When Aerosmith announced that they would be releasing an album of Blues covers, most probably thought they’d just run out of ideas. In truth, it was their best idea in 15 years. Honkin on Bobo delivers 11 Blues standbys (and one Aerosmith original) in a modern image that the majority of these songs’ originators could scarcely imagine. Aerosmith’s version of the genre is bolder, louder, and heavier than most purists would deem acceptable, but it plays to the band’s strengths and results in their best album since Pump.
Just about everything here is a winner from the rhythm section highlight (Bo Diddley’s “Road Runner,”) to the hell-raising update of the 1930’s “Baby Please Don’t Go.” Even the traditional “Jesus is on the Main Line,” the album’s closer, manages to be cool, no small feat from a band that really hadn’t been cool in over a decade. My personal favorites: Steven Tyler’s butchering of Aretha Franklin’s “Never Loved a Man,” and the two Joe Perry-featured tracks, the raw “Stop Messin Around” and the seductively dark “Back Back Train” which finds Aerosmith excelling by accomplishing something they’d hadn’t attempted since the early ’70s: playing with restraint. After releasing an album that nobody in the band was proud of, they gave up on being hit-makers and went back to the basics (and their original producer, Jack Douglas). In doing so, they provided what seemed like one last celebration of pure, unabashed Rock n’ Roll before riding off into the sunset… At least until American Idol called. Who knows? It’s almost been fifteen years since they pulled this baby off. Maybe we’re due for one more last goodbye.