Have Guitar, Will Travel (Roman Records)
A minute-and-a-half into “We’ve Got a Long Way to Go”, the opening track on Joe Perry’s new solo album, Have Guitar, Will Travel, the rock legend from Boston reminds you just what it was about his playing that hooked you in the first place. He takes off on one of his patented, off-the-rails guitar solos where he’s rockin’ all over the place and heading for a serious six-string wipeout when, at the very last second, he steers all that reckless riffage into something that makes beautiful sense. A minute later, at the “Come on Joe!” urging of covocalist Hagen—a Steven Tyler soundalike whom Perry’s wife Billie discovered on YouTube—he gets even wilder, kicking off another feel-first solo with an air-raid-siren imitation.
While the 59-year-old rocker’s still got it goin’ on in the guitar-slinging department, his famously questionable singing hasn’t improved much, as you can hear when he borrows the mike from Hagen on the next track, the boogie-blues workout “Slingshot”. Then again, once Perry starts tossing around those crazy, outta-control guitar licks, his vocal deficiencies become somewhat forgivable. The least impressive tune on Have Guitar, Will Travel would have to be track 3, the Hagen-sung “Do You Wonder”, which flirts with the overwrought pop balladry of Aerosmith’s unfortunate “Crazy”/”Amazing”/”Cryin’ ” period.
There’s nothing on Have Guitar, Will Travel that will make you forget “Draw the Line”, “Seasons of Wither”, or any of the other deathless numbers Aerosmith churned out in its heyday. But the engrossing, seven-and-a-half-minute “Heaven and Hell”—reminiscent in a weird way of some long-lost Blue Oyster Cult tune—is a Perry-sung standout, and “Wooden Ships”—a heavy instrumental dedicated to the memory of Les Paul—scores brownie points for inventiveness. Overall, though, the songwriting on HG,WT pales in comparison to that on Perry’s self-titled, Grammy-nominated 2005 solo release. Substandard vocals or not, that one’s a keeper.
Download This: “Heaven and Hell”