When this one was announced back in November (2008), the prospect of getting our hands on some 'real' Aerosmith soundboards from this period was simply an unbelievable proposition. The Rocks Tour of 1976-77 is lacking real substance and representation on the bootleg front so, needless to say, fans and collectors were quite excited to get their hands on this 3CD set.
Being as excited as just about anyone to hear this, I jumped in full throttle and jacked up the volume for Disc 1 and felt that initial disappointment we have often felt with getting new shows that are 'unheard'. But thankfully, that disappointment was short-lived. You see, this tape of the Fukuoka '77 performance isn't a 'stereo soundboard' as you would expect, but what seems to be more of a stage recording perhaps?...with mics (or just a mic) strategically placed somewhere on the stage itself. The results were probably less than expected for the taper but thanks to the relatively new Shades Label, a great decision was made to commit resources to enhancing this and presenting to us on silver disc. There are many pluses to this one, the first being that it is the entire show and it's a dandy from setlist to exuberance in the performance.
As stated, the tape has had some pretty obvious treatment via equalisation and it comes so close to being heavy-handed but I never felt the party executing the said remastering ruined anything. The only thing that gets a little unnerving is that the audience sounds like a flock of birds at at times but due to the placement of the microphone, we get more of the band than anything else. At one point early on in the initial listen, I thought maybe this was an mp3 sourced recording as there's that 'digital shrill' that is present on the high end intermittently but I''m certain that is a result of the extensive equalisation as well. Let me state that this is not a prevalent problem but needs to be cited. This is an aspect of the early digital sharing of sources that when an mp3 was utilized to torrent or share, really annoyed most of us several years ago - nobody more than me! I sincerely believe this isn't the case with the Fukuoka tape - just needed some extra attention to bring out the breadth a bit and fortunately the tape is strong and responsive to the enhancements made.
Highlights abound on the exciting Fukuoka tape from the opening one-two punch of "Mama Kin" into "Write Me A Letter" to the first taste of Rocks material where "Lick And A Promise" is well-received, indicating the audience has been digesting the LP just fine in anticipation of this February 4th concert. Even "Dream On" is delivered tenderly but climaxing with an appropriate bite. And, my favorite part of the show - and I had forgotten they did this as I saw the band 5 times between early '75 and Spring '77- that they would insert another tune during the "Train Kept A-Rollin'" finale around Joey Kramer's drum solo, etc. and this time it's a rousing, emotionally high version of "Get The Lead Out". REALLY great stuff!...and just another in a long list of arguments for why these tapes are so important to keep alive and in circulation.
Disc 3 features the second of the 2 shows and is credited to the April 30th, 1976 concert in Waterloo, Iowa - and, another nice twist after digesting this isn't a 'soundboard' tape either. It's an excellent stereo audience recording that gets gradually better as you listen. I think the band were really at the top of their game right at this juncture and this tape displays them in complete control and in a polished, professional presentation from a delivery standpoint. They may have been toxic already but they had this act down and they were like a well-oiled machine as the tunes just keep coming! Unfortunately this is just a fragment of the set but a very effective portion to get a good feel of the atmosphere and just where they were at during this period..and the crowd is eating it up and provides the barometer of excitement for what must have been going on visually during the show. Highlights from the Waterloo tape are certainly a frantic and well-articulated "Adam's Apple' and menacing encore of the staple show finishing "Toys In The Attic". They simply end with a ferocious attack and it's outstanding.
This is a highly recommended package for any Aerosmith fans but understand these are not high quality soundboards as advertised. In fact, I'll one better than that by saying this is exactly what bootlegs are about. Somebody caught lightning in a bottle with a tape deck - no matter what kind, and all these years later are just able to re-live the performances. I love these 'mouse in the corner' types of tapes that really capture the atmosphere of the occasion and are able to enjoy...and these are enjoyable! The packaging is of professional quality and credit Shades for providing a commercial-looking set to fold into the collection.