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Aerosmith – Aerosmith (Record Store Day 2013 Vinyl) Review

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Aerosmith – Aerosmith (Record Store Day 2013 Vinyl) Review

Prior to Get Your Wings, Aerosmith released their self-titled debut that saw Steven Tyler approach the song line-up with a faux blues vocal style. This style is extremely subjective and while Tyler would return to his normal singing voice for the 1974 follow-up, Get Your Wings, I must say that I enjoyed his vocal style on the debut. In-fact, I have always liked Tyler’s vocals regardless of tonal shifts. Needless to say that this album remains a very unique element in Aerosmith’s history.

With hits such as Dream On, Mama Kin, and Make It, Aerosmith was destined for success, albeit moderate success for this debut album. That said, Dream On is arguably in everyone’s top 100 songs of all time list. Dream On is an Aerosmith staple like Janie’s Got A Gun, Love In An Elevator, and Livin’ On The Edge. It has been covered countless times and performed live by the band on almost every tour and live album. It is a power ballad to end all power ballads. Actually, it would also be one of the very first power ballads. When I look at rock and roll bands, I tend think of the power ballad as being an 80s phenomenon. That said, I’m reminded of Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven, Skynyrd's Free Bird, and Love Hurts by Nazareth. All exceptional bands with ballads recorded and released well before the 80s. Okay, it has to be said, they just don’t make music like that anymore.

The first time I heard Dream On was in the mid-90s when Aerosmith re-released Sweet Emotion as a single in 1994. The single of course featured Sweet Emotion and Dream On, along with Draw The Line and Walk This Way. You really couldn’t ask for a better collection of tracks to showcase Aerosmith in the 70s.

I currently have two copies of the self-titled Aerosmith album. One is the 1993 remastered CD by mastering engineer Vic Anesini, while the other is the Record Store Day 2013 vinyl remaster by mastering engineer Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. Without a doubt, I prefer the 2013 remaster. While the ’93 mastering isn’t bad, it just sounds a little too robotic (digital) for my liking. Yes, I’m sure you’re reading this and saying, but Mark this was digitally remastered. While that is true, there is no reason that the soul, present on the original tape, can not be replicated adequately on the CD. I’ve heard many CDs that simply sound amazing, regardless of digital processing, so it is not a factor of the format. I have also played the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition, which is also the ’93 remaster, and it is understandably identical in dynamics to the aforementioned CD. I guess, in this case as in so many others, it comes down to subjective opinion and mine is that Aerosmith’s debut album is best heard on vinyl, followed by CD/TIDAL Hi-Fi. Whatever you do, don’t touch the HD Tracks version as it has an average dynamic range of 09, whereas the vinyl is 12 and the CD/TIDAL Hi-Fi version is 11 out of 20.

I should also note my vinyl edition of Aerosmith is numbered. I have is number 1978 of 5000. Oh, if only it would have been number 1973, I would have been in Aerosmith heaven. Although, given the impressive quality of the pressing, I think I’m already there as there isn’t a bad song on the album. While the numbered pressings are increasingly hard to come by, standard editions have been re-issued with the same exceptional sound.

Aerosmith were always destined to Make It, and this song is raw to the bone with enough guitar twang to last a lifetime. It isn’t my favourite song on the album, but it is certainly an excellent introduction of things to come.

Somebody continues the twang that reminds me of a country song with a rock influence. Maybe rockabilly is a more appropriate genre for this track. Either way, it is an enjoyable song and the first time we hear the Aerosmith trademark cowbell. While Aerosmith doesn’t overuse the cow bell in this song, or in their other songs that feature it, it matches their music style perfectly. It is like when Steven Tyler uses the harmonica. Pure brilliance!

Dream On. It doesn’t get any better than this, yet it didn’t chart well upon the initial release. Despite that, it is perhaps one of the best rock ballads ever written and has been covered and sampled extensively. Speaking of interpretations, you have to check out the incredible performance Aerosmith (Tyler and Perry only) did with the Southern California Children’s Chorus that was performed as part of the Boston Marathon Bombing Tribute. It is an incredibly haunting semi-acoustic edition of the song. You can also listen to this edition of the song on TIDAL Hi-Fi, or watch the performance below.  

One Way Street introduces that trademark harmonica. Simply awesome! The song has a great foot tapping beat and Tyler’s faux vocals crack like an adolescent schoolboy. It certainly has some very special elements that make it enjoyable to listen to.

