Album review: Joe Perry – Sweetzerland Manifesto

Aerosmith’s lead guitarist and 70’s legend Joe Perry returns with his first solo album since 2009’s Have Guitar, Will Travel. Sweetzerland Manifesto features appearances from the voices of David Johanse (New York Dolls), Robin Zander (Cheap Trick), Terry Reid and more, but does its star studded track list live up to the hype?

There are too many collaborations to mention them all (listen out for Zak Starkey who appears on drums), and Perry has also invited his sons Tony and Roman for additional synth work and drum programming. The project was executively produced by one of Perry’s Hollywood Vampires band mates, with almost every track being written solely by Perry and the individual collaborator.

Perry appears to have remained as the same hot-head, rock n’ roll star that we know and love. During the album’s premier, whilst sharing the stage with guitar hero Slash, and Stone Temple Pilots’ Dean DeLeo, Perry appeared lost in the moment as he smashed up his custom built guitar (whilst the guitar’s creator was apparently sitting in the front row). Hopefully this youthful energy will have translated across to the studio (something that Morissey’s latest album was sorely missing)…

“We hit every *****ing  version of the E chord that you could imagine,” he says. “Everything was screaming; the amps were going. I didn’t know what else to do. All of a sudden my guitar was in pieces.”

Sweetzerland Manifesto takes listener on a journey through bluesy covers, slick, funky-rock, and straight-up chunky rock n’ roll. Familiar sounds are blended with futuristic synthesis, and influence is taken from around the globe. Tribal chants and rhythms are incorporated along the way, and the result can be jarring.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what songs people gravitate to because there’s such a wide variety of tunes.”

Perry admits to feeling restless at times, with periods spent away from touring and releasing with his bands. His solo act is the perfect way to fill this void, living the dream playing music with his family at his home studio. The album is a bold statement of intent, as the guitarist returns to being Joe Perry: front man and main event.

There are as ever, enormous servings of tasteful, Jimmy Page-esque guitar licks to be heard, exploring experimental aspects of what can be regarded as blues, whilst keeping a firm grip on tradition. When compared to the vast majority of nostalgic, modern rock or blues, Sweetzerland Manifesto is far from ordinary. Strong, considered riffs are prominent on this release, and its highlights arrive in the form of dirty blues “Haberdasher Blues”. Perry’s warm, raspy vocals transform into low bellows, hollering over thick, sonic sludge. This swampy, Delta blues style does not take over the entire album however.

Perry is often associated with the straighter rock style favoured by acts such as The Who, a sound which is revisited on “Won’t Let Me Go”. Each piece shares a similar consistency, and on “Spanish Sushi” there are segments of pure clarity, where only true guitarists such as Perry are able to show restraint. During their time to shine, musicians will often overcook their part. Here, Perry often achieves the opposite, focusing on emotion, delicacy and musicality, resisting the urge to show off. There is no need for show boating here, as all of his fans already know that he owns some of the deftest hands in the industry.

With more to compliment than to critique, this seems to be a victory for Joe Perry. He uses throwaway songwriting when necessary, and when needed the lyrics can carry more weight. Perry  discusses today’s tensions of war, comparing them with Vietnam, and the headlines from his youth. It is a short, sweet, innovative and exciting return as a solo act. After going it alone without his lead singers and bandmates, will the rumoured new Aerosmith album finally be announced?

Come and hear the quality of the recordings on Sweetzerland Manifesto on one of our hi-fi systems at your nearest Richer Sounds today.