There are, as everyone knows, two Aerosmiths. One is the Columbian-economy-supporting drug hoovers of the 70s, who somehow managed to carve two stone-cold classic albums in Rocks and Toys In The Attic. At their best they sounded like an even filthier and funkier Rolling Stones. But the good times became a little too good for their own good. As they veered unsteadily into the 80s, guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford handed in their wings. Legend has it that an incident involving a glass of milk, of all things, precipitated Perry’s departure. Who says Americans don’t do irony?
The other ’Smith is the unlikely hit machine of their re-formed years (Perry and Whitford were back in the line-up for 1985’s Done With Mirrors) who showed there might just be something to all this looking after yourself business – Perry still looks marvellously well-preserved – by delivering a masterpiece with 1989’s Pump. You should, by law, own all three of those records plus a ‘best of’, and this deluxe (if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly) four-album set is the best one of the latter.
Released to coincide with their we-really-mean-it-this-time farewell tour (although I saw them on the puntastically titled-Aero-Vederci Baby ‘final’ tour in 2017, so never say never), this collection has it all, while politely skipping over the albums they made while Perry and Whitford were on sabbatical.
Everything a reasonably sane person could possibly want is included, from the now slightly too-familiar Dream On, through the career-resuscitating Run-DMC mash-up Walk This Way, to the definitely overplayed I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing. The early stuff – Same Old Song And Dance, Adam’s Apple, Last Child – rocks like a bus on the edge of a cliff. The thing is, later tracks like Jaded, Pink, the marvellously monikered Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees), and the imperishable rockin’ out of Dude (Looks Like A Lady) do too.
You could nitpick and cry: “Where’s Rats In The Cellar, No More No More and Young Lust?” but that’s what those other albums are for. The strike rate here is unimpeachably high and banishes the memory of Steven Tyler’s TV talent-show-messing to the bin, where it belongs.
Was it F Scott Fitzgerald who said there are no second acts in American lives? Well, dig up the Great Gaspy, play him this and watch him eat his fedora. Are Aerosmith the best American band who didn’t come from E Street or play behind Tom Petty? Quite possibly.