Mama Kin kicks the album up a notch with a killer guitar riff. It is blues rock and roll at its best. I’ve always enjoyed this song and have felt the urge to sing-a-long and play my famous air guitar. The temporary pauses throughout the song are perfectly placed and add to the overall pace of the song, without slowing it down.

Write Me is a solid rock and roll song. Nothing to write home about, but as with all the songs on this album, they complement each other perfectly.

Movin’ Out starts off with yet another Perry classic guitar riff that sets the tone for the song. It is one of my favourite tracks on the album with a chorus that belongs in rock and roll heaven. That said, you can tell the band is still finding their sound on this track. I’d love to have them re-record this song to see what they could do with it, given their lifetime of knowledge. It reminds me somewhat of a demo tape release, but an exceptional one!

Walkin’ The Dog is an awesome bluesy rock and roll tune. The introduction may confuse you a little with the use of the Wood Flute, but stick with the song as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. The song ends the album like all good final tracks should, with me wanting to put the record on again.

Aerosmith’s debut album is a must own for any Aerosmith fan, but if you’re interested in blues inspired rock and roll, from the late 60s and early to mid-70s period, then you are going to love this album. 

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Aerosmith – Get Your Wings (Record Store Day 2013 Vinyl)

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Aerosmith – Get Your Wings (Record Store Day 2013 Vinyl)

Get Your Wings was Aerosmith’s second album and it took the rawness of their self titled debut album and polished the edges. Gone are Steven Tyler’s faux vocals, in favour of his natural voice. While I didn’t dislike his style on Aerosmith’s debut, I certainly appreciate his lyrical style on Get Your Wings as it helped create the band’s unique sound.

Perhaps this sound can be somewhat attributed to the influence Jack Douglas brought to the band in his role as producer. Douglas would go on to produce Aerosmith throughout most of the 70s, only being removed by Columbia Records when it came time to record Night In The Ruts. The collaboration of Douglas and Aerosmith was nothing short of successful, despite sales in later years indicating different results. For a moment, let’s be honest, sales don’t depict quality. Yes, it provides success and the ability to go on to do greater things, but music needs to be seen as something more than a popularity contest. It’s about art, emotion, and it is subjective. I often reflect on jazz, especially live performances, and ponder if that style of music is the purity of subjectivity, emotion, and art. After all, much of it improvised and unless you’re an artist that can bridge traditional jazz with a mainstream audience, sales are going to be low while the quality of the creativity is high. That said, it is my belief that the producer should always be chosen by the artist, not the record label. Yes, the record label is funding the album, in the traditional sense, but there are many cases where artists, when forced to work with a certain producer, will release substandard work because the process is no longer organic, but contrived.  

I have two editions of Get Your Wings. The first is the 1993 CD [cat no: CK 57361] that was remastered by Vic Anesini. The mastering is treated respectfully and as it was done prior to the ‘loudness wars’ the dynamic range is in the vicinity of 12 out of 20. TIDAL Hi-Fi offers the same mastered edition as the CD but whatever you do, don’t touch the 2012 remastering that is available on HD Tracks. Despite being released in Audiophile 96kHz/24bit, it has an average dynamic range of 09. Seriously, I’m all for audiophile releases, but low dynamic range isn’t fit for anyone, let alone an audiophile consumer. In this case the only benefit you get is a larger file size and an increased bitrate that does nothing to improve the sonic qualities of the album. There is little doubt that the 1993 remastered CD is the pinnacle for Get Your Wings when obtaining a digital copy.

The other edition I own is the RSD 13 (Record Store Day 2013) vinyl [cat no: KC 32847/ 88765486151] that was mastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. The mastering on this record is amazing. While it is noticeably better than the 1993 CD it isn’t a radical shift. The vinyl pays homage to the ‘93 mastering while remaining true to the music that was available on the original tapes. While I much prefer the vinyl release due to its instrument separation and depth, especially in the low end, you would honestly be pleased with either release; just not the HD Tracks version. HD Tracks isn’t at fault, as they have been supplied with the terrible mastering, but the sale of such an inferior product does little to help the Hi-Res audio debate.

I should also note the vinyl release I have is a limited numbered release. I have number 4839 of (I believe) 5000. The remasters that were made specifically for the RSD release, are still available, they are just no longer numbered and come with a different sticker on the outer seal.

