As the ’70s gave way to the ’80s, Joe Perry left Aerosmith and didn’t waste any time in starting his own solo band. He was dysfunctional as the rest of his former bandmates, particularly where chemical habits were concerned, but no one could fault his work ethic. Aerosmith struggled to get one album during this era (roughly 1980 to 1983) while Perry racked up three albums on two different labels with his Joe Perry Project venture.
The first of the Joe Perry Project albums is widely considered a stone classic. Opinions vary on the other two but an open mind will reveal a lot of interesting material going on within the grooves of each subsequent platter. On all three, his love for rock’s harder side and his creative explorations of guitar within a classic rock context get a full, committed exploration. If you love Aerosmith, there’s plenty of like-minded entertainment to be found in this trio of cult items.
Members: Joe Perry (guitar/vocals), Ralph Morman (lead vocals – album 1), Charlie Farren (lead vocals, rhythm guitar – album 2), Cowboy Mach Bell (lead vocals – album 3), David Hull (bass – albums 1 & 2), Ronnie Stewart (drums – albums 1 & 2), Danny Hargrove (bass – album 3), Joe Pet (drums – album 3), Harry King (piano – album 3), Rick Cunningham (saxophone – album 3)
LET THE MUSIC DO THE TALKING (1980): Perry quickly knocked out this debut with Aerosmith vet Jack Douglas at the controls and came up with a classic of meat-and-potatoes hard rock. The band attacks each track with a mixture of energy and groove, each song featuring plenty of room for thick, sometimes frenzied lead work from the main man. The first side serves up a mission statement of a title track that evokes a mental picture of a freight train going at top speed as well as a cool Perry-sung record biz commentary called “Discount Dogs” and the instrumental “Break Song,” which boasts some crazed Perry soloing. The second side’s even better: “Rockin’ Train” layers taut riffing over a churning funk groove, “The Mist Is Rising” is an ominous mood piece with psychedelic vibes and “Ready On The Firing Line” is a fun stomper with a cowbell-accented sing-along chorus. Simply put, this is the best Aerosmith album that Aerosmith never recorded: energetic, committed from start to finish and sung with passion by Perry and Morman.
I’VE GOT THE ROCK ‘N ROLLS AGAIN (1981): Morman was replaced by Farren for the second album, which reportedly was shrugged off by Columbia at the promotional level because they wanted a new Aerosmith album. It’s a step or two behind the first Project album in terms of catchiness and instant accessibility but is nonetheless steeped in quality hard rock playing, nicely recorded by ex-Doors engineer Bruce Botnick. The surprise addition here is a few tunes that pair fast riffs with a certain punky/new wave energy, like bracing lead-off cut “East Coast West Coast,” the tense, breakneck pacing of “Soldier Of Fortune” and the amusing garage rock attitude of “Buzz Buzz.” Also of note are swaggering midtempo cruiser “No Substitute For Arrogance,” with some Tyler-ish hamminess from Farren in places, and excellent closer “South Station Blues,” a bluesy rave-up with interesting acoustic textures and a charming, off-the-cuff lead vocal from Perry. Second side surprise: the playful “Dirty Little Things,” with the album’s catchiest refrain.
ONCE A ROCKER, ALWAYS A ROCKER (1983): Perry tried once more with a new lineup and label before rejoining Aerosmith. Most consider this one a slab of cut-out bin eccentricity but it’s a favorite at Schlockmania Headquarters because it’s so willfully odd and defiantly out-of-step with the times. Perry goes heavy on the funky underpinnings here, with a horn section fleshing out funk-rock jams like “Adrianna” and “Four Guns West.” There’s also a surprising southern rock feel on at least half of this, namely on the stomping title track, the lusty amplified-country of “Black Velvet Pants,” the bluesy/acoustic “Women In Chains” (a pro-feminist lament!) and the rockabilly-in-overdrive of “Walk With Me Sally.” Past JPP singers might have been better technically but Bell is the best showman of the bunch with lots of front man personality, even dishing up a cool sleaze-rock treatment of the T-Rex fave “Bang A Gong.” You can hear why it wasn’t a hit in its release year but it’s aged surprisingly well thanks to its unexpected rootsiness and a solid recording job.