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Rocks
Aerosmith

Columbia 34165
Released: May 1976
Chart Peak: #3
Weeks Charted: 53
Certified 3x Platinum: 12/21/88

Steven TylerWhether or not Rocks is hot depends on your vantage point. If your hard-rock tastes were honed in the Sixties, as this band's obviously were, Aerosmith is a polished echo of Yardbirds' guitar rock liberally spiced with the Stones' sexual swagger. If you're a teen of the Seventies, they are likely to be the flashiest hard-rock band you've ever seen. While the band has achieved phenomenal commercial success, their fourth album fails to prove that they can grow and innovate as their models did.

The most winning aspect of Rocks is that ace metal prducer Jack Douglas and the band (listed as coproducers for the first time) have returned to the ear-boxing sound that made their second album, Get Your Wings, their best. The guitar riffs and Steven Tyler's catlike voice fairly jump out of the speakers. This initially hides the fact that the best performances here -- "Lick and a Promise," "Sick as a Dog" and "Rats in the Cellar" -- are essentially remakes of the highlights of the relatively flat Toys in the Attic. The songs have all the band's trademarks and while they can be accused of neither profundity nor originality, Aerosmith's stylized hard-rock image and sound pack a high-energy punch most other heavy metal bands lack.

Aerosmith - Rocks
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
Steven Tyler is the band's obvious focal point, a distinction earned primarily by his adaptation of the sexual stance that missed the young Jack Flash. On the rockers, his delivery is polished and commanding and sufficiently enthusiastic to disguise the general innnocuousness of the lyrics. On the riff-dominated songs, though, such as "Last Child" or "Back in the Saddle," he is prone to shrieks that don't bear repetition. Unlike Jagger, his vocal performance cannot save otherwise mediocre material.

The material is Rocks' major flaw, mostly pale remakes of their earlier hits, notably "Dream On," a first-album ballad that helped make the complete Aerosmith catalog gold. Aerosmith may have their hard-rock wings, but they won't truly fly until their inventiveness catches up to their fast-maturing professionalism.

- John Milward, Rolling Stone, 7/29/76.

Bonus Reviews!

Quintet has followed a formula of basic rock and has quietly sneaked up to become one of the major concert attractions and record selling acts in the country. Very basic stuff, but far better material than the average heavy rock group. And, though they are not great lyrically (sounding, indeed, like a latter-day Black Sabbath at times), the energy level of the music and the skill in the instrumental work more than makeup for any lyrical shortcomings. Lead singer Steven Tyler is among the best of rock's singer/screamers. The band avoids pretensions and the result is one that is simply better than most acts of this type. One key -- a marked difference between the songs. A fun music that draws the listener in -- rare enough these days. Best cuts: "Last Child," "Combination," "Back In The Saddle," "Nobody's Fault," "Lick And A Promise," "Home Again" (a possible single).

- Billboard, 1976.

Dave Hickey compares the teen crossover of the year to a Buick Roadmaster, and he's right -- they've retooled Led Zeppelin till the English warhorse is all glitz and flow, beating the shit out of Boston and Ted Nugent and Blue Oyster Cult in the process. Wish there were a lyric sheet -- I'd like to know what that bit about J. Paul Getty's ear is about -- but (as Hickey says) the secret is the music, complex song structures and that don't sacrifice the basic 4/4 and I-IV-V. A warning, though: Zep's fourth represented a songwriting peak, before the band began to outgrow itself, and the same may prove true for this lesser group, so get it while you can. A-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Although the hits ("Back in the Saddle" and "Last Child") weren't as big as "Sweet Emotion" and "Walk This Way," Rocks remains Aerosmith's finest moment, full of relentlessly sleazy rock powered by some of the dirtiest guitar riffs ever committed to tape. * * * * *

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.




Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review:
Get Your Wings

Album Review:
Toys In the Attic

Album Review: Music
From Another Dimension

Single Review:
"Sweet Emotion"

Steven Tyler & Joe Perry:
In Their Own Words

Book Review:
Steven Tyler - Does The Noise
In My Head Bother You?

Aerosmith Lyrics

Aerosmith Videos

Steven Tyler Mugshots

Joe Perry Mugshots

Rocks didn't spawn any big hits, but raunchy rave-ups like "Last Child" and "Rats in the Cellar" make it the mother of all American hard rock albums. * * * * *

- Thor Christensen, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

After Toys in the Attic proved that Aerosmith were more than a Stones caricature, the band flexed its muscles on the boastfully (and aptly) named Rocks, a buffalo stampede of rave-ups and boogies. During one typically madcap session, bassist Tom Hamilton and guitarist Joe Perry switched instruments on "Sick As a Dog"; when they came to the song's instrumental outro, Perry flipped the bass to singer Steven Tyler, grabbed his guitar and joined Hamilton and rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford for the final salvo. "We could have done it a lot easier by overdubbing," Perry admitted. "It wouldn't have had the same feel, though."

Rocks was chosen as the 176th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

A Top Three album for Aerosmith in the US -- it went platinum almost immediately on release -- the aptly-named Rocks is probably the band's truest, if not best, work. No compromising for radio airplay is to be found here; guitarist Joe Perry grinds out riff after riff, the rhythm section of Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer pound away while frontman Tyler sings of sex, drugs and rock and roll. True, most of what one hears has been done before: "Nobody's Fault" -- one of two Whitford-Tyler songs on the album (the other being "Lost Child") -- could have easily been recorded by Led Zeppelin, while the Rolling Stones could have performed "Combination" and no-one would have been any the wiser. But the twist that Aerosmith put on this kind of song is pretty unique. The album has a carnival atmosphere and there is no reverence for anything other than having a rocking good time. It was recorded at the Wherehouse in Waltham, MA and at Record Plant Studios in New York.

Despite it's success, the album did not chart in the UK and contained no Top Ten hit from the band, although the singles "Back In The Saddle" (featuring Joe Perry playing a six-string bass) and "Last Child" were both firm radio favourites. In May 1979 readers of Creem Magazine voted Aerosmith their Number One band and Rocks their favourite album.

As of 2004, Rocks was the #57 best-selling album of the 70s.

- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.

Flushed with the success of Toys In The Attic, Aerosmith wasted no time or momentum in returning to the studio to cut what for many is their magnum opus. Rocks, recorded partly at their Wherehouse rehearsal space and at the Record Plant in New York, was fueled by the excesses that would prove to be their near-undoing. But with the help of Jack Douglas, theband managed to focus their talents like never before, creating an aptly titled package of gems.

More cohesive than Toys..., Rocks also features a richer, tougher sound -- the downright dangerous guitar combination of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford is spurred on by the sleazy rhythm section of Tom Hamilton and Joy Kramer, making tracks like "Rats In The Cellar" and "Back In The Saddle" send sparks.

At the center of it all is Steven Tyler's determined, devilish howl -- a vocal style that earned him the moniker "The Demon of Screamin'." On "Get The Lead Out," Tyler requested the support of a singer from the Metropolitan Opera on the refrain (making one wonder what happened to the singer's career after a session that must have shredded a once-fine voice).

The lyrics deal with extremes, whether it is sex ("Back In The Saddle"), drugs ("Combination"), or fame ("A Lick And A Promise") -- there is either too much or too little, typically at the same time. The subject matter is fitting for a band whose predilections scared the most drug-addled musicians in the business, leading them to dub Tyler and Perry the Toxic Twins.

- Tim Sheridan, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

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