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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Aerosmith: Live! Bootleg


1) Back In The Saddle; 2) Sweet Emotion; 3) Lord Of The Thighs; 4) Toys In The Attic; 5) Last Child; 6) Come To­gether; 7) Walk This Way; 8) Sick As A Dog; 9) Dream On; 10) Chip Away The Stone; 11) Sight For Sore Eyes; 12) Mama Kin; 13) S.O.S.; 14) I Ain't Got You; 15) Mother Popcorn; 16) Train Kept A-Rollin'.

Obviously not a bootleg, but just as obviously live — the intent here was to beat the bootleggers by offering the public at large an official equivalent of a bootleg: raw, untampered, and sweaty, yet at the same time boasting professional sound quality. The stuff that dreams are made of. The «pseudo-bootleg» touches, like the plain bootleggish album sleeve or the «missed» listing of one song on the album ('Draw The Line'), are a show-off, but the rest is genuine.

Two schools of thought dominate here. One says Live! Bootleg is a rough-hewn, exciting, price­less document of America's greatest rock'n'roll band at its most intense — that small period right after the creative peak when everything has started to fall apart, but only just started, so that this very threat of disintegration keeps things interesting. The other one says Live! Bootleg does nothing but engage in an aw­ful-sounding, muddy, sacrilegious destruction of the classics on the part of a bunch of babbling junkies, thoroughly wasted, basted, and pasted.

Both schools are right, and, furthermore, there is no contradiction between the two. If you want a tight, fearsome, unstoppable live performance of 'Back In The Saddle', skip forward fifteen or even twenty years; I've heard technically better versions from the band dating to as late as their oldie tours of the 2000s. The difference is that in the 2000s, they were performing 'Back In The Saddle' as a classic — an untouchable part of the sacred rock'n'roll treasure grove; in 1977, they were still living it out. So if Tyler's "I'm baaaack!" on this particular album sometimes degenera­tes into butchered-piglet squealing, and Perry's riffage sometimes stands on its head, it is not just the drugs that are responsible (although that, too) — it is the classic damn-it-to-hell attitude of the 1970's rocker. Take it — or leave it.

Of course, with the level of ferocity displayed on their studio albums, none of these live equiva­lents are truly equivalent. Missed cues, flubbed lines, confused chords, all of the big hits have this kind of shit in spades; you will love this if you think that is what «real life» is, and hate this if you think that you have had plenty of «real life» already from your neighbor kid downstairs, a guy so utterly tonedeaf, his parents had no choice but to buy him an electric guitar for Christmas. Then again, it's not that bad, and, overall, tragedy usually only strikes on the numbers that are the most vocally demanding — 'Back In The Saddle', 'Toys In The Attic' (for some reason, Perry always sings harmony with Tyler on this one, even though the guy can barely hold a note even on his bet­ter days, and those were far from the better ones), and a couple others.

Minor additional reasons to own the album include an extended, dark and creepy jam on 'Lord Of The Thighs'; Perry's ridiculous, but amusing decision to filter the riff of 'Walk This Way' through a talkbox, a regular fixture on the 1977 tour; and two new songs — the band's relatively success­ful cover of 'Come Together' (which they also sang for the infamous Sgt. Pepper movie, admit­ted­ly, one of the few highlights) and 'Chip Away The Stone', a solid, but hardly classic, Rocks-style mid-tempo rocker.

Major additional reason includes the «bootleg-style» insertion of two old live recordings from 1973, covers of Jimmy Reed's 'I Ain't Got You' and James Brown's 'Mother Popcorn', giving us the early bluesy Aerosmith in full flight and also offering a glimpse of the early funky Aerosmith: nobody beats Brown at his own game, but at least it gives Tyler a good excuse to show us how deep down his unusually lengthy larynx he can really go. Actually, both performances are subpar and as far removed from the classic big smelly Aerosmith as possible, but what a supercool histo­ry lesson — and I wish your next door band could kick so much ass on a Jimmy Reed number.

So, this was the worst of times, this was the best of times, in any case, Live! Bootleg gives you a taste of some of the dirtiest live rock'n'roll playing in history just like Draw The Line showed us some of the dirtiest studio rock'n'roll production in the exact same history. For glossy pornogra­phic polish, check out 1975 and 1976; for playing it rough, Live! Bootleg gets a hearty thumbs up — at the very least, if you only need one live Aerosmith album, this one's it, warts and all.

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