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Forty-Five Years Later: Aerosmith – Get Your Wings

After the release of Aerosmith’s self-titled debut record, the band would face a lot of frustration due to the lack of public interest or coverage. Although it contained one of the biggest radio hits the band ever had in “Dream On,” that song wouldn’t take off until about 1976. This caused Aerosmith to take different measures heading into the second half of 1973 and early 1974. Steven Tyler would change his vocal practices that would stick for many a record here on out. They also teamed up with Jack Douglas, who would help lead them to success in the studio for years to come. The result was the sophomore record Get Your Wings, which hinted at more innovative musical directions. Today it celebrates its 45th birthday! 

Jack Douglas (left), Engineer Jay Messino (middle), Joe Perry (right)

Most of the songs on Get Your Wings were written on the spot in atypical settings, thanks to the complications of moving. Douglas’s intentions of giving Aerosmith an identity tied with the large amounts of coke and heroin pumping through their veins was the final step for a new path that the band would take. While Aerosmith was a rather straightforward effort with an easy flow, Get Your Wings compiled erratic ideas into one unpredictable disc that was void of any filler (not to say that Aerosmith had much of that). Essentially, it was eight tasty tunes that all stood out in their own respects while maintaining great production values as an adhesive to hold everything together firmly.

Aerosmith in the early days

While Get Your Wings may have been a step towards what the band would become known for, it still didn’t quite reach the crowd that Joe Perry and co. were hoping to. Oftentimes this record is also overshadowed by the success of the following two albums Toys In The Attic and Rocks, which became essentials to what Aerosmith were all about. Come early 1974, the passage to these milestones was paved, and this would hit the scene serving as my personal favorite album the band has ever recorded.

Inventive waves from the first spark of heavy metal, combined with tactics fished right out of the rise of rock ‘n roll in the ‘50s, were the biggest landmark for this record, all finished off with a Rolling Stones-esque shading thanks to Tyler’s singing style and Perry’s swinging leads. Brad Whitford would back this with harder riffs to boost the energy, helping it blend in with the Led Zeppelins and Black Sabbaths of the world. Thus, tunes like the world famous album opener “Same Old Song And Dance” or “Pandora’s Box” would hang saxophone solos atop the heavy rhythms. This was able to make for a fluid delivery yet maintain a solid punch. The sax would not replace guitar solos entirely, but simply fill in the cracks.

Saxophones wouldn’t be the only instrument besides guitars to take precedence, as piano was a fairly prominent feature of Get Your Wings, played by Steven Tyler himself. One of my personal favorite Aerosmith tunes “Lord Of The Thighs” uses this to its advantage as the monotone guitar passages leading the song melt into a steady piano groove to lift the melody. Not to mention, this one also includes one of Joey Kramer’s drum intros that would be made famous on the next album with “Walk This Way.” “Spaced” incorporated keyboards as well, but this one is far less of an instrument-focused ditty, honing in more on Steven Tyler’s ascending melodies. Tyler combines his earlier singing practices with the higher pitched vocals containing a tighter snap in a tremendous way here. Tom Hamilton’s bass playing compliments the lead vocals perfectly, following them as well as tapering off when the longer notes are held. Record closer “Pandora’s Box” is done in a similar manner, but drops more eggs into the instrumental basket.

Speaking of the vocals, “Seasons Of Wither” is another favorite that channels Tyler’s ability to be extremely soothing. This ballad is heavily driven by acoustic guitars, and flows right in from the tail end of the previous track. Tiny Bradshaw’s “Train Kept ‘A Rolling” was a common tune to cover at the time, and Aerosmith add such a harsh crunch to this. The top half is based on Tom’s thumping and bouncy bass-lines, and the bottom half is set to a live background and sped up and amped to such a heavy level. This would fade perfectly into “Seasons Of Wither” by transitioning the crowd into a windy sound which would slowly introduce the acoustic guitars.

Trading off frontal focal points was something that happened more in the tracks that made less of an impression, such as “Woman Of The World.” Moments where it’s nothing but Whitford and Tyler swapped out for a short Joe Perry lick, cramming in not one but two guitar solos as well as a harmonica. The attention is all over the place. “S.O.S. (Too Bad)” is unique with its agitated attitude that’s still conveyed in a positive way dealing in major keys.

Ultimately what makes this such a monumental release is how so much is accomplished in such a short time. No solos overstay their welcome, the bridges aren’t overly long, and the repetitive moments serve a great purpose. Best of all, the odd combination of heavy metal and 1950’s rock ‘n roll made it stick together like glue, all the while giving each track a standout identity. Get Your Wings never got the same level of praise as the other three of the first four albums, even in more recent years, but that just adds to the great mystery behind it. Plus, you wouldn’t get the smash records that would follow if not for this one. For those who have never listened to this the whole way through, I can’t recommend it enough.

Get Your Wings came out on March 1st, 1974 through Columbia Records, and is available in many different vinyl pressings, CD remasters, cassettes, and the works. There is also a handful of vinyl reissues that hit in 2013 on 180-gram vinyl. All can be found on Discogs as usual.

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