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ROCKS (1976-77)

Joe Perry: "We're getting better, the songs are getting more unified and the whole band's coming up with worthwhile ideas. I'm looking forward to the next one because I know it'll be better again " (Sounds, 10/16/76) ...

Touring in support of the "Toys in the Attic" album concluded in San Diego on December 17, 1975. Aerosmith had enjoyed a strong year of popular growth and that album and tour had pushed the band's catalog sales to over 3 million units. Additionally, each of those three studio albums had been certified Gold by the RIAA throughout the year (Platinum awards didn't exist at the time, with that certification level being created in 1976 with the first awarded in late February -- though "Toys" had certainly exceeded 1,000,000 units during the year). The band had continued to pay their dues grinding through a touring schedule without the benefit of radio hits and resultant airplay, press gimmicks, or major national television appearances. It was an all-encompassing grind. More importantly, versus their progenitors, the New York Dolls, Aerosmith had diligently avoided becoming over-hyped; not that CBS had any inkling about how to market them anyway. With the band off the road, the explosive success may have felt that it had been a long time coming, but the pressure was certainly on the band to deliver a successful new album that would catapult them to the next level of rock stardom. The canon was primed to deliver a blast, but first, the band had to deliver...

In January 1976 former producer Adrian Barber filed a lawsuit against Columbia, the band members individually, Leber & Krebs, and Frank Connely for $1.2 million. He alleged that the parties named had breached his original 1972 contract to produce the debut album on the grounds that it "gave him the option to produce further Aerosmith albums if the original achieved the success level it did reach. He attempted to exercise the option without success" (Variety, 1/28/76). While the album had not initially been a commercial success, Barber had also not become upset being supplanted by Ray Colcord and Jack Douglas for "Get Your Wings." However, the success of his former clients trumpeted throughout the press may have been an irresistible target to attempt to leverage the fine print of a contract signed over three years previous. That the case went away with nary a further mention in the press indicates that any issue was quickly dispatched...

Following an all too short holiday break, the band convened at the Wherehouse for pre-production rehearsals with Jack Douglas. Jack recalled the genesis of the project: "The only thing we were talking about a few months before 'Rocks' was that it was going to be a real hard rock album. And we might go back to the format of the first album, which was a rock out on every tune. And again, keep it real raw. And make it as live sounding as we possible could" (Record World, 12/25/76). Life on the road made writing and rehearsing new ideas nigh on impossible, but a handful musical ideas had taken root. Part of Douglas' role was to help marshal the band distill those raw ideas into songs, giving them form and refinement. The Wherehouse was the band's clubhouse, a refuge where they could just hang out and rehearse, but it was only a result of how the music took form that the band ended up being recorded there. Jack Douglas, ever aware to the importance of the creative environment influencing the foundation of a song, saw no reason to move the band out of the warehouse into a studio proper -- at least until it was time to do overdubs and the vocals -- was very aware of the creative process: "The keys the songs were written in were all dependent on the environment we were in. After a couple of weeks of rehearsal, the room started to sound really good. The very thought of moving it out of that room seemed like it would destroy everything about where we were... That record, when I put it on, sounds like truth" (Best Classic Bands, 1/31/18). Essentially, the band were recording their album at home and there was little difference in feel between jamming, rehearsing, or recording -- except during when tape would be rolling... An important part of that process would be through the jams while Tyler listened on seeking to identify a melody, lyrical phrase, or simply inspiration. When a backing track emerged from a process of revision and rearrangement, the onus would then fall to Tyler for the all-important lyrics to be added. This final stage was more often than not a painful, frustrating, and time-consuming part of the process of creation.

