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Few bands that are still standing have as twisted and troubled a history as Aerosmith It’s nothing short of a miracle that the five principals are still alive, no less still together, making music.
It’s been 11 years since Aerosmith released an album of new material (the last studio album was blues cover set, 2004’s “Honkin’ On Bobo”). “Music From Another Dimension,” out Nov. 6, is a welcome return that sonically spans that band’s full history, usually for the better than for the worse.
Given the title, it should come as no surprise that the album opens with a “Twilight Zone”-like voice over that heralds, “you’re about to enter a great adventure...from which you may never return.”
Then the band is out of the chute with “Luv XXX,” a Beatlesque track that also incorporates elements of “Love In and Elevator” without the sharp sparkle. Still, it’s a strong opener: a cohesive, inviting track that shows off Steven Tyler’s still healthy rasp.
From there, the band leaps into “Oh Yeah,” a track that crosses The Stones with Blur. It’s one of the album’s catchiest tunes and should be a single contender, even if it doesn’t have a strongly memorable chorus.
The members of Aerosmith can do mid-tempo rockers like “Tell Me” in their sleep, but the acoustic-leaning “Tell Me,” still has its appeal, with Joey Kramer’s hypnotic drumming and the band’s background vocals hitting all the right beats. A similarly heard- this-before vibe penetrates the loose-limbed “Out Go The Lights,” a rock slab that includes the classic Tyler lyric, “Liquor in the front/poker in the back” (if you don’t get it from reading it, read it outloud...Tyler’s harmonica ending is a welcome coda. First single, the rollicking “Legendary Child,” which details the band’s history, should have done better at radio, given Joe Perry’s blazing guitar and the steady, welcoming rock thump.
Ever since the band landed its first No. 1 with “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,” syrupy sweet love ballads have become part of their legacy. It’s already looking like the band will have an AC hit with “What Could Have Been Love.” The song sounds straight out of the Diane Warren playbook, even though it was written by Tyler, Marti Frederiksen and the album's co-producer Jack Douglas (who also produced "Rocks"). However, Warren does make an appearance with the keep-the-faith, inspirational ballad, “We All Fall Down.” It screams for a major movie placement (just as “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” appeared in 1998‘s “Armageddon").
Carrie Underwood, who previously duetted with Tyler various television shows, returns for a second helping on the mid-tempo, heavy track, “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You.” They are both belters, but they do a good job of not working together instead of out-shrieking each other. Still, unless there’s some major remix, you won’t be hearing this alongside Underwood’s other tunes on country radio.
There’s something comforting in the fact that after 40 years together, Aerosmith remains composed of the same bad boys making the same blues-based rock after all these years. To be sure, the musicianship feels strong, but more economical, these days and Tyler’s voice has yielded a small bit of its rubbery flexibility to time, but the band is still vitally and nicely intact. Furthermore, despite all the break-ups, the rough and tumble years, and times of personal enmity, they still sound like a band, very capable of leaving whatever issues still haunt them outside the studio door. Just listen to “Freedom Fighter,” a song featuring Perry on lead vocals, and the groovy pocket the band slides into towards the end. That’s something only time and triumphing over tribulations brings.
For older fans, “Sweet Jesus” provides the money shot. With its rumbling freight train vibe and long, propulsive outro, it would have sounded right in place on an early Aerosmith album from the mid-'70s.
The album closes with the gorgeous, dreamy “Another Last Goodbye” co-written with Desmond Child, who helped pen some of the band’s biggest hits during its ‘90s resurgence. A more restrained vocal by Tyler may have made it more radio friendly and help match his delivery with the lovely piano and strings, but his alley cat screeches sound authentic. To be able to say that after everything Aerosmith has been through feels like some kind of major victory.
This is the band's last album on their contract with Columbia. Should it be a swan song-- and hopefully it's not-- it represents Aerosmith and its legacy well.