ON THIS DATE (36 YEARS AGO)
May 3, 1976 – Aerosmith: Rocks is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 5/5
# allmusic 5/5
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Rocks is the fourth album by Aerosmith, released May 3, 1976. The album was a commercial success, charting three singles on the Billboard Hot 100, two of which reached the Top 40 (“Back in the Saddle” and “Last Child”). The album was one of the first albums to ship platinum when it was released. The album has since gone quadruple platinum. Ranking #176 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It has greatly influenced many people in the hard rock and heavy metal community, including Guns N’ Roses and Metallica.
One of the reasons why Aerosmith, after a number of creatively lean years, are still given legendary credence and an eager ear with each new release, Rocks encapsulated the very essence of rock ‘n’ roll. They may have been the target of detractors who still pinned them as nothing more than a poor man’s Rolling Stones, but Rocks pioneered a strength and swagger and real depth that remains very nearly unsurpassed. From the slowly escalating ‘Back In The Saddle’ to the dying strains of ‘Home Tonight’, this album held the full spirit and soul of Aerosmith in both hands.
ORIGINAL ROLLING STONE REVIEW
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 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.
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 innocuousness 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 (July 29, 1976)
1 Back in the Saddle (Steven Tyler, Joe Perry) 4:40
2 Last Child (Tyler, Brad Whitford) 3:24
3 Rats in the Cellar (Tyler, Perry) 4:07
4 Combination (Perry) 3:39
1 Sick as a Dog (Tyler, Tom Hamilton) 4:12
2 Nobody’s Fault (Tyler, Whitford) 4:25
3 Get the Lead Out (Tyler, Perry) 3:43
4 Lick and a Promise (Tyler, Perry) 3:05
5 Home Tonight (Tyler) 3:18