Over a period of six weeks in depths of the Boston winter, the basic tracks for six songs were worked out, refined, and ultimately captured to tape utilizing Record Plant's remote truck. Jack Douglas recalled, "You get a great live sound in the Wherehouse when you put a mike in the garage with cement walls. The roadies -- and they have great roadies [led by Bob "Kelly" Kelleher] -- built a tent around the mobile truck, so it was 20 degrees outside, but we were warm. But being in the truck for two weeks was a little like living in a submarine, so I was a bit loony when we came out" (Circus, 6/17/76). Loony or not, what ultimately came out of those initial sessions were the backing tracks -- the bedrock that would serve as the album's foundation, and in this case those foundations were rock hard. Moreover, creating the material and capturing it in the same environment gave it a unique flavor with punchiness and rawness. Regardless, the hardest part was yet to come: There were still lyrics to be written, vocals to be recorded, and lead guitar overdubs to be captured. Lyrics would prove to be the challenge: "Aerosmith does much of the instrumental arranging before the vocal melody is even written. And when Steven's writing is coming along slowly, as it did for 'Rocks,' the sessions drag on for weeks past the delivery date, pushing back the album's release and frustrating the band's management as the opening dates of a spring tour loom nearer and nearer" (Circus, 6/17/76).

Even as they concentrated on the creation of new material, CBS had reissued "Dream On" at the end of 1975 (it's unknown whether the pending litigation with Barber had any bearing on this release; or whether it was simply a matter of keeping the band visible at a time where they would be out of the public view -- while giving a neglected gem another shot). According to Tom, "There had to be some kind of demand... Disc jockeys were calling up the record company saying, 'if you don't give us the record, we're going to play it anyway.' They were getting requests" (Phonograph Record, April 1976). It was well received: "This re-release from Aerosmith's first album is a melodic exception to the band's normal heavy metal, wreak havoc format. The hard surface is there but Tyler's plaintive vocals and some economical muscular riffing make 'Dream On' a thinker as well as a mover" (Cashbox, 12/27/75). The song was reissued again, in November 1976 with "Sweet Emotion" as the B-side (Columbia 13-33327) as part of the "Hall of Fame" series. Promoter Fun Production's David Forest had planned to headline Aerosmith at Anaheim Stadium as early as January -- suggesting activities were scheduled far in advance. It was an ambitious plan; stadium shows were usually reserved for the established veteran superstar bands with a very broad mass appeal (Zeppelin, Stones). Forest wasn't deterred, believing that the rock market was growing so big that newly established acts could also make the jump into the stadiums. With any show being a gamble for a promoter, he trusted that most singular characteristic of a successful promoter: gut instinct, though with great risk came the opportunity for a massive payoff.

On January 10, 1976, "Dream On" returned to the Hot-100 (at #81) and started a long steady climb, culminating in it hitting a high position at #6 on Apr. 10 (the single peaked at the same position on Cashbox on Mar. 27). Were that not a background distraction enough, with there being no way for the band to capitalize or promote the single at the same time as writing and recording, it would have provided a continued background drone of motivation (and pressure). There were probably several factors that played into the explosive success Aerosmith enjoyed in the second half of 1976. A strong year of touring was buttressed by the breakout of the band on the charts. The "Toys In The Attic" album had been a slow burn on the charts from the day of its release; slowly building until it reached its zenith on Sept. 13, 1975 at #11 during an impressive 82-week chart run (at the end of which it took a brief two-week break before returning for another 46 weeks through October 1977, essentially encompassing the band's golden era).

The success of the album drove sales of the back-catalog. Sophomore effort, "Get Your Wings," returned to the Billboard Top-200 on Sept. 20, 1975 and remained active until Nov. 15, reaching as high as #74, a position that eclipsed its original chart run in 1974. It charted for the fourth time from Jan. 31 through Aug. 1976, lingering (rather than languishing) the bottom half of the Top-200. The debut album also came back on to the charts, Sept. through Nov. 1975, and again in Jan. 1976 -- at a time when the band were off the road. That album ultimately climbed to #21 and stayed on the charts until Sept. 1976. The success of the reissue of the "Dream On" single initially helped continue drive the sales of all three albums; a continuation of the strategy CBS had undertaken to capitalize on whole catalogues rather than just focus on an act's current product. Until that point, the band had not had any wildly successful commercial singles, even if they had started to develop a niche on radio airplay. There would be little doubt in looking back to 1973 that "Dream On" had not been given a chance or support by the label, so regardless of its success a wrong had been righted.

