Sweet Emotion

Aerosmith Albums Ranked Worst To Best

by Benjamin Ray

15. Rock In A Hard Place (1982)aerosmith_rockina

No Joe Perry and no Brad Whitford more or less means no Aerosmith. And while sheer force of will could have saved this one, Steven Tyler just sounds tired and bored throughout, and the songs, save for the very good "Lightning Strikes," are second-rate. This one is best forgotten.

aerosmith_justpush14. Just Push Play (2001)

The nadir of Aerosmith's commercial rebirth. The songs are overproduced and needlessly noisy, "Jaded" is a transparent attempt at yet another ballad (though it worked)," the title track is almost embarrassing and much of the rest is simply reheated, formulaic rewrites of the previous two albums. "Light Inside" is decent, I suppose.

13. Honkin' On Bobo (2004)aerosmith_honkin

Probably the epitome of unnecessary, this is a blues covers album that manages to pay tribute to the blues side of Aerosmith's background without adding anything to the originals. Other than the stomping opener "Road Runner," an excellent version of the Bo Diddley song, little else here will warrant repeated listening. It's well played, to be sure, but there are many other ways to spend your time that will yield better results. 

aerosmith_nightin12. Night In The Ruts (1979)

Fed up with the band and with drugs as the driving force of the members' day-to-day lives, Joe Perry (and Brad Whitford) left after this bloodless effort. It's pretty painful to sit through this one, but it's not uniformly awful; "No Surprize" and "Cheesecake" are minor highlights in the band's catalog and proof that their brand of gritty blues-boogie-hard rock still had a place in the musical landscape of 1979. But much of the rest is either dull or unnecessary covers, with "Remember (Walking In The Sand)" being the worst of the lot.

11. Music From Another Dimension! (2012)aerosmith_dimension_150

This long-delayed disc finally came out in 2012 to little fanfare, and at first glance it seemed to be more of the same: overproduced, underwritten songs with fake attitude, buried hooks and/or too many ballads, but a few listens reveals the beating Aerosmith heart of old under half of the songs. "Oh Yeah," "Street Jesus," "Legendary Child" and "Shakey Ground" can stand up to anything released since Pump and are worth seeking out for Aerosmith fans, especially those who came on board with Permanent Vacation. Yes, Desmond Child and Diane Warren helped write some of the ballads, and Carrie Underwood sings on one, and those songs all sound like attempts to get back on the charts and in the graces of American Idol fans (Tyler was a judge when this disc came out). It's not a good album overall, but it features a handful of quite good songs.

aerosmith_ninelives10. Nine Lives (1997)

Trimmed by about six songs, this could have been a pretty good late ‘90s mainstream rock disc, but it just goes on and on, getting worse with each overbaked, professionally-assisted corporate track written by millionaires trying to sound like an Aerosmith cover band. This one undoes much of the goodwill left from Get A Grip, which wasn't much, with the most successful moments being "Hole In My Soul," "Something's Gotta Give" and "The Farm," simply because they try to be a little different. 

9. Done With Mirrors (1985)aerosmith_mirrors

Most fans either don't know about this disc or don't care much. This is a shame, because it is the missing link between the days of old and the comeback. The songwriting is in the vein of Draw The Line and Night In The Ruts but with better production and a more coherent sound. "Let The Music Do the Talking" is excellent and the rest is solid, if not terribly remarkable. It's the sound of a band coming back to life and finding its footing, and it deserves a second look for those who forgot about it.

aerosmith_draw8. Draw The Line (1977)

It was clear by Rocks that the self-destructive path would end in either catastrophe or bad music, and the latter is what ended up happening. This disc starts the run of mediocre-to-lousy discs that would plague the band until 1987 simply because half the songs are standard '70s hard rock without personality, and that hadn't happened before. But the best songs here are nearly on par with anything on Rocks and certainly anything released afterward, including the title cut, "Milk Cow Blues," "Bright Light Fright" and "Critical Mass." 

