Friday, October 5, 2012

Aerosmith - Pandora's Box

I have to say that when it came to buying me CDs, as a teenager, my dad was top notch. I would ask for some albums like Jethro Tull's Aqualung or various other 70's bands, which he would happily pick up for me, but then he'd find these awesome discs for me along the way that I never knew even exsisted at the time. However, I remember one Christmas where the ony thing that kept me from going off on my step mom for once again putting her children ahead of my dad's kids, was my dad picking me up Aerosmith's Pandora's Box. You can't be mad when listening to the boys from Boston.

This was the first Aerosmith box set, which contained three discs of killer cuts, and a slew of unreleased songs, or alternate versions. There are some songs on here that even the band doesn't remember recording, that's how many gems are jammed into this set.

The first disc in the set is comprised of the first two albums, Aerosmith and Get Your Wings, as well as some live tracks, and one pre-Aerosmith track. I will state that the live songs on this disc aren't that great, but that comes from two things. The first part is that most of the live stuff sounds like bootlegs. The second is when some of the songs were recorded, specifically the tracks from the Texxas Jam, Cottonbowl, Dallas, in 1978, the band was totally destroyed on drugs.

The box set starts with When I Needed You, which was recorded by The Strangeurs/Chain Reaction/ This was Steven Tyler's, pre-Aerosmith, band. Other members of the band were; Barry Shapiro, Steven Tallarico, Don Solomon, Alan Strohmayer and Peter Stahl. This is a pretty basic 60's hippy like song. It's enjoyable, and easy on the ears. Also, it oddly doesn't sound a thing like Tyler, much like the classic Dream On.

Make It, originally from Aerosmith (the self titled first album) is a good, quick tempoed, boogie number, that gets both the heart and the foot moving. In the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty basic Aeromsith number.

Movin' Out is an unreleased, alternate version, from the Aerosmith sessions. I don't own a copy of the original, so I'm not sure what the difference is off the top of my head. I'm thinking it's a song length issue. As for this version of the song, I dig it. There's this awesome groove and flow that just takes you on a journey that's rather enjoyable.

While I can appreciate the Honky Tonk Blues of One Way Street, it's not one of those songs that's all that important to me. Musically it showcases a solid backing band with a vocalist pushed too far forward in the mix, and that's not how Aerosmith is supposed to work. If it were not for the lengthy soloing in the middle, this song would be more of a skipper for me. The solo is self indulgent and it allows the band to do something they sadly forgot how to do later. That is, write a song that's not a compact, commecrial, radio friendly, cookie cutter, overly cliche track. This song takes liberties and runs with them.

On the Road Again is an unreleased song from the Aerosmith sessions. It's listed as being by Floyd Jones, which would make this the same song Canned Heat made famous, but it's not. It's a totally different song, so I have no clue what's going on there. What I can say is that this is another boogie song, that's got a lot of vibe and feel to it.

After all these years, my love for Mama Kin has only grown. Originally from the Aerosmith self titled debut album, this song is Classic Rock to the umpteenth degree of ass kicking Soul Rock. The best part of this song is the horns, and the fact that they add to the song like the accents that they are. The one thing I find the most interesting about this song is how it's credited purely to Steven Tyler.

Same Old Song and Dance is just like Mama Kin, in description, however this song is from the second Aerosmith album Get You Wings, originally, and is musically different. I actually enjoy this one immensely, and will never turn it off.

I find it amazing that I know the Yardbirds' classic Train Kept A-Rollin' better as an Aerosmith song. I find it even more amazing that Aerosmith have made this song pretty much into one of their staples to the point where one day I fear no one will remember where this song came from. That being said, this song is just like the original except for that it's a different band. It's 5:33 of boogie woogie with shuffle and groove. It's the train coming down the tracks.

I'm not sure how I feel about Seasons of Wither personally. It's a fantastic song, that is written beautifully. In fact I wish that Aerosmith had kept up doing these songs with longer arrangements and more complex parts. Songs like this one are what made this band respectable. However, I'm not overly fond of Tyler's vocals on this one. The lyrics are awesome, the voice itself I find annoying during the slower parts. It's too droney.

Write Me a Letter is an unreleased live version. It's a song, and that's about all I have to say.

I don't know how many times I've had to try and convince people that Dream On was in fact an Aerosmith song. Why were people that ignorant of this song, even in the 1990's? Simply, because they weren't paying attention to the fact that at the two minute mark Steven Tyler starts to sound like himself. However, this is from the first album and his voice didn't always sound like a cat in heat yet. That is until you hit the 3:30. Then that voice comes out and there is no longer a debate. Well that may not be entirely true, but some people are also really dumb, and/or tone deaf.