With the basic tracks captured, the one band member had personal matters to attend to... On Feb. 22, Brad Whitford married Lori Suzanne Philips at the North Miami garden home of her parents. Joined by the rest of the band the nuptial break was all too quickly over, with them reconvening in New York City to take up the next phase of creation at Record Plant's Studio A. As work continued on the album the lyrics became the focus. Jack recalled, "Steven moves in with me when we're working on an album. In the morning I wake him up with a cassette and a cup of coffee -- 'here you go' -- most of the melody lines have all been worked out and he's singing phonetically. I'll suggest a thing to him here and there; give him a kick this way and he starts to come around. He's really the main drive of the band" (Record World, 12/25/76). Things seemed to be going according to plan and the initial run of tour dates for mid-April started to be announced in mid-March.

The first Aerosmith album to not feature a cover recording (and only one of the band's '71-79 incarnation), "Rocks" saw the members other than Tyler and/or Perry core increasing their contributions to the song-writing process. While four of the album's songs were attributed to Tyler/Perry -- "Back in the Saddle," "Rats in the Cellar," "Get the Lead Out," and "Lick and a Promise" -- Brad contributed two songs with Steven. Steven was adamant that the funked up "Last Child" was going to be a disco hit, and its style gave him the scope to guide Joey in a different direction for the percussion (the song had started out with Steven behind the kit infusing a more jazzy beat). Starting with a Whitford riff titled "Soul Saver," it was clear the band was full of ideas, even if they were not yet fully formed and required transformation. Given Tyler's enthusiasm, and the song's stylistic differentiation from the band's usual sound, it is hardly surprising that the song would be released as the album's first single, backed with "Combination" (Columbia 3-10359), towards the end of May. Respectably, it reached #21 on the Billboard Hot-100. Cashbox also liked the single: "Aerosmith's remarkable popularity will not be dimmed by this single. It's right in the groove: a straightforward rock tune with a slick, rhythm-oriented arrangement. From the album 'Rocks' this will rise high on the pop charts and receive tremendous FM and AM" (Cashbox, 6/12/76). The song was fully embellished once the band reached New York with session player Paul Prestopino doubling the slide guitar with banjo.

Jack Douglas was impressed by Tom Hamilton's continued development as a songwriter and he brought in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which became "Sick as a Dog" on the album. Tom recalled, "Jack is a very open person. He always has time for what people come up with. 'Sick' started on guitar and I wasn't sure about it but playing it for Jack I realized it had a lot of potential. We recorded it last, and I'm glad because everybody was hot then" (Circus, 6/17/76). Jack, too, was equally complimentary towards Tom: "Tom is coming along in his writing. He's got a lot of tunes, and even though there's only one on this album, there could have been more" (Circus, 6/17/76). For the recording Joe performed most of the bass, until leaving the control room to play a solo, and handing Steven the bass for the end. Because Tom had written the song on guitar, he'd play guitar on the recording.

Album lead-off track, "Back in the Saddle" (and also a prospective album title), also served as the album's final single, backed with the second of Tyler/Whitford contributions, the apocalyptic "Nobody's Fault" (Columbia 3-10516), when released in late-March 1977. Unfortunately, the single languished on the charts only reaching #38, not a complete disaster, and it did successfully bridge the period where management had hoped the band would complete its next studio album. Musically, Joe had been inspired by Peter Green and Jack Bruce's use of a six-string bass, which he used to write the song (a Fender Bass VI). He particularly enjoyed the sound the instrument, which he described as "lead bass," gave the song. The writing of the song was straight-forward, according to Joe, "I was very high on heroin... That riff just floated right through me" (Guitar World, 4/97).

"Rats in the Cellar" started out as "Tit for Tat," and the title seemed a natural response to the previous album's title. Steven has recounted how lyrics in this song were influenced by the murder of their drug connection while recording at the Record Plant. That dealer, a peripheral music manager and hairdresser, may have been murdered (along with his young girlfriend) on Mar. 10. The swaggering "Get the Lead Out" dripped with the sleaze the band was living at the time, while "Lick and a Promise" represented the mission the band had every time they walked on to the stage: To win the audience. Joe Perry would sing his first lead vocal on an Aerosmith album, albeit as a semi-duet with Steven, on his solo contribution, "Combination." Like other songs, it was loosely based on the life the band members were living, mainly the growing involvement with drugs of various descriptions. More specifically, it was written in frustration at Steven's snail pace lyric writing.

