Sweetzerland Manifesto is Joe Perry having fun again, as he did with 1982/1983’s Once A Rocker Always a Rocker, only more so. “Rumble in the Jungle” is no relation to Jethro Tull’s 1974 epic, “Bungle in the Jungle,” it is an exciting soundscape arranged by the Aeromsith guitarmaster with drums programmed by one of Joe’s sons, Anthony Perry, percussion and vocals from Colin Douglas with backing vocals by Colin and co-producer Jack Douglas. It is both highly entertaining and not anticipated music, the avant-garde approach(for you young readers “new and unusual or experimental ideas, especially in the arts, or the people introducing them”) that permeates the entire album in a surprising and very positive way. JP’s arrangement is sublime with a descending line straight out of the late producer Jimmy Miller’s Spencer Davis/Chicago classic “I’m a Man.”
Growling Brit vocalist Terry Reid brings his talents to “I’ll Do Happiness,” and it is a revelation with magical quasi-gospel backing vocals, Zack Starkey’s drums and riveting guitar work from Perry. The album is a montage of different vibrations, much like – coincidentally – the current release from Jimi Hendrix – Both Sides of the Sky. The difference being, of course, that the Hendrix disc is a compilation (the third and concluding part of an amazing trilogy of releases from Jimi for we musicologists) whose titles would most likely never have been placed in this order by the artist – because they would have appeared in different spaces of the Hendrix catalog, if at all… Joe Perry gets to place his work carefully, and the sequencing grooves very nicely.
“Aye Aye Aye” features Robin Zander on vocals and is a co-write with JP. The song and Robin’s appearance reminds me of a Cheap Trick Orpheum show where a young lady had her breasts autographed by Zander (???)…she saw me and said “Joe, what are you doing here? You don’t like Cheap Trick!” I replied “I’ve come to Fxxx Robin Zander,” which, of course, wasn’t true because he’s not my type…except for his being featured on this disc, which is how we want him, adding spice to this most recent “Perry Project,” which IS a project and unfolds with all sorts of amazement. “I Wanna Roll” is a co-write with David Johansen, the New York Dolls singer on vocals, co-produced by Jack Douglas with Zak Starkey’s boom boom jungle beat drumming throughout and a beautiful interplay between dad Joe Perry’s guitar and son Roman Perry’s synth.
Aerosmith fans will be delighted with the album’s independent identity and image. “I Wanna Roll,” “Rumble in the Jungle,” “I’ll Do Happiness,” the convergence of multiple voices – Johansen, Zander, Reid on their respective contributions with Joe Perry singing P.F. Sloan’s immortal classic, “Eve of Destruction,” brings a cohesive variety that makes the appeal great for the audience beyond the millions and millions of Aerosmith fans out there.
Where the successful 1999 Supernatural disc from Santana (15 times platinum in the U.S.) was intentionally jolting, reaching a massive audience but flowing in a jagged fashion, Sweetzerland Manifesto brings the dissimilar chord changes into the fold smoothly, allowing for a good listen from track to track without the lurching that Santana’s masterpiece felt for the listener over the first few spins.
Back to “Eve of Destruction,” that 1965 #1 hit from Barry Maguire of the New Christy Minstrels, great choice for a cover in these times, the dark, blues-based pop song is portrayed here as a slow, methodical stomp, and a “180” from the opening neo-science fiction aura of “Rumble in the Jungle.” Speaking of Neo (from the Matrix this time,) Perry’s attire within all five photos of the album jacket and panels has Perry as the dominant force that he is. Each Joe Perry solo project has merit, and where out-takes from 1983’s Once a Rocker would make for an impressive re-release of that outing, Sweetzerland Manifesto is something more. It is one part incredible blues album with “I’m Going Crazy,” “Haberdasher Blues,” “Sick and Tired ”(you won’t be able to get Terry Reid’s angry and naughty vocal out of your head) all morphing on track 10 back to hard rock as “Won’t Let Me Go” is straight out of Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers,” and equally as memorable.
There are two bonus tracks on the Record Store Day release (April 21, 2018)that we can all look forward to while Perry appears at the House of Blues in Boston on April 18, 2018, with a band that we hear is full of big surprises. All in all, Joe Perry has delivered the unexpected with this disc; it is one of those albums that you will pull out and play repeatedly. It’s not just very, very good, Sweetzerland Manifesto is extraordinary.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.