Columbia Records, 1988

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Ah, nothing spells a band's comeback success like their old label's re-issuing of their material, does it? Just a year after Aerosmith cemented the fact they were back to stay with Permanent Vacation, their then-former label decided to claim another stake of the pie with their release of Gems.

In a sense, you could think of this as the sequel to Aerosmith's Greatest Hits, but in truth, this disc is much better than its predecessor. Yeah, all of the big hits were on the first best-of collection, but they were remixed and manipulated into tracks which barely resembled their original brethren. At least my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Gems leaves the originals alone, and throws in a previously unreleased track to boot.

This set does many things right. First, it doesn't deny the existence of sub-par Aerosmith albums. It took some guts to include "No Surprize" (off Night In The Ruts) and "Jailbait" (off the abysmal Rock In A Hard Place), but they turn out to be gambles which pay off. Far removed from the full albums, these tracks do sound a bit better than one would normally give them credit for.

Second, the inclusion of "Chip Away The Stone" is a welcome addition to Aerosmith's catalog. Granted, a live version was on Live Bootleg back in 1978, but the studio version absolutely smokes with power and intensity. Why this one remained hidden for so long is anyone's guess, but it's a great track.

Third, attention is turned back to some Aerosmith tracks which are just as worthy of people's attention as the over-played radio hits. I've been listening to some of these albums now for about two decades, and it's still exciting to hear songs like "Rats In The Cellar," "Lick And A Promise" and "Lord Of The Thighs."

Ironically, though, it's the lack of any of the familiar hits which turns out to be a minor weakness on Gems. Yeah, I recognize that repackaging some or all of them might be seen as a desperate attempt to cash in, but maybe the producers could have included the original versions of "Sweet Emotion" or "Same Old Song And Dance" instead of the edited versions on Aerosmith's Greatest Hits. In reality, Gems is caught in a catch-22 caused by no direct fault of the album.

Somehow, this particular release has been forgotten over the passage of time -- that and the inundation of best-ofs from Aerosmith over the last few years. But Gems is a disc which lives up to its name and is well worth the investment, especially for anyone who wants to discover more of Aerosmith than what they can hear played on rock radio.

Rating: B+

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