Aerosmith falls out of the saddle with 'Dimension'

  • hooker-cover


    Aerosmith (Columbia)

    Joe Perry, you should be embarrassed. Same for you, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton, and Joey Kramer. As for Steven Tyler, expectations are so low it's not worth the trouble.

    In press material for Aerosmith's new album "Music From Another Dimension," which was released Tuesday, Perry talks up the notion that the band's first studio album of all new material in more than a decade is somehow a return to the Boston group's scrappy roots. He makes reference to the group's first apartment at 1325 Commonwealth Ave. and there's even a picture of it in the CD's layout.

    Yeah right, Joe, it sounds exactly like Aerosmith during the band's late '70s peak if back then you had four producers, 28 backing musicians, and more than a dozen engineers and mixers.

    "Another Dimension" is bloated, dramatically over-produced, and larded with excruciating power ballads. It is nothing like "Get Your Wings" or "Toys in the Attic," the kind of exceptional rock albums that Aerosmith has long since forgotten how to make.

    The few good songs here are weighted down with multi-tracked backing vocals and studio trickery that obscure what could be good material. Just one example: "Oh Yeah," which kicks off with a dirty guitar riff and Tyler at his snarky best. There's potential here until Perry and Whitford's smoking guitar leads are routinely buried under poppy harmony vocals that should have been left on the cutting room floor.

    At least one song, the Diane Warren-penned "We All Fall Down," is laughably bad and sounds like an American Idol outtake with lyrics written by an overwrought 15-year-old. And for some reason Carrie Underwood shows up on the inexplicable "Can't Stop Lovin' You." It's totally unnecessary and weird, coming across like a bad Kid Rock/Sheryl Crow duet.

    The only take-away from this that makes sense is that Aerosmith is a band that has lost its way and no longer knows how to make rock albums. They're a pop band -- Def Leppard for the soon-to-be geriatric set. Stick a fork in 'em; they're done.



    Neil Young and Crazy Horse (Reprise)

    Sprawling over two discs with just eight songs, Young's second album with the old reliable Crazy Horse this year is in desperate need of an editor.

    Coming just a few months after the relatively tight focus of "Americana," "Pill" meanders along like a giant rock and roll blimp floating across the sky. The journey is interesting but you never seem to get anywhere.

    It's also highly experimental. How else do you explain a 26-minute opening song, the epic "Driftin' Back" that finds old Neil touting Picasso, ragging on MP3s, and generally venting about whatever's on his mind before launching into long instrumental excursions?

    The nearly 17-minute "Ramada Inn" features a more linear story line and the eight-and-a-half-minute "She's Always Dancing" sounds like Crazy Horse in their prime. Toss in the 16-minute "Walk Like a Giant" and Young challenges listeners' patience.

    The more bite-size songs include the seemingly autobiographical "Born in Ontario" and the wonderful paean to a life loving music, "Twisted Road."

    -- R.L.


    John Lee Hooker, Jr. (Steppin' Stone Records)

    Detroit-born John Lee Hooker, Jr., emerged from a dark era of his life in 2004 with a triumphant, award-winning debut album, "Blues With a Vengeance."

    He went on to record three more albums, becoming a multiple Grammy nominee and forming his own label along the way. "All Hooked Up" is his fifth album, and it demonstrates more of his searing guitar, gut-wrenching vocals, and pulsating rhythms.

    His famous father, one of the greatest of all blues icons, would be proud. Hooker, Jr., has his own up-tempo musical voice, with a dozen songs that transcend blues, soul, gospel, funk, rock, and a hint of jazz on this disc.

    Gritty, but modern, this is good stuff. A bonus DVD is included.

    -- TOM HENRY