Album review: Aerosmith, Permanent Vacation (1987)


By Steve Newton

“If you grew up in the ’70s you liked Aerosmith.” That’s what Peter Buck of R.E.M. wrote in the liner notes to his band’s version of Aerosmith’s “Toys in the Attic,” and Buck knows of which he speaks. With albums like Get Your Wings (’74), Rocks (’76), and Draw the Line (’77), Aerosmith were the heroes of multitudes of raunch-hungry young whippersnappers, who wanted (and desperately needed) a band they could call their own. The screeching vocals of Steven Tyler and who-cares guitar blasts of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford were just right at the time.

The group’s been through a few changes over the years, but with the original lineup now back together, they’ve solidified and returned to the special sound of old. Their new LP should put them back at the top of the heap where they belong.

Strangely enough, Permanent Vacation has a few things in common with Bon Jovi’s incredibly successful Slippery When Wet album. Both were recorded at Vancouver’s Little Mountain Sound. Both were produced by Bruce Fairbairn and engineered by Bob Rock of Rock and Hyde. And both include songs co-written by Desmond Child. But that’s about where the similarities end, because as far as rowdy rock goes, Aerosmith could kick Bon Jovi’s ass to New Jersey and back no problem.

“Heart’s Done Time” starts the records off on a heavy note, with Perry’s wall-of-sound chords and Tyler doing his best to imitate a parrot in heat. If you listen closely you can hear the Vancouver Aquarium’s killer whales Hyak and Fina lending their voices. I wonder if their contract calls for extra fish at feeding time.

“Magic Touch” follows, my personal fave on the album. It’s ballsy enough to be an out-take from Rocks, and was co-written by Jim Vallance, whose name appears on three other tracks as well. Other local musicians making appearances on Permanent Vacation are Drew Arnott of Strange Advance, who plays mellotron on two tunes, and Tom Keenlyside of Skywalk, who handles tenor sax and clarinet on two more, and did the arrangements for the Margarita Horns.

Other standouts tracks on Permanent Vacation include the ode to transvestism, “Dude (Looks Like a Lady), “Girl Keeps Coming Apart,” the Beatles’ “I’m Down”, and the sizzlin’ title track. If you’re 30 years old and want to feel 17 again, check this record out. And if you’re only 17, buy it anyway. It beats the hell out of most of today’s so-called metal.

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