Aerosmith was a mess by this point in time. The drug use was out of control and during a show in Portland, Maine, Steven Tyler collapsed on stage. Even if that didn’t make matters worse, Steven was later in a really bad motorcycle accident that left him hospitalized for two months. It was a scary time and they needed a break. One way to do that was for the record label to release a greatest hits compilation which they did and on November 11, 1980, the ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation was released.
The album didn’t do that well as it only charted at #43. However, over the years it grew in popularity and has wound up being one of their biggest selling albums of all times with sales well over 11 million which would certify it as Diamond. Hell, I’ve bought it twice at least.
The track list was short at only 10 songs, but they are 10 great Aerosmith classics. While some songs are straight from the albums they were on, others have been edited. The album also included the Beatles cover of “Come Together” off the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Soundtrack. Now, they have reissued the album with a bunch more tracks, but we are sticking with the original track listing. Now, my version is the CD version of it for some reason as I could’ve sworn I had a vinyl of this, but apparently not.
First up is “Dream On” from their debut album, ‘Aerosmith’. The song is unedited and straight from the album. It was written years before Aerosmith, Steven wrote it on a Steinway Upright piano. Tyler claims that he sung this song in his “real” voice where all the other songs on the album he sang much deeper to get that more soulful blues type voice. The song is driven by a piano and mellotron and that voice. The vocals are magic to this song and those screams he hits will send chills up and down your spine. It is an awe-inspiring track and would make my Top 10 songs of all time if I was to do a list.
“Same Old Song and Dance” is up next and is off the album ‘Get Your Wings’. It is the Single Version which has been edited quite a bit with around 1 minute shaved off the original song. They also changed the lyrics for the line “Gotcha with the cocaine, found with your gun” to “You shady lookin’ loser, you played with my gun.” The song was built off a riff by Joe Perry. The song’s blues vibe was filled with dueling guitars by Perry and Whitford, however, the guitar solo was done by Dick Wagner from Alice Cooper’s Band and he did some work for Kiss as well (uncredited of course). The upbeat song was also filled with a pretty cool horn section full of saxophones, trumpet and a trombone thanks the help of Michael and Randy Brecker, Stan Bronstein and Jon Pearson. Steven Tyler’s vocal delivery was slick and yet gritty and with that blues edge the band is so know to do.
“Sweet Emotion” is from the album “Toys in the Attic” and was edited as well. They chopped off the well known talk box opening which means it opens with the first chorus. The song was the album’s first single would go all the way to #36 just cracking that Top 40. Tyler’s vocals are pristine and no one can deliver a lyric like him. Perry’s guitar playing is on fire just like the pants in the lyrics. Kramer lays down a great rat-tat-tat right before Perry’s solo and his fills throughout are over the top. The band shows a more sophisticated side to their writing and deliver one of my all time favorite Aerosmith tracks. It is a freaking masterpiece. The song is supposedly about Joe Perry’s ex-wife and the riff she caused in the band. I guess she was the Yoko of the band.
Then we get what might be their most popular song ever with “Walk This Way” also off “Toys in the Attic’. This one was edited as well, but only altering the first chorus a little where you sing it once rather than twice. Outside of that I notice nothing else. The opening drum beat is so recognizable on its own, but when you throw in that Perry guitar riff, you are instantly sucked in to a song that takes you on a fantastic journey on a sexcapade adventure (yes, I am making up words for this). I know I keep repeating myself on the bass, but damn, is Hamilton prominent throughout this album and song. All the instruments are so full in the songs that you can’t help but hear each one perfectly. But it is the guitar work of Perry that is the key to this track. Well, that and maybe Tyler’s frantically paced lyrics and his deliver struts through verse after verse and explodes on the chorus to give us one of the coolest songs ever from the band. Now, it would go on to even bigger and bigger strides in the future.
“Last Child” is up next and is from the album “Toys in the Attic”. I believe this is straight from the album with no edits. It starts off slow and then turns it up a notch as well. It includes a lap steel guitar for Perry and a banjo done by Paul Prestopino but don’t think this is a country song. No sir! It has funky groove that seems to strut along with Tyler throwing out the verses very deliberately and timed out perfect with the bass beat. There is a killer solo by Whitford and everyone can be heard perfectly as the mix is done so well.
Also from ‘Toys in the Attic’ is “Back in the Saddle” which is also unedited and straight from the album. This one has a slow build with the drums and guitar and includes a wicked bass line from Mr. Hamilton and then explodes into a heavy rocker. The song includes a whip sound and some clanking spurs that were fastened to Tyler’s boots with the help of New York Dolls frontman David Johansen. If you were expecting the Gene Autry song, “Back in the Saddle Again” you’d be disappointed, but otherwise you love this song that kicks start the album and includes so many double entendres and even a quick yodel. What a way to kick off the album.
From the album ‘Draw the Line’, we get the title track “Draw the Line”. Another unedited song, it sounds so raw and it actually sounds like an old recording and in a good way, not like a bad production way. There is some cool bass work on it by Hamilton, but what is really cool is Whitford and Perry’s guitar work as they seem to be playing off each other. Tyler sounds great on this one, giving it his all and his bluesy vocals fit the old school sound of the song. But the shining moment for Tyler is the screaming verse towards the end…classic Tyler!! The song did okay as a single, but barely missed the Top 40 landing at #42.
Another track from ‘Draw the Line’ is “Kings And Queens” which they did edit out the intro and various other little parts to streamline it a little. The song feels epic, grand and far beyond anything else they have ever done. The bass is extremely heavy, it has a mandolin by Jack Douglas, a banjo by Paul Prestopino, Tyler on piano and the rest of the band all in a world of their own making. Lyrically it seems more like Zeppelin or even early Genesis as they delve in to sorcery, knights and swords and stuff. Tyler gives what might be one of his greatest vocal performances as this song hits the mark on every aspect. It is so out of left field, yet so magical. Pure perfection!
From the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Soundtrack, we get the Beatles cover of “Come Together”. The song was released as a single for that soundtrack and reached all the way to #23 and would make it the last Top 40 hit the band would have for around 10 years. The Aerosmith version doesn’t start out with the “Shoot Me” part of the original, but more of a “Shhhhuuu”. It was heavier on the guitar than on the bass with Joe Perry’s guitar coming in at the beginning rather than being limited in use like the original. It is definitely are more rocked out version than the the slowed down jazz groove from the Beatles. It is a much faster tempo and the song is actually about 23 seconds shorter in length. Steven Tyler has that same aggressive delivery and he has that raspiness in his voice that is suited more for the bluesy feel the band has. They add some backing vocals that Lennon doesn’t have. The biggest change in the lyrics is really small. They added a chorus after the 2nd verse where the Beatles version did 3 verses before the chorus. The band make the song their own.
The Shangri-Las cover of “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” finishes off the album and is from the ‘Night in the Ruts’. It was the only single and I can see why the chose it. It is a mix between the rocking sound Aerosmith brings to the table while still paying homage to the original. Towards the end, Tyler goes nuts on the vocals and is really getting in to it screaming his lungs out and it is fantastic. The song has this strutting vibe to it like a peacock fanning out its tail. I like that about it.
And there you have it. It is a short 10 song set and yet those 10 songs are all incredible as any good greatest hits album should be. The simplicity of it is the beauty of hit. No fancy packaging, just here you go. If you want to small taste of what the band is about, this would do the trick. Also, if you want the song “Come Together” without having to buy that horrid soundtrack, this is what you need. I give the set a simple 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars as it is a perfect 10 song set.