Recognizing the process of reverse musical osmosis, the "Blues on Fire"
series was initially conceptualized to pay homage to blues musicians as well
as the honor roll students from the college of rock and roll. The first
installment of the series, "Sweet Emotion: Songs of Aerosmith," pays tribute
to one of the best straight up rock and roll bands in the world. Amazingly
still intact after three decades of performances, 21 albums, and a recent
induction into the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," Aerosmith's track record
speaks for itself.
For years, rock and roll artists have been covering the blues. While there
are always exceptions, too many times the resultant performance lacks
substance. The same words are sung and the same chords are played, but
something intangible reeks of soulless imitation. Normally this isn't the
case when an artist whose origins are steeped in the blues decides to rock.
Blues musicians, finely honed from years of plying their craft bring their
inner musical artistry to the proceedings, providing that piece of soul and
confidence necessary to rearrange the music to fit their particular style.
Opening "Sweet Emotions; Songs of Aerosmith" with Otis Clay's powerful R & B
version of "Cryin," and following it with Gerald McClendon's phased voice
and Tommy Dzallio's smoke drenched guitars for a seriously lowdown version
of "Pink" gives you an idea of what this reverse musical osmosis is all
about. They reinterpret the songs with their own blues personality, adding a
piece of themselves and recreating the songs into a platform more conducive
to their personal groove.
One thing is for certain; there is potent mojo burned into these tracks and
this CD will rock you. If you are strictly a biased fan of traditional
country blues, there is much to despise about this CD but if you are a
blues-rock lover, there is much to relish. Cathy Richardson's cover of "Last
Child" is a prime example. Following "fairly" close to the original (in
comparison to many of the other songs on the CD) Cathy's band delivers the
deep nasty funk while she dazzles the listener with a strong vocal
exhibition. Lou Ann Barton delivers another standout vocal performance on
"One Way Street" while John Spiegel lays down the gritty slide guitar, raw
and heavy laden with roadhouse dirt.
There is a slew of highlights on this CD for the avid blues-rocker. The
harmonica virtuosity of Sugar Blue's performances on "Back in the Saddle"
and "Big Ten Inch Record" are particularly impressive. The gospel dynamics
of Kim McFarland's "Dream On" build the song to a definitive crescendo. The
New Orleans rhythm of Tad Robinson's "Draw the Line" and the piano and steel
guitar break in Donald Kinsey's "Sweet Emotion" add new dimension to the
songs. The powerful duet of Crystal Taliefero's voice interweaving with
Joanna Connor's commanding slide guitar on "Dude Looks Like a Lady" induces
yet another stand-out moment.
Leaning more towards the blues vein, the legendary Pinetop Perkins with
Rusty Zinn and Ronnie Baker Brooks take a steady easygoing stroll through
"Walk This Way," giving the anthem a complete overhaul. The venerated
bluesman, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, finishes the CD by performing a casual,
boogie-woogie acoustic take of "Train Kept a Rollin." While probably not
landing on any "Best Of Honeyboy" CD's, it's great to hear him really get
going in the song and the little trailer of him performing on a different
take at the very end is a perfect way to close the CD.
Made for blues-rock lovers looking for rock with a blues soul, "Sweet
Emotion; Songs of Aerosmith" will satisfy your earnest craving for
blistering sass. Rejuvenating oft-played anthems into a personal statement
can be a difficult task but the blues veterans gathered together for this,
the first in the "Blues On Fire" series are quite capable of doing justice
to both themselves AND Aerosmith. They maintain their individuality, create
new arrangements, and successfully refrain from butchering any of the songs.
Paying homage to a great straight up rock and roll band allows them the
opportunity to really crank it up and burn in a different light. Filled
with scorching slide guitar throughout, anyone interested in rock-blues and
the slide guitar could spend a long time with this CD. The vocalists are
superb and wisely chose not to try and mimic Tyler. They sing the songs
their own way, with their own timing, many of them slowing the songs down to
create more of a blues-drag which provides additional room to infuse a piece
of their soul into the music. Recommended listening for both fans of
Aerosmith and blues-rock.
"Sweet Emotion: Songs of Aerosmith," was produced by Ira Antelis and Jeff
Jacobs. Executive producers: Devon Devick and Kevin Devick.
Heavy Hip Mama Music Company, 673 Robinwood, CT Wheaton, IL 60187
Phone: 630.933.9126, Fax: 630.933.9128
This review is copyright © 2001 by Stephen T Davidson, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.