The box set's title track has become one of those songs that I love over the years. "When I'm in heat / Someone gets a notion / I jump to my feet / I hoof it to the ocean / We hit a beach / Where no one gives a hoot / Nobody never ever wears a suit / The ladies there / They look so proud / That's 'cause they know / That they've been so well endowed / Now, I ain't much / For Fannie's conversation / Or care to much / About her operation / But every time Pandora comes my way / I get high / Can't explain the sensation / To get it on / I gotta watch what I say / Or I'll catch hell / From the women's liberation / Sweet Pandora / God-like aura / Smell like a flora / Open up your door-a for me / Sweet Pandora / God-like aura / Smell like a flora / Open up your door-a for me / Sweet Pandora / Mama crack a smile for me / Just for me, just for me / Just for me, just for me / Just for me, just for me /Just for me". I just totally dig these lyrics, especially the dig at the Women's Libbers. However, to me the coolest part about this song is that it's a Steven Tyler / Joey Kramer song. The band's two drummers are responsible for Pandora's Box, and that is awesome.

Rattlesnake Shake, in a unreleased live radio broadcast, that originally aired on WKRQ, in Cincinnati. That's not to be confused with the letters used for a certain television show from the same time period. At 10:28 I find the Fleetwood Mac cover a bit long, because it's not epicly cool. It's just a long song, and I have to admit I don't know the original so I can't say one way or the other.

Walkin' the Dog comes from the same live session as the last song. This too is a cover, but that's no biggy. The interesting part about this cover is that it was originally done by Rufus Thomas Jr. who was an American rhythm and blues, funk and soul singer and comedian from Memphis, Tennessee. Which means this is just a fun song the whole way around.

Lord of the Thighs is an unreleased live version, from Texxas Jam I mentioned earlier. This performance isn't bad, but it's not as good as the original studio version. But to be honest, I'm not a fan of the song anyway. I normally either stop or skip the disc after Pandora's Box. The three live tracks do nothing for me.

The cool part about the first disc is that it runs a total of 1:17:44 . That's almost four minutes longer than most standard CD players were capable of playing at the time (The industry standard was 74 minutes.), without some mild skipping. As well as being almost as long as the first two studio albums put together.

When you get to disc two, the first thing you notice is that almost the entire Toys In The Attic album is on here in one way or the other. But then again that entire album was almost released as singles. The rest of the album is made up of Rocks and Draw The Line, however, there's a bunch of changes or variations of the original songs.

The disc opens with the title track from Toys In The Attic. This is a pretty basic Aerosmith song, but it's my favourite on the original album. "In the attic lights / Voices scream / Nothing's seen / Real's a dream / Leaving the things that are real behind / Leaving the things that you love from mind / All of the things that you learned from fears / Nothing is left for the years / Voices scream / Nothing's seen / Real's a dream". It's just my type of song lyrically, and musically it's just as awesome as any other classic Aerosmith song.

Round and Round is also from Toys in the Attic. This is a Steven Tyler / Brad Whitford song. It's excellently written and arranged. It has that feel you get from the more musically developed epic songs that Aerosmith use to make. This isn't anywhere near as good as songs like Kings And Queens or Seasons Of Wither, but it's still a decent song.

Krawhitham is an instrumental from the Draw the Line sessions. The story behind this amazing song is that Perry and Tyler were nowhere to be found (way too strung out) so instead of wasting valuable studio time doing nothing Joey Kramer, Brad Whitford, and Tom Hamilton recorded this totally awesome jam. Also if you hadn't noticed yet the song's name comes from the first part of each musicians last name. I also feel the need to point out that not only should this track have been on the Aerosmith edition of Guitar Hero, it should have become a radio standard. This is seriously one of the best tracks I have ever heard from Aerosmith.

I really like the prettiness of You See Me Crying, but I don't care for the fact it's a slow ballad approach. This is what would later become the format of almost every radio hit they released in the 90's. This was Crazy, Amazing, Cryin', twenty years early.

Do I really need to go into a write up about Sweet Emotion? It's From Toys in the Attic, and was impressively written by Tyler and Hamilton. If you need more details then that, I suggest you just go listen to the song for yourself. Or, if you want some extra fun go look up the video for this song on Youtube. Which means that I should mention that the video was recorded specifically as the promotional video for this box set's release. That is why it's the only official video for a song from that time.

After that comes No More No More which I have yet to make up my mind about after 30 years of hearing this song all the time. It's a really well done song, but it doesn't really tickle my fancy all that much. However, I love when it goes into the "Baby I'm a screamer / Bound to a wife in marriage / Baby, I'm a dreamer / Found my horse and carriage", or the various variations of that line. I love the change up that happens, and the sweet honesty you can hear coming from Steven's voice.

