Tag Archives: Honkin’ On Bobo

Rocks In The Attic #575: The Rolling Stones – ‘Blue & Lonesome’ (2016)

RITA#575I’ve been burnt before by a blues cover album. In 2004, Aerosmith released Honkin’ On Bobo, a record collecting eleven blues covers and one original song. After 2001’s simply awful Just Push Play, the back-to-basics blues album was supposed to be their redemption. I nearly lost my shit when I first heard about it, especially as the advance word was that it was going to be produced by their old ‘70s partner in crime, Jack Douglas. How could this go wrong?

So I approached Blue & Lonesome with a degree of caution. I’d heard a couple of pre-release teasers (Hate To See You Go and Ride ‘Em On Down) and they sounded pretty good. When I finally picked up the album, I was overjoyed with it. It succeeded, where Honkin’ On Bobo failed, in the sheer sonic quality of the record. If Aerosmith’s album sounded too clean and polished, the Stones’ effort sounded ballsy and authentic.

I don’t buy many new releases. If I buy any at all, I might pick up one or two a year. So if I buy a new record and I don’t take it off my turntable for a while, it’s quite a big thing for me. I must have played Blue & Lonesome five or six times before I gave something else a chance.

The record might not be everybody’s cup of tea. It probably won’t be a big seller – compared to how Stones albums usually sell – simply because it’s not an original studio record. Not only is the choice of material restricted to one dusty, old genre, but the selections are quite obscure songs as well. These are the kind of songs that Keith Richards can be heard playing behind the scenes in a recent documentary, on a little record player in his dressing room.  In fact I had only recognised one of the album’s twelve songs (and that song, Willie Dixon’s I Can’t Quit You Baby, is only well-known from having been covered by Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck’s band in the late ‘60s).

The album was put together in a prompt three days of recording – incredible really, when you consider how long they could take. Eric Clapton appears on a couple of songs, having been drafted in from the studio next door to where the Stones were recording, but I don’t think his appearance really adds anything special.

My one criticism is that it would have been nice of the Stones to have paid a little tribute to Brian Jones, their blues-obsessed former leader. I’m not sure how they could have done this, but a great idea I heard was naming the record something like Brian Was A Blues Guy.

Be sure to check out the recent episode of Sit And Spin With Joe, where my good friend Joe Royland discusses his take on Blue & Lonesome.

Hit: Ride ‘Em On Down

Hidden Gem: All Of Your Love

Advertisements

Rocks In The Attic #527: The Rolling Stones – ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ (1967)

RITA#527.jpgPoor Brian. I’m just in the middle of Peter Norman’s 1980’s biography The Stones. There’s quite a large portion of the book involved with the mental (and professional) decline of Brian Jones, and it makes for quite upsetting reading.

For some reason, I had always mistakenly thought Jones was still a member of the band when he drowned in his swimming pool late one night after having too much to drink. He’d actually been kicked out of the band a couple of weeks prior to this, when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards visited him at his home to do the dirty deed. As Jones had by that time lost any trust in the songwriting pair, they took along the affable Charlie Watts in way of a neutral, calming influence.

Their Satanic Majesties Request is always seen as the black sheep of Stones albums, in much the same way that Brian Jones was the black sheep of the Stones themselves. I admit that it’s not one of their best. Their attempt to emulate the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s leaves them sounding amateurish, most likely because the record was self-produced after Andrew Loog Oldham walked out on them in his capacity as manager and producer. His loss – but their lightning-in-a-bottle four album run, just around the corner, could never have been achieved by Oldham in the producer’s chair.

Satanic Majesties might not be their best album – but it’s a far more enjoyable listen than its predecessor Between The Buttons, which found them completely bereft of ideas. I struggle to listen to Between The Buttons – a huge step down after the peerless Aftermath. At least Satanic Majesties finds them trying to do something different, whereas Between The Buttons was a retread of earlier accomplishments, following a tired formula.

I was pleased to hear the announcement the other day that there’s a new Stones studio album on the way – Blue & Lonesome. A blues album, I don’t expect it will be any better than Aerosmith’s woeful attempt at a blues-only record, but you never know. Somebody had a great idea in that they should have titled it Brian Was A Blues Guy, or something like that, as a nice nod to their former leader.

Hit: She’s A Rainbow


Hidden Gem: 2000 Light Years From Home

Rocks In The Attic #225: Aerosmith – ‘Nine Lives’ (1997)

RITA#225I had started listening to Aerosmith in 1993, when Get A Grip, the album before this was released; so by the time this came out in 1997, I had consumed everything Aerosmith had produced in their 24 years of material, and was very thirsty for anything new. Most importantly, I was now very much a critic.

