- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Aerosmith

Honkin’ on Bobo

Columbia Records

I like to think that “Honkin’ on Bobo” is Aerosmith’s penance for “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and every other shameless McBallad the band has released over the past 15 years.

“Bobo” is a gloriously sleazy blues album from the side of Aerosmith’s brain that doesn’t worry about top 40 singles and teenage girls.

“Bobo” isn’t your grandfather’s blues. It’s the blues as refracted through the prism of British rock: the Stones, the Yardbirds, Zeppelin, Humble Pie. It’s full-tilt, stack-amplified boogie, with Steven Tyler yowling at the top of his throat.

There are blues standards here: Big Joe Williams’ “Baby Please Don’t Go,” Bo Diddley’s “Road Runner” and Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready.” There’s even a gritty, male-centric reworking of the Aretha Franklin hit “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You).”

The band also flaunts its purist cred with an obscure nod to Little Walter (“Temperature,” featuring Chuck Berry’s old pianist, Johnnie Johnson) and a trio of songs from the great Mississippi Fred McDowell, including the churchy bottleneck-slide country blues of “Jesus on the Mainline.”

Guitarist Joe Perry handles lead vocals on the dark and nasty “Back Back Train.” “You Gotta Move” takes on the Bo Diddley beat, sounding neither like the McDowell original nor the Stones’ 1971 cover.

Aerosmith also found a Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac gem, “Stop Messin’ Around,” again with Mr. Perry on vocals.

The one original here, “The Grind,” co-written with producer Marti Frederiksen, threatens to devolve into typical, latter-day Aerosmith bombast but manages to stay on this side of tween hookology.

“Honkin’ on Bobo” was the album Aerosmith was born to make. It took the boys from Boston 30 years, but it couldn’t have come at a better time.

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