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Articles Home » 1987 Articles » Aerosmith - 1987 Permanent Vacation
Aerosmith - 1987 Permanent Vacation

ARTIST: Aerosmith
ALBUM: Permanent Vacation
LABEL: Geffen
SERIAL: 9 24162-2
YEAR: 1987
CD REISSUE: 2001, Geffen, 493 096-2


LINEUP: Steven Tyler - vocals, harmonica, piano * Joe Perry - guitars, pedal steel, backing vocals * Brad Whitford - guitars * Tom Hamilton - bass * Joey Kramer - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Hearts Done Time * 02 Magic Touch * 03 Rag Doll * 04 Simoriah * 05 Dude Looks Like A Lady * 06 St John * 07 Hangman Jury * 08 Girl Keeps Coming Apart * 09 Angel * 10 Permanent Vacation * 11 I'm Down * 12 The Movie (Instr)


Aerosmith were still looking for the big comeback album around 1987 after the underrated 'Done With Mirrors' had bombed two years previously. To make matters worse the band had imploded on the DWM tour, apparently succumbing to chemicals and alcohol once again. Bruce Fairbairn was brought in to tweak the dials this time around, as well as a phalanx of hit songwriters to co-write much of the material. A heightened keyboard presence further signaled the move toward a hard rock/AOR hybrid sound. Geffen clearly not wanting to take any chances then, this album needed to make a mark.

The Songs
The siren like synth and dolphin calls that usher in 'Heart's Done Time' make it obvious this is a different Aerosmith. Much of the dirt and grit that many claim as indispensable is gone, instead how about a catchy hook and anthemic chorus? This is borderline AOR and it angered many fans who preferred the dirty Aerosmith, but I certainly wasn't one of them. 'Magic Touch' operates in much the same terrain, 'Crazy Nights' era Kiss visible across the garden wall. Tyler is still doing his trademark scatting here and there, but the glossy hook and AOR chorus set this apart from and above dull hard rock. 'Rag Doll' tugs out the funkier side of Aerosmith, full of scatting and Fairbairn's trademark horn section. It proved catchy enough to earn top 20 novelty hit status. 'Simoriah' is much better, quite uptempo and hard hitting at times, set against a melody that is almost ethereal in an 80's Golden Earring context. This is the kind of hard AOR that gets the coffee meter redlining! Next up is 'Dude (Looks Like A Lady)', the single that launched this comeback. Again the horn section intrudes, and the melody is passable but I reckon the Geffen execs recognized the novelty potential here. Not one of the album highlights but a big hit anyway. 'St John' has something of a split personality, switching between jazzy verses and a bridge/chorus device that resides at the boogie motel. Fairly bizarre, the verses even reminding me of Angelo Badalamenti's work on the Twin Peaks soundtrack. 'Hangman Jury' is similarly divided, based in the deep swamplands at verse time which gives Tyler ample opportunity to blow on that harp. The band do wave the flies away at times though, rising out of the swamp into the AOR skies above. 'Girl Keeps Coming Apart' reprises the band's mid 70's sound and approach to an extent, coming off frenetic and fairly irritating. And then came the monster ballad 'Angel', an AOR delight full of keyboards, all the right hooks and an incredible vocal from Tyler, again in Kiss 'Crazy Nights' vicinity. Come to think of it, this is almost mid-tempo once it gets going. Much to the chagrin of older fans, 'Angel' made the top ten and propelled the album over the 2 million mark. The title track fully explains all the advantages of an island getaway, blending a serious riff with some steel drums and all manner of sound effects. One could almost describe this as overkill but peel away the outer layers and you'll find a very fine hard AOR tune fighting to break out of it's stifling surrounds. Aerosmith are no strangers to covering a Beatles track and this time 'I'm Down' gets an energetic outing, fair enough. 'The Movie' closes proceedings in instrumental fashion, something of a rock dreamscape with Perry's soaring guitar to the fore.

In Summary
This is a very personal album for me, one of a handful of key albums that pointed me in the direction of AOR while still in high school. Sure it's not perfect, but the highlights are many. Aerosmith had dabbled with hard AOR before, tracks like 'Kings And Queens', 'No Surprise' and 'Darkness' to name a few. Here they chose to distill their sound and approach into hard AOR, a good move and mostly well executed. 'Pump' would follow in 1989 and scale even greater heights, but 'Permanent Vacation' was where it all turned around.

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#1 | gdazegod on August 20 2012 12:01:47
This album was all over MTV at the time. So too 'Pump'.
#2 | sabace on August 20 2012 14:02:32
loved this when it came out althought I thought DONE WITH MIRRORS was better!
#3 | AOR Lee on August 20 2012 20:31:13
Sabace, on Done With Mirrors I loved Let The Music Do The Talking, My Fist Your Face and especially Darkness. As stated in the review, it's an underrated album. Deserves a review to be honest
#4 | dangerzone on August 21 2012 00:17:51
This is where Aerosmith lost it permanently. The hard rock edge disappeared and I think they've sucked ever since, in a huge way.
#5 | Eric on August 21 2012 02:03:25
I cringe every time I hear 'Dude Looks Like Lady' and 'Rag Doll'. A universe away from 'Draw The Line'.
#6 | AOR Lee on August 21 2012 09:53:55
Alun we'll have to agree to disagree on this one
#7 | Nick C on August 24 2012 19:42:14
The real start of the second Aerosmith wave after the stuttering (but good) DWM and a wave they have maintained more or less to this day. I loved this when it came out but over familiarity has dulled it a little for me and I could probably do without the likes of Angel, Rag Doll and Dude because of that very reason. I was never keen of this version of I'm Down either. But still a great Aerosmith album in my books and preferable for me to the mega selling Get a Grip - the running order of which irritates me for whatever reason and I always think is better on random play.
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