By the time the 80’s hit, Aerosmith was a mess. Joe Perry was out of the band and Steven’s drug use was way out of control. During the Fall of 1980, Steven was in a horrendous motorcycle accident which put him out of commission for months upon months. When the band finally went back in to the recording studio, things weren’t any better. After recording the first song and single, “Lightning Strikes”, Brad Whitford was done as well. He picked up his toys from the attic and walked away.
Was the band near the end? Probably pretty close. But there was an old friend that came back in to the mix. Famed producer, Jack Douglas, was back to produce the album. Jack had done all the band’s big albums and they really needed a friendly face to help them navigate this mess.
So who was still in the band? You have Steven Tyler, Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton of course. Then Jimmy Crespo was still around after replacing Joe Perry and the newest member was guitarist Rick Dufay. However, he was brought in after the album was done and didn’t actually play on it although he was credited. The album is also notable for its price tag. Because of how long it took to record (1981-1982), the cost of the album was immense at around $1.5 million. That was an unheard of price tag in those days.
The band still sounds like Aerosmith thanks to our good pal Steven Tyler, but reality was different. This album is a mess at times, Steven’s vocals are a little strained and it feels a little disjointed. However, there are some shining moments and some rawness and grit to this album that make it standout even if in only a few gems that are hidden amongst the muck. The album title really seems to fit as the band was in a very hard place with all that was going on and in the inner demons they were fighting, but in the end they brought the Rock!!
No special version of the album here. I do love the fact I still have the inner sleeve that list some credits on one side and all the albums they’ve released on the other with the exception of the Greatest Hits album. Everything is in great shape and I would say is good to very good condition…it certainly ain’t near mint. I think I have rambled enough so let us get to the music and let it do the talking!! Wait…that’s another album. How about…let’s see what is Brewing in this Bitch!! Better!!
“Jailbait” kicks things off and it is wild and frenzied and one hot beautiful mess. Some killer riffage by Crespo and some great drumming and bass from Kramer and Hamilton, respectively. This feels like Aerosmith as it still has that 70’s rock sound and Steven really is in the groove with this one as it is all classic Aerosmith sounding. A killer opening track.
Next up is one of the best Aerosmith songs of all time…Sorry…but it is…get over it!! “Lightning Strikes” has this slow build up that explodes in to this rough and tumble, balling and brawling masterpiece. The song is heavy, it is tough, it is mean and it is fan”freaking”tastic! It actually starts off with some keyboard before Joey slams down some drum beats then the guitar slowly build in with more Joey fills. Steven sounds like he is ready to rumble which makes sense it is about gang fighting if I’m not mistaken. It even ends with some Thunder rolling in. This was the only song Brad Whitford appeared and it was as rhythm guitar since Crespo did the solo . The first real music video the band had ever did was for this song. I remember seeing it on MTV and loved the song so much!!
The song bleeds effortlessly in to “Bitch’s Brew” which is a slower rocker with a killer groove and I swear there is a little Ace Frehley in that guitar riff, but maybe I’m hearing things. Percussion-wise there is so much going on during that instrumental break right that your ears are overloaded with excitement. Steven then immediately does a little Bob Dylan impersonation before the song kicks back in and rocks you the rest of the way. An interesting arrangement and I like it!!
“Bolivian Ragamuffin” takes Aerosmith back to their blues roots and sees Crespo do some slide guitar work. It sounds like we are back in to early Aerosmith and one of the few songs on here that reminds me this still Aerosmith and they are still kicking it and ready to rock! Plus, the name…gotta love the song title. What is a Bolivian Ragamuffin anyway?
Next is a cover of of Arthur Hamilton’s “Cry Me A River” not to be confused with Justin Timberlake’s song. This song starts of slow and Steven is singing in a quiet bluesy tone. It has some great guitar work by Crespo. What starts out as a lounge singer act turns in to a rocker by the end. Aerosmith take this Jazz number and turn in to a bluesy rocker. I’m not sure I like it entirely, but it has its moments.
