Aerosmith - Rock In A Hard Place (1982) Sept 3, 2012 14:07:55 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Sept 3, 2012 14:07:55 GMT -5
Rock In A Hard Place is one of Aersmith's 3 or 4 best albums.
There - I said it, and I meant it. It is a legitimately great album. Deal with it.
Then again, there are a lot of Aerosmith fans who have always felt that way about this album. And why shouldn't they? There are a ton of great songs on Rock In A Hard Place, and the album is better all around than the two studio albums that had preceded it. A lot better. Even the audio production is better than on the two previous albums (and better than the one that would follow).
The problem lies in the fact that both guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford left the band prior to the writing and recording of Rock In A Hard Place. Some Aerosmith fans have a hard time accepting the band without those two guys, and that's understandable as both of them made HUGE contributions to the band's sound. Aerosmith wouldn't have been Aerosmith without them.
But at the same time Rock In A Hard Place wouldn't have been the same with them, and it may not have been as good (as proof just listen to the albums that came before and after this one respectively and you'll hear that on this album Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay really brought some new found energy to the band, as well as a hunger that had been missing from the band since Rocks).
Nowhere is that hunger and energy more present than on the frantic, kinetic, "Jailbait." "Jailbait," is less of a song than it is a force of nature moving at breakneck speed. Riffs, riffs everywhere! Steven Tyler is at his most hyperactive on this song, as is the whole band. All attitude and busy as hell, this is Aerosmith making a statement. This is a fantastic song, and a great way to start off the first (and only) Aerosmith album without Joe Perry and Brad Whitford.
Then the band builds into the powerhouse, "Lightning Strikes." This is classic Aerosmith. Pure Aerosmith, with a musical attitude right in between Toys In The Attic and Rocks. Yep, pure Aerosmith... except for the fact that they didn't write it. A friend of the band members, Richie Supa, wrote this one, and he was clearly channeling Tyler & Perry on this swaggering song. This is one of the ten or so best Aerosmith songs, regardless of who wrote it. Not only does Jimmy Crespo nail the badass attitude of Rocks era Joe Perry, but Joey Kramer lays down one of the most rock solid, somewhat funky beats of his entire career. The drums just propel this thing forward in a rear wheel drive fashion.
Now, to hear some critics of the album, that's where the good stuff pretty much ends. Not so.
"Bitch's Brew," is darned near as good as it's predecessor, and is even more in the Rocks vein than, "Lightning." This IS Classic Aerosmith, just as much as anything from their more beloved 70's albums. The riff in the chorus is nasty, mean, and dark. Tyler's vocals are just dripping with attitude, and the song is all the better for it. Three for three.
And up next is another one of the album's highlights, "Bolivian Ragamuffin." "Ragamuffin," starts out with a riff and rhythm like an out of control freight train (not unlike the fast version of, "Train Kept A Rollin"), before settling into another Rocks-like mid tempo groove that practically bounces along. The verse riff sounds like it came straight out of the Toys In The Attic sessions. Yep, this is just grooving along - up until the solo section where the freight train breaks loose heading downhill again! The post solo secion is sheer Aeroperfection as the song screams down the tracks to the end of the line. Wow. This is great stuff. Four for four.
Then comes one of the more unlikely songs in the entire Aerosmith catalog, and you know what? It works brilliantly. Reworking the classic Jazz/Blues torch song, "Cry Me A River," may have sounded insane to Aerosmith fans prior to the album's release, but the final results show a method to the madness. Tyler, Crespo, and Jack Douglas (and probably Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton) came up with a great arrangement that molds the song into something that could almost be mistaken for an Aerosmith original. Almost. Those results are spectacular. Dynamic, melodic, and moody, this is sheer brilliance. Five for five.
And then we get to what was originally Side 2 and things change. A little.
The side starts out with a prelude, "Prelude To Joanie," which is a bit of a spacey, almost spoken word intro to, "Joanie's Butterfly," which is a nice dynamic piece. It is a subtle shift from the first side, and it shows a more acoustic side of Aerosmith with some Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull influences. It starts all acoustic with acoustic guitars and bongos before crashing into a Zepposmith song. This is a more ambitous track than anything on the first side of the album. It's definitely a good song, but not as immediate as the songs from the first side.
As, "Joanie's Butterfly," fades into, "Rock In A Hard Place (Cheshire Cat)," the subtle stylistic shift shifts back. "Hard Place," is a near boogie, the kind of thing that Aerosmith does extremely well, and this is no exception - they do it very well here. Adding a bit of flavor is some sax provided by John Turi, but as it is a lower register sax it melds well with the guitars enhancing the song and giving it a great musical texture. This is another top notch song.
And then the, "Jig Is Up," as Aerosmith goes back into a slower, mid-tempo near boogie, near shuffle, just bouncing along at their own pace. Adding a bit of flavor and texture here is some nearly clean guitar in the chorus (playing alongside the heavy, crunchy guitar). "Jig," may not quite be as good as the songs from Side 1, but it's so close that any difference doesn't really matter. This is still a winner.
Tyler on harmonica opens up,"Push Comes To Shove," as the band plays a laid back Blues/Rock song with some Honky Tonk flavor. Tyler wrote this one by himself, and it is a departure from the rest of the album (although it's not all that far removed from, "Cry Me A River"). You could almost hear Louis Armstrong singing some of these lines (with Tyler doing his best Louie for much of the song). This isn't a classic, but it is a solid song and a decent way to end the album.
The entire first side/half of the album is filled with five star songs, while the second side/half is filled with four star songs. The same cannot be said for Draw The Line, Night In The Ruts, or Done With Mirrors. Rock In A Hard Place is arguably the last truly great Aerosmith album. At the very least it is certainly the last great Aerosmith Hard Rock album.