Joe Perry‘s Sweetzerland Manifesto was a perfectly good album when it came out five years ago. To some the most exciting new music from anywhere in the Aerosmith universe in 25 years or so. The good news is that Sweetzerland Manifesto MKII is more of the same, but not just the same thing twice.
Four of MKII‘s tracks are recasts from the original Sweetzerland Manifesto, albeit with alternate performances from its guest singers and fresh mixes. But it’s the six all-new tracks that are the draw here, as hot as anything from its predecessor and assuring us that when there’s a guitar in his hand, he’s still Joe Perry 50 years after Aerosmith’s first album.
MKII starts on fire with “Fortunate One,” a shuffling rocker with vocals by the Black Crowes‘ Chris Robinson, with Perry’s sometimes Hollywood Vampires bandmate Robert DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots on bass. It’s meat-and-potatoes, but top cut and well-chewed, and it’s not long before Perry fires off the first of many scorching solos that sear the album.
Extreme and Van Halen alumnus Gary Cherone does the honors on “Quake,” a gritty room-shaker that truly gets the lead out. Cheap Trick‘s Robin Zander, whose “Aye Aye Aye” from the first album is reprised here, is back (along with DeLeo) for “Suck It Up,” another stomper, while British-born veteran Terry Reid, another Sweetzerlander vet, returns for “Goes His Own Way,” MKII‘s gentlest moment and a showcase for how effective Perry can be with more melodic and deliberate phrasings. Perry takes lead vocals on the grooving “Time Will Tell,” a cautionary tale that slips into beat poetics in spots, and on the new instrumental “Man With a Golden Arm,” he moves between bluesy grind and jazzy fusion – not quite of the Jeff Beck or John McLaughlin variety but still a mark of his upper-echelon guitar chops.
The repeats, meanwhile, fit nicely alongside these newcomers and add to MKII‘s range, whether it’s the raw, hyper-speed “Aye Aye Aye” or the trippy, string-accented “I Wanna Roll” sung by New York Dolls survivor David Johansen. Two of Reid’s Sweetzerland tracks are also back, the Middle Eastern-flavored “Won’t Let Go” and the psychedelic blues raver “I’ll Do Happiness.” It’s not often that an artist can go back to the same well and draw something fresh. That’s what Perry has done on MKII, however, and we’ll certainly pay attention if MKIII ever happens to come along.