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August 5, 2020

New Vibrations - Aerosmith--Honkin' on Bobo - Columbia - March 30, 2004

By Jeff Katzenstein | April 15, 2004

Long before Aerosmith was known for power ballads with full orchestras and trumpet-blaring hard rock, their 1973 self-titled debut was a mixture of blues and rock that worked beautifully. Classics like "One Way Street", "Write Me a Letter" and "Somebody" worked because they were simple. Unfortunately, the band lost touch with simplicity as the years passed. Rolling guitar riffs and simple drumbeats were traded for rock on a grander scale, and Aerosmith began over-mixing its albums. After 2001's disappointing Just Push Play, many fans worried that Aerosmith had forgotten about their roots.

Honkin' on Bobo is the band's first studio release in nearly three years. It's comprised mostly of blues covers of artists such as Big Joe Williams and Bo Diddley, plus one original track. The sound takes Aerosmith back to the basics, and it's a step in the right direction, with more twelve-bar blues and less electronics. Still, some tracks, such as "Shame, Shame, Shame" and "You Gotta Move" are too over-produced and busy to be called blues.

One welcome surprise on the album is guitarist Joe Perry's lead vocals on "Back Back Train" and "Stop Messin' Around". Believe it or not, Steven Tyler could take a few blues singing lessons from Perry. Tyler's edgy and dynamic voice doesn't really fit well with true blues, and at times it seems like he's trying to show off by filling in the pauses that characterize the style. While Perry clearly won't be replacing Tyler anytime soon, his Johnny Cash-like vocals give the album a classic blues feel that is very necessary.

While there are a few tracks that will satisfy blues purists, be warned that this is blues done Aerosmith-style, which means a little more noise and background, and a few catlike howls.

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