7. Get A Grip (1993)aerosmith_getagrip

It's difficult to rank this one. Part of me feels it belong at the bottom because of the preponderance of same-sounding ballads, but "Cryin'," "Crazy" and "Amazing" are why a lot of people in the 1990s got on board with this band and still own Big Ones to this day. "Livin' On The Edge" is solid mainstream rock, "Eat The Rich" is just good fun and "Gotta Love It" and even "Line Up" are the sort of straightforward hard rock that Aerosmith did so well. As an album, it's clearly a labored effort to be relevant and appeal to everyone, but it works precisely because it offers something for every Aerosmith fan.

aerosmith_pump6. Pump (1989)

Mainstream rock was in a sorry state in 1989. Pump was one of the few bright spots, proving that Permanent Vacation wasn't a fluke and that this sobered-up version could still kick ass and explore their signature sound. "Janie's Got A Gun" wasn't something the band could have pulled off in 1975, "Love In An Elevator" is overproduced but good dirty fun and album tracks like "F.I.N.E.," "Voodoo Medicine Man" and "The Other Side" are a cut above the rest. Closer "What It Takes" also is the band's last, best ballad, not sounding cheesy for a minute but featuring actual emotion and attitude and putting all other power ballads of the late '80s to shame. 

5. Aerosmith (1973)aerosmith_s-t

Given how complicated and overdubbed the 1990s albums got, it's a bit jarring to listen to this one in its entirety and realize how simple the concept was in 1973. The dudes from Boston here just like to jam to old blues songs and write no-bullshit hard rock, decidedly American, with less emphasis on personality and posturing (believe it or not) and more on swagger and pure rock. "Mama Kin" is the obvious rock highlight, "Dream On" is the obvious career highlight (and on the first album already!), but the band's approach and sound is already in place on kickass bar-band sleaze like "Make It," "One Way Street" and "Movin' Out." 

aerosmith_get4. Get Your Wings (1974)

There isn't anything else like this in the band's discography, and it is a classic. More focused than their debut, the mood here also is darker and moodier than on any other Aerosmith disc, thanks primarily to the excellent "Seasons Of Wither" and, to a lesser extent, "Spaced" and "Lord Of The Thighs." Opener "Same Old Song And Dance" is the best Aerosmith hit of the decade, "Train Kept A 'Rollin'" is the band's best cover and reveals their Yardbirds-fueled approach to music and "S.O.S." is a short but fun forgotten track. Only "Pandora's Box" and "Woman Of The World" fall short.

3. Rocks (1976)aerosmith_rocks

Many fans will put this in one of the top two spots, but I think the second side suffers a bit in comparison to the best songs here. I grant you that the funky strut of "Last Child," the rollicking "Rats In The Cellar," the self-confident swagger of "Back In The Saddle" and "Combination" are one hell of a Side A, while "Nobody's Fault" and "Get The Lead Out" are fine album tracks. I've never been really sold on "Sick As A Dog," "Lick And A Promise" and the ballad "Home Tonight," but it may be a matter of taste. For many, this album is the pinnacle of Aerosmith, and it's a damn fine hard rock record.

aerosmith_permanent2. Permanent Vacation (1987)

I was four when this came out but it was still popular in my family when I got a little older and started exploring music. I had a cassette Walkman and would put this on loop, wearing the stomp of "Rag Doll," the dangerous blues of "Hangman Jury," the straightforward hard rock of "Magic Touch" and the nasty swagger of "Girl Keeps Coming Apart" into the vinyl groove of my brain. So many years later, this disc holds up as the band's full-fledged comeback, one that makes concessions to pop ("Angel") and hair metal ("Heart's Done Time," "Dude [Looks Like a Lady])" without sacrificing what made the band great in the first place. Plus, they use the opportunity to take some chances with the tropical island rock vibe of the title track, the instrumental groove-centric "The Movie" and "St. John," a bluesy track that defies explanation as to what genre it belongs to. One can nitpick about the sleek production, but this is a killer set of songs, among the best non-alternative rock had to offer in 1987, and one of Aerosmith's best albums.

1. Toys In The Attic (1975)aerosmith_toys

A stone-cold classic from start to finish and the one release every Aerosmith fan needs to own no matter their age. "Walk This Way" and "Sweet Emotion" deliver the goods every time (a fact that classic rock radio has abused), but the strength is in the album tracks, which are the best of the band's career. Tyler still calls "No More No More" his favorite Aerosmith song, if that's any indication, and the record is pretty much unassailable from a critical aspect. It takes the promise of the first two records and delivers, matching the greasy riffs to the sex-obsessed lyrics but finding variety in that sound so that it's not all fun and games, as on "You See Me Crying" and "Round And Round." Only "Big Ten Inch Record" is a little corny, not least because it proves the band did not need covers anymore to produce a great album.

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