Tuesday, March 6, 2012

[AeroTuesday] "Live Bootleg" (1978)

6:11 PM: Thinking about what I've got to do with the rest of my day, it occurs to me that today is AeroTuesday.  This is an excellent thing to realize; it's always a fun last thing to accomplish on a Tuesday.

6:14 PM: So today is Night in the Ruts, right?  Should be interesting.  I like that album, despite the fact that it's an utter and total mess.  That combo oughta make for some good writing.

6:33 PM: Oh shit, Live Bootleg came between Draw the Line and Ruts, didn't it?  Damn it, I've always been sort of "meh" about that one.  Guess I'd better pull a copy and throw it on in the background while I'm doing other work.

6:35 PM: You know what?  Maybe I'll pull the vinyl instead of the CD - after all, it worked for Draw the Line, right?

6:38 PM: Here's how I'm gonna do this: I'll keep a Microsoft Word document open and jot down a sentence or two for each song as they go by.  The track list on this thing is largely unassailable, so its relative quality all comes down to the performances.

SIDE ONE:

Back in the Saddle: Jesus, this performance is about as tight as an XXL t-shirt on a midget.  It rocks pretty well, though, and if I wanted perfection I'd just grab the studio version.  Wasted but right, refreshingly not over-overdubbed.

Sweet Emotion: Perfunctory.

Lord of the Thighs: As per the liner notes: Little faster than the studio version, but that's live!  And very kick-ass; I'm usually not a fan of the "extended jam live version", but this one's got a good reason to stretch itself out.  Note to self: add to iPod.

Toys in the Attic: Spot-on.  Recorded in Boston, 3/28/78.  We'll discuss that show at the end of this post.

SIDE TWO: 

Last Child:  Faster and funkier than its studio counterpart, both plusses.  Ragged vocal a bit too much that of a punk in the street, a negative.  It's okay, but it easily could have been great.

Come Together:  I just don't really like this song all that much, regardless of who's performing it.  I like Aerosmith's version better than the Beatles', and I like Aerosmith's studio version better than this live one.  I also like "Seasons of Wither" better than any of the above, and wish they'd seen fit to include that on Live Bootleg rather than this.

Walk This Way: Also perfunctory.  Were they already sick of playing the singles by '78?

Sick as a Dog: Ahh, that's the stuff.  Right on the money.

SIDE THREE:

Dream On: Surprisingly not perfunctory.  A touch ragged, but in a way that underscores the theme of the song rather than distracting from it.

Chip Away the Stone: One of rock music's ten greatest all-time non-album b-sides.  I slightly prefer the original studio version (available digitally on 1988's Gems compilation), but if this is all you've got, it'll do ya just fine.

Sight for Sore Eyes:  It's a shame this one didn't have a particularly long set-list life; it's absolutely meant for the stage.

Mama Kin: Delivered with the swagger of a stadium act, rather than the bar-band version featured on the band's debut album.  It's a bit loose, but then again it's supposed to be.

SOS (Too Bad): An appropriately earthshaking closing to this album's clear side-to-beat.  Short, sweet, fast and loud.

SIDE FOUR:

I Ain't Got You / Mother Popcorn: Early blues covers, recorded years before anything else on Live Bootleg.  The gig from which these were extracted (Paul's Mall, Boston, 4/23/73) is interesting on its own and readily available in trading circles.  There's nothing at all wrong with these performances, but they're bar-band stuff that sounds out of place with the stadium strut - and more fully realized sound - of the rest of the album.  I've long believed that they'd be more effective tacked on the end of the album as bonus tracks rather than slotted in between late '70s performances.

Draw the Line: See, it's not listed on the sleeve or label, just like the sort of mistakes commonly found on real live bootlegs!  Cute gimmick, solid performance of a classic.

Train Kept a Rollin': Just makes you wish they could still pull this evergreen off live with as much power and velocity as it's got here.

Right, then:  Live Bootleg is better than I remember it being, just like it always is.  Why, then, do I go so long between rediscoveries?  Because there's something similar but better out there: a radio broadcast from the Music Hall in Boston, 3/28/78.  It's from the same era as the bulk of Live Bootleg - indeed, as mentioned above, "Toys in the Attic" on the LP is from this gig - but with crisper sound and a hotter set list (hello "Seasons of Wither"/"Kings and Queens"/"Rats in the Cellar", just to name three).  If you're looking to hear Aerosmith in the '70s, on a good night in front of a hometown crowd, just moments before they were to hit the metaphorical iceberg, the Boston Music Hall show is really what you're looking for; a quick Google search makes it seem like it's sitting around some of the dustier corners of the internet waiting to be found.  If real live bootlegs and/or downloads aren't your speed, however, Live Bootleg is pretty much the next best thing.

Side note to Aerosmith's business managers: if you ever decide to raid the vaults a bit, I'd pay for a professionally remastered version of that Boston gig in a heartbeat.  Just sayin'.

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