Same Old Song And Dance has a great beat and rhythm to it, but I have always felt that the drum track is lacking in this song. The kick drum just doesn’t sound right. I’m not sure how else to describe it, but I feel It lacks depth. It is almost like the skin tension was off on the drum thereby resulting in a sound that is slightly off key. Similarly, the cymbals sound a little squashed. I should note that these issues are heard across all the above mentioned formats, so it isn’t a factor of the remastering process.

As Lord Of The Thighs begins, the drum track is noticeably better and remains this way throughout the rest of the album. Lord Of The Thighs is an exceptional song that has a true blues influence throughout.

Spaced starts with low audible atmospheric sounds. I love it when rock and roll songs start this way. It sets the scene for a more mellow track, but there is so much complexity to the song that I never tire of it. The percussion elements are perfectly added for impact, not just because they are available. This musical self-control has been an Aerosmith trademark since their inception. It would be nice to see more artists follow this direction.

Woman Of The World starts with a lonely drum beat that reminds me of a drummer’s click track that ensures speed throughout the song remains constant. In a similar way, this beat ensures your toe tapping doesn’t miss a beat either.

S.O.S. (Too Bad) has nothing to do with save our souls, although that may have seemed appropriate for the band as they were always on the precipice of destruction. It in-fact stands for Same Old Shit and that is an adage that I’m sure we can all get behind. S.O.S. (Too Bad) is simply a fantastic bluesy rock and roll song that has a beautiful intermingling of bass and guitar with a drum beat that holds the song together.

Train Kept A Rollin’ is arguably the most successful song from the album. While it was released as a single, it did not chart at the time. However, The Yardbirds cover would become an Aerosmith staple as they often include this legendary song in their live set list. The song has been covered by a who’s who of the music industry, but I still declare that Aerosmith owns this song. They may not have written it, or performed it initially, but they mastered it. It has also appeared on most of their live album releases and an exceptional live performance, with Johnny Depp, was included on the DVD that accompanied the deluxe edition of Music From Another Dimension!

Seasons Of Wither begins with almost a minute of wind sounds in an attempt to set the seasonal stage. While it sets the scene, the song stands on its own with some absolutely gorgeous guitar work. I love songs where the subtle aspects of the guitar are present, but don’t overshadow the rest of the performance. This song proves that a great song can include elements from the entire band.  

I would like to see Pandora’s Box re-tracked to appear before Seasons Of Wither. It isn’t a bad song; it just doesn’t flow well after the soothing Seasons Of Wither. The long held guitar riff and drum outro on Seasons Of Wither are a perfect end to the album. Although, I guess when tracking the album, the decision was made to close on a song that depicts the mainstream sound Aerosmith was aiming for. Pandora’s Box certainly is that song.

Get Your Wings is a must own for any fan of Aerosmith or 70s rock and roll. It is one of those albums that I listen to and just can’t believe that it was made before I was even born in ’79. It is exceptional and has stood the test of time. The two common remasters showcase the album with a faithful sound that will be appreciated for generations to come.

Now that I have the vinyl release, I think I will give the CD to my son so that he can get his wings!

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Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic

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Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic

As a dedicated Aerosmith fan, I feel a little embarrassed to admit that Toys In The Attic was not in my own collection until last week. I had previously purchased a few tracks, from the album on iTunes, and I did have many of the songs on various live and greatest hits releases. Anyway, we don’t need to dwell on what I didn’t have in my collection. I’m sure it is void of many other classic albums that I should own.

Originally when I ordered the vinyl edition of Toys In The Attic, I was hoping to get a copy of the 2013 Record Store Day (RSD) edition as they were individually numbered and matched my other Aerosmith records. Unfortunately, I left it too late and none of my suppliers had the RSD numbered editions left. While that was disappointing, it wasn’t the end of the world. The remasters that were made specifically for the RSD release, are still available, they are just no longer numbered and come with a different sticker on the outer seal. All other artwork, including the record label, is identical. I can live with that; it is the music I wanted after all.

Speaking of the music, Toys In The Attic is nothing short of epic. There isn’t a bad song on the album and while Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion have been played to hell and back, I never tire of those songs. They are akin to Queen’s We Will Rock You. They are simply timeless classics that will forever be part of music history.

