Disc Reviews

After cleaning up and reinventing themselves in the late 80s with a more radio-friendly metal-lite arena rock approach, Aerosmith has risen to riches it never knew.

aerosmith disk 88 298 (photo credit: )
aerosmith disk 88 298
(photo credit: )
AEROSMITH Rockin' the Joint - Live at the Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas / (NMC) It might not be quite as miraculous as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards still standing upright on a Super Bowl stage and making a glorious noise, but the fact that Aerosmith is still rolling over 30 years after starting, and 20 years after hitting rock bottom, is another of those rock & roll believe it or not stories. After cleaning up and reinventing themselves in the late 80s with a more radio-friendly metal-lite arena rock approach, the Boston band has risen to riches it never knew. But, as their new live album demonstrates, they haven't forgotten their gritty beginning. Devoid of the studio gloss and Top 40 aspirations, Aerosmith get down to business on the aptly titled Rockin' the Joint. It's unclear as to the relevance of releasing a live performance from 2002 over three years later, but the band sure sounds good. The focus is on the band's early Yardbirds-influenced blues-based rock & roll - with tunes like "Same Old Song and Dance," "No More No More," and "Train Kept A Rolling" practically leaping out of their speakers. The twin guitar attacks of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford have never sounded more in synch, and Steven Tyler wails like a 20-year-old. The blues-r&b theme continues with a cover of the standard "Rattlesnake Shake,",their own rollicking "Big Ten Inch Record," and of course, their signature tune "Walk This Way." Even a perfunctory version of the makeout blockbuster "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" fails to douse the energy for too long. Let's hope their train keeps a rollin' for many more stops. DOLLY PARTON Essential Dolly Parton (Hed Artzi) Long before Dolly Parton crossed over into pop and film stardom to became a household name, she was a bonafide country music original. And it's only her career diversity which has likely obscured the fact that - like contemporary Emmylou Harris - she's played an instrumental role in bridging the gap between country, rock & roll and pop. Without her, the possibility of a Shania Twain or Faith Hill emerging would have been that much more unlikely. The double-disc 37-song Essential Dolly Parton attempts to and succeeds in setting the record straight, proving that she deserves to sit on the same shelf with country-rock pioneers Harris and Gram Parsons. Her gifted songwriting is shown off in classics that date back to the early 70s like "Coat of Many Colors," the oft-covered "Jolene," "Kentucky Gambler," "I Will Always Love You," "But You Know I Love You," and "Tennessee Homesick Blues." In the mid 80s, her music began to have its rough edges smoothed a bit, and hits like "Here You Come Again" reflect a new found maturity and sophistication. And of course, she didn't shy away from pandering to the country-pop mass appeal with the theme song to "9 to 5" - which she also starred in. But generally, Parton never strayed too far from her Tennessee Smoky Mountain roots. Most of the material here reflects a heartfelt authenticity focusing on autobiographical fare that music fans could hear and embrace beyond her appearance and public persona. As an American singer-songwriter treasure, Dolly Parton holds few peers, and Essential shows why.