Back in 1991, Aerosmith actually signed a new recording contract with their old label Columbia Records. The problem was they hadn’t completed their obligation to Geffen. They had a 6 album deal with Geffen and only 5 albums had been released. There appears to have been a deal that they would release a live album under Geffen, but first they were going to record their first album for Columbia Records un der their deal.
The recordings started in Miami at Criteria Studios with Glen Ballard as producer. He also co-wrote several songs on the album. Desmond Child and Taylor Rhodes both came back to the fold to also co-write songs for the album. Right before rehearsals started, the first signs of trouble reared its ugly head. Joey Kramer was suffering from depression and wasn’t able to play at that time so Steve Ferrone was brought in to hit the skins. As a result, rumors were flying around that the band was in trouble. If that wasn’t enough, when they delivered their album, Columbia was not real happy with what they received. They decided to replace Glen Ballard and brought in Kevin Shirley in to produce and re-work the album.
In September 1996, the band went back to the studio, this time in New York City at the Boneyard. John Kalodner was also brought in to help supervise and the band and due to the delay, Joey Kramer was able to play on the album. They recorded all the songs they had previously done with Ballard so Joey could play on them. Kalodner helped the band reduce their over 20 tracks recorded for the album down to the 13 that were actually released on the album. This also gave them a ton of tracks to use as bonus tracks for the Japanese edition and any other international release. The album saw the light of day finally on March 18, 1997. They released 5 singles, the album went to #1, they won a Grammy and the album sold over 2 million copies. Not as good as their last album, but still pretty damn good.
The artwork for the album caused a lot of controversy in the Hindu community. The original cover had been inspired by a painting in a book by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, featured Lord Krishna (with a cat’s head and female breasts) dancing on the head of the snake demon, Kāliyā. The band had no idea it was offensive and quickly removed it and used a new picture of a cat tied to a circus knife-thrower’s wheel. The booklet for the album was some really cool artwork in and of itself. There are 12 pieces of art and each picture has a picture of the previous page’s artwork building on itself meaning that 12th picture includes all 12 pictures and the first picture includes the 12th so it just keeps going round and round and round. It is pretty cool…maybe the coolest thing about the album (oops did that give the review away a little).
Musically, the album isn’t much different than the prior three albums as you can hear those elements for sure on numerous songs. However, at times it is heavier and way more experimental with some of it working and some of it not. It all starts with a a guitar note and then the wailing of a cat and then they jump in to the title track “Nine Lives” co-written with the great Marti Frederiksen. I believe that cat scream was used on “Rock And a Hard Place (Chesire Cat)” off ‘Rock and a Hard Place’. The song is a ball of energy with Joey pounding on the drums and Tom slamming a bass groove. The guitar work of Brad and Joe is exceptional as every and it is classic Steven on vocals. However, not my favorite opening track of theirs albeit still a good song.
Then we get the cheesy and tongue-in-cheek “Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)” co-written with Glen Ballard who produced the first recording session for the album. It has a little bluesy tinge to it and some well-used horns, but it is nothing new or original and sounds like it could’ve been on any of the previous three albums which is why it made a perfect single and became a hit because the radio world likes the same old song and dance.
“Hole in My Soul” is a ballad co-written with their old pal Desmond Child and he can still help create a great ballad even though in 1997 no one was really doing ballads and having hits except Aerosmith. Steven Tyler’s speaking verses and sung choruses were brilliant and what I loved most about the song. It just worked. The funny thing this could’ve been on any of their albums and this time it doesn’t bother me at all because I feel it is such a strong song.
Then the band goes all experimental with “Taste of India” which is another Ballard co-write. This is one example of experimenting and it working better than expected. With “India” in the title you would expect the song to have that Indian feel and it does with some excellent playing of the sarangi by Ramesh Mishra. It also feels very 60’s with a hole psychedelic vibe to it which I love. Joe and Brad whip out their Stratocasters for this one and really shine adding some great textures. Kramer’s drum sound is immense and Hamilton’s bass groove lays the foundation. Tyler’s vocals blend well with the sarangi and it is all just a little magical. It sounds like nothing else they’ve done and amen to that fact.