The first time I heard Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion was in the mid-90s when Aerosmith re-released Sweet Emotion as a single in 1994. The single featured Sweet Emotion, Draw The Line, Walk This Way, and Dream On. If I wasn’t previously hooked on Aerosmith from their Get A Grip album, I certainly was after this four-track release. I even purchased the equivalent cassette single so that I could have those songs when on the move.  

Returning to Toys In The Attic, the double entendre Big Ten Inch Record is just a fun bluesy song. It isn’t an Aerosmith original as Bull Moose Jackson wrote and recorded the original. The original is a fantastic recording, but let’s just say that this song is perfectly suited to Aerosmith and Tyler’s innuendo filled mind.

Another classic song I would love Aerosmith to cover is Dave Bartholomew’s My Ding-a-Ling. The original is great, but I tend to enjoy Chuck Berry’s live performance of the song a little more. Either way, can you imagine Aerosmith not only recording this song, but playing it live. Now that would be show not to miss!

I particularly enjoy the final track, You See Me Crying. Aerosmith has always, in my mind, been the masters of the rock and roll ballad. Although, I could likely say that about many bands, I find Tyler’s vocal pitch to be perfectly suited to ballad-styled rock and roll music. Plus, when you add Orchestral tones to a rock song, you have me hooked.

Sonically Toys In The Attic is superb. It is mastered well originally, but the 2013 mastering for vinyl, done by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound, is exceptional. It is the best mastering I have ever heard of Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion. It is important to note that this latest mastering was done under the supervision of Steve Berkowitz and the original album producer, Jack Douglas.

As usual, not all editions of the album are worthy. The TIDAL Hi-Fi edition is from the 20-bit 1993 remastering sessions. It isn’t bad, but it still doesn’t compare to the latest master. In-fact, all 2013 vinyl remasters are an improvement over the 1993 20-bit remastered Aerosmith albums I have in my collection. That said, I’m not getting rid of those CD’s anytime soon.

The Apple Music/iTunes edition is a specific Mastered for iTunes release from 2012. There is no information available on the mastering for this release, but after a cursory listen, I subjectively didn’t like the sound. It was too muffled and didn’t present a good sound stage, in comparison to the before mentioned masters.

For those of you who are into the high-resolution digital, Toys In The Attic has also been released on a now out of print SACD. It is currently available on HDTracks in both audiophile-grade 96kHz/24bit & DSD 2.8MHz editions. Interestingly, HDTracks claim their editions are from the 2013 remasters Ryan Smith did at Sterling Sound. While I would love to take their word for it, I can’t help but wonder if the information is accurate as the Dynamic Range Database lists both HDTracks’ editions as having 08 and 09 dynamic range scores, versus the vinyl which has an average of 12. Even the 20-bit 1993 remastered CD comes in at 10. If anyone has any information to clarify which version is really being used, I would love to hear from you.

I should add that the 2013 remasterings are so good, that these should be the new benchmark for all future Aerosmith releases in both physical and digital formats.

Anyway, all I can say is go and get yourself a copy of this classic album. You can thank me later!

Now, if you will excuse me, it’s about time I got back to my Big Twelve Inch Record…and to think Tyler thought he had a big record!

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Aerosmith – Get A Grip

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Aerosmith – Get A Grip

It was 1994, the Grammys were playing on television, and Aerosmith came out on stage and performed Livin’ On The Edge. In my mind it was a faultless performance and while I know that I re-experience it on YouTube, I don’t want to. Something as powerful as this first exposure, that would result in a life-long love of Aerosmith’s music, should be left to my interpreted memory and not toyed with.

Memories of this performance, and the album Get A Grip, came flooding back last night as my son decided that he wanted to go through my CD collection and find an album to listen to. I said nothing, didn’t encourage him either way, and he selected Aerosmith’s Get A Grip. It was a proud moment as I had given him their latest CD, Music From Another Dimension, and while he likes that album, he doesn’t play it often. I honestly wasn’t sure that he would ever become a true Aerosmith fan, but last night he declared that he loves Aerosmith and the Get A Grip album.