Side 2 opens with the incredible strange “Prelude to Joanie”. It has some synthesizer sounding, robot vocals and atmospheric tone. It might be the most bizarre thing they have ever done, but it really isn’t a song as much as a long introduction to the song “Joanie’s Butterly” which starts off as an acoustic number with John Lievano on guitar. There are some Mid-Eastern sonics to it which make for an interesting listen. The song then stops and becomes a rocker. There are some great percussive moments in the song as well. Towards the end we even get some violins. This might the most experimental I believe Aerosmith has ever gotten. Does it work? I’m can’t say for sure, but it certainly is interesting.
“Rock in a Hard Place (Cheshire Cat)” comes fading in and has some great harmonica playing by Steven and on bass, Hamilton is tearing it up and might be his highlight on the album. The song is a bit jazzy, a bit rocker, a bit bluesy and a bit so-so at times. Not my favorite on the album, but not the worst thing they’ve done either. The best thing about it is the screaming cat.
“Jig Is Up” sounds like it was taken from an early Aerosmith album. It is a simple rocker that outside of the guitar solo really just plods along and goes nowhere. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. It is not one I will come back to over and over again like it is the best deep cut ever.
The album ends with “Push Comes to Shove” which opens with Steven singing at a level I think only dogs can understand. Then he goes back to his normal vocals and sings this one in a blues, almost spoken delivery. At times he goes back to that screeching that the dogs will enjoy. The song references “Toys in the Attic” and overall is somewhat interesting, but it does leave me scratching my head a little.
- Jailbait – Keeper
- Lightning Strikes – Keeper
- Bitch’s Brew – Keeper
- Bolivian Ragamuffin – Keeper
- Cry Me A River – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Prelude to Joanie – (Interlude)
- Joanie’s Butterfly – Keeper
- Rock in a Hard Place (Cheshire Cat) – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Jig is Up – Delete
- Push Comes to Shove – Keeper (1/2 Point)
The Track Score is 6.5 out of 9 Tracks or 72%. I don’t count the “Prelude to Joanie” is it is more an interlude and not a full-fledge song. I have to say the first half of the album is way better than the second half. The first three tracks might be one of their best opening salvo of songs and it really gets you in to it. But by the back half, you feel the band had run out of steam and were not up to their best as I am sure the drugs were not helping. I think I like this more than some people, but I do see why it usually winds up out of the band’s Top 10 albums. They experimented a lot and not all was successful, but what did work is worth a listen. And like I said, “Lightning Strikes” is one of their best songs ever, thank you very much!! My Overall Score is only a 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars. I think it just missed being something great. But Aerosmith will get their groove back soon enough.
UP NEXT: DONE WITH MIRRORS’ (1985)
THE AEROSMITH COLLECTION SERIES:
- ‘Aerosmith’ (1973)
- ‘Get Your Wings’ (1974)
- ‘Toys in the Attic’ (1975)
- ‘Rocks’ (1976)
- ‘Draw the Line’ (1977)
- ‘Live! Bootleg’ (1978)
- ‘Night in the Ruts’ (1979)
- ‘Greatest Hits’ (1980)
- ‘Rock in a Hard Place’ (1982)
- ‘Done With Mirrors’ (1985)
- Run DMC – “Walk This Way” 12″ Single (1986)
- ‘Classics Live!’ (1986)
- ‘Classics Live! II’ (1987)
- ‘Permanent Vacation’ (1987)
- “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” (1987) – 7″ Single & 12″ Maxi-Single (Bonus Edition)
- “Angel” (1988) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
- “Rag Doll” (1988) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
- ‘Gems’ (1988)
- ‘Pump’ (1989)
- ‘Pandora’s Box’ (1991)
- ‘Get a Grip’ (1993)
- ‘Nine Lives’ (1997)
- ‘A Little South of Sanity’ (1998)
- ‘Just Push Play’ (2001)
- ‘Honkin on Bobo’ (2004)
- ‘Rockin’ The Joint (2005)
- ‘Music From Another Dimension’ (2012)
- ‘1971: The Road Starts Hear’ (2021)
- The Albums Ranked Worst To First