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When Two Worlds Collide...
on 7 November 2012
Aerosmith, generally regarded as America's greatest rock and roll band, certainly hyped the release of Music From Another Dimension! to the max.
They delayed the release of the album, 'leaked' some of the songs, featured a couple on their Global Warming summer tour and issued a couple of singles (including the Aero-typical 'Legendary Child').
The leaked tracks, live previews and singles clearly indicated that MFAD! would be a mix of two Aero-worlds - the raw rock and roll of the 70's and the big production sound of the late 80's and 90's.
All knitted together by Jack Douglas, producer of a number of early Aerosmith albums including the critically acclaimed Toys in the Attic and Rocks.
So when two musical worlds collide, is it a successful combination or a mixed musical bag that falls between two stools?
The answer, as it turns out, is both...
'Luv XXX' is a strong opener, driven by the meaty beats of drummer Joey Kramer.
All the necessary Aero-ingredients are present and accounted for - hooky chorus, Joe Perry riffs and a couple of trademark fast `n' punchy lyrical runs from Steven Tyler.
Interestingly, some sections of the song sound like an edgy Cheap Trick, a band that was surely influenced by Aerosmith in their formative years.
The Tricksters are not the only influence - if you heard a five or ten second burst of `Oh Yeah' on the radio you would swear it was a new Rolling stones number.
It's a good little rock and roll song but on MFAD! the good is sometimes matched by the bad or the predictable...
A better title for `Beautiful' would have been `Discordant,' while `Lover Alot' is throwaway out-take riff and roll.
`Out go the Lights' carries the swagger of old, but the bar-room blues 'n' shuffle outro is over-extended and the song loses impetus.
But there are also some stand-out moments on MFAD!
'Street Jesus' is street level rock and roll that hearkens back to the band's early days and may well be the best song on the album.
'Can't Stop Lovin' You' (featuring American Idol winner and country singer Carrie Underwood) is unashamedly countrified pop-rock and the surprise of the album.
But it wouldn't be an Aerosmith album without the obligatory power ballad and this time around we have two: the pleasant but ballad-by-numbers `What Could Have Been Love' and the far more interesting `We All Fall Down.'
The latter was written by Dianne Warren who also wrote the band's biggest hit 'I Don't Want to Miss a Thing.'
'Freedom Fighter' is a pseudo-political rock number with Joe Perry on vocals.
While it's a punchy little tune Perry is not the greatest singer in the world and the song would have been better served by having Steven Tyler at the microphone.
The bluesy `Something' also features Joe Perry's pipes, but the song has no cutting edge and flounders around Perry's weak vocal.
'Closer' also carries a bluesy edge and is a strong, slow-tempo song that would have made for a great finish to the album.
Unfortunately it's followed by the aforementioned `Something' before the album ends with `Another Last Goodbye,' a simply arranged, bare-bones piano ballad.
Having berated Joe Perry's lead vocal attempts it's a little ironic the album ends with a vocally exposed Steven Tyler, whose voice is simply not geared to giving a song such as `Another Last Goodbye' any vocal gravitas.
It's been eleven years since the last album of all-new material form Aerosmith.
And, with the resurgence in classic rock over the last decade and the Aero hard-core starved of material from their favourite rock and roll band, it's an absolute given this will be a Billboard hit and heralded by the fans as a 5 Star success.
There are aspects of the album where the band is truly Back in the Saddle, but the album suffers from lack of quality control and at 15 songs and nearly 70 minutes long the album is not concise or compact enough.
The good songs get lost in the iPod shuffle.
Aerosmith and Jack Douglas should have taken the "less is more" approach.
Because if band and producer had spent more time on that quality control and delivered a 10 or 11 track album of the strongest material (with re-sequencing and tighter edits), they might have delivered what KISS, America's other greatest rock and roll band, supplied the rock world with one month before them...
a Monster album.