Post By: Katherine.Eleanor
Full disclosure: Aerosmith was my first rock and roll crush. As an 11-year-old in the early '90s, I was forever changed the day I received a copy of Get a Grip. Perhaps I was in awe of the fact that this band, one of the defining hard-rock groups of the '70s, had overcome internal conflicts and drug abuse to pull off one of the most improbable comebacks in rock history (doubtful), or maybe I was just a sucker for power ballads and music videos that starred Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler (likely). Either way, Aerosmith converted me. I couldn't get enough of Joe Perry's Zeppelin-esque riffing or Steven Tyler's Stonesy swagger and ridiculous yowls; they ignited a fire I couldn't resist. Aerosmith remains one of my all-time favorite bands and is easily one of my favorites to collect on vinyl. Without letting my own nostalgia get in the way too much here, I've ranked what I believe to be their best works over the past 40 years.
#10: Night in the Ruts (Columbia; 1979)
Seemingly doomed due to the mid-album departure of Joe Perry, Night in the Ruts really ain't that bad. In fact, the album is full of the slinky, meaty riffs and dirty blues that made 1970s Aerosmith great. Definitely one their most overlooked records.
#9: Done with Mirrors (Geffen; 1985)
Intended to be Aerosmith's comeback album—marking the return of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford to the fold as well as the band's new-found sobriety—Done with Mirrors didn't have the same commercial appeal or miraculous redeeming effect as its follow-up, Permanent Vacation, but it sure reminded fans what they loved about the band. Burning with Aerosmith's original fire, it is full of raw and bluesy guitar-driven rock.
#8: Draw the Line (Columbia; 1977)
This is a great record for the album art alone! Featuring nothing but a caricature of the band by Al Hirschfeld on the cover (no name necessary when you've got instantly recognizable hair and lips like that), Draw the Line was the follow-up to Aerosmith's masterwork Rocks. It was recorded in a convent outside of New York City, and though the band members were lost in the grips of drug abuse at the time, the album manages not to deviate much from Aerosmith's classic gritty hard rock.
#7: Get Your Wings (Columbia; 1974)
Often overlooked and highly underrated, Aerosmith's sophomore album features two treasures: "Same Old Song and Dance" and a cover of Tiny Bradshaw's/the Yardbirds' "Train Kept a Rollin'" that remains an Aerosmith live staple to this day. Eventually going triple platinum, Get Your Wings is just as aptly titled as its 1976 follow-up, Rocks—it was here that Aerosmith arguably became Aerosmith.
#6: Aerosmith (Columbia; 1973)
Aerosmith's debut album isn't perfect, but that's what makes it great. The blues and hard-rock influences that the band would eventually make its own were all there, it was just a matter of finding the right spark. The band does just that on "Dream On," one of the most well known Aerosmith songs ever (often credited as the blueprint for all power ballads), as well as on "Mama Kin," the album's best rocker. I find myself appreciating Aerosmith more after listening to this album as it provides such a unique perspective into the band's roots and evolution. Plus, it features a cover of Rufus Thomas' "Walkin' the Dog." No Aerosmith lover should be without it.
#5: Permanent Vacation (Geffen; 1987)
If it weren't for Permanent Vacation, there would have been no Pump, no Get a Grip, no '90s superstars. Aerosmith's legendary comeback album, Permanent Vacation resurrected Aerosmith's status from the murk of '70s has-beens with songs like "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)," "Rag Doll," and the epic power ballad "Angel." Sure, the band brought in a few outside songwriters and producers who in turn lent the album a poppy sheen, but there's still plenty of grit ("St. John"), blues ("Hangman Jury"), and even a Beatles' cover ("I'm Down") in its deeper cuts.
#4: Get a Grip (Geffen; 1993)
Yes, I'm 100 percent biased when it comes to this album. Yes, it's unashamedly commercial. But it still rocks and, to me at least, is as fundamentally Aerosmith as you can get. The band's best-selling album worldwide, Get a Grip features some of Aerosmith's most unforgettable hits ("Eat the Rich," "Livin' on the Edge," "Cryin'," "Crazy," "Amazing"). These songs felt as essential to that first half of the decade as anything coming out of Seattle. Plus, it features guest vocals from Don Henley ("Amazing") and Lenny Kravitz ("Line Up").
#3: Pump (Geffen; 1989)
The follow-up to Aerosmith's late-'80s comeback Permanent Vacation, Pump had a lot riding on it. Featuring some of Aerosmith's most enduring classics like "Love in an Elevator," "Janie's Got a Gun," "The Other Side," and "What It Takes," Pump proved Permanent Vacation was no fluke and cemented Aerosmith's reputation as a vital hard-rock band on the brink of the '90s. Pump is also Aerosmith's most ambitious album, tackling weighty issues and employing a broader range of instrumentation.
#2: Toys in the Attic (Columbia; 1975)
Aerosmith's third album and career breakthrough, Toys in the Attic is not only quintessential Aerosmith but a landmark hard-rock album. It produced the hit singles "Sweet Emotion" and "Walk This Way," and it features some of the band's best material—hands down. Many feel this is when Aerosmith perfected its raunchy blues-rock sound, and there is no doubt that the album is full of some of the best guitar riffs and double entendres of the '70s. If not tied with Rocks for number one, Toys in the Attic is a very, very close second. No doubt about it, both albums helped shape rock and roll.
#1: Rocks (Columbia; 1976)
Considering I thought Aerosmith was the best thing ever upon hearing Get a Grip, you can imagine my surprise when I heard the raw, ragtag sound of Rocks, Aerosmith's fourth record and follow-up to Toys in the Attic. Rocks was released in 1976—the same year as the Eagles' Hotel California and the Ramones' self-titled debut. Though nothing like these albums in sound, Rocks is just as essential. Featuring some of the band's best performances ("Back in the Saddle," "Rats in the Cellar," "Last Child," "Nobody's Fault"), Rocks is considered Aerosmith's creative pinnacle. The fact that it inspired both Metallica's James Hetfield and Guns N' Roses' Slash to learn how to play guitar and was one of Kurt Cobain's favorite albums is reason enough to put it at number one. But more importantly, Steven Tyler rhymes "Tallahassee" and "Sassafrasse" on the album. Now nothing gets more Aerosmith than that!
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