Aerosmith, a five-piece Boston hard-rock band with almost unlimited potential, can’t seem to hurdle the last boulder separating it from complete success. Like Toys in the Attic, their two previous LPs have had several stellar moments which were weakened by other instances of directionless meandering and downright weak material. That these albums stood the test of time is testimony to the band’s raw abilities and some outstanding production on the part of Jack Douglas — Toys in the Attic, I’m afraid, can’t claim the latter.
What’s really important to bands of this sort is initial impact — the production must explode, enveloping the listener with a rampaging barrage of sound. The ideal mix is hot and spacious, with each instrument well defined and immediately intimate. A mix, in fact, not at all unlike that of the band’s previous LP, Get Your Wings. On Toys, Aerosmith is given a more compact, jumbled mix that gives more of a “group” feel but robs them of that explosive ambience. Hence it’s much harder to get involved with the music at first exposure to it.
The material here follows the familiar patterns — some good moments, some nondescript ones. With their aggressive, ambisexual stance, reliance on bristling open chording and admitted mid-Sixties English rock roots, Aerosmith can be very good when they’re on, and material like “Walk This Way,” “Sweet Emotion” and the title cut adequately proves this once you’re past the generally oppressive production. “Big Ten-Inch Record,” “Uncle Salty” and “You See Me Crying,” though, are poor choices, changes of pace which deny the band the use of their strongest asset — hardnosed, aggressive raunch.
If Aerosmith can avoid the sloppiness that’s plagued their recent live performances, if they return to the production that made parts of Get Your Wings so memorable, and most importantly, if they avoid tepid, trite material, then their potential is extremely high.