I still see Nine Lives as a decent album. It’s definitely not in the same ballpark as Pump, and it’s only slightly more palatable than the hard Country that infects most of Get A Grip. It’s their last stab at making a decent album – and, although a patchy affair, is much better than Honkin’ On Bobo, Just Push Play and Music From Another Dimension!

This album came out in my first winter of university, in February 1997. I remember buying the CD single of Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees), and listening to it on my Discman as I walked around the cold, bitter streets of Huddersfield. I wanted so much for it to be better than it actually was. I had no right to criticise any of Aerosmith’s work before this – as I wasn’t a fan when those albums were originally released – but now I was a fully fledged fan, and I felt I deserved better.

When the album was released a month later, I was similarly disappointed. I’ve come to expect that feeling with Aerosmith when they release a new album. They may not make classic albums any more, but they’re very consistent with the hype (and subsequent lack of follow-through) they foster with every new release. Purveyors of disappointment, you might say.

Still, Nine Lives has its peaks and I was still itching to see the band play live again. On the Get A Grip tour in 1993, I had only managed to see the band once, when they played in Sheffield. This time, I was going to try and see them as much as my wallet could afford. With my friends Stotty and Bez, I got tickets to see them in Manchester, and then a couple of weeks later in Birmingham.

Manchester was great – seeing your favourite band play in your home town is always nice – but Birmingham was very special. We made a day of it, travelling down the motorway in the sunshine, and hanging out around the NEC for an hour or so before the show, checking out anything female dressed in an Aerosmith t-shirt.

The title song is a classic album opener, with a wall of guitar feedback swirling around horrible cat noises. They opened their live show with the song throughout the tour, and it was eye-opening to find out the cat noises were produced by nothing other than the vocal chords of Steven Tyler. It was also nice to see Brad Whitford take centre-stage with the guitar solo on the song.

The other thing I remember from that tour (aside from the inappropriately booked support band of Shed Seven, who we had great fun booing, stood only yards away from Rick Witter) was the fact that during the Birmingham show, England were playing Poland in a World Cup qualifier. A couple of times during their set, Steven Tyler gave an update of the score – “England – two! Poland – zero!” -which was as bizarre as it sounds. The score stayed that way too.

This vinyl copy is the reissued version, with their later #1 hit single I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing tacked onto the end (I hate that song – it really signalled the end of Aerosmith’s ability to release anything of any artistic merit); and the alternative cover (after the original cover of the album offended a bunch of Hindus).

All in all, Nine Lives is a mixed affair, with some really strong highlights, all rolled up into a combination of initial disappointment, and tempered with some very happy memories.

Hit: I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing

Hidden Gem: Falling Off

Rocks In The Attic #187: Aerosmith – ‘Music From Another Dimension!’ (2012)

RITA#187Aerosmith used to be a rock band, back in the day. They were a bad-ass rock band in the ‘70s, and nearly lost it all before coming back to rule again in the late-‘80s.

The peak of that second stab at popularity was 1989’s Pump. Pump is a great album. It’s starting to sound a little dated now, but at the time it was as fresh and cutting-edge as anything recorded by bands in their 20s and 30s. But the last song on Pump can be blamed for the current state of Aerosmith.

What It Takes is a slow acoustic number, a broken-hearts song done in the style of a bar-room Country & Western song. In fact, it’s a pastiche of a Country & Western song. Steven Tyler even sings the lyrics in a mock-country style (think Mick Jagger’s vocals on Dead Flowers from Sticky Fingers). But despite all this, it’s still a very good song.

Prior to this, Aerosmith songs had fallen into two camps – straightforward rockers, or slower blues-based mid-tempo songs (with the odd power ballad starting to rear its ugly head from 1987’s Permanent Vacation onwards). But What It Takes changes all that. From their next album, 1993’s Get A Grip, the band thinks it’s reasonably acceptable to litter their material with country songs.

Wait a minute guys, What It Takes was a good song, but it was a pastiche, remember? You were parodying the hillbilly nature of that style of music. This wasn’t meant to be a new direction!

So Get A Grip, aside from the straightforward rockers, is jammed pack full of Country & Western tinged songs – Crazy, Cryin’ and Amazing. It’s heavy Country & Western, but Country & Western all the same. The rest of Get A Grip isn’t too bad, but these three songs, all released as singles, stink up the rest of the album.

