Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 at 5:52 pm
For a huge selection of high quality MP3 albums at low prices there’s no better place to shop online than at Amazon. Every month the website hosts a wide variety of downloadable album for only $5 at their MP3 Store. Each month, they have 100 titles available on sale, each of which will only set you back a single digital Abe Lincoln. Since individual MP3s tend to sell for 99 cents each at least you’re saving yourself a few bucks as well. Among the sweet deals Amazon is offering in November you’ll find titles from artists such as Lauren Hill, Bob Dylan, the Black Keys, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, John Coltrane, Temple of the Dog, The Band, and more.
I decided to turn the spotlight on a title from a band I once held in the highest regard, and that’s Aerosmith‘s 1994 greatest hits compilation Big Ones.
Big Ones is a collection of the Boston blues-rock group’s most popular songs from three of the four albums they released on Geffen Records, along with some oddities and then newly-recorded tracks. Not surprisingly the collection features none of the tunes Aerosmith recorded for their first Geffen release, 1985’s Done with Mirrors (which I used to own on vinyl), because the band has always express dissatisfaction with that particular album. It still had some good tracks though, but that’s my humble opinion. The songs featured on Big Ones come from the albums Permanent Vacation (1987), Pump (1989), and their last multi-platinum release Get a Grip (1994). These recordings were also three of Aerosmith’s biggest-selling albums and also marked a crucial turning point in the band’s career.
Back in the 1970s, Aerosmith was one of the most popular rock bands around. They pumped out hard-rocking tunes, sold millions of albums, and performed sold-out concerts in arenas and stadiums around the world. The band was one of the major players at Columbia Records for most of the decade, but years of rampant drug abuse (lead singer Steven Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry were once dubbed the “Toxic Twins”) and feuding among the band’s members led to the Aerosmith’s dissolution after they were dropped by Columbia.
In the years that followed, the members of Aerosmith kicked their various drug habits, cleaned up their health, and reformed to sign with Geffen in 1985. Between their initial break-up and reunion six years had passed, and in that time something emerged that would prove one of the primary elements in the band’s resurrection in the public eye and on the Billboard charts: MTV. Although Done with Mirrors was greeted with the same indifference that plagued the releases of their last albums at Columbia, the band persevered and in 1987 they released Permanent Vacation, which spawned several radio-friendly hits and heavily-rotated music videos with “Rag Doll” and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).” Two years later they followed it up with another smash record, Pump. Despite never reaching the top of the Billboard chart in the United States, the album sold seven million copies and produced even more hit tunes with “Love in an Elevator,” “Janie’s Got a Gun,” and “The Other Side”.
Another four years would pass before Aerosmith released Get a Grip, their third consecutive (and ultimately last) multi-platinum release. Get a Grip spawned seven hit singles and the music videos for “Cryin’,” “Amazing,” and “Crazy” achieved a certain notoriety for featuring early appearances from then-relative newcomer actress Alicia Silverstone and “Crazy” gave MTV viewers their first big eyeful of Steven Tyler’s daughter (and future Middle Earth denizen) Liv Tyler. Get a Grip would also be the band’s final album of all-new material for Geffen Records. Back in 1991, at the height of their re-energized popularity, the band signed a new contract with their old label Columbia Records worth $30 million. With the release of Big Ones and the 1998 live album A Little South of Sanity, Aerosmith had honored their contract to Geffen and were now free to move on, but unfortunately for them they would never again have an album sell as great as those three recordings for Geffen featured heavily on Big Ones. It was pretty much all downhill from there for the boys from Boston. Beginning with 1997’s Nine Lives, Aerosmith would see their album sales steadily decline, but after all these years the band continues to record and perform vigorously and lead singer Tyler parlayed his rock icon status into a gig replacing Simon Cowell as a judge on American Idol.
Big Ones is a great collection of late 80’s/early 90’s hard rock given a glossy, radio-friendly makeover. The music doesn’t have the boozy, pot smoke-fogged, sleazy allure of Aerosmith’s 70’s output, but by that time the band had completely cleansed their bodies and minds of every narcotic influence they once readily indulged in. When I listen to any of Aerosmith’s music from the Geffen Records era I think of what the late comedian Bill Hicks once said about drugs and music. Tyler, Perry, Brad Hamilton, Joey Kramer, and Tom Hamilton could still whip a crunchy rock tune with the best of their aging peers (and to be honest their music from that time was way better than what the Rolling Stones were putting out, Voodoo Lounge notwithstanding), but the songs lacked serious edge. They were toothless and inoffensive, and it was to the music videos to stir up the outrage the actual tunes couldn’t. But to this day Aerosmith endures; their next album is set for release next year and as long as every member is alive and kicking the band will continue to rock as hard as they possibly can without breaking a hip.
I will always be an Aerosmith fan, but my love for them has not grown beyond 1997, the year they released their last somewhat worthy album, Nine Lives. I had just turned 18 and was fast approaching my high school graduation. For several years I had been a follower of Aerosmith and when I first heard that the band would be returning to their original label to continue rocking at their peak of their awesomeness it was like Christmas was here again. When I first listened to Nine Lives I was impressed that Steven and the boys hadn’t lost a step in the four years since Get a Grip, but none of the music was growing on me like the best of Aerosmith did with no problem whatsoever. Another four years passed when they put out their next album, Just Push Play, and I was working at a Tower Records at the time. We held a listening party on the Monday evening before it was released and as I was trying to get into Aerosmith’s latest batch of rockers it dawned on me that the group was way past their prime. Even worse, I realized that I had outgrown them. It was very depressing.
But when I listen to Big Ones I think back to a more prosperous time in my life when I was young, had a head full of dreams, and was ready to grab the world by the balls and squeeze. I took a course in Radio Broadcasting and Journalism during the last two years I was in high school and as part of the course I had to DJ at the school’s working, low-wattage radio station for two hours every week. The music I had to play was Top 40 and mostly disposable tripe, but the experience of being the man behind the mike spinning the records like Johnny Fever was an intoxicating one. Only a few years before that I was just starting to get into rock music and a world of amazing, conscious-altering music was revealed to me like a great curtain had finally been lifted in my mind. The music of Aerosmith played a huge role in my cultural awakening so I can’t completely write them off even as I must dodge the sad spectacle of Steven Tyler, all puffy faced and still thinking paisley scarfs is a hip fashion statement among heterosexual males, sitting on the judges’ panel of American Idol. Whenever I’m on the road listening to the radio and come across a classic Aerosmith song during my search for good music to soothe my soul as I battle slow-moving traffic and drivers who don’t know how to use their turn signals when changing lanes, three times out of five I won’t change the station. Unless it’s “Dream On.” Goddamn do I hate the request line.
Aerosmith’s Big Ones remains an essential compilation from the group’s last great run and a good place for newcomers to their music to jump on, but I would advise anyone listening to this music for the first time to go backwards when they’re done here and for the love of Xenu don’t look back.
Big Ones along with many more MP3 titles will be on sale until the end of the month, so take advantage of these deals while they last. If you’d like a physical copy of the album, the CD version is only $9.99.
1. Walk On Water
2. Love In An Elevator
3. Rag Doll
4. What It Takes
5. Dude (Looks Like A Lady)
6. Janie’s Got A Gun
9. Blind Man
10. Deuces Are Wild
11. The Other Side
13. Eat The Rich
15. Livin’ On The Edge