There are no two ways about it. This is a strictly love/hate affair.
If you love Steven Tyler, you’re gonna lap up every last corny/goofy/downright rubbish minute of this, surprisingly the man’s first solo effort. If you don’t have any particular candle to hold for him, or you’re an Aerosmith fan because of Joe Perry’s snake-hipped rifferama and the chemistry he generates with Tyler, the magic the two of them make in the name of rock n’roll rather than personal fame and glory… We’re All Somebody… is very much best avoided.
Me? I love the man. He’s the king of the fuckups, the ultimate barroom balladeer and a mighty vocal presence all rolled into one irresistibly loveable package. And besides, he’s Steven Tyler. He can do whatever he wants. And there are moments – quite a few of them, actuially – on this record where you’ll be pretty pleased that that’s just what he’s done.
Making a country record – for that is what this unmistakeably is – in the heart of the Nashville machine is a dangerous business. Music Row chews up and spits out many lesser talents than Tyler, and at least half of this album bears all the hallmarks of production line country a la Brad Paisley et al; Red White and You is the sort of bozo Tom Petty namechecking-nonsense Toby Keith might indulge in, whilst the excessively saccharine I Make My Own Sunshine should surely have been reserved for soundtracking some sort of daytime TV life insurance ad.
However, when he’s not chasing Country Radio, Tyler proves he’s still got the chops as a songwriter (he co-wrote pretty much everything here) and indeed as a vocalist. Morose opener My Own Worst Enemy is a great way to start the album, focusing on the man’s careworn, emotion-packed vocal rather than studio frippery, whilst power ballad Only Heaven – probably the only song here you might imagine Aerosmith attempting – is pure class, and directs memories back to the time, somewhere in the early to mid-nineties, when country acts like Little Texas and Lonestar took custodianship of this type of song from the waning arena rock genre. If you’re a rock fan of a certain age, there’s no way this track won’t hit the mark.
Only Heaven is followed by the superbly Stonesy The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and Me, Tyler slipping into his best croaky croon for the occasion and the guitars dropping a notch or two lower on the strap in celebration of the fact – It’s brainless, bluesy fun and I like it…
Elsewhere Tyler repays his obvious Janis Joplin debt with a stirringly ragged take on Piece of My Heart, though it’s hard to see why he bothered with a stripped-back reading of his own Janie’s Got a Gun. Still, it’s his song so why not?
All up this is a tremendous listen, and you’ll soon learn to programme the clunkers out of your respective playlists. Stephen Tyler clearly enjoyed making this record, so why not enjoy listening to it?