Aerosmith started life as drug fueled sleaze monsters in the 1970s before cleaning up their act and achieving massive success in the 1980s. Fans have long been divided as to which era is best, but in fairness, there’s something to be said for both. Not all of their albums have worked, but that hasn’t stopped them from shifting a staggering 150 million of them. Here, we pick the winners from the losers as we rank all 15 Aerosmith albums from worst to best.
15. Just Push Play
Joe Perry once said that Just Push Play was a masterclass in how not to make an album. He wasn’t wrong. It may have produced a Top 10 hit with Jaded, but their decision to tap into rap-metal on Outta Your Head and the title track is quite simply unforgivable.
14. Nine Lives
1997’s Nine Lives sounds like a box-ticking exercise. You can’t really blame the band – they’d just scored a massive record deal and were clearly in no mood to take any risks. Unfortunately, their careful calculations ended up backfiring. The ingredients of a hit record are all there, but asides from The Farm, there’s precious little to get excited about.
13. Music From Another Dimension
In 2012, Aerosmith released their first album of new material since 2001’s Just Push Play. As ultimateclassicrock.com says, Music From Another Dimension didn’t really give a clue as to where the group was headed, and musically, it’s all over the place. You can’t please all the people all the time, and in trying, the album ends up sounding shambolic. Still, Joe Perry manages to pull enough face-melting riffs out of the bag to save it from complete ignominy.
12. Night in the Ruts
Aerosmith didn’t have a good time recording 1979’s Night in the Ruts. Joe Perry upped and left halfway through, and producer Jack Douglas followed shortly after. For all that, it’s not the complete disaster it could have been. Commercially, it was the least successful of any album the band had made so far, but it still managed to achieve a respectable No. 14 position in the charts, eventually certifying gold.
11. Honkin’ on Bobo
By 2004, Aerosmith were clearly feeling their age. There’s nothing new or innovative about Honkin’ on Bobo – it’s simply the sound of a band returning to their roots with some old covers and a back-to-basics sound. Fortunately, the sound of Aerosmith returning to the roots is actually pretty delightful. It might not win any prizes for innovation, but it gets kudos for comfort.
10. Get a Grip
As wzlx.iheart.com writes, 1993’s Get a Grip was the third in line after the band’s improbable 80’s comeback. It wasn’t as good as its predecessors, but it had enough commercial appeal in the shape of Living on the Edge, Cryin’, Amazing, and Crazy to make it the band’s biggest selling album of all time.
9. Rock in a Hard Place
By 1982, Aerosmith was down two founding members and rapidly losing their way. But if they were going to go down, they were going to go down fighting. Rock in a Hard Place is as tough and defiant as anything the band had ever done. Opening tracks Jailbait and Lightning Strikes turn the rock up to the max, with newcomer Jimmy Crespo giving the band the shot in the arm they’d so badly needed. We could have done without the sprinkling of synths, but otherwise, it’s a very decent album.
8. Done With Mirrors
After a series of disappointing albums, 1985’s Down with Mirrors was where things started looking up for the band. There are too many synths and the songs are let down by the addition of outside writers, but for all that, it’s still an enjoyable, if slightly shambolic, album.
7. Draw the Line
After the huge success of Rocks and Toys in the Attic, Aerosmith would have been forgiven for sticking to the same winning formula. They didn’t. Instead, they added a bunch of mandolins, banjos, and backing singers to the mix. It was brave, but not necessarily wise. The album still went double platinum, but it’s clear from the bloated self-indulgence of some of the tracks that the drugs were finally starting to catch up with them.
In 1973, Aerosmith broke onto the scene with their self-titled debut. It’s not an unmitigated success, but that’s largely down to a torpid production. The songs are, by and large, excellent, with the cocky Mama Kin and powerful Dream On ranking among the best. It’s not perfect, but it was a great introduction.
5. Permanent Vacation
Permanent Vacation was where things started getting interesting again. After several years in the wildness, Aerosmith were ready to reclaim their titles as the kings of rock and roll. It would take another album before they were really worthy of it, but Permanent Vacation was a huge leap in the right direction. It went five times platinum, spewed a trio of Top 20 hits, and proved in no uncertain terms that Aerosmith were back in business.
By 1989, Aerosmith had cleaned up their act, polished off their raw edges, and were primed to make their comeback as unlikely MTV stars. The drugs were gone, but on tracks like F.I.N.E and Young Lust, they prove they’d never really needed them anyway. The star of the show is Janie’s Got A Gun, a mature, eloquent insight into the impact of childhood abuse that represents a giant leap forward in Steven Tyler’s song-crafting abilities.
Following in the footsteps of an album like Toys in the Attic is never easy, but Rocks didn’t disappoint. It’s nasty and it’s sleazy, but that’s part of the charm. On hyped-up blues numbers like Rats In The Cellar, they prove themselves the natural successors to the Rolling Stones. They wouldn’t come close to sounding this good again for almost a decade, but as parting shots go, it was a great one.
2. Get Your Wings
If their debut album had hinted at great things, their second album spelled them out. As Louder Sound says, it was less the difficult second album as Aerosmith’s great leap forward. The entire thing is masterful, from the peacock strut of Lord Of The Thighs to the restrained brilliance of Seasons of Wither. It didn’t get very far in the charts, stalling at a disappointing No. 74, but its greatness is undeniable.
1. Toys in the Attic
The drugs might not work, but in Aerosmith’s case, they don’t always make things worse. By 1975, their antics and excesses were doing terrible things to their digestions, but wonders for their music. Toys in the Attic was the culmination of everything they’d been working towards on Get Your Wings. Obviously, the strutting Walk this Way is the one that everyone remembers, but the sublime Sweet Emotion did just as much to secure their legacy. The album was their biggest hit… and they’re most deserved.