I got this record from my dad’s collection, which is fitting, since my dad was living in Boston in the 70s, when and where Aerosmith was making a name for themselves as a great local rock band.
The way he tells it, he spent a semester abroad in Ireland, during which time Aerosmith was signed to Columbia and became a national sensation. When he got back to the country, one of their songs was playing on the radio in NYC, and until he learned what had happened, he was confused as to why a New York City rock station would care about a Boston bar band.
But, within the first few tracks, Aerosmith gives you plenty of reasons to care. The record starts off with a heavy guitar riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a mid 90s pop punk record, and launches into two instrumental heavy blues-rock tracks that tread through the same ground the Doors’ Morrison Hotel (coming in a couple months) plowed, although with more ferocity and less pretentiousness than the Doors. After the blues-rock barrage comes the still-played “Dream On,” and ten minutes into the record gives the first true idea of how Steven Tyler’s voice sounds, giving him a chance to flex his vocal muscles (especially on the famous octaves-high refrain, which is the only sign of his forthcoming trademark voice) instead of the warm-ups, whoops, and scats on the first two tracks. Admittedly, hearing this legendary single in context sounds a bit like the Yanks trying to up Led Zeppelin, which cannot be done. Instead, they write the poor man’s “Stairway to Heaven,” admittedly more straightforward and less mystical–in other words, more American.
The rest of the album is kind of like the Kings of Leon of 1970s rock; it’s not bad, and it’s definitely a fun listen–it’s just not too innovative. It’s definitely rock music for people who want to party, without having to ponder what the band is playing. Musically, they still had yet to find their voice (Steven Tyler, literally). With the exception of “Dream On,” any of these songs could easily blend into the noise of similar bands littering the airwaves of classic rock stations (if anyone were to tell me that any song from the B-side was Bob Seger, I would believe them). The only other standout is the more bluesy “Movin’ Out,” if only because it doesn’t follow the hard rock formula of the other songs. But if Aerosmith had any advantage over their contemporaries, it was their consistency. Though six of the eight tracks sound incredibly similar, none of them feel like filler.
Overall, the album does a good job of capturing a legendary American rock band right before they become legendary. Like a pre-Excalibur King Arthur, the earnestness and skill are there, but the true power has yet to be bestowed.