,
the rest of the band, old and new members, were not exactly helping matters
At the end of the tour second guitarist Brad Whitford left
the band to go off and form a new band with ex-Ted Nugent guitarist/vocalist
Derek St. Holmes (one self titled album in 1981 - not bad either). Now to lose
one guitarist is unfortunate, to lose two is downright careless.
Aerosmith fell into disarray, all of the band members were
nearly broke through their own indulgences, even though all six previous albums
had gone platinum and they could sell out any stadium in the United States of
With more of an eye on the finances than musical endeavour,
Jack Douglas herded together what he could find of the remaining members of
Aerosmith, added second guitarist Ritchie Dufay as a replacement for Brad
Whitford, and put them back in the studio. Although the sessions were never
easy, the combination of Tyler’s natural talent, the rock solid rhythm
section of Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer, plus the unbridled enthusiasm of the
two new axe slingers, they managed to come up with a pretty fine cocktail of a
rock ‘n’ roll album.
It is noticeable that Jimmy Crespo takes at least partial
song writing credits for six of the ten songs. Jimmy Crespo’s style of lead
guitar work is also a million miles from that of Joe Perry’s. There are two
covers (the old chestnut ‘Cry Me A River’ plus a song from Ritchie Supa
‘Lightning Strikes’, written when he was trying out himself for the band.)
But it is still a fine edition to any record collection. Is it an Aerosmith
album without Perry and Whitford on it? (Is ‘Banana’s’ a Deep Purple
album without Blackmore or Lord?) Well, it says Aerosmith on the cover.
The album gets off to a rocking start with “Jailbait”, a
really raunchy rocker with a great hook by Jimmy Crespo’s guitar that rocks
you to your very boots.
This is immediately followed up by a typical one-two of
another assault on your rock ‘n’ roll senses with the belting
‘’Lightning Strikes’’. Now if this song had been included on any
Aerosmith album but this one it would be acclaimed as an all time Aerosmith
classic - a real scorching rocker that should have given this version of
Aerosmith a huge hit single.
This is followed by two Aerosmithish (sic) chunks of
Funk/Rock ‘’Bitches Brew” and the wonderful “Bolivian Ragamuffin’’.
There is then a wonderfully over the top cover of “Cry Me A River” - Steve
Tyler throws so much pathos into this, he probably attempted to throw himself
down the river afterwards. Jimmy Crespo must have nearly broken his back trying
to reach some of those notes. I bet when the original band got back together
this song was never discussed to be put in the set list.
“Prelude to Joanie” is a nice tilt into the centrepiece
of the album. On “Joanie’s Butterfly’’, the whole band gels beautifully
on this song and it is amazing to think they had to be coerced into getting
back in the studio. Title track “Rock In a Hard Place (Cheshire Cat)” is a
good solid stadium rocker which if the band could have collectively stood up at
the same time would have had them stomping in the aisles in live concert. The
album starts with a bang with it’s first two songs, but I’m afraid goes out
with a bit of a whimper on the last two studio cuts here: “Jig Is Up” and
“Push Comes to Shove”. The best thing that can be said about these two is,
nice titles boys, but a bit too much Aerosmith by numbers.
“Rock In A Hard Place” was the first Aerosmith album not
to go Platinum and the only Aerosmith album never to get into the American
Billboard Top 30. But it should not be summarily dismissed as it does have its
moments, certainly standing up better today than its predecessor’s “Night
In The Ruts”.
In 1985 sensed prevailed and the original members of
Aerosmith got back together, collectively cleaned up their act (even alcohol
and cigarettes are not allowed back stage at an Aerosmith concert these days),
and went on to reclaim their place at the top of the International Rock ‘n’
Not without several hitches along the way though. Their
first reunited album “Done With Mirrors” (1985) was not a success, either,
only briefly flirting with the charts and to this day has never gone platinum,
which makes it a failure in the high expectations world of Aerosmith.
It took a collaboration with Rap masters Run D.M.C. on the
Aerosmith penned “Walk This Way” (1986) to get them back in the charts,
before the hits started to flow from the second reunited album “Permanent
Vacation”, after which Aerosmith more or less went on to become a permanent
fixture on MTV.
Today Aerosmith is still at the very top of the tree, going
into their later years with grace and dignity, which is very surprising as at
the beginning of the Eighties no one would have given much chance of any of
them being alive by the turn of the Century.
In 2004 Aerosmith released an album of blues covers,
“Honking On Bobo”, which topped the album charts worldwide, and they toured
American stadiums on the back of this. 2005 was designated as a year off,
during which time Joe Perry did his first solo album for twenty years, “Joe
Perry’’, which Rolling Stone Magazine has called the ultimate guitarist
album. But expect Aerosmith to re-group in 2006 and hit back hard.