Then we get “Full Circle” which has a country-vibe to it and leaves you thinking WTF! It is slowed down a little tempo wise and sounds like something you sing in a bar or on New Year’s Eve as it has this “Auld Lang Syne” feel to it which isn’t necessarily a good thing. It is co-written by Taylor Rhodes which is his only co-write on the album.
“Somethings Gotta Give” picks the energy back up. Another Marti Frederiksen co-write and you begin to see why people want him on their albums. This one is a balls-to-wall rocker. It’s blues influences are immense as it has some massive harmonica solo pieces from Tyler that are some of the best he has ever done. It is smokin’ hot!!
Desmond’s back with another ballad called “Ain’t That a Bitch”. It has a very dramatic opening with some movie-style horns and then explodes in to a blues-filled groove that sees Tyler screaming in that classic style. I don’t think it is as good as the previous ballad because it really is borderline a ballad, but either way still not a bad track.
The next track, “The Farm”, has co-writes by Steve Dudas and Mark Hudson along with Perry & Tyler as usual. This is another experimental track that opens with Steven doing his best Dorothy and Wizard of Oz impression (which sucks) then he screams in classic style and the song kicks in. It is rocker and has so many cool elements and then some that leave me cold. Cut out the movie-type dialogue and it improves the song a ton but drowns a little under the weight of those stupid pieces. It’s use of horns helps make it a little more dramatic and impactful but not sure it is enough.
“Crash” comes out of you like a bat out of hell. It has punk’s breakneck speed and careless attitude. Tyler is up for the challenge and goes toe-to-toe with Kramer pounding drums and Perry’s speedy ass guitar playing. It will appease the rockers in the audience. Co-written by Mark Hudson and Dominic Miller.
Now we are getting to where the album gets a little tiresome. “Kiss Your Past Good-bye” which is another Hudson co-write. The chorus comes out of no-where and is very hooky or memorable. The verses are dull and seems like filler…enough said.
The big exception to the tiresome part is the classic song “Pink” co-written by their pal Richard Supa. It is a blues-filled masterpiece with Tyler strutting through the lyrics. It has a little something for everyone and will appeal to a lot of people. I like the groove and the pacing as it shows a confidence of a band that has been doing this for awhile.
“Attitude Adjustment” is our last Marti co-write. By this time we are pretty tired as there are way too many songs. I am a little bored with it as it is missing a little something extra to put it over the top. More filler for me. Next…
Talk about bloated, “Fallen Angels” is over 8 minutes long. Whew. Co-written with Supa, the song has a dramatic opening with a whole lot of sounds going on and Tyler making some strange noises. It is a slower tempo and I guess you could say a ballad, but for me it is too long and a little boring in that there is nothing I haven’t heard before. It is uninspiring and I am too tired to care anymore at this point.
- Nine Lives – Keeper
- Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees) – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Hole in My Soul – Keeper
- Taste of India – Keeper
- Full Circle – Delete
- Something’s Gotta Give – Keeper
- Ain’t That A Bitch – Keeper
- The Farm – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Crash – Keeper
- Kiss Your Past Good-bye – Delete
- Pink – Keeper
- Attitude Adjustment – Delete
- Fallen Angels – Delete
The Track Score is 8 out of 13 or 61%. Way too many songs. This album is so over-bloated and just because your CD can hold 62 minutes doesn’t mean it should and this is a prime example. The whole production process was a mess with 2 different producers and 2 totally separate recording processes was not what they needed. It is unfocused at times and all over the place at others. While it does have some great moments, I won’t deny that, I am still lukewarm on the whole thing. The first half is way stronger than the second and a couple songs on here I would call some of their best, but in the end it isn’t their best work. My Overall Score is a 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars as it still is a good album even if it has too many songs and some of those way too long. Cut this down to 9-10 songs and this is a totally different conversation.
UP NEXT: ‘A LITTLE SOUTH OF SANITY’ (1998)
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)