Steven's "Home Tonight" goodnight lullaby closes the album. A seemingly natural successor to the aged "Dream On," the song was released as the album's much-hyped second single (Columbia 3-10407) in late-Aug., backed with "Pandora's Box." It floundered to an unimpressive #71 on the Billboard Hot-100 during a dismal four-week run -- "Rocks" may have been a Platinum album without the benefit of a top ten single (Billboard Ad, 9/3/76), but "Home Tonight" did not end up being that single... "Hard rockers and big-sellers Aerosmith have come up with a song that has a couple of unusual shifts in it. The soft, almost ballad-like vocal holds a lot of appeal, and the harsher rock 'n' roll bridge seems to fit just right. The vocal is reminiscent of some of McCartney's hard blues numbers. The record should chart strong off of FM progressive play" (Cashbox, 9/11/76). In late-November, in a blatant attempt to repeat the late-1975 single reissue success, "Walk This Way" was reissued with a new B-side, "Uncle Salty" (Columbia 3-10449). The exercise soon bore fruit again with the single charting for 17 weeks reaching a high of #10 on the Billboard Hot-100 on Jan. 29, 1977. It did even better on Cashbox hitting #7.

By April Jack, already involved with pre-production for Starz's debut, was recruited to help finish up Moxy's second album following last-minute "finishing touches" being put on the album, resulting in the first two weeks of shows being rescheduled. Of course, there may have been the small matter of letting "Dream On" run its course on the charts before launching the band's new material. Whatever was happening in the background, the "Rocks" project was drawing to a close. Steve wasn't completely happy with how things ended: "This last album I couldn't even stay for the final mixes. We had already cancelled two weeks of dates because of some final mastering. I insist on being there. I know what went down. Since having so much to do with the songs, I wanted at least to be able to mix the songs a little bit. I want to know where the edits are going. It shouldn't all be left up to your producer, although we have the finest producers in the world" (Sounds, 10/16/76). Any minor gripes wouldn't matter. What resulted from the two months of grind was a powerful mix of catchy riffs and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. It was a raw slab of sleazy rock 'n' roll, Americanized Yardbirds inspired blues with punkish ferocity, but most importantly catchy, clever, and lacking in overt pretentiousness. Joe was pleased: "Well, it's better, with everyone we're getting better, the songs are getting more unified and the whole band's coming up with worthwhile ideas. I'm looking forward to the next one because I know it'll be better again. We're managing to get into a groove in the studio now and we're trying to keep it that way" (Sounds, 10/16/76).

It was also Joe's idea to name the album "Rocks." What description could be better than what he felt was the hardest rock they'd made. He'd also suggested the title the year before for the album that became "Toys in the Attic," though this time it stuck. "Aerosmith Five" was also considered, but likely would have caused more confusion for those not considering that it described the number of band members rather than albums to that point. As had been the case with their previous album, the band returned to Ernie Cefalu's Pacific Eye and Ear for the creation of their packing. A Scott Enyart photograph of five diamonds would form the basis for the cover illustration. The inner dust-sleeve served as a more expansive canvas with a cartoon illustration of the band by old band friend Teresa Stokes on one side, and collage of photos on the other. The caricature was initially intended to serve as the band's stage backdrop for the tour, but even after having the artist paint it twice and having it made, Steve decided that he "hated" it and it wasn't used. The first version of the painting was purportedly lost in a fire and Steven requested she paint it again. The illustration would be cropped for use on the dust sleeve.

The album was released on May 14. Initially the album was not supported by a new single with "Dream On" continuing to linger on charts. That double-edged sword may have also impacted the marketing of the new album with the lead single having to be something that countered "Dream On." Entered the Billboard album charts at #25 on May 29. In the United States, the album was certified Gold by the RIAA on May 21, 1976 and Platinum on July 9, 1976; 2X Platinum followed on October 19, 1984; 3X on December 21, 1988; and (most recently) 4X on February 26, 2001. Gold was awarded by the CRIA (Canada - 50,000 units) on September 1, 1976 and Platinum on November 1, 1976. In the SoundScan era the album sold 409,451 units between 1991 and Feb. 2007. In the U.S., the album reached #3 on the Billboard Top-200 charts (06/26/76) during a 53-week run, and the same on Cashbox (6/12/76) during 51 weeks. The album was blocked from any chance at the top spot by "Frampton Comes Alive" and the Wing's "At the Speed of Sound." Internationally, the album reached #13 in Japan, #14 in Canada, and #46 in Sweden. Either way, the performance of the album was impressive without the benefit of a resident hit single.

