Something big happened to the band on Valentine’s Day 1984. But at the time, they didn’t realize how big. While the band was playing a show at Boston’s Orpheum Theater, they received two special guests to see the show. It was former band mates Joe Perry and Brad Whitford. When the five original band members got in a room together, the magic started bubbling again. And by June 1984, the original band was reunited and were now out on the road for the Back in the Saddle Tour which would keep them busy until January 1985. One big thing that helped was that Perry was now divorced from his wife who the band and all their wives hated. And she wasn’t a great influence on Joe either. However, the drug problems were not gone.
After the tour, it was time for the big Comeback album. Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer…the boys were back together. They were now on a new label, Geffen, and the incredible producer, Ted Templeman was brought in to be behind the boards. This was supposed to be the album that brought Aerosmith back to the top, however, that didn’t happen.
Templeman was going for a rough and raw sound like the days of old for the band. He wanted to capture that tough, live sounding magic that they had on their earlier albums. He felt that was the sound everyone loved. A trick he used with the band was removing the “red light” in the studio that indicated the band was recording. He did this so the band wouldn’t get all stressed out when the light went. He wanted them loose and relaxed as he felt that would get the best sound. Hell, it worked for Van Halen. The problem was twofold, the band was still doing drugs and Ted was working in a studio he wasn’t familiar with so he never captured the sound he wanted. In fact, the band hates this album for that reason, especially Joey Kramer who thinks his drum sound sucks. And maybe it does. But this was my gateway in to the band. My first Aerosmith album I ever bought and as I result, I kinda like this one.
The album would be released on November 4, 1985 and the sales were slow. So slow in fact that when it finally did hit Gold status, it was 8 years later. The album only went to #36 on the Billboard Charts and single hit the Top 40, but that soon would change in a big way with the next 3 albums. The one thing this album doesn’t have that the next 3 do are outside co-writers. This would be the last album in a while written by the band and I myself like that fact. I like the feel of this album that the band is in the gutter because to me, that sound is where they belong. But the others aren’t that bad either.
One thing I like about it is the packaging. The album is called “Done with Mirrors” which could be a drug reference to sniffing cocaine in the lines of a mirror or it could be the band was taking a look at themselves in the mirror for the first time in a long time….who am I kidding, it is the drug reference for sure. And the packaging did what mirror does, it turned everything backwards. The album title and all the credits and song titles were printed backwards so if you held it up to a mirror, it would read out correctly. It is pretty cool at least I thought so back in 1985.
My copy still has the album sleeve in tact. I even still have the order form where you order merch or even sign up to a be an Aero Force One fan in the band’s own fan club. The album itself still is in wrapped in the cellophane wrapper, but I don’t have any hype stickers so not sure if it had any or I took them off for some reason years ago.
But enough about the packaging, let’s let the music do the talking.
This might be the first album that Aerosmith wrote all the songs and no covers. Oh wait, I’m right and I’m wrong. The band did write every song, however, the first single and song on the album is actually a cover of The Joe Perry Project’s song “Let the Music Do the Talking”. I guess it was a friendly gesture to Joe to say welcome back, we are going to use your song…and make it better!! Now Tyler did change the lyrics and they did tighten the song up shaving a minute off the run time and they did make it a powerhouse rock song packed in a new suit and the suit fit nicely with the band. They increased the tempo and turned this song in to an Aerosmith classic. It is a solid rocker in the style of old-time Aero and a beast of an opening track. It was a statement piece that said, yeah…Aerosmith is back!!! The song is a bluesy rock piece and has some killer slide guitar on it by Perry and Kramer’s drum beat is solid and is the driving force. We aren’t going to talk about the drum sound as I touched on that earlier. Steven’s vocal delivery is quick and on point and he is giving it his all which adds to the brilliance behind this track.
And to not slow things down, they kicked in to the punchy “My Fist Your Face” with its power chords and full of guitar riffs and fills so randomly placed and yet they work. Tyler’s lyrics, while not always understandable, give the song a dirty feel and the grit make it a rough and tumble rocker with a hook that takes you along for the fight. The song even goes as far as referencing their hit “Back in the Saddle” because for them, this was a what they were.
“Shame on You” is up next with it its’ nasty groove that feels like early 70’s rock with a whole Zeppelin vibe going on. Steven name checks Joe Perry who throws in a dirty little riff. Tyler is passionate in his delivery while Joey and Tom keep the groove going strong. As much as I like it, the song does feel like it is trying to go somewhere special, but doesn’t quite get there. Still keep it though.
The final song on Side 1 is “The Reason a Dog”. It is a slow bruiser meaning the tempo is not very fast but it still puts up a fight to try to be greater than it is. It sounds like they have been in a long fight and don’t have much energy left. The chorus is a little more lively, but doesn’t fully connect. I like it, but I could live without as well. It is a mixed bag. Now, I do love the line that “like the reason a dog has so many friends / he wags his tail instead of his tongue”. That is freaking awesome and deep for a band so high on drugs.
“Shela” opens with a barrage of cymbal hits by Joey then a guitar riff and more Joey slamming the drums. The song brought the album back to life. The was another single off the album and hit fair success on the Mainstream Rock Tracks but never went Top 40 nor was a video done. There are two great guitar solos and some jamming at the end that helps elevate the song but pull those out and it is just a so-so track. Thankfully the jamming makes it a keeper. So a better song musically than vocally.
The next track, “Gypsy”, starts off a little bluesy and then jumps in to an uptempo rocker with Steven spouting the lyrics like a machine gun. The song feels like it could’ve been taken from ‘Toys in the Attic’. The energy oozes from the track and gets you moving and sucks you in to the hooky chorus and we finally get a really fun track and more great guitar work at the end which is the cherry on top.
“She’s On Fire” has more slide guitar from Perry and some nasty bass from Tom Hamilton. The song is straight up nasty sounding and I mean that in a good way. Tyler’s vocals are sung with a purpose and there is a tension there that is palatable. Aerosmith can do the blues sound and this one is spot on. The highlight is more Perry than Tyler and there is nothing wrong with that.
We get to the final track on the LP (which I have) called “The Hop”. There is one more song on the CD and cassette called “The Darkness” but I don’t have that on this version so we won’t be talking about that one. “The Hop” starts off with a jazzy drum part and a great riff. It is an uptempo, almost dance track (okay not really, but close). The band sounds like they are having fun with this one and even name drop themselves. Steven whips out his Big Ten Inch…harmonica…and goes to town on it. It might not actually be 10 inches, but you know what I mean.
- Let the Music Do The Talking – Keeper
- My Fist Your Face – Keeper
- Shame on You – Keeper
- The Reason a Dog – Delete
- Shela – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Gypsy Boots – Keeper
- She’s on Fire – Keeper
- The Hop – Keeper
The Track Score is 6.5 out of 8.0 Tracks or 81%. Now, don’t let that score fool you. The album isn’t that good. The quality is a little rough around the edges. The songs aren’t the best thing they’ve done (well, not all of them). I am partial to the album, but I know it isn’t up there with their best stuff. I like the rough and rawness Ted Templeman was shooting for and he captured some of it, but the drum sound isn’t the best and the songs aren’t fully flushed out. Some don’t quite feel like enough time was spent making them better. But we get what we get and I’m not pitching a fit. I will rate it a 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars because it doesn’t speak to me on some level and it was my first!! First I bought, as my brothers had the 70’s albums and I spent a lot of time growing up with Bootleg and Toys. Now, things were about to change for the band and in a very big way…