As the ‘70s drew to a close, Aerosmith was coming off of the incredible run of its first five albums and coming apart at the seams, mostly via drug abuse, divisive wives, and too much touring (Steven Tyler has said when he first saw This Is Spinal Tap, he missed every ounce of humor in it as it too closely mirrored the past decade of his life). The band began work on Night in the Ruts but was forced to stop midway through to go back on tour, during which time guitarist Joe Perry quit.
The remainder of the album (three out of its nine tracks) were then cobbled together with a substitute guitarist and sold okay but was savaged by critics. Reviewing the album unfavorably in Rolling Stone, David Fricke wrote, “The finest moments on Night in the Ruts sound like inspired outtakes from Rocks and Toys In The Attic” (as if that’s a diss). Robert Christgau said, “This opens with a promising song about their career called ‘No Surprize.’ Then they edge ever closer to the flash guitar, dull tempos, and stupid cover versions of heavy-metal orthodoxy. No surprise.”
Never mind, then, that “No Surprize” is a classic example of mid-tempo Aerosmith sleaze that takes off on the chorus and bridge. “Chiquita” recalls the Rolling Stones’ “Bitch” with its horn section-augmented riff. “Cheese Cake” is a tasty slide guitar workout from Perry. And “Three Mile Smile” sounds like Led Zeppelin circa Physical Graffiti and segues smoothly into a slow blues cover, “Reefer Head Woman,” another convincingly Zepp-like move.
Of the six songs with Perry here, only “Bone to Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy)” fails to make an impression. Two of the three Perry-less tracks, meanwhile, are covers. The first, “Remember (Walking in the Sand),” is a terrible stab at the Shangri-Las’ song, while the second is an attempt at the Yardbirds’ “Think About It,” which was a bad idea given that the band had just lost its lead guitarist. Night In The Ruts’ last song, “Mia,” sees Tyler trying to pull off a ballad in the vein of “Dream On” and coming intriguingly close. All in all, this wasn’t a bad way to end the decade.