Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

February 24, 2011

Aerosmith ~ Honkin' On Bobo

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Style: hard rock, blues-rock, tribute
Label: Columbia
Year: 2004
Home: n/a

Members: Steven Tyler ~ vocals/harmonica/piano
Joe Perry ~ lead guitar/dobro/hurdy gurdy/vocals
Brad Whitford ~ rhythm guitar
Tom Hamilton ~ guitar/bass/b. vocals
Joey Kramer ~ drums/b. vocals

Guests: Tracy Bonham ~ b. vocals
Johnnie Johnson ~ piano
The Memphis Horns ~ horns
Paul Santo ~ piano/organ

I really want to like this album but faced with a situation of Aerosmith fan vs. blues fan. Unlike most people my age (33) I was listening to the blues before rock. The Aerosmith boys followed the same path & this is their heart-felt tribute. No qualms with them wanting to do a tribute to the music they grew up with & maybe it's just my personal view of the blues that is at fault here, but I've always felt that interpretation is the key to making good hard-core blues ... & interpretation doesn't mean just running blues licks ... & I'm not including blues-rock in this discussion. Some might say feeling is also key for the blues, but I've seen a lot of good blues that have really stretched a song to some very unemotional techniques while there's some classic blues musicians of yore who have been more flashy than soulful but we tend to overlook that fact. Aerosmith may be inspired by the blues, but like Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts when he went to form his jazz orchestra in the 1990's, after playing rock for 30 years to suddenly switch techniques can be a hit or miss affair no matter how much of that new style is in the roots of the technique. Aerosmith largely miss. How do they miss? This sounds like the lost follow-up to the overlooked 80's release Done With Mirrors, or a session from the Joe Perry Project. Neither of which are good blues albums but are average Aerosmith albums. Honkin' On Bobo is Aerosmith not expanding their flight path, but just playing like they always do. If the point is just to have fun with some old songs, they do. This album features some of their most loose & relaxed playing with some incredibly diverse arrangements that they've never been able to do & still retain their later day polished overly commericial approach. But, the arrangements also suffer from gluttony when it comes to guitar licks with too many moods in a song & none of them dominating the show-off patchwork that is the result. Though, outside of power ballads Aerosmith always been hit or miss when it came to creating a mood compared to many of their peers. "Shame, Shame, Shame" might be a fun & loose song, particularly for Tyler who has some of the most unrestrictive vocals of his career, but it's not good blues even though it does feature guest piano by legend Johnnie Johnson. Good blues-rock yes, but not blues. & blues-rock is what Aerosmith has always done. Doing a tribute I want to hear the band doing something different or seeing what different types of songs do to their style. If the blues turn Aerosmith into a patchwork quilt I'm disappointed. Further, I don't feel particularly compelled to find out who originally did these songs, nor listen to the blues. If you think Honkin' On Bobo is the blues you're going to find when you dig into John Mayall or Otis Rush or Muddy Waters a complete shock. It's nice that Aerosmith wanted to do a tribute to their roots, though there's other projects that would have been better, while their roots aren't exactly the blues they want you to think as they were formed when rock was already established & this is more the blues a la The Who. If you want a loose non-commercial blues album by a great band this is enjoyable. Though, if the post-80's commericial Aerosmith is your preference over their drugged out 70's output this probably won't work for you, while if you want a better take on the blues than just a sleazy garage rock interpretation this is a disappointment. This is the opposite of bands who put no personality on a song. This band puts too much of their own. There are a few good songs that do stand out. "Baby, Please Don't Go" is a raunchy & moody highlight. If the whole album would have been in this mold Honkin On Bobo, even with it's awkward name, could have set the stage for an Aerosmith revival not seen since Pump or Permanent Vacation. "Back Back Train" & "Stop Messin' Round" both feature vocals by guitarist Joe Perry & are the few truly interpretative bluesy songs on the album that sound nothing like Aerosmith with the former even harkening to Stevie Ray Vaughan in feeling. They make you want to hunt up his solo albums. Perry's laid back singing style works perfect & shows just how much influence a vocalist can have. They are also not heavy on flashy odd guitar solos that hurt the other songs. "The Grind" is the one original song & sounds out of place, let alone demonstrates how commericially safe Aerosmith writes. In comparison it makes Honkin' On Bobo seem like one of the best albums the band has ever made ... in comparison.

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