Joe Perry, "Have Guitar, Will Travel"

76 Billboard Rating

At the beginning of 2009, Joe Perry didn't plan to record a solo album, but the guitarist wound up making the most fully realized set he's created outside of Aerosmith. Started after Steven Tyler's health problems halted sessions for the band's next album, "Have Guitar, Will Travel" finds Perry following up his self-titled 2005 album with 10 songs that travel happily and energetically, from the sinewy synthesizer groove of "We've Got a Long Way to Go" to the blues-rooted shuffles of "Slingshot" and "No Surprise." "Do You Wonder" is a rootsy number, while the instrumental "Wooden Ships" is a dedication to the late Les Paul. Perry gets strong backing from a cast that includes German singer Hagen (a YouTube find), periodic Aerosmith fill-in bassist David Hull and drummer Ben Tileston. Perry tosses out a few lyrical messages in tracks like "Freedom," the hymn-like "Oh Lord (21 Grams)" and the epic "Heaven and Hell," but the star here is the titular guitar, which is as enjoyably unleashed as it's ever been on any Perry project. --Gary Graff