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Joe Perry Project: Let The Music Do The Talking - Album Of The Week Club review

In which Joe Perry escapes the dysfunctional Aerosmith family and attempts to Let The Music Do The Talking

Joe Perry Project: Let The Music Do The Talking cover art
(Image: © Columbia Records)
Joe Perry Project: Let The Music Do The Talking

Joe Perry Project: Let The Music Do The Talking cover art

(Image credit: Columbia Records)

Let the Music Do the Talking
Conflict of Interest
Discount Dogs
Shooting Sta
Break Song
Rockin' Train
The Mist Is Rising
Ready on the Firing Line
Life at a Glance

Taking a break from recording Night In The Ruts to headline a stadium gig in Cleveland on July 28, 1979, Aerosmith came apart. Backstage during a heated argument, guitarist Joe Perry’s then-wife Elyssa threw a glass of milk over bassist Tom Hamilton’s wife, Terry. 

Afterwards, singer Steven Tyler confronted Perry about his wife’s behaviour. The upshot was that Perry walked out of the band (his version) or he was sacked (Tyler’s). Either way, and as Tyler later remarked dryly, Aerosmith had actually split over spilt milk.

The years that followed were not kind to anyone involved. Not long after, Tyler crashed his motorcycle and was hospitalised for two months. No sooner had he healed and the band started work on their next record, Rock In A Hard Place, than Brad Whitford followed Perry out of the exit door. That record tanked, and Tyler sank into a black depression, strung out on heroin and to all intents broke. 

Perry fared no better. He launched his own band, the Joe Perry Project. Their first album, 1980’s pointedly-titled Let The Music Do The Talking, was a modest hit, and Perry too tumbled deeper into drug addiction. By 1983 he was divorced from Elyssa, their split perhaps hastened by her biting him on the face during an especially tempestuous set-to.

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Other albums released in March 1980

  • Nobody's Heroes - Stiff Little Fingers
  • The Psychedelic Furs - The Psychedelic Furs
  • Angel Witch - Angel Witch
  • On Through the Night - Def Leppard
  • Dreams - Grace Slick
  • For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? - The Pop Group
  • Departure - Journey
  • Keepin' the Summer Alive - The Beach Boys
  • Progressions of Power - Triumph
  • Women and Children First - Van Halen
  • Welcome To The Club - Ian Hunter
  • Duke - Genesis
  • Look Hear? - 10cc
  • Loverboy - Loverboy
  • Animal Magnetism - Scorpions
  • Lost in Love - Air Supply
  • Sacred Songs - Daryl Hall

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What they said...

"Unlike his former band, which would now take excessive amounts of time to record albums that should have been cranked out quickly, LTMDTT recalled the brash and trashy appeal of early Aerosmith. Maybe because he wanted to show his former bandmates that he could succeed without them, the performances were extremely inspired, while the songwriting was sharp and focused." (AllMusic)

"It's not as consistent as their classic records, but it beats the living dead out of anything they've done since Permanent Vacation. In my estimation, four of the songs are great instant classic Aero-rockers, and a couple others would be as well if they weren't so frigfraggin' long and repetitive (especially The Mist Is Rising, a plodding, queasy death-riff that rules dickweed for about three minutes, then continues for another three and a half minutes for no reason at all)." (Mark Prindle)

"Conflict Of Interest could have been a Smith outtake – it’s that close. Discount Dogs has a real funky swagger until the cool time change for the chorus – with some killer Joe guitar. Shooting Star has the real big riff to start and could have been a Smith song. Side closer, Break Song, is an instrumental, and is one of my favourite Aerosmith related tunes – this bad boy is all groove and plenty of Joe." (The Grooveman's Collection)

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What you said...

Keith Jenkin: Remember this coming out and I viewed it as a pretty good addition to my Aerosmith collection. The music sounded like the day job, Jack Douglas was in the producers hot seat but Ralph Morman's vocals were more traditional and bluesy. At the time of release I don't seem to remember anything else than it being viewed as a companion album rather than a album that should be compared to Aerosmith's best long players. Under that guise at least I think even 40 years on, it still stands as a very good record.

Shane Reho: This is my first time hearing this album, and while it isn't a bad album, I can't say I feel like I was missing much. Most of the songs are standard hard rock fare, although I'll give credit for the guitar work. It might have benefited from Perry taking more of the vocals himself, because Ralph Morman sounds like he's reaching for some middle ground between Steve Perry (particularly on the title track, which Steven Tyler did better with on Done With Mirrors) and Derek St. Holmes (more so St Holmes, which makes this sound not much different than a Ted Nugent LP). The Mist Is Rising is pretty good. Overall, not a bad album, but not a great one either.

Roland Bearne: I came to this with fresh ears as had never heard it. I played it "out loud" on the speakers first and my first impression was; wow that's about as subtle as kicked-in bus shelter! And I found the vocals rather uninspiring, and then, very quickly, it was over. It was like Perry went to a studio, vented then took a deep breath and presumably a good hit of whatever recreational substance was flavour that week. 