For the tour, the backdrop used would be the simply black one emblazoned with large Aerosmith name in script. Other effects were kept to a minimum, deliberately, having been overdone by many another act. A single flash-pot was used as an attention grabber at the start of the show and the rest of the show was handled with lighting. Bob See's See Factor Industry lighting company pitched the idea of the descending A-frame lighting grid that was used as the show's culmination. Bob described it: "It took us six weeks from the time the go was given to build it -- five weeks of engineering. But it was worth it. It's designed to withstand 60 mph winds for outdoor dates. It has a set of towers; it can be self-supporting. It's actually quite a feat of engineering. It weighs 10,000 pounds and stays up on two 12" cylinders! It's got probably more than 30 miles of wiring. Six people can have it put together, focused, and ready to go in four hours" (Circus, 10/12/76). Other core members included Roy Bickle, who oversaw the lighting, PA crew boss Peter Alexander for Tasco, with Robert "Nite Bob" Czaykowski mixing the sound. All told, the tour entourage had grown for the "Rocks" tour. Crew Chief Henry Smith detailed, "Last time, we had 12 people on the road... There are 31 people on the road this time -- six for sound, seven for lights, the group's personal people, truck drivers, stage crew" (Circus, 10/12/76). Some of the others included Dick "The Rabbit" Hansen, whose services included teching for Joe; Nick Spigel, who'd do the same for Brad and Tom during shows, and road manager Bob Kelleher.

With original dates Apr. 13–27 rescheduled; the "Rocks" tour commenced with a sold-out show in St. Louis on Apr. 27. The set still heavily favored "Toys in the Attic" material, but that would change throughout the tour with "Lick and A Promise," "Rats In The Cellar," "Sick As A Dog," "Get The Lead Out," and "Last Child" appearing. The band also performed five stadium-sized shows throughout the initial 59-show leg -- Detroit, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Anaheim -- to a cumulative and impressive attendance of 329,952! However, they soon tired of these massive shows. According to David Krebs, "This is the last big tour. After this one there won't be much touring... they're already big, and they just don't need to kill themselves anymore... So, next year, their touring schedule is going to be severely limited -- so they can concentrate on putting out product" (Rolling Stone #220, 8/26/76). Playing to the large crowds simply wasn't fun for the band. For Steven, it was a matter of aesthetics: "All you could see was security guys... I had trouble looking out and being able to see a kid. It's so ugly when you have to sing to security guards. F – muscle heads, who wants to sing to them" (Melody Maker, 10/16/76). But there was also a more obvious issue with the stadium-sized shows: "The matters of sound and visibility are always a problem at outdoor shows, but they are particularly noticeable -- and discouraging -- when seeing a band for the first time. When the stadium shows were introduced, it was assumed that only the biggest of the veteran acts -- the Stones, the Who, Zeppelin -- would be able to draw enough people to fill the outdoor facilities. By the time these bands reached the stadium level, the reasoning went, their audiences would be so familiar with the groups' music and stage moves that the fans could just use their imaginations to fill in any gaps caused by the huge setting." Newer acts in a fast-expanding rock market booking shows that results in a situation where many are seeing the bands for the first time and therefore getting less out of the experience. " (Los Angeles Times, 9/14/76). The band's schedule also changed so that they wouldn't have to perform more than two nights in a row, to help protect Steven's voice.

