I’ve always been intrigued by Pandora’s Box. It was years after I thought that I had listened to every song Aerosmith ever recorded that I discovered it, and I was immediately filled with excitement. It was my first box set, and even though it contained a lot of music that I already had, the concept of mixing studio recordings from the albums with a number of outtakes, unreleased live performances, and completely new tracks made the 3 discs fun to listen to, especially when I was in the car and had no idea what was coming up next. To be fair, the majority of the new stuff isn’t particularly great, and its worth is severed greatly with the advent of music streaming services where we can cherry pick out the new songs from the old, but the joy I felt when I discovered Pandora’s Box for the first time is something that will always stick out to me.
There seemed to be no rhyme or reason going into the studio selections that were included in Pandora’s Box. They sure as hell weren’t going for hits. One minute you’re hearing “Dream on” or “Sweet Emotion,” the next it’s “Critical Mass or “Cheese Cake.” Thankfully, there is more included from Aerosmith’s golden age than from the much darker ages brought upon by Draw the Line and Night in the Ruts, but the studio songs are really a moot point anyway. It’s the stuff you can’t get anywhere else that’s exciting, and there are a number of gems produced from this chaos that are well-worth salvaging. “On the Road Again” was ripped straight from the studio sessions from Aerosmith’s first album, complete with Steven Tyler’s faux old black blues player warbling. Two live takes of songs from that album, “Write Me a Letter” and “Walkin the Dog” also improve upon the originals, making that first Aerosmith album, while lovable, less and less viable. There’s also a wicked cover of the vintage Fleetwood Mac era song “Rattlesnake Shake,” which showcases every member of the band across its 10-minute running time. It’s also hard not to love the extended harmonica soloing before the Texxas Jam live version of “Big Ten-Inch Record” which finds the band playing much more furiously than they did on the comparatively laid back studio version that appears on Toys in the Attic. The remix of “Last Child” doesn’t change much on the surface, until you get to the extended 30 seconds of glorious soloing from Joe Perry at the end. “All Your Love” was originally recorded for Draw the Line to give the band more to tour on, and frankly it would’ve improved the album had they traded it for something like “Get it Up.” And don’t miss the Shit House Shuffle of “Downtown Charlie;” after hearing it today, I consider it among Aerosmith’s essential tunes. Even Tom Hamilton and Joe Perry’s solo projects during their time away from the band get recognition with the excellent “Sharpshooter” from the former and the even better “South Station Blues” from the latter, which outclasses a large number of Aerosmith classics. The rest of the live recordings, alternate takes and instrumentals range from good to meh, but there’s so much to love about Pandora’s Box that I’ll Let it Slide.