Aerosmith / "Rocks" (1976) / Columbia

The five diamonds regally aligned on the front cover of "Rocks" accurately reflect this sizzling and hard-rocking album. Durable, awe-inspiring and invaluable, Aerosmith's fourth disc arguably is the best heavy metal opus ever concocted.

Ironically, it is apt to get overlooked by young fans just discovering the early works of the Boston Bad Boys. The quintet's best known songs from the '70s ("Dream On," "Sweet Emotion" and "Walk This Way") all are on other albums. "Rocks' " "Last Child" did climb to No. 21 on the singles chart, but it's not one of the group's most recognized numbers among the MTV generation.

Still, there's nary a bum track on this pummeling masterpiece. Even the melodramatic power ballad "Home Tonight" has a way of growing on you, thanks in part to a searing guitar break. The unforgettable moments, of which "Rocks" is chock-full, include Joey Kramer's savage drumming on the majestic rocker "Back in the Saddle"; guitarist Joe Perry's buzz-saw riffing that ignites the corrosive "Rats In the Cellar," and Tom Hamilton's funky bass patterns on "Last Child."

The album's rebellious spirit is best expressed by singer Steven Tyler, who screeches out the lyrics like a brash street kid with absolutely nothing to lose. Indeed, attitude-wise, "Rocks" mirrors the punk revolution that was beginning to bubble up from the underground in 1976. "I was a last child, just a punk in the street," Tyler sneers. It was no surprise that Aerosmith found great support among restless adolescents and young teens during this creatively dynamic period.

Musically, "Rocks" helped forge a new type of suburban heavy metal that began to stray from the blues-based stomp of hard-rock trailblazers Cream and Led Zeppelin. In the '80s, this album's influence could be found in a slew of "sons of Aerosmith" bands, from Ratt to Guns N' Roses.

"Rocks"--along with the band's entire Columbia catalogue from the '70s--recently was re-mastered and re-released on CD with all its original artwork.


"Odessey and Oracle" (1968), the Zombies, Rhino

"Night of the Living Dregs" (1979), Dixie Dregs, Polygram

"I Ain't Marching Anymore" (1965), Phil Ochs, Hannibal

"Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings" (1956), Verve

"The Basement Tapes" (recorded 1967, originally released 1975), Bob Dylan and the Band, Columbia

"Middle Man" (1980), Boz Scaggs, Columbia

"New York Dolls" (1973), the New York Dolls, Mercury

"Arthur (or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)" (1969), the Kinks, Reprise

* Times Line: 808-8463

To hear an excerpt from "Rocks," call TimesLine and press *5541

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