As a music loving father, I ensure my library of music is always accessible. I don’t believe in taboos and while this album isn’t overly explicit, it’s Aerosmith. Everything is an innuendo. I also believe in artistic license and therefore I have never purchased a ‘clean’ version of any album. I know many people are opposed to profanity, but I strongly believe music is art, hence a ‘clean’ version is akin to an abridgment of the artist’s original vision. I also feel that it is better to have questionable subjects raised at home, rather than in the controversial and erroneous school yard. It was this flexibility that I was never offered as a child. While my son, aged 8, doesn’t yet understand much of the terminology, I want him to know that through our shared love of music, he can come to me and discuss song meanings as he begins to understand more adult-based themes.

For the moment, he is content to play his air guitar when listening to Livin’ On The Edge and laugh addictively when Eat The Rich concludes and the burp is heard at the very beginning of the following track, Get A Grip. I’ve no doubt they programmed the CD to play the burp at the beginning of the Get A Grip, rather than at the end of Eat The Rich, to ensure we would all keep hitting the back button. My son thought it was hilarious, each time it played, and this morning I played it really LOUD on my main system. The house rumbled to, I assume, Steven Tyler’s guttural belch. While I haven’t taught my son to burp the alphabet, this was a priceless father-son moment. Thank you Aerosmith!

My son also loves the introduction to Crazy when Tyler speaks the words ‘come here baby’. Yep, he’s going to grow up to be a heartbreaking ladies man!

Perhaps I should have called this blog Subjective Digression, as I have a tendency to go off track, but I find the story behind the music, specifically why I own it and how it has impacted my life, is much more intriguing than a track by track evaluation of an album and how it fits into the artist’s catalogue.

Hence, following the Grammys performance, I had to own the album. I ended up purchasing the cassette, most likely due to a lower price point than the CD at the time. Also, cassette tapes were still my main format through the 90s as my only CD player was in the stationary boom box at home. I did get a Discman towards the late 90s, but cassettes didn’t skip like the CD counterpart. At least that was the case until shock protection was introduced.

Interestingly, during that period, I would purchase both the CD and cassette of an album so that I could have the cassette for the road, and the CD for home. I didn’t do that with Get A Grip, but I did with Aerosmith’s compilation album Big Ones. I do something similar now as I often purchase the CD and vinyl editions of my favourite albums. Yes, I could have made my own tapes from the CD, and I did, but I have always believed in supporting the musicians as I want them to continue making new music.

Yes, this is a blissfully naive viewpoint, but someone has to buy the artists their vices so their creativity can run free.

As pleased as I am with the mastering of the Get A Grip CD, sonically I recall the cassette was just more musical. One other aspect of the cassette that I always enjoyed was the changes to the album artwork. Sometimes it was done well, other times it was a horror story. In this case, Get A Grip looked really nice in the smaller cassette format and you didn’t feel like you were missing out, or getting a second rate product.

Going back to the sonics for a moment, I have found the Get A Grip CD to be too clinical for my personal tastes. The clarity is incredible, but I look for fullness of sound. I want to hear fat riffs and drum beats and the CD just sounds a little thin. I’m not trying to suggest that the cassette was higher quality, or that analogue is better. It is subjective, and I just find subjectively that the analogue sound is more appealing to me for a lot of, but not all, music. I just wish Aerosmith would re-issue the album on vinyl, but I want it done properly. The artificial cowhide fur and all.

Get A Grip is a powerhouse recording that doesn’t have a b-side. It is fun and has a groove that is reminiscent of the classic 70s Aerosmith, while also being unique to their 90s sound. I love the bluesy feel throughout, especially on Gotta Love It.

Amazing winds up the album beautifully before the moody instrumental Boogie Man sends you into a boogie land that rocks you back and forth and always encourages you to play the album again.

Get A Grip is still available on CD, and via TIDAL Hi-Fi. TIDAL claims to have the remastered edition, yet all liner notes are void as to any difference between that version and my 1993 mastered CD. A cursory listening comparison also didn’t yield any massive tonal differences that would justify TIDAL’s claim. For those of you interested in high-resolution audio, HD Tracks does have an audiophile 96kHz/24bit version of the album. I have not heard this edition, so I can’t comment on it’s mastering and no additional information is available regarding the source used or the mastering engineer. A Mastered for iTunes edition is also available, but if keeping with the Apple ecosystem, I would avoid the Apple Music edition as Livin’ On The Edge is a live version of the song, not the studio version that should be on the album.

Anyway, isn’t it about time someone told me to just Shut Up And Dance?

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