The "Rocks" tour saw the band's first true international jaunts. While they had expected to tour Asia in the autumn, a European run was booked instead. Steven was looking forward to the shows: "We got a progress report about England. On a lot of shows the tickets have gone on sale already and we're doing real good. We're gonna knock their tits right off their chests. I know that nobody's rockin' out over there. It's a shame" (Sounds, 10/16/76). The tour started in England, with the band arriving in London on Oct. 9. However, the band enjoyed negligible radio play or popularity there, and like other U.S. bands making the flight across the pond, they found themselves going from 20,000-seat arenas to antiquated halls with less than 4,000 seats. If they were tired of stadiums, the European tour was a stark reminder of the other side of the spectrum. The tour concluded in Paris on Nov. 1 and the band were quickly back on U.S. soil for their next leg of dates leading to the Christmas holiday break. It was during this leg of the tour that the wear and tear of the road started to show. Following their first hometown show on Nov. 15, Steven was diagnosed with laryngitis and shows Nov. 16–24, were postponed (one date was canceled). Touring resumed on Nov. 29 without further public drama. The band's visit to Japan took place at the end of Jan. into early Feb. with the band vacationing in Hawaii on their return. The Japanese record label marked the occasion with the release of an album, "Wild Platinum," which compiled 13 songs from the four studio albums.

Assorted review excerpts:

"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 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 make up 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" (Billboard, 5/22/76).

"Having already established themselves as one of the top rock acts of the year. Aerosmith offers an album that's chock full of rock gems. Every tune will grab the FM progressive programmers while there are several titles that will also turn up on AM stations everywhere. Among these are 'Combination' and 'Nobody's Fault,' which sound something like the Stones and Led Zeppelin respectively, proving Aerosmith to be a successfully derivative band" (Cashbox, 5/22/76).

"Some bands -- such as Bachman-Turner Overdrive and the Doobie Brothers -- are either calmly enjoyed or ignored by most rock fans. But others -- notably Grand Funk Railroad and Black Sabbath in recent years -- have been objects of an intense love 'em or hate 'em relationship with both fans and the rock media. Aerosmith is the latest example. For those looking for 'art' or new direction in rock, Aerosmith has precious little to offer. To the hard-core, teen-age rock fan seeking power and abandon in his music, however, the band provides an abundance of high energy assault. The group's ability to deliver the latter, in fact, has enabled it to enter the rock superstar class in recent months despite little support from critics or (until the 'Dream On' single) AM airplay. The band's enormous success (its first three albums have all passed the $1 million sales mark and it headlines this summer at the 55,000-seat Anaheim Stadium) only serves to make those who shudder over the group's lack of creative vision all the more hostile. As writers and other commentators become increasingly vociferous in their attacks on Aerosmith, the group's fans, quite naturally, rally around it with growing allegiance. Being an underdog, it should be noted, has often been an advantageous position in rock.

'Rocks,' the band's fourth album, has just been released and it should add to the controversy around the quintet. After listening to the album, however, it's hard to identify fully with either side. The album (already in the Top 10 nationally) isn't substantial enough to endorse adoringly, but neither does it stir any sense of outrage. In fact, it rocks a lot more than most albums these days... 'Back in the Saddle' has all the energy, intensity and snarl one could want from the opening track on a rock 'n' roll album. It certainly has more of the cited traits than anything on the new Rolling Stones album, to name a band whose work has often been used to point out Aerosmith's limitations and derivative nature. The truth is that -- as much as lead singer Steven Tyler's pouting lips and stage manner may remind one of Mick Jagger -- there is little in this song or the rest of the album to remind one of the Stones. But it is possible to see many other influences.

'Back in the Saddle,' for instance, borders so much on a Led Zeppelin-meets-Bad Company pose that you'd think Swan Records (which handles both Zeppelin and Bad Company) would be able to win an injunction for copyright infringement except that everyone in the pop music business has long stolen from everyone else anyway. Sure, it would be nice to have more imagination in the songwriting, more adventure in the arrangements, more originality in the playing and more range in Tyler's voice. But it's easy to see the band's appeal. Despite the severe limitations, Aerosmith is filling the high energy need (particularly in 'Back in the Saddle' and the explosive 'Nobody's Fault') in a time when the rock scene is all too sedate. For its audience: good of a kind. MAYBE" (Los Angeles Times, 6/5/76).

