For My Sunday Song #308, we are going back to the beginning with “Mama Kin” off Aerosmith’s debut album simply called ‘Aerosmith’. The song was not a single, but it was the B-Side of “Dream On”. “Mama Kin” is a staple in their live shows and one of the early so called “classic” Aerosmith songs. It is a song that Steven Tyler thought would make them rich and he believed it so much he had the title tattooed on his arm. That is confidence.
The song is about staying in touch with what drives you. According to Tyler, it is the “spiritual force that drives creativity and pleasure.”. Never loose sight of that and let it push you to accomplish everything you dreamed of doing. You could also read it in to it that it is telling you to keep in touch with your roots, where you came from and the family that supported you. Always reach out and drop them a line. Either way is great.
“Mama Kin” has a long intro into the song by Joe Perry with a killer riff and some solid bass lines by Hamilton. There is also a saxophone played throughout the song by David Woodford that really gives it more texture and flavor. The rhythm section on this one is the backbone, but those Perry riffs are also pretty killer. Tyler’s vocals are soulful and yet feel a little sleazy too and full of energy. It is a blast of a song.
It has been years since we have been given any new, unreleased material from Aerosmith. The last studio album was 10 years ago in 2012 and there were two live albums back in 2015, but nothing to light the world on fire. That was until Black Friday Record Store Day on November 26, 2021 when they had a “first release” of a found recording that contains the earliest known recording of the band to exist. The album is called ‘1971: The Road Starts Hear’ which is around 18 months prior to the release of their debut album in January 1973.
The timeframe of the release is sometime during the Fall of 1971 as Brad Whitford was in the band as he was the last cog in the wheel as he joined in August 1971. So, we had Brad as well as Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer and Aerosmith was born in the form we all know and love. However, the whereabouts of where this was actually recorded is in question. There are several possibilities, but no one actually knows for sure. We know it is not an actual concert as there is no crowd noise so thoughts are it is either a soundcheck or a band rehearsal, but whichever it is, it is totally amazing as we get a band that is fairly new, but extremely tight musically and destined to explode on to the world. The thought is it was recorded originally recorded in October 1971, Boston, Mass. on Joe Perry’s Wollensak 3M 1280 2-track tape recorder, but that is as much as we know for sure.
Columbia Records was taking full advantage of the band’s new found popularity on Geffen Records. Even though they lost the band to another label, they still could release Aerosmith material for everything they had rights to and that was quite a bit. They kicked off with two live releases ‘Classics Live!’ and ‘Classics Live! II’ as well as compilation called ‘Gems’. The cool things about those releases is there were no repeats from old live albums or greatest hits collection. It made it enticing for collectors. And this was no different. Released on November 19, 1991, this was a 3 CD compilation full of the bands greatest hits (while under Columbia) with a ton of previously unreleased material. That alone makes this worth getting. There are 31 previously released cuts and 21 unreleased consisting of live, alternative mixes and pure rarities.
I am lucky enough to have the long box version and it really is a box. It contains a book plus 3 CDs all in jewel cases with artwork. If you picked up a later version, the long box was replaced with a cardboard sleeve and the book was shrunk down to CD case size. The set I have is the one you want…in my opinion at least. The box set did real well going to #45 on the Billboard Charts and it was eventually certified Platinum on August 16, 1996. If I’m not mistaken, since the set includes 3 CDs, they only had to sell 333,334 copies to reach the 1 million sold platinum status. Someday, I might go song by song, but for now I am sticking to an overview of each disc and what I like about it each one. So let us get to it.
Back in 1984, Aerosmith left Columbia Records and signed with Geffen. The great thing for Columbia was that despite them leaving the label, the new deal with Geffen still allowed the release material as they still had control of the bands earlier work. They took full advantage of that by releasing ‘Classics Live!’ in 1986 and ‘Classics Live! II’ in 1987. Then the bands new found fame was with the song “Walk This Way” and their smash album ‘Permanent Vacation’, Columbia records didn’t miss another opportunity to capitalize on that success. This time around they went for another greatest hits compilation package called ‘Gems’ which was released on November 15, 1988.
The great thing about this greatest hits compilation is that there are no repeats from the band’s first Greatest Hits album from 1980. Columbia purposefully delivered a much heavier set of songs that were extremely popular with fans even though they might not have all been huge hits. They were “gems”. All but one song on the release are basically the album cuts so no real reason to buy except for one. The album contained the studio version of the song “Chip Away The Stone” which had never been released prior except as a live version on ‘Live! Bootleg’. That gave reason enough for the serious fan to grab hold of this release. It didn’t do that great, only going to #133 on the Billboard Album Chart, but it has since been certified Gold.
The first track, “Rats in the Cellar” (off ‘Rocks’), was Steven’s answer to the hit song “Toys in the Attic”. The song was frantic in pace and was pretty much about the disaster of the band that was going on behind the scenes with the drugs and arguing as well as it being inspired by the death of their drug dealer. The song is a total blast with its maddening quick tempo and then Kramer’s drumming was incredible on this one as well. You get a harmonica solo and a full on jam section. It is the closest thing to heavy metal you are going to get from the band.
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 band had been recording / touring and recording / touring non-stop for years now and it was taking its toll. The drug use was rampant as Tyler and Perry became known as the “Toxic Twins” if that gives you any indication of the toxicity of their drug use and relationship. The record company and management felt the band needed a break so they decided to put out a live album. I believe the record company wanted a clean, studio overdubbed album like every other band was doing at the time, but the band wanted it to sound real and raw.
Luckily for us, the band won out and we got a rough and raw record that was more representative of how the band really sounds live. They even took it a step further and made the album cover look cheap and dirty like a real bootleg album would look. You have coffee rings on the back cover and everything looks stamped and very unprofessional. One great thing about bootlegs are they are usually riddle with mistakes so the band purposely left the song “Draw the Line” off the setlist although it is really after the song “Mother Popcorn”. They were meticulous to make it look like a real bootleg. And to go even further with the bootleg theme, they recorded a couple songs on to a cassette and used that version so you get a slight hiss like a cassette usually has. I love the authenticity they were shooting for on this record.
The band pieced together songs from numerous shows over 1977 and 1978. They also threw in 2 songs from a radio broadcast from 1973 and those songs are obvious as they don’t sound anything like the other tracks and it does disrupt the live feel they established over the rest of the album, but we will get to that later. The album includes the same ol’ crew of Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer but that would soon come to an end…more on that with the next review.