Songs You May Have Missed #138

toys

Aerosmith: “You See Me Crying” (1975)

The phrase “power ballad” means something different to everyone who hears or uses it. For me the term is inescapably accurate for describing a type of music that holds an undeniable fascinating and appeal for me. The next several songs I’ll share have the traits I consider this type of song to possess.

They would include something I can only describe as a latent-sounding power, a feeling of something held in reserve. Perhaps a lead vocal sung in a voice that’s clearly built for screaming rather than cooing to an audience. Or a mix that’s a little heavier on the drums or bass than the producer of a ballad-singing artist would have thought appropriate. And an overall rough-edged sound that gives you the feeling you’re hearing a band in a tender moment, but that it’s clearly a band who doesn’t often have tender moments–giving the song, of course, more “power”. “You See Me Crying”, from Aerosmith’s 1975 Toys in the Attic LP fits my definition at least of the term “power ballad” perfectly.

I must digress for a moment to say that Toys… is far and away Aerosmith’s greatest moment as a band. Not only does the album contain classics “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion” but it’s loaded with great album cuts like “Adam’s Apple”, “No More No More”, title track “Toys in the Attic” and their cover of boogie-woogie blues chestnut “Big Ten Inch Record”, which surely would have been covered by David Lee Roth, with or without Van Halen, had Aerosmith not beat him to it.

“You See Me Crying” is the perfect closer to this classic album, and a nice contrast to everything that precedes it. Joining the melancholy piano figure opening the track are a pair of woodwinds–an oboe, of all things!–and Steven Tyler’s ragged voice is nicely offset by a gradually swelling orchestral arrangement.

Alice Cooper’s “Only Women Bleed”, which was released as a single in the same month of April ’75 and was the shock rocker’s first foray into power ballad territory, uses an almost identical formula. If you haven’t heard it recently, listen again to its breathtaking arrangement, which beautifully incorporates horns and strings alongside traditional rock guitar/bass/drums for maximum emotional impact. It’s a true rock masterpiece–perhaps the greatest “power ballad” of them all.

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2013/06/01/songs-you-may-have-missed-422/

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