The name Joe Perry should be instantly recognized as one half of “The Toxic Twins,” the legendary musical pairing with Steven Tyler and Aerosmith. On JOE PERRY, his fourth solo release (and first since 1984), Perry gets down and dirty with his signature hard rock riffs mixed with a bluesy edge. Eleven originals (including two instrumentals) penned over the last ten years are here along with two covers of The Doors and American folk legend Woody Guthrie. I will admit to being pleasantly surprised by this CD even though I am a long-time Aerosmith fan. Solo albums usually don’t work, especially when the artist has been such a staple of his main band for so long, but Perry has definitely carved himself a nice little niche with this release. The songs are far enough removed from Aerosmith that they are not immediately written off as “leftovers” but they still maintain that groove and boogie of classic Aerosmith. Though he has stepped behind the mike on a handful of songs on past Aerosmith albums, Perry is no singer and while he does handle all the lead vocals, they are wisely always kept in the background leaving plenty room for the instruments to shine, especially since this is the same guy wrote the riffs to songs like “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way.”
Perry’s place in the riff master hall of fame is instantly solidified on the lead-off track, “Shakin’ My Cage.” The bluesy slide guitar is reminiscent of early-70s Rolling Stones and is not far removed from the licks Perry laid down on the first few Aerosmith albums, either. “Lonely” is a solid rocker, as well, with razor-sharp riffs throughout while Perry’s affection for the blues is played out on tracks like “Push Comes To Shove.” Listening to the instrumental jam of “Twilight” with one’s eyes closed will put you in the dark corner of a smoky blues club and Perry’s take on “Vigilante Man,” a cover of a 1956 Woody Guthrie folk song, will have much the same effect. Perry further experiments with Eastern instruments (“Pray For Me”) and southern-fried rock ballads (“Ten Years”) before tackling The Doors’ “Crystal Ship” from that band’s 1967 debut. Perry does a spot-on Jim Morrison impression and captures the magic of the original completely. The lone bad spot on JOE PERRY can be found in the dreadful chorus of “Talk Talkin’.” Perry’s vocals seem to become the focus here and his lack of any upper or lower register is glaring.
With the exception of last year’s blues-based HONKIN’ ON BOBO, Aerosmith’s last twelve years have seen them take the safe route and abandon the crunching riffs and boogie-licious rock and roll they were once famous for. In its place, the band has become a staple of lite-FM stations played in minivans everywhere, churning out syrupy power ballads with insipid lyrics. With JOE PERRY as proof, there is still at least one member of the legendary band who knows how to rock out and isn’t resting merely on his laurels. This record is chock full of inspiration, energy and a careful balance to satisfy old fans as well as bring in some new.
KILLER KUTS: “Shakin’ My Cage,” “Lonely,” “Push Comes To Shove”
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