The formula then gets repeated through 1997’s okay Nine Lives and 2001’s dreadful Just Push Play. I was momentarily excited by a back-to-basics blues album, in 2004’s Honkin’ On Bobo, but despite a nice collection of blues covers, even this album reeked of Country & Western. They may be classic blues songs, but the instrumentation and arrangement still sounds miles away from the 1970s glory years.

Then we come to Music From Another Dimension! – “the band’s first studio album of all new songs in 11 years!”. They needn’t have bothered. For about twenty years now, they’ve stopped being relevant. The whole Country & Western theme has reached its absolute nadir in the song Can’t Stop Lovin’ You – a duet with Carrie Underwood who, believe it or not, is a Country singer.

Not long ago, I watched a really bad Kevin Costner film. I know that’s quite a vague term, given the number of really bad Kevin Costner films, but this one was particularly bad. Good ol’ Kevin played a good ol’ boy in the American South, who ends up, for reasons too implausible to repeat here, having the casting vote in the American presidential election. The two nominees – played by Dennis Hopper and Kelsey Grammer – make their way to Kevin’s hometown, to woo him with his favourite things in life. In one vignette, Kevin gets to go driving with his favourite racecar driver. Kevin plays in a Country & Western band, so the other nominee invites him to a party where, guess what, his band are on stage all ready to start playing. Kevin steps up and rips into the usual 21st century Country & Western drivel – all broken-hearts and melancholic euphoria, like Coldplay covering a Willie Nelson song. It’s the worst song you’ve ever heard in your life, and more than enough to make you question whether Dance With Wolves was really any good, or just a lucky strike by an actor who has dealt in various shades of mediocrity ever since.

The song he sings really is the low point of a very poor film. If you arranged all of the songs you’ve ever heard in your life from good to bad, this one would be at the bottom end. Surely nothing could be worse than this, right? Then you listen to Aerosmith and Carrie Underwood singing Can’t Stop Lovin’ You – and suddenly, in comparison, you have fond nostalgic memories of that Kevin Costner song.

There’s not a great deal of good things to say about this album – the cover art is terrible (they’ve somehow managed to top Just Push Play in true awfulness) and there’s very little in the way of decent material. Out Go The Lights is built around a nice funky riff, in the style of Last Child, but the rest is just embarrassing.

At least contemporary Rolling Stones albums still sound like the Rolling Stones. Aerosmith sound like a completely different band. Steven Tyler falls back on that horrible scat-style of singing, which just sounds infantile. Other lyrics are just rewritten nursery rhymes, with the odd word changed to try to sound inventive. It all comes across as a band that have run out of ideas (and run out of steam).

Except Joey Kramer. His drumming on the first side of the album is spot-on, and proof that he really is an underrated rock drummer. I guess that’s what happens when you hang around with band members who now trade in Country & Western (and mediocrity).

Hit: Legendary Child

Hidden Gem: Out Go The Lights

Rocks In The Attic #81: Aerosmith – ‘Honkin’ On Bobo’ (2004)

Rocks In The Attic #81: Aerosmith - ‘Honkin’ On Bobo’ (2004)Aerosmith really know how to disappoint. When I first heard about this record – that it was going to be a back-to basics Blues record, produced by their old-time 70s producer Jack Douglas – I was so excited. After almost twenty years of trying to rewrite their past, and becoming a shadow of their former selves, this idea seemed to make sense. They’ve realised that their Geffen output was sub-par! They’re going back to their Blues influences! And just to make sure it all works, they’ve got Jack Douglas back on board to produce the record! What could go wrong?

This album is so bad it’s offensive. Everything sounds so clean and polished, they end up sounding like the resident jazz band on the Starship Enterprise. Any indication that they were going back to their roots was then completely swept aside when they went out on tour to support the album. The accompanying tour DVD – You Gotta Move – shows them getting massages and travelling to shows separately in private jets.

If there is one good thing to come out of all this, it’s the fact that they started playing their older material on tour. During their Geffen days they pretty much only played Geffen material live. When I first saw them touring Get A Grip in 1993, and then twice touring Nine Lives in 1997, they pretty much only played their Geffen singles, plus a few album tracks from the respective album they were touring, rounded off with an encore of their three big Columbia singles – Dream On, Sweet Emotion and Walk This Way. Since they reacquainted themselves with their older material for Honkin’ On Bobo, they now tend to play roughly a 65/35 split – with their older stuff still taking the minority – but at least they’re playing a decent amount of 70s material and not acting as though it doesn’t exist.

Hit: Baby Please Don’t Go

Hidden Gem: The Grind