Believe it or not, this is the Aerosmith frontman’s debut solo album, something which is startling in itself. Then again, “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” seem to have been a little argumentative in recent years, so maybe this was always going to be inevitable, after all, most well established rock vocalists eventually feel the need to “say something personal” at some point, so in Tyler’s case, it wasn’t so much going to be matter of if he was going to unleash a solo album, but when.
On We’re All Somebody From Somewhere, Tyler has worked with some heavyweight names, most notably T Bone Burnett (seemingly the go to guy for most classic rock types who feel that their music requires a certain whiff of ‘authenticity’), and it certainly benefits from a terrific production job throughout. Tyler himself is in fine voice, his vocal chords sounding suitably lived in and emotive, and relying a lot less on rawk screaming than he was at his toxic twin peak.
The thing is, We’re All Somebody From Somewhere is a little puzzling. There’s little escaping the fact that We’re All Somebody From Somewhere reeks of vanity project. While in recent decades Aerosmith have nodded to their blues roots and even flirted from afar with bluegrass, on his solo debut tyler has become pre-occupied with combining pop-rock with flag-waving contemporary country rock. As good as the production is, and as committed as Tyler is throughout the album, it’s painfully obvious that he only makes his best music as part of Aerosmith.
I’ve no doubt that Tyler enjoyed the experience of working without his bandmates of 45 years, and I’ve no doubt he also appreciated the increased artistic freedom a solo album offered (otherwise what was the point?), but We’re All Somebody From Somewhere fails to hit the mark. Sure, everyone performs well enough, care has been taken with making everyone involved sound good, and doubtless Tyler felt invigorated and inspired, but it’s difficult to imagine any Aerosmith fan regularly listening to this album beyond the initial first few spins out of sheer curiosity.
On the positive side, We’re All Somebody From Somewhere isn’t a disaster. Tyler’s voice remains instantly recognisable and he can still hit some of the more ambitious notes when he feels the need to. He’s also collaborated with exactly the right people to ensure that the album doesn’t sound hackneyed or forced.
On the downside, it’s difficult to fathom exactly who needs a solo album by Steven Tyler in 2016, especially one that ends with him attempting to channel the spirit of Janis Joplin and coming up short.