AEROSMITH – Honkin’ On Bobo

AEROSMITH - Honkin' On Bobo


Release date: March 30, 2004

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Normally I wouldn’t spend a whole lot of time reviewing blues music on this site, but after all this is the new Aerosmith album, and quite a few of you might be interested.

I was sixteen when I discovered Aerosmith. That was in 1989, and they had just released the incredible Pump. Before they even thought of making another album I’d bought all their 13 earlier albums and then some. Did I listen to them? Yes, all the time! For a few years Aerosmith was one of my top five favorite bands.

Then Aerosmith released Get A Grip in 1993. Three ballads and eleven fillers. I just couldn’t believe it. The album totally lacked the feel, roots, groove, blues and spirit their early recordings had. ( Even though Pump and Permanent Vacation (87) were slightly moving in this direction, with outside song writers and tendency towards over producing, these two albums still had good songs, and they rocked! ) Get A Grip sounded embarrassingly commercial, and will be remembered, or tried forgotten, for its teenager focused ballad singles / videos.

This went on during the nineties. Ballads, ballads, ballads… Over produced, and all sounding the same. Cancelled European tour dates did not help bringing back my affection.

When they released Just Push Play three years ago there was no hope left. The album was horrible. It sounded like plastic. Then, when I heard Aerosmith’s new album project was about the band going back to their roots, my heart started to pound faster. “What if…?” Then one day Honkin’ On Bobo hit my mail box.

First, this is the first album for fifteen years I respect Aerosmith for making. This time they have NOT been thinking: “What kind of album will sell the most?” There is no reason why this album should sell. When I first heard they planned go back to their roots I really thought they would write and record the songs themselves in the old tradition, just like they did in the 70s. Instead they’ve covered some more or less traditional blues songs.

This could have been a good idea, but they’ve failed to choose tracks they’ve been able to produce and perform with feel. Or maybe they couldn’t have played with the same good old feel, which they once had, to save their lives. It might be too late now. After all these years in the wrong direction they are now seemingly unable to make anything, even traditional blues, sounding real.

Honkin’ On Bobo opens up with “Road Runner” by Mc Daniel. There is a certain punch to their version I’ll give them credit for, but it just doesn’t sound like they are meaning what they are doing… Or, they are trying too hard. The Animals did a much better and joyful version of the song in 1964.

“Baby, Please Don’t Go”, by Big Joe Williams, gets close to some kind of fulfillment of the idea I guess was behind this recording. The guitar style is unmistakably Aerosmith, so they kind of manages to make the song their own, but like many of the other tracks on this album they play it too fast and somewhere along the line they loose the feel of the song. You should rather check out the more charming 1964-version of the song by Them ( featuring Van Morrison ).

Track 5, “Never loved A Woman” by some R. Shannon, has to be the only highlight on this album. Here Steve Tyler finally makes it sound like he means what he is singing, like he used to do on every song prior to the nineties. And, on “Never Loved…” some horns are gently added to the production. Very gently, and this is the album’s first sign of some kind of deeper understanding of the principle less is more.

Even though Steven Tyler fits the frame on “Never Loved A Woman” it’s a relief when the following track, “Back Back Train” is sung by guest singer Hurdy Gurdy with Tracy Bonham on additional vocals. They make the song sound real.

Then it doesn’t last long till Steven Tyler is back in the saddle and you get the album’s only number written by the band themselves. No, by the way, it is of course written by Steven Tyler, guitarist Joe Perry, and an outside composer, this time their long time fellow songwriter M. Fredriksen. Together they’ve created “The Grind” which is …a ballad. It makes me furious! It sounds just like the other crap ballads they’ve written the last 12 years! Precisely the same! They will probably put it out as a single, make a stupid video, and try to fool thirteen year old kids to by this album, kids who’re not old enough to remember the band’s previous ballad.

Well. If there should be anything more good to say about this album, it should be that a piano from time to time is used very successfully. Another, much more important thing, is that Joe Perry and Steven Tyler’s backing band players, Joey Cramer, Brad Whitford and Tom Hamilton, get more room than they’ve had for a long, long time. Blues songs sound like a much more natural element to be in for Aerosmith’s drummer, rhythm guitarist and bass player, who for the last decade have been acting as extras on the band’s recordings.

Well. All together this is another Aerosmith album that makes me weep. It’s so sad, sad, sad, that a band that once made such great, great, great records has been so utterly destroyed by the music industry. Honkin’ On Bobo is an attempt, commercially spoken a very brave attempt, on proving that the band still is connected to their roots. But I’m afraid that Aerosmith has fertilized these roots with artificial nourishment for way too long.

Avoid “Honkin’ On Bobo”. Instead I highly recommend these Aerosmith-recordings from the seventies:
Aerosmith, Get Your Wings, Toys In The Attic, Rocks, Draw The Line.
Look beyond the well known classics like “Walk This Way”, “Dream On”, “Same Old Song And Dance”, “Sweet Emotion” and “Back In The Saddle”. Here are dozens of other gems.


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