I tried again with high quality ear-wear and things got a bit clearer. The opener is a bit of a tension breaking shout in a padded room, to the point of, yes already, I get it! Let the music do the talking, right? Next. My next level impressions remain, great guitar sound, definitely Perry, lots slides and bends, check. Bits of funky stuff pop up as do almost punk and AC/DC crunchiness. 

The whole thing is rather fun even if it blats by like Taz of Tasmania in a cloud of whirling (presumably white) dust. Perry having his Johnny Thunders moment? It's cool, fine (!), not great, but sounded like he definitely needed to go and bash some pots and pans. Think I might go and put on Live Bootleg.

John Davidson: Not a classic, but not bad at all..

Unsurprisingly the guitar work is great with a mix of chunky riffs and solid solos.

The songwriting is ok, in that I happily listened to the album, but afterwards struggled to remember any specific songs beyond the first two (Let The Music Do The Talking and Conflict Of Interest) and the Zeppish The Mist is Rising.

The vocals overall lack something. On the Perry-sung Conflict Of Interest they have a punky energy and Ralph Morman does a good job on the hard rocking opener and on the funky Discount Dogs, but for the most part the vocals are competent rather than anything memorable.

As a guitarist's solo album this inevitably all about the axe work and you can't really fault it, in fact I'd argue he gets more room to play than on many Aerosmith albums and this could have been awesome but the songs aren't quite up to snuff.

Nonetheless I have been prompted to buy the album... so it must be an 8.

Mike Canoe: For reasons I can’t define, I’ve never been as big a fan of Aerosmith as it feels I should be. After spending a week with Let the Music Do the Talking, I can say it’s not the fault of Joe Perry. This album has the riffs, hooks, and actual songs that one would hope for Aerosmith’s best known guitarist.

While I would not call the Joe Perry Project “punk rock,” it certainly seems like Perry was aware of what sounds were happening outside of arenas and big concert halls. Songs like Conflict of Interest, Shooting Star, and The Mist Is Rising wouldn’t sound out of place on a Ramones or Johnny Thunders album. It’s not for nothing that those are three of the songs that Perry sings lead on. His voice matches the snarl and growl of his guitar, and those are the songs I generally gravitate towards. The instrumental Break Song shows Perry could shred like the next gen of hard rockers too.

Ralph Morman, a guy in desperate need of a stage name, sings the other half of the songs. He sounds like he just graduated from the bar band circuit, which is essentially what happened when he got the call to join the Joe Perry Project. The title track, Discount Dogs, and Rockin’ Train all ride big fat grooves and Morman easily surfs over the top of them. But you get the sense you could hear his voice on pizza or car commercials. That’s not meant as a jab, his voice is just a little '80’s rock' anonymous.

Ultimately, while modestly successful, Let The Music Do The Talking turned out to be what the business world calls ;proof of concept,' a sign that Aerosmith could still be pretty great if they got their collective $@#% together. That would still take several years, but ultimately gave Aerosmith the fuel they needed to compete head to head with bands they influenced in the hard rock renaissance of the Sunset Strip era.

Eric Mehta: One of the most underrated albums of all time. Some of Perry's finest work. Great songs. I love the guitar tones he achieved with his Fenders as well on this. Lack of hit material doomed it to obscurity but a great rock'n'roll record nonetheless.

Darren Burris: Good album. Not great. Definitely suffers from not having Tyler sing these songs. The Aerosmith version of Let The Music Do The Talking blows this one away. 

John Edgar: A Great album! Aerosmith was in a 'Rut' so Joe jumped ship and quickly pumped out this underrated classic. It's one of those albums that I'll always listen to from start to finish. There weren't any hits, but it was definitely popular in the Northeast Texas area where I grew up. It was released in the spring of 1980, and by that summer you would always hear it playing wherever young folks gathered up. If you've never listed to it, I highly recommend you do so.

James Southard: Decent but nowhere near as good as his former band's release, Rock And a Hard Place. That's an often forgotten Aerosmith classic.

Jim Kanavy: Ralph Mormon was not the right singer for the Project. This is a decent album but I like his other two a lot more. I've Got The Rock & Rolls Again is the best Aerosmith record they never recorded. Every track is greasy grimy greatness.

Mike Toole: I liked these records when they came out. Kinda reminded me of the druggier good Aerosmith

Joe Cogan: I heard it when it first came out, and felt no need or desire to listen to it again. Still don't. And I consider "Aerosmith on drugs" probably the great American rock band, so it's not any animosity on my part!

John Ezell: I actually listened to it again the other day. The songs, production and overall quality just aren't there.

Richard Cardenas: While I’ve barely listened to the record, I saw this band On tour and it was fantastic. Looking forward to this.

Bryan Aguilar: Started listening to this album for the first time last year. I think it's a great album overall and a hidden gem in the Aerosmith expanded catalog. That's just me though.

