Columbia Records, 1976

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I don't know why, but Rocks, the fourth release from Boston rockers Aerosmith, confuses me.

On one hand, I've listened to this album for well over a decade, expecting to hear something that will knock my socks off, as I've been led to believe by so many critics and fans alike. Yet when I hear Rocks, I don't get that feeling. Instead, I feel like I'm listening to the beginning of a band collapsing under its own weight - not that it's a bad album, just not what I've been led to expect.

On the other hand, I do hear Steven Tyler and company kicking hard against the expectations of what they would do after their landmark release Toys In The Attic. It would have been easy for the band to simply kick back and let the momentum of their new-found superstardom help them coast through this release. Instead, it feels like the band purposely kicked things into overdrive in order to avoid hitting the slump that plagues so many follow-up albums.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This isn't a feeling I come to after a cursory listening of Rocks; this is 10-plus years of living with this disc. Make no mistake about it, this is a good album. I just question whether it deserves to be called their masterpiece.

Let's look at the arguments in favor of declaring this one Aerosmith's best. You've got the growling "Back In The Saddle," complete with six-string bass solos from Joe Perry. You've got the groovified funk of "Last Child," which makes sure that every listener will be up and dancing to this one. You've got the underrated magic that is "Combination," quite possibly one of the best Aerosmith songs which never gets any attention on the radio. And you've got the "shoulda-been-a-hit-single" "Lick And A Promise". While I might be sick of hearing "Back In The Saddle" thanks to radio overplay, I can't disagree with any of these arguments.

But there are a few dissentions I hear. "Rats In The Cellar," while a good track at the core, feels like a re-write of "Toys In The Attic" in the frenzied beat, while "Sick As A Dog" doesn't pack quite the punch that other Aerosmith songs in this style do. (Note that I'm not saying it's a bad track.) The same goes for "Nobody's Fault," a definite change in style for Aerosmith which takes some chances, though I can't say they're either successes or failures. About the only dud on this disc is the pseudo-ballad "Home Tonight" - which at least knows when to make its exit from the disc. After a disc of solid rock numbers, this one is a bit awkward to close the album with.

This returns me to the dilemma I opened the review with. I can understand how some people would take the great songs on Rocks and use them to build a pedestal on which to place the whole album. And I do concede that it is a solid follow-up to Toys In The Attic, one which pulls out even the few stops that were on the previous disc (save for the ubiquitous closing ballad).

But all of this still leads me to seeing Rocks as a good album - not a great one. Still, for all the excesses that Aerosmith was indulging in at this point in their career, maybe it's a miracle that Rocks is as solid as it is.

I guess if people want to declare Rocks to be the ultimate Aerosmith disc, then they can continue to revel in this disc's glory. There's no doubt that this one belongs in your record collection - but I'd hold off on building the altar to worship it.

Rating: B

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© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.