Aerosmith: Permanent Vacation

Permanent Vacation

After signing with Geffen, the “reunion” of Boston rockers Aerosmith took a baby step with Done with Mirrors, which seemed a brief blip on the radar of the “hair”-based rock and roll permeating the era. The album had a few shining moments, but nothing that would call to mind the band’s heyday of the 1970s. It was this album which secured that the group was back and back with a healthy sounding dose of Joe Perry’s guitar, an airtight rhythm section and the swagger of frontman Steven Tyler. The first part of this trilogy is a bit formulaic in parts, but isn’t as radio friendly as the subsequent Pump, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The opening track, “Heart’s Done Time”, is perhaps as solid and grandiose an Aerosmith ditty as you’ll hear, with all the trademarks from Joey Kramer’s 4/4 pounding of the skins to Tyler’s “Prince-meets-James Brown” scat and wailing. The subtle background noises don’t hurt also, but it’s indicative of the slightly overproduced path the band rode for this record. The only thing the song doesn’t seem to have is the vulgar, comedic innuendo Tyler has mastered over time. But it’s nonetheless a strong opening, as is “Magic Touch”, which moves into a rougher area, a bit more refined but still relegating to an almost “overproduced” track, particularly the chorus area where there tends to be too much overdubbing on the guitar parts.

If there were one song that symbolized the party or frat rock atmosphere the group would later reap during its resurgence, it would have to be the Mississippi blues-meeting-’80s rock in “Rag Doll”. Again Tyler scats his way famously as the song ends its slow, deliberate strolling pace, but it’s Perry’s ever-present slide or bottleneck guitar noodling which makes the song such a great piece. Others may believe it to be nothing more than filler, but given the inclusion of some questionable other tracks such as “Simoriah” and also “St. John”, it’s closest to being the best of the lot or an extremely close second.

Speaking of “Simoriah”, the track seems more in line with a potential Jimmy Page/David Coverdale collaboration. The song seems to stall in its intensity as well as just general malaise and formula, coming off very bland. Another track which falls into that category is the outtake nature of “Girl Keeps Coming Apart”, which seems like it was found on the cutting room floor. Thankfully, the first of two setlist staples, “Dude (Looks Like a Lady}” still sounds like a current track some 15 years after its creation, even taking into account its horns.

Another trait which symbolizes the album is how many territories the group can morph effortlessly into, whether it’s straightforward rock and roll to funk to the back porch, jug band feeling displayed on the opening of “Hangman Jury” and Tyler’s short snippets of harmonica. The tune also has a lot in common with “Rag Doll” in that it’s a bit more unpolished and unrefined. A tune which isn’t unpolished and had been played to a nauseating degree is the lovely prom ballad of “Angel”. With the orchestrated arrangements in the background, the song is a forerunner of future singles to come. Although it has a slightly dated quality to it now, the song is still one of band’s best ballads.

The album finishes with a cover of The Beatles “I’m Down”, which is a great yet under-rated track, with Tyler doing his best McCartney’s impersonation and a hellish guitar ruckus during the bridge, which is very attractive. The finale is the most experimental and only instrumental of the album, its influences somewhere in Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” range, but shying away from it enough to avoid being a parody. Perry does some phenomenal work her, especially during the meatier two minutes in the middle. The song could’ve gone on for a few more minutes, but it’s not a problem to settle for what’s available. The group perhaps didn’t know how vital this album would be, but it still gives the listener an idea as to why they are still around some 15 years after this sonic fact.