"They had 'Toys in the Attic' in their last album and come up with 'Rats in the Cellar' for this one. Big deal. There's nothing on this release that has the tender tension of 'Dream On,' the instrumental hook of 'No More,' the momentum of 'Train Kept 'a Rollin'' or the bratty charm of 'Walk This Way" -- all songs that made their earlier albums sure hits. Once Aerosmith was innovative, even when they stole their main ideas from other bands. Now they've slipped into the lazy habit of having Steve Tyler shout a few lyric lines, with the rest of the band shouting back the title as a one-line chorus. Too many of these songs sound alike. Lead guitarist Joe Perry isn't playing up to any sort of professional par. I've heard guys in local bar bands play much better. Tyler's rock ballad 'Home Tonight' is acceptable at best. The catchiest cut is 'Sick as a Dog.' That's a dubious achievement since the whole idea of the song is repulsive. At this point, Aerosmith is a drag, and that's not the way rock ought to be" (Detroit Free Press, 6/22/76).

"Saints preserve us. The five-piece Boston band that wants stardom so very badly is achieving it. And this despite beginning in Sunapee, New Hampshire, and having a lead singer who looks and performs like a rock 'n' roll windup doll and playing home-grown material which deals mostly with adolescent sex while being more stupid than vulgar. Aerosmith's fourth album will undoubtedly sell well, moving the group further along the road from local phenom to national chart-buster. It is about as subtle as a mugging, filled with standard heavy metal guitar riffs and thinly veiled teenage titilators. ('Back in the Saddle,' 'Get the Lead Out'). Despite the musical posing and calculated scruffiness, 'Rocks' will never be confused with Stones" (Boston Globe, 7/15/76).

"Whether 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 Yardbird's 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 innovated as their models did. The most winning aspect of 'Rocks' is that ace metal producer Jack Douglas and the band (listed as co-producers 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... 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 gold. Aerosmith may have their hard-rock wings, but they won't truly fly until their inventiveness catches up to their fast-maturing professionalism" (Rolling Stone #218, 7/29/76).

"Still one of the flashiest hard rock-and-roll groups of the 70s, Aerosmith is quickly losing its fire. Its fourth LP brings little variety and does not come near matching its 'Toys in the Attic' album,' the best effort to its credit. Also, to its credit is that Aerosmith's four successive LPs are charted and selling extremely well. The group is far from entering the boredom category as some groups have, but the lack of innovation and originality is obviously noticed in this recent album. Steve Tyler's feline-vocal approach is only faintly audible in too many of the tunes, killing such well-written pieces as 'Lick and a Promise' and 'Rats in the Cellar.' His sexual Mick Jagger approach is only a cover-up for lyrics that say nothing and do nothing for a hyped-up sound. Though his delivery is polished, the groups material appears to be at best mediocre" (Spokane Daily Chronicle, 8/5/76).

"Well, listen, the new Aerosmith album just came in the main, too. (And you thought there was no hope...) Produced in a garbage can with Jap[anese] guitars and a 39c tape-recorder mike, there's no question that on 'Rocks,' Aerosmith mean it. That this is rock & roll. These guys aren't pretending, they're raggedy. I know for a fact that it took them as long to record this as it took KISS to record their Sgt. Pepper's grease pie ['Destroyer']. But compared with KISS, this is positively rural, this is Robert Johnson. There's nary a clean riff on this record, let alone an orchestra or a choir. Slinky is perhaps the most operative word. Listen to the riff in 'Back in the Saddle' -- now you can't tell me that Joe Perry tunes his guitar. No matter what, he's a hit-it-if-you-happen-to, Chuck Berry riffer extraordinaire (Ace Frehley is more akin to The Tonight Show's Tony Mattola). On top of the rubber band guitar work you get Steve Tyler snarling definitely... While you know that the latest KISS music sounds sterile and mass-produced, at the same time you wonder how Aerosmith ever got this sprawling mess into a regularly shaped album cover. Part of the difference lies in the fact that Aerosmith don't have they knack for the hook that KISS does. KISS (along with their multitude of co-authors, whose number now includes Kim Fowley) are capable of writing a song that's catchy all the way through. Aerosmith, on the other hand, struggle, spinning off in that direction on the throb of a rhythm section which pulsates somewhat irregularly like a gelatinous monster from outer space" (Circus, 8/24/76). is an unofficial & unsanctioned fan website/book project
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