Walk This Way was the very first radio friendly rap song. Not the the Run DMC version either. I'm talking about the original Steven Tyler highspeed, rhyming, and sliding, totally rap like poetry, that is spewed out over one of the most recognizable riffs of all time. If you listen to this version compared to the Run DMC version the biggest difference is Steven sings, more than speaks, and there is no record scratching. Take what you want from that.

I Wanna Know Why was from the Texxas Jam recordings mentioned back in disc one. This is a normal Aerosmith song, so if you like those songs, you'll like this one.

Big Ten-Inch Record, is also from that live recording session as well. However, I prefer the original version from the Toys album much better. This is one of those songs, that has one of those lines, that alway get's people up in arms. There's a a line that goes, "'Cept (except) on my big ten inch" and everyone hears "Suck on my big ten inch". Tyler has always claimed that he says the first version of the line, and the second is just people's dirty mind.

There's one hell of a shuffle to Rats in the Cellar, originally from Rocks. This is like a major big band type shuffle. It's totally high speed and kickin'.

I love that some of my favourite Aerosmith songs are not the Tyler and Perry combination. For example I have been a huge fan of Last Child, since I first heard it as a young kid. It has a great tempo, a perfect number of switches, and vocals that are sexy sounding. I love how Steven purrs that song that he and Whitford wrote together. I guess I should also mention that this is a remix of the original Rocks version. I don't own the original, so I'm not entirely sure what the difference is in the mix.

The cover of Otis Rush's All Your Love is all kinds of sexy Blues. It's very standard sounding Blues, but sexy all the same. This is an unreleased song, that was recorded at the Cenacle, Armonk, New York, in May 1977.

Soul Saver is an unreleased rehearsal, from the Toys in the Attic sessions. It's only 0:53, and comes off as a filler (not musically) meant to just add an extra track and a little time. Musically it's a great little piece. It's like one of Toni Iommi's pre song songs. Like Embryo is to Children Of The Grave.

Nobody's Fault is fucking awesome. I absolutely love this song. It's Aerosmith meets Black Sabbath, and once again it's Tyler and Whitford. Which leads me to the conclusion that Whitford is the best music writer in Aerosmith. "Old SAN ANDREAS / Seven years ago / Shove it up their richters / Red lines stop and go / Noblemen of courage / Listen with their ears / Spoke but how discouragin' / When no one really hears / One of these days you'll be sorry / Too many houses on the stilt / Three million years or just a story / Four on the floor up to the hilt / Out of RHYME or reason / Everyone's to blame / Children of the season / Don't be lame / Sorry / You're so sorry / Don't be sorry / Man has known / And now he's blown it / Upside down / And hell's the only sound / We did an awful job / And now we're just a little too late". You can't crank this song loud enough, at least without a noise violation fine.

I generally skip Lick And A Promise, not because it's a bad song, but because it's very typical, and at this point in the disc I'm getting bored of the standard format. I feel the same way about Adam's Apple as well. Also the fact that the latter track is a shitty live version, recorded on tour in Indianapolis, Indiana, 1977-07-04, that pales in comparison to the original doesn't help.

Draw The Line is one of those Aerosmith songs I totally get into, but I'm not a fan of the remix of the original version, that appears on here. It sounds like they bassically just pushed the vocals into the foreground, and this song is more about the cool riff, than the lyrics. At least as far as I'm concernd. In fact this is one of my favourite songs to play off the Aerosmith Guitar Hero. However, I do really love the Oooo, yeahs at the end of the song. It makes it sound so much fun.

Most of the time I stop the disc after Draw the Line, and it's not because Critical Mass is boring or anything. It's just that I'm not a fan of the song. It sounds a bit too Bubble Gum Pop mixed with Blues for me.

Out of the three discs in the set, the second one is the one that gets the most play, but since a lot of it is standards, or substandard live tracks, I generally try to listen to the other discs. This is also the shortest of the three albums with a total length of 1:12:38.

Disc three starts off with Kings and Queens from Classics Live I. I really wish they would have used the studio version instead. As much as I enjoy a good live album, almost every live track on this collection has crappy production. It doesn't help that this is another of my favourite songs, and I wanted to hear a version with jacked up production that would blow my mind. And yes, this song was also written by Tyler and Whitford, as well as Hamilton, Kramer, and Jack Douglas, producer of the Draw the Line album, which this song originally comes from. The best part about this song is how epically long it sounds while staying within the five minute marker.

Milkcow Blues from Draw the Line is a good song. It's a cover, but sounds like a stock Aerosmith song. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking negative shit about this song. It's a fantastic Blues jam of sorts, but it's nothing special in the grand scheme of Aerosmith.

