While it won’t make you forgot about Aerosmith’s best work, Sweetzerland Manifesto is better than one might expect.
Since 2009 Aerosmith have toured every year. However, in that same time, they have been mostly dormant in the studio putting out just one studio album, 2012’s Music From Another Dimension received to mixed reviews. The rest of the band has mostly chilled out while lead singer Steven Tyler explored and developed “Brand Tyler”, which encompasses an autobiography (Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?), solo album (We’re All Somebody from Somewhere), solo tour, a signature scarf collection, and two seasons as a judge on American Idol. Thus, Tyler has been busy with a number of things, but none of them include new Aerosmith music. Since the last album — some would say the last real Aerosmith album came out somewhere in the ’90s or even ’70s according to the real purists — reports have emerged of substance abuse relapse, rehab, strained relationships among band members, and even a final tour.
Joe Perry has kept himself busy as well but other than the 2014 autobiography Rocks: My Life in and Out of Aerosmith, he’s mostly focused on music. He formed and released an album of originals and covers in 2015 with Hollywood Vampires with Jonnny Depp, Alice Cooper, and a slew of guest musicians. This year brings us Sweetzerland Manifesto, his third solo release since 2009. Given the unevenness of the last few Aerosmith releases and that solo albums can be self-indulgent, lesser versions of the solo artist’s main band, Sweetzerland Manifesto has a few things to prove. While it won’t make you forgot about Aerosmith’s best work, it is better than one might expect.
Perry has assembled a rock ‘n’ roll village to raise this album. Colin Douglas, son Anthony Perry, Terry Reid, Bruce Witkin, Zak Starkey, Rudy Tanzi, Torald Koren, Isaac Koren, Lind McCrary, and Markita Knight all appear the album — and that’s just the first two tracks.
The opening track “Rumble in the Jungle” lays down some heavy percussion before breaking into some catchy straight-ahead leads. Although it’s more an instrumental exploration than a song with defined sections, it works as an opening track, and it would be interesting if more of the album followed this direction. “I’ll Do Happiness” is a more conventional track. Reid’s vocals are sufficient, but they do make you wish for Tyler’s wail and rough touch. “Aye, Aye, Aye” with Robin Zander signing offers up more of the same. Just when you might wonder if the album has settled into a pattern of mid-tempo rockers, “I Wanna Roll” comes along with a more introspective Dylan-esque feel and a gentle mid-song instrumental section. “Sick & Tired” returns to the rock formula.
The second half of the album begins with harmonica kicking off “Haberdasher Blues”, a slowed-down roadhouse number with David Johansen singing about how “Everything’s gonna be alright / This Mornin'”. “Spanish Sushi” is an instrumental featuring Perry and his two sons playing around with vaguely Eastern sounds and blues. “Eve of Destruction” is a rolling cover of the P.F. Sloan tune. Recalling latter-day Johnny Cash, Perry’s takes the lead vocals. “I’m Going Crazy” and “Won’t Let Me Go” finish out the album. While it never hits a stone cold groove or really cuts loose, Sweezerland Manifesto makes a strong case that Aerosmith can drop the pop sheen and ditch the reliance on ballads.
At ten songs, Sweetzerland Manifesto doesn’t overstay its welcome and Perry’s guitar never becomes overindulgent. It’s not exactly the lost or delayed classic Aerosmith album we have all been yearning for, but it doesn’t sound like a thrown together collection of wannabe or rejected Aerosmith songs. Neither does it sound quite like a full, finished band in its own right, though it does have its own identity. However, it’s something to help tide over Aerosmith fans and a demonstration that whatever the holdup is with making new Aerosmith music, it doesn’t seem to be Joe Perry.