Sound — 7
Aerosmith's fans have been patiently waiting for over a decade for an album of new material. Moreover, many were hoping for an album that captured the essence of Aerosmith's 70's heyday of hard rock music. And when Jack Douglas was revealed to be producing this latest work along with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, many were optimistic. Douglas is probably best known for producing "Toys In the Attic" and "Rocks" with the band (which are often regarded as their best works), so it is only natural to assume this album would sound the same. Well, you wouldn't be wrong, but not completely right either. The album begins with a Twilight Zone - esque mysterious intro spoken by Jack Douglas, which fades into silence for several seconds (this was also used as an intro during the Global Warming). It is silent for several seconds until all of a sudden Joey Kramer's drums come in and then a couple of those familiar blaring guitars come crashing in. You immediately think "Aerosmith is back!" when you hear this intro to "Love XXX". The second song "Oh Yeah" has a Rolling Stones vibe, and fans of the old stuff are going to like "Out Go the Lights," which has an intro hearkening back to "Get the Lead Out" on "Rocks." "Street Jesus" sounds like it comes straight out demos for "Toys In the Attic." However, the dreaded ballads and love songs come in every time you get pumped again. One ballad-esque song, "Tell Me," is actually quite good, and it is much different from the ballads Aerosmith has released in recent years. One especially painful ballad is "We All Fall Down." This was an unreleased song written by Diane Warren, who also wrote the band's "biggest hit": "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." It's just cheesy and does not fit Aerosmith. The closing song "Another Last Goodbye" and the latest single "What Could Have Been Love" can also make you cringe, but Aerosmith's own songwriting could make them tolerable after a few listens, but no guarantees. Another strange one is "Can't Stop Loving You" which apparently Tyler forced the band to do without their prior knowledge. It's a duet with Carrie Underwood with a country-pop vibe. You be the judge. Hey, at least Aerosmith is still showing they can do ANY genre you throw at them successfully.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are typical top-notch Steven Tyler and Joe Perry poetry. However, Aerosmith is still using outside writers that some fans are not pleased with. Marti Frederikson, Desmond Child, and Jim Vallance all return to "help out" with the musical quality. However, it seems that the tracks written by only members of the band are the most "pure" in rock quality, and its a wonder why they feel the need to consult other people. The lyrics, still, are pretty good, and you can actually understand them more than half the time. However, it is a mystery as to why Steven Tyler needs to throw words like f--k and s--t at least once on every album without getting a Parental Advisory. Call me old fashioned, but he needs to grow up for once. I can just imagine parents trying to introduce their kids to this great band of their youth or someone re-discovering Aerosmith for the first time in years and spitting their coffee or tripping on the treadmill while listening to "Lover Alot." (And by the way, if you have kids, skip that track if they're listening. It's not the same as the single version you hear on the radio.) The aforementioned track also has the most annoyingly repetitive lyrics of the album. I don't know how many times Tyler says "dontcha know." Lyrically, it's the black sheep of the whole album, even though the sound of the song is pretty good. "Oh Yeah" might have been a stronger single to release. Aside from that, Steven Tyler sounds just as good as he did on "Toys" and "Rocks." His voice is a little raspier due to age, but he can still hit all the high notes he always has. Joe Perry also sings on "Something" and "Freedom Fighter" on the standard version, which is a nice surprise because we don't get to hear his voice by itself too often. He also wrote "Oh Yeah" but his wife told him to let Steven sing it. Yes, Joe's voice isn't as strong as Steven's, but you can't help but think Joe would sound really cool singing that song when you hear it (maybe a future solo or compilation album version?). Also, Tom Hamilton makes his lyric writing debut on "Tell Me." What I still don't understand on top of outside songwriters is why female backing vocalists and overdubbing Steven Tyler's voice are necessary. I like it much better when just Joe Perry or Joe and Tom sing backing vocals.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, this album is a great improvement over "Just Push Play" and even "Nine Lives," and it has many tracks the old faithful fans will love, and it is a warm welcoming for curious newcomers. The must-hear tracks are "Luv XXX," "Oh Yeah," "Out Go the Lights," and "Street Jesus." I love the old-school hard rock/blues rock sound of the aforementioned tracks, but I'm still irked by all the overdubbing of voices and guitars, and the use female backup singers and outside writers. It makes the music feel like it's been messed with too much and it's overdone. Aerosmith doesn't need anything other than themselves to make good music (or perform live, but that's another story). The music itself is much more enjoyable than anything on pop radio in my opinion, and it deserves some commendation. I always recommend it when people ask me about it, so I think if you already have a grasp of the band you should go for it. If you absolutely hate ballads to death and will die if you hear just one more, then I'd recommend just "filtering" the songs you want on iTunes. However, if you buy the CD from Walmart (if you have access to one) you get the cover song "Shakey Ground" which is a lot of fun. There is also a deluxe version that includes three extra tracks (one which Tom Hamilton sings on!) and a DVD with live performances and interviews. I bought the deluxe version from Walmart (to get as much content as possible) and I don't regret it one bit. However, if you're looking for a straight-up "Toys In the Attic" and "Rocks" album, you'll not be completely happy, but keep in mind that ballads have always been a signature mark of Aerosmith, even on the hardest rocking albums. I encourage you to at least give the standard release a try, and remember, play it LOUD!