Neil Wilson: I like it, had it it was OK at best and the follow up on CD, many moons ago. The title track song was given a serious, boot in the ass by Aerosmith on Done With Mirrors!

Andrew Cumming: Love this album. Title track a total classic (reworked on Done With Mirrors of course). Other standouts Shooting Star, Rockin Train, Life At A Glance. But very strong album overall. Better than either Night In The Ruts or Rock In A Hard Place in my view. Things rapidly descended for the Project though. Next album - I've Got The Rock 'N' Rolls Again - was good, not great. And there's good reason why the final album - Once A Rocker - is impossible to find. But Let The Music... is a great album. Well worth a listen and good choice for album of the week.

Greg Schwepe: Being a huge Aerosmith fan, I bought this probably the day it was released. And before the internet... how did I know about Perry leaving and releasing this? Probably from the Circus magazine I checked out in the school library!

I’m big on first impressions, and the title track rocked me right off the bat. Conflict Of Interest keeps the groove going. And though we’d heard Joe co-sing on a few Aerosmith songs, you find that he’s not a bad vocalist.

Great guitar tones and riffs. Sure, most solo albums are 'lite' versions of the artist’s day job band, and this is no different. It’s not going to make you forget Aerosmith, but it’ll keep you happy until Perry decides to come back eventually. The Project’s first three albums would feature three different vocalists.

Another favourite of mine is The Mist is Rising with its swampy riff. And Rockin’ Train has a great boogie feel.

Kind of hard to be objective about this one as I also thought Joe Perry was just a bad-ass guitar player with that total rock star look. And after wearing out Live Bootleg and Night In The Ruts I was eager to hear anything Joe might play on. Bought this and played over and over.

7 out of 10 for me here on this guitar-infused solo project that helped me keep my Perry Fix until he reunited with his band mates.

Alex Hayes: Just a quick warning for the uninitiated. The Joe Perry Project didn't do ballads. Any casual Aerosmith fan hoping to find something along the likes of Angel or I Don't Want To Miss A Thing here will end up disappointed and should look elsewhere. There isn't even anything comparable to Dream On or Seasons Of Wither. Both good Aerosmith songs them but, again, The Joe Perry Project didn't do ballads.

In fact, they rocked like a bastard, particularly on this 1980 debut. Let The Music Do The Talking is a terrific testament to Joe Perry's talents, both as a musician and a songwriter. It's stood the test of time well and, with hindsight, very much vindicates the tough artistic choices that Perry had to make at a pretty difficult time in his life.

By July 1979, Perry had grown tired of the dysfunction and creative inertia that surrounded the Aerosmith camp, and had left the band, or been sacked, after a fractious bust-up before a concert in Cleveland. At the time of Perry's departure, the sixth Aerosmith album, Night In The Ruts, remained unfinished and unreleased, stuck in a kind of musical limbo. Perry took his anger and frustration, not to mention a fresh batch of riffs and song ideas, and channelled them all into his new group, The Joe Perry Project.

Within a year, both Night In The Ruts and Let The Music Do The Talking were available, and both turned out to be damn good quality. Despite being a little over-reliant on covers, Ruts... was a surprisingly well balanced and focused record, belying its lengthy and troubled gestation period. Perry's contributions were strong, and his guitar work smokin'. Just listen to the likes of Cheese Cake and Bone to Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy). Awesome stuff and very underrated.

Let The Music Do The Talking was just as good. Everything about it screams 'I'm gonna show those fuckers what they're missing!', and the album then proceeds to do exactly that. Full of great riffs and hooks, it was Joe Perry at his electrifying and inspired best. It's easy to imagine the likes of Discount Dogs, Shooting Star and Rockin' Train as full on Aerosmith songs. All three would fit Steven Tyler like a glove.

Of course, the title track did later get a full Aerosmith makeover, on 1985's Done With Mirrors. Gotta say, in this case I actually prefer the original. It rocks harder and purer to me. Regardless, with Night In The Ruts and Let The Music Do The Talking, fans got two fantastic new doses of Joe Perry within the space of six months.

Unfortunately though, after Let The Music Do The Talking, the Project started to suffer from diminishing returns. 1981's I've Got The Rock'n'Rolls Again, although still pretty good, feels a little pedestrian by comparison. I've never heard the third Project album, 1983's Once A Rocker, Always A Rocker. By the looks of things, not many other people bothered either, as, by then, sales had tanked. I might be being a tad harsh there, but there's no question that the early momentum generated by Let The Music Do The Talking quickly burnt itself out. There was only one logical career path open to Joe Perry by 1984, and, thankfully for us all, he took it.

Anyway, enough rambling from me. The title track here says it all, Let The Music Do The Talking. This is a cracking album that very much achieves that noble aim. It's a must for any Aerosmith fan.

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Final Score: 6.49⁄10 (53 votes cast, with a total score of 344)

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