Album review: Aerosmith, Honkin’ on Bobo (2004)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 8, 2004

By Steve Newton

The concept behind Honkin’ on Bobo—of Boston hard-rock legends Aerosmith recording an all-blues album—is enough to get any fan of ’70s guitar-boogie in a lather. (And if it doesn’t, the CD booklet’s close-up shot of some babe’s sexy midriff with a harmonica stuffed in the top of her jeans might do the trick.) After the polished, reprehensible slop that was Aerosmith’s last CD, 2001’s Just Push Play, the idea of Steven Tyler and company getting back to basics conjures up hot-knife memories of the band’s heyday, when the masterful Draw the Line album sported gritty ditties like “Milk Cow Blues”.

Things start off wonderfully. After Tyler’s bellowing intro of “Ladies and Gentlemen! Step right up!…”, the glorious noise of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford scraping picks along the necks of their cranked guitars leads into a thundering take on Bo Diddley’s “Roadrunner”. The raw vibe carries on with killer versions of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Eyesight to the Blind” and Big Joe Williams’s “Baby, Please Don’t Go”, but then Perry takes the lead vocal on a tedious reworking of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Back Back Train”.

There’s a very good reason Tyler is the quintet’s crooner of choice.

The severity of that slip-up fades in comparison to the band’s decision to include an original power ballad, “The Grind”; the last thing needed here is a reminder of Aerosmith’s vacuous “Amazing”/“Crazy”/“Cryin’ ” trilogy. But even with that colossal misstep, Honkin’ on Bobo is still the best Aerosmith recording in eons. You could also spend a few extra bucks and invest in the limited-edition copy of the CD, which comes with a tiny working harmonica. That way you can blow like mad on that little sucker to drown out the nauseating strains of “The Grind”.

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