Aerosmith Gets a Rock Stranglehold with Get a Grip
The year was 1993 and one of the biggest rock revivals was in full swing. Aerosmith had captured several demographics with the smash-selling Pump, the many singles and videos thereafter. Trying to surpass the sales figures was an exercise in futility, but the group returned with perhaps one of its finest, totally underrated, shining moments. Although this album has been rarely given its due in lieu of trying to commercially eclipse Pump, this collection of rock anthems, funky jams and heartfelt, high-school prom ballads could be seen by many as a more complete and well-rounded album. The Toxin Twin duo of Joe Perry and Steve Tyler could now be referred to as the Antioxidant Twins, but it doesn’t diminish the body of work, of which Get a Grip was such an integral part of.
From the opening jungle, Banshee like wails of the comic intro, Tyler sings about swinging from the pearly gates and having “the right key baby but the wrong keyhole”. From that and a brief snippet of the “Walk This Way” riff, the album begins with “Eat the Rich”, a no-nonsense rocker which relates somewhat to “Love in an Elevator” but is a bit more refined and unpolished, particularly the ragged guitar solo by Perry. The rhythm section is also rock solid, with Brad Whitford and bassist Tom Hamilton keeping everything in check. But it’s the subsequent title track that is the hidden and often overlooked gem within. Although never released as a single, the song has the same funky swagger that “Rag Doll” has on the band’s Permanent Vacation only a bit more upbeat and less bluesy. It also seems to propel the rest of the album for an enjoyable rocky ride. “Flesh” also has the same mannerisms, with a harder guitar leading the way over Tyler’s lewd and crude double entendres. If you listen closely near its conclusion, the tribal rhythms are almost identical to the opening for “Eat the Rich”.
One of the few numbers which could be considered filler in spots is “Fever”, a song that resembles “Toys in the Attic” in its urgency, but due to other circumstances, notably having country superstar Garth Brooks covering the tune, it loses much of its drive and luster upon many listens. Tyler’s return to the harmonica midway through the song secures its place in boogie rock as well. “Shut Up and Dance” also falls into this same category, with Tyler talking the song mostly instead of singing it. The psychedelic sandwich on “Gotta Love It” has a nice groove to it, but falters during the initial verses.
“Livin’ on the Edge”, while not the spotlight stealer, is certainly one of the album’s cornerstones, coming in at over six minutes. With a style very reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” in the constant, brooding of Joey Kramer’s drumming and the Eastern influences hidden deep in the song, the tune is by far one of the highlights within the hour plus here. Joe Perry also has more than just his guitar moments setting an example as he takes the lead vocals on “Walk on Down” and closes the album with the murky instrumental of “Boogie Man”.
Of course, no post-1986 Aerosmith record would be complete with a couple of lush ballads which carry the album easily and this album is no different, with three songs on the second half all trademarks of the group’s current setlist. “Cryin’” is perhaps the closest thing to a 1950s rock or 1960s soul song you’re likely to hear anytime soon. The horns and harmonica only enhance the effort, but it’s Perry’s simple strumming and the rhythm section’s coming to the fore that gives it such a shot in the arm. “Crazy” is basically a photocopy of the aforementioned ditty, but “Amazing” tends to be a bit more spiritual in its content and orchestral arrangement.
While many will still argue that Permanent Vacation and Pump are better, it is extremely difficult to argue with this collection for the simple fact so many of them are arena rock mantras or can induce 20,000 to wave bic lighters in the air. This album is perhaps the group’s best album since the haze that was the 1970s.