Back in 1984, Aerosmith reunited with Brad Whitford and Joe Perry and went out on tour to celebrate the reunion. That tour was the Back in the Saddle Tour. The band had been on Columbia Records, but jumped ship and signed with Geffen Records in hopes of getting back in the good graces of the buying public. They planned out and released their comeback album ‘Done With Mirrors’ with little fanfare at least that was until they were on the Run DMC cover of their song “Walk This Way”. That combination of Hip Hop and Rock joining together and being celebrated so much on MTV brought them back in to the limelight.
This new found fame was great for Columbia Records because the bands new deal with Geffen still allowed Columbia to release material they owned of the band, which was a lot. Columbia took full advantage of this opportunity and the first release was a live compilation called ‘Classics Live’ in April 1986. The songs were collected from live shows ranging from 1978 up to 1984 and there was a bonus track any Aerosmith had to have, an unreleased studio track.
Four of the tracks on here come from the February 14, 1984 show at the Orpheum in Boston, Massachusetts. This was a very important show for the band because in the audience was Joe Perry and Brad Whitford who were no loner in the band at this time. Of course, this mean Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay were on guitar. But that wasn’t the important thing about this show. This was the very beginning of the original band getting back together and would start the band’s climb back to stardom.
The album kicks off with “Train Kept-A-Rollin'” from the Orpheum show. It is a ballbuster opening track full of energy and some great guitar playing by Crespo and Dufay. Steven Tyler sounds really great and the crowd was singing right along. The album goes next in to the classic song “Kings And Queens” which was recorded on March 28, 1978 at the Boston Music Hall. This song was sorely missed on ‘Live Bootleg’ as it is one of the band’s most epic tracks. They seamlessly edited this with the previous track to make it feel like a continuation show which is great as it does just that. I find Joey Kramer’s drums on this sound great. The band sounds little rawer then the previous track, but with live, raw is good!!
Next up are two of Aerosmith’s biggest songs ever with “Sweet Emotion” and “Dream On”. “Sweet Emotion” is from Huntington Civic Center in Huntington, WV recorded on Dec 12, 1982 which means more Crespo and Dufay on guitar. You already know it is a great track and hearing it live confirms it still. The band chugs through it Tyler gives it his all and the guitar solo is nuts with Steven briefly talking over it at times. Great live performance. Then we get “Dream On” from the Capital Center in Largo, MD on November 8, 1978. This is the first song on the album that Steven sounds a little messed up. He isn’t hitting the notes and seems a little out of it. However, musically the song is killer and in the end still not half bad even with Steven not quite pulling off that scream at the end.
The next three tracks are all from the Orpheum show. First up is “Mama Kin” which is an early Aerosmith classic for sure. The band is on point and tears through it with ease. Then we get two songs that did not appear on ‘Live! Bootleg’ which is a treat. First up is “Three Mile Smile/Reefer Head Woman” and what tasty morsel this one is. It is nice to get some deeper cuts even especially these two bits of songs. “Reefer Head Woman” is a cover of Jazz Gillum’s song. The two are right next to each other on ‘A Night in the Ruts’ and played live back to back is just as cool. The band tears it up on this and Crespo and Dufay’s guitar work is some the best on the release. Lastly on the live songs we get “Lord of the Thighs” and this one rocks on for over 7 minutes with an amazing jam session and that is why we love live albums. Those jam sessions gives us a fuller glimpse in to the playing of the artist.
The final track on the release is a studio track. The song is “Major Barbra” which was an outtake from the studio release of ‘Get Your Wings’ from 1974. You later get an alternate take of it on Pandora’s Box. It is easy to see why it was left off the album is it doesn’t fit the tone or vibes of that album. It is actually a pretty weak track as far as Aerosmith songs go, but as a fan, we tend to like to hear everything and cool to get a previously unreleased track. It doesn’t feel finished and meanders a long a little. It is on the bluesy side with a slower tempo and has some of Perry’s slide guitar on it.
All in all this is a complete money grab from Columbia who no longer had Aerosmith on their label…so you can’t really blame them. It is nice to get a few songs that are not on ‘Live! Bootleg’ and a studio track, but honestly it isn’t near as good as that album either. There are some cool moments and the sound is really good as well so the Overall Score is a 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars. They did good on blending the songs together as if one show, but the different players and years let you know it isn’t the same tour as well. But that distraction is minimal. All I know is I do like and will pull it out again especially when I’m on a live kick with Aerosmith.