US band AEROSMITH are among the household names of the music business, with a career that started 48 years ago at the time of writing. “Rock in a Hard Place” is their seventh studio album, and was released through Columbia Records in 1982.
The reason why I’m writing this review is a Facebook group that was started this year, where the purpose is to (re)visit classic albums and albums made by classic bands. Which isn’t always the same thing. As a reviewer, it is a welcome diversion to hit those albums from yesteryear from time to time, and try to regard them in the same manner as I would approach any album by any new artist out there.
This particular album by Aerosmith is a contested one, or perhaps a divisive one would be a better description. This, among other reasons, due to some critical line-up issues. For my sake this doesn’t impact me all that much. Aerosmith isn’t a band I have any close attachment to, and due to that I am able to form opinions on this album that isn’t clouded by memories, being a fan of this band or any of their albums.
For my sake, this album struck me as quite the disappointment. There are many fine details throughout, true enough, with some killer guitar details and a steady rhythm department that deliver the goods on most tracks. Other details disappoint however, especially a fair few tracks that for me at least come across as duds. Opening cut Jailbait being one of these. Pace-filled and energetic, but also chaotic and rambling. But the best example for me is the concluding cut Push Comes to Shove, a bog standard Americana cut that due to one additional detail becomes rather atrocious.
That additional detail, which is a detrimental feature throughout, are the lead vocals of Steven Tyler. He comes across as having been in quite a few different states as the songs on this album was recorded. Hung over, drunk, dead drunk and high as quite a few kites being some of them. At best, he sounds like the late Alex Harvey, on one of his bad days. At worst he is off pitch and off key, and with a rather chaotic approach to the art of singing. In addition he generally sounds tired and drained pretty much throughout.
Some of the songs does come across as worthwhile, despite this. For my sake, the in my view slightly Zeppelinesque Bolivian Ragamuffin is quite clearly among those. And while not all that inventive, Rock in a Hard Place (Cheshire Cat) is another cut that for me stands a bit above the rest, perhaps mainly because the vocals aren’t quite as detrimental here as elsewhere.
In my view, “Rock in a Hard Place” isn’t a very good album as it is. I can hear that many of the songs have a much greater potential than they have in the versions on this album, and in my view this is an album that probably would benefit from being remade, if the band ever should get the desire to do so. As it is, this is a production that strikes me as one mainly for the fans, for completionists, and for those who enjoy late 70’s hard rock without taking too much notice of the quality of the lead vocals.
My rating: 58/100
Jailbait // Lightning Strikes // Bitch’s Brew // Bolivian Ragamuffin // Cry Me a River // Prelude to Joanie // Joanie’s Butterfly // Rock in a Hard Place (Cheshire Cat) // Jig Is Up // Push Comes to Shove