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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Aerosmith: Classics Live


1) Train Kept A-Rollin’; 2) Kings And Queens; 3) Sweet Emotion; 4) Dream On; 5) Mama Kin; 6) Three Mile Smile / Reefer Head Woman; 7) Lord Of The Thighs; 8) Major Barbara.

This is just a stop-gap record put out while the boys were in rehab, purging their blood and sel­ling their soul. Classics? Absolutely. Live? Most assuredly. I am not so certain about the excla­mation mark, though. The LP is a rag-tag-grab-bag of performances both from the Live! Bootleg era and the Perry-less / Bradford-less stunt (although the liner notes do not specify most dates for each of the performances explicitly), and it boasts neither coherence nor quality.

The truth is that, while Aerosmith were consistently superb at the height of their mid-Seventies powers, from 1977 to 1984 the live performances were uneven and depended a lot on just how far strung out the band members were — the bad boys from Boston or the crap boys from Shitrock­ville? As a matter of fact, spontaneous mistakes and flubs are the essence of rock’n’roll, but no one has ever revoked the golden middle principle. For Live! Bootleg, where the band still had the strength to remain in charge, they made all the right selections — this particular setlist, though, must have been produced by a tonedeaf programmer in search of data to test his newly-program­med randomizing algorithm.

If you respect pre-Armageddon Steven Tyler as much as I do, don’t ever listen to the atrocious rendition of ‘Kings And Queens’ where the man obviously cannot keep up the high notes — it is, in fact, amazing how he can keep it up at all, what with all the crack and booze taking it out on each other inside his system, but why make us all involuntary witnesses of that battle? (And, whi­le we’re at it, Steve’s idea to reproduce the alarming synth-string-siren of the original with his own vocal cords is equally ugly). ‘Dream On’ is only marginally better: this time, the high notes come out decently, but... at the expense of all the other ones.

As for the rockers, they rock, but, without Perry and Whitford, it just isn’t the same. The other guys may have been okay with their own material, and may have given the paying fans a decent time, but as for the record — no, it just does not feel like they are able to pass on the same fervent conviction as is oozed out by Perry ninety percent of the time. One needs only compare the crack­ling improv on the original live 'Lord Of The Thighs’ from 1978 and the pro forma version on Classics. Or, perhaps, one does not even need to compare.

In short, most of this is about as listenably-mediocre as the lone old studio outtake with which the company tried to entice the fans (‘Major Barbara’, a lazy, plaintive cowboy waltz from 1973) — but even so, it is still a way more pleasant experience than having to sit through all of the band’s Nineties’ hits on their later live records in order to break through to the golden oldies, especially if one happens be much too anal about pressing the skip button.

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