Rock In A Hard Place


Columbia Records, 1982

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


By 1982, Aerosmith shouldn't have even existed. Founding members Joe Perry and Brad Whitford had packed their respective guitars and jumped ship following the disappointing Night In The Ruts album back in 1979. The substance abuse of various members of the band is now the stuff of legend. Yet in 1982, Aerosmith regrouped with the help of new guitarists Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay for the album Rock In A Hard Place.

To say that the end result was a letdown would qualify for understatement of the year. Featuring a band who sounded completely worn down and uninspired, this disc easily qualifies as Aerosmith's worst release, and probably should never have even been attempted.

The fault does not lie with the new guitarists, though. Granted, neither Crespo nor Dufay have the kind of crunch that Perry and Whitford had, and they don't sound like their styles completely mesh with what Aerosmith was known for. But they came into a situation akin to trying to board the Titanic just after it hit the iceberg -- you know the ship is sinking, but you're there bailing water to the best of your ability.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In fact, it's rather hard to really pinpoint the fault with Rock In A Hard Place, since there seems to be enough blame to go around. In one corner, you have some of the most pitiful songwriting to ever come out of Aerosmith's camp. Tracks like "Bitch's Brew," "Joanie's Butterfly" (why does something tell me this isn't about some pet insect?) and "Bolivian Ragamuffin" all feel like third-generation cast-offs, scraped from the bottom of the songwriting barrel just to release an album. In another corner, vocalist Steven Tyler really sounds bored with the whole process, contributing less than satisfactory vocals on tracks like "Jailbait," "Jig Is Up" and -- undoubtedly one of the most painful songs I've ever had to listen to -- "Cry Me A River."

A third aspect of blame would have to come from whoever put Tyler and crew up to doing this album -- and, frankly, I don't quite know who that would be. It's hard to say that Rock In A Hard Place was trying to capitalize on the Aerosmith name, especially seeing that the band had been on a downward slope since Draw The Line in 1978, and that this was Aerosmith's first album in three years. It might have been an answer to Whitford and Perry's new bands, almost as if to say that Aerosmith could exist without them. Let's just say that nobody in this equation got the upper hand, as The Joe Perry Project and Whitford/St. Holmes are both long-forgotten footnotes in the annals of rock history.

Despite having three-fifths of the original band, the sad fact is that this is just not Aerosmith, and Rock In A Hard Place only serves to stain the band's name. Had this been released under a different moniker, it still would stink, but at least it would stink on its own. Instead, it almost served as a painful last chapter in the saga of Aerosmith -- that is, until they somehow got a second chance at commercial life.

Rating: F

User Rating: B+



© 2004 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.