Ladies and gentlemen, I give you this week’s episode in which our stars present to you two tales of contact fulfillment. In the annals of rock music, there are three sure signs of a band looking to honor the terms of its recording contract without actually delivering any noteworthy new music: the covers album, the live album, and the compilation. As of this writing, pending the delivery of their often-promised, never-delivered new album, Aerosmith has made a decade out of peddling all three.
The atrociously titled Honkin’ on Bobo was a great idea actualized at the worst possible time in the band’s career. There’s not much denying that Aerosmith could have delivered one motherfucker of an album of blues covers in the mid ‘70s. I’m even willing to believe that they could have done such material justice as late as the Pump/Get a Grip/Nine Lives era of their existence. Sadly, by 2004, an album of blues covers was simply a way for the band to throw some new product at the market while minimizing their need to actually collaborate. On the one hand, there is nothing embarrassing about Honkin’ on Bobo once you get past its title; this is the sound of a band of seasoned professionals turning in a competent performance of material they know well. Compared to a reputation-wrecker like Just Push Play, that’s a step up. On the other hand, there is nothing exciting or enticing about the album, either: it crawls by in a monotonous “next song, same as the last” blur, interrupted only by a couple of always-dreaded Joe Perry vocals. There is nothing particularly great on Bobo, and there is nothing remarkably bad on it either. It is ultimately a display of ultra-competence and minimal inspiration. Unfortunately, the blues is supposed to be played from the heart rather than from ego, obligation or sterile “ability”, and as a result Honkin’ on Bobo ends up being the exact opposite of what it should have been. It’s a damned shame, really.
As for the live Rockin’ the Joint, recorded at a small-ish Las Vegas casino venue on the Just Push Play tour, there’s really nothing to say about it at all. If you want to capitalize on recording a live album in an unusually small venue, you should not turn around and mix it as though it were captured at any corporately-named Enormo-Dome. Throw in obnoxiously bleeped-out stage banter (why, because so many nine-year-olds were buying live Aerosmith albums in 2005?) and perfunctory performances of material from their worst album alongside a smattering of predictable hits, and you’ve got a product that couldn’t possibly have really had much of a market. So why do I own it? Good question, let’s see here, what does that sticker on the cover say? TARGET EXCLUSIVE! 2 BONUS TRACKS! Sigh. If there is one bit of wisdom I can impart to you, dear readers, it is that leaving pointless collecting behind frees you to spend more time with good music, instead of wasting so much of your time muddling through mediocrity or worse. I’d recommend it to anyone with even a small amount of soul in their soul.
Let’s see: covers record, pointless live album. That’s two of the terrible triumvirate accounted for. Compilations, then…whoa, boy. That’s a huge kettle of fish where Aerosmith are concerned; a regular Pandora’s box if you will. (I’ll pause here a moment to let you stop groaning.) We’ll open it up next week; same day, same channel.