I Live in Connecticut is this really cool unreleased rehearsal jam from the Night In The Ruts sessions. It's only 0:56, but when it runs seemlessly into Three Mile Smile, which was actually on the album, you get the idea that one evolved into the other, or one was meant to run into the other. Either way it works well.

As for Three Mile Smile, you can tell that they were burning out. The flair isn't quite there and you can't feel any passion. However, I wish they would have redone this song, once they cleaned up. It would have made a killer track, even if it was a b-side.

Let It Slide is a full unreleased track from the Night In The Ruts sessions. I understand why it wasn't on the album, but it has nothing to do with it being bad. The problem with the song is that it's essentially a three minute jam, with Joe Perry going nuts on his slide guitar. This is totally awesome and I love listening to it.

I don't think I would have included Cheese Cake. It's an okay song, but there isn't that much need for that much material from Night In The Ruts. Most of the material on the album makes it sound like the album title wasn't just a clever name.

I don't mind Bone To Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy). It's got a cool little vibe and beat to it. It's a bit disco, but Aerosmith know how to pull off those funky beats well. I feel the same way about No Surprize as well, but this is just a straightened ahead rocker instead.

The only good thing that ever came out of the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, starring the Bee Gees, was Aerosmith's cover of Come Together. For the longest time this was the only version of this song I had. I was too cheap to fork out the insane amount money they wanted for most Beatles albums in the early 90's. Also this version is pretty much spot on to the original, so it's not like it was a problem either.

Downtown Charlie is decent, but clearly a box set track just for fans.

I love that Pandora's Box contains a few solo tracks, from projects outside of Aerosmith. The first one is Sharpshooter from the album Whitford/St. Holmes. Which was a side project for Brad Whitford and Derek St. Holmes who worked with Ted Nugent, as vocalist and rhythm guitarist. The song is pretty generic in that 80's Rock kind of way, but the guitar work is amazing. I love when Whitford plays.

Shit House Shuffle is an unreleased rehearsal from Joe Perry. It's a decent track, but nothing to write home about. However, it's clearly him practicing for South Station Blues. A track that comes from the album I've Got the Rock'n'Rolls Again, by The Joe Perry Project. This is a great tune, that allows Joe to let it all come flowing out.

When Joe Perry left Aerosmith to go solo they replaced him with Jimmy Crespo, who was a very good guitarist. It's sad that there are only two songs in this collection featuring him, and even sadder that one was Riff & Roll. It's an unreleased song from the Rock in a Hard Place sessions, that clearly was never finished properly. It's either that or the production was intentionly completely shit on this song.

Jailbait is from the album Rock in a Hard Place, and is really good. It's so cool that it's my understanding that Perry was pissed he didn't write it with the band, and he also liked playing it live. It's a great little Blues shuffle number.

I do not like Major Barbara. I never have, and it doesn't matter if it's this unreleased alternate version, or the oringinal studio version. I think it's a shit song. It has next to no real substance to it.

I totally dig the song Chip Away the Stone. I know it never did as well as the band had hoped. Also, I'm not sure what the difference is between this alternate version, and the one that originally appeared on the Gems compilation album.

I love Helter Skelter, it's right up there with Come Together, and I love the fact that I have the Aerosmith version. They do a great job, and my favourite part is that the band doesn't remember ever recording the song. However, it was done during the Toys in the Attic sessions.

My absolute favourite Aerosmith song is Back in the Saddle. This song has got me through countless break ups, into even stupider situations. This is the Aerosmith song to end all Aerosmith songs, as far as I'm concerned. The drums have a great feel, the bass is giving off some major boogie, Steven's vocals are top notch, and the guitars are spectacular. The song was written by the classic Tyler/Perry combination, but the solo is all Brad Whitford. This song makes me just wanna get up and ride. It doesn't matter if it's my bike, a horse (which would be so fucking awesome to the song) or a steel horse (motorcycle), it would just be perfect.

Now if you look at the track listing for the Pandora's Box, you'll notice that Back In The Saddle is the last song. However, there's a hidden bonus track called Circle Jerk. It's an unreleased instrumental by Whitford. This song is wicked cool, and I love the flange all over it. It get's me hot in all kinds of naughty ways. It also further proves my total admiration for Brad Whitford, the unsung hero of Aerosmith. At the end of the three discs I will say that this collection is totally worth it. I may not be into some of the songs, but other people totally will be. Not to mention that this collection covers the truly best of Aerosmith, without all the modern crap. The biggest draw back to this album is the lack of proper remastering.

9/10 - content 7/10 - production 7/10 - personal bias

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