Aerosmith "1971 - The Road Starts Hear" (2021 Record Store Day Black Friday LP and cassette)

For Record Store Day Black Friday 2021, Aerosmith issued a limited edition album in LP and cassette formats, containing their first known recorded tracks from 1971. The vinyl LP was limited to 10,000 copies, while the cassette had a print run of 2,000 copies.

The seven tracks on 1971 – The Road Starts Hear (the actual spelling) were just recently discovered by the band. No one remembers exactly where they were recorded or for what purpose, but Mark Lehman (Aerosmith’s first roadie) guesses they are rehearsals which were recorded in the basement of a women’s dormitory at Boston University, while singer Steven Tyler thinks they may have been soundchecks recorded inside an empty club shortly before a gig. The source tape was recorded on a reel-to-reel machine that belonged to guitarist Joe Perry. The resulting sound quality is clearly not studio level, but is better than that of a typical demo. The recording took place in October of 1971, about one year after Aerosmith’s first show, and about one year before the recording of their self-titled 1973 debut album. Considering how far away they still were from their fame, the quintet certainly did not come across as amateurs at this time and mysterious place. Rather, they sounded remarkably well-rehearsed and fully prepared for the big leagues.

Five of these songs would be re-recorded for the debut album, including the breakthrough-hit-to-be “Dream On”, and the Rufus Thomas cover “Walkin’ The Dog”. The other two tracks are a cover of Buster Bennett’s 1945 jazz song “Reefer Head Woman” (which Aerosmith later recorded on the 1979 Night In The Ruts album) and the Steven Tyler original “Major Barbara” (later an outtake from the 1974 album Get Your Wings).

The band shows a certain blues influence in this setting, particularly on "Major Barbara" and the two cover songs, but they surely don't come on like a raw bar band. Despite some noticeable differences in lyrics and arrangements (for example, a longer Jethro Tull-ish passage during "Walkin' The Dog"), all that's really missing from the five Aerosmith tracks-to-be is the studio polish. Aside from a slightly bumpy start with "Somebody", which is overpowered by Joey Kramer's drums, there are hardly any false notes to be heard in the instrumentation. Instrumentally, the early version of the ballad "Dream On" is almost an exact prototype of its famous studio version. Tyler's vocals do not have the studio effects of the finished song, and its hard to tell if he even attempted the high note near the end. Still, this record shows plenty of examples of Tyler's well-known vocal dynamics, even if they aren't always heard loud and clear above the instruments. Personally, I prefer this Southern-rocking early recording of "Major Barbara" to the more dressed-up versions which turned up on Classics Live in 1986 and Pandora's Box in 1991. 1971 – The Road Starts Hear is a pleasant surprise -- and I won't be surprised if the band digs up more 50-year-old tapes like this one, because this one took place long after Aerosmith's first steps.


Aerosmith - 1971: The Road Starts Hear

Aerosmith “1971 – The Road Starts Hear” (UMe B0034036-01) 2021

Track Listing:

SIDE A

1. Intro – Somebody
2. Reefer Head Woman
3. Walkin’ The Dog

SIDE B

1. Movin’ Out
2. Major Barbara
3. Dream On
4. Mama Kin

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