REVIEW: Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet (2010 special edition)

BON JOVI – Slippery When Wet (1986, 2010 Universal special edition)

I’m not blown away by the new series on Bon Jovi reissues. For the running time of a CD, they could give you a heck of a lot more content. I mean, I’ve bought this album 3 times. I bought it on cassette back in ’87, then I bought the first round of remastered CD issues of the entire Bon Jovi catalogue. Now, begrudgingly, I’m starting to pick these up, because I’m a completist. How many times have you bought Slippery When Wet already? At least once, I’m guessing.

Slippery When Wet is one of those oddball albums: It’s considered the classic landmark by a very successful band, but it is by no means their best.  I’ll tell you what it is though:  It’s a concept album.  When I listen to Slippery When Wet, all I can hear is a concept album about growing up in Sayreville, New Jersey.  Think about it!  “Wanted: Dead or Alive”?  That’s not about touring, man.  That’s a song about dreaming, while writing songs in Richie Sambora’s mom’s laundry room.  Lyrically, Slippery When Wet captures a more innocent era and presents it in the form of different characters from all walks of life.

She says we’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got
Cause it doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not

Slippery is the album that made people like Desmond Child and Bruce Fairbairn into household names.  It’s notable for the presence of three smash hit classics: “Wanted: Dead or Alive”, “Livin’ On A Prayer”, and “You Give Love A Bad Name”. All three are obviously available on various Bon Jovi hits compilations. There are a couple deep cut classics, but Slippery is mostly padded out with filler. Surely, “Social Disease” with its juvenile lyrics and terrible synth-horns is one that Jon would like to disown?  Also cheesy are “Wild In The Streets”, “I’d Die For You”, and the sappy “Without Love”.  What helps save these songs are earnest performances from Jon, but especially Richie Sambora.

Two of the best songs are the deep cuts.  “Let It Rock” is a cool song, a bit muddy in the mix, but with some really cool sounding keyboards.  The atmospherics of it were unique for the time.  It still stands as one of Jon’s better moments.  Then there is “Raise Your Hands” which opened side 2.  This one rocks, and has some blazing guitars.  I have always been a fan of “Raise Your Hands”. Remember when it was used in that one scene in Spaceballs? Sweet!

John freakin’ Candy

The production, by the late Bruce Fairbairn, is muddy at times and too glossy at others. Fairbairn’s work on the 80’s Aerosmith albums was more innovative and interesting. I’ve always liked talk-box on guitar solos though, so I’ll give him and Richie Sambora credit for the catchiest talk-box solo in history.  Regardless this album set new standards.  Suddenly, everybody wanted to work with Desmond Child and Bruce Fairbairn.  Aerosmith were next, then Poison, then AC/DC.  As for Desmond Child, his old pal Paul Stanley came-a-knockin’ when it was time to write for the next Kiss album.  Slippery When Wet was undeniably one of the biggest influences on the second half of the 1980’s.  Rock bands were adding keyboardists, and trying to find ways to get played on radio and MTV the way Bon Jovi had.  Jon also used his newfound influence by helping friends like Cinderella and Skid Row get signed.   Cinderella certainly benefited from having Jon and Richie appear as rivals in their “Somebody Save Me” music video.

As influential as it is, albums such as New Jersey, Keep the Faith, and These Days are superior in my ears.  When I was swept up in the Bon Jovi tide in ’87, I finally picked up Slippery on cassette.  I was surprised, because I expected it to be a lot better.  Considering all the hits, all the hype, and all the sales, I was hoping for more than half an album of good songs.

Nope, not on this CD.

As far as the reissue goes, the reason I picked this particular one up was that I saw there was a “live acoustic” version of “Wanted” on here. I hoped and prayed that it was the acoustic version from the original 1987 “Wanted” cassette single. (If you haven’t heard it, man, you absolutely need to.) I only have that on cassette.  However, it’s not the same version. It’s a good live acoustic version, with just Richie and Jon.  It’s purportedly from the Slippery tour, and made stronger by Richie’s powerful vocals. “Prayer” and “Bad Name” are the other two live songs included, sounding pretty standard.   These three bonus tracks are all there is; no era B-sides such as “Edge of a Broken Heart” or “Borderline” are included.  Songs like these would have gone a long way to strengthen an album that’s a little weak in the knees.

I was pleased to see a retro looking backstage pass included within the slipcase. That made me a bit happier with my purchase. Nice touch, this is the kind of thing that rewards people for buying the CD rather than downloading.

3/5 stars

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78 comments

        1. Couldn’t really be worse than The Circle, could it? Well, Lost Highway was worse but that album is Bon Jovi’s all time low record. Their latest, What About Now, is more or less one big piece of crap as well.

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        2. I prefer Lost Highway to the new stuff. I grew up as a country fan anyway, so it wasn’t that hard for me to accept. I think Summertime and the title track are very good.

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      1. Yes it was. Bon Jovi’s finest hour in my opinion. Hardly a bad track in sight there, even though 99 In The Shade feels like a half arsed rewrite of the already too cheesy Wild In The Streets.

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        1. I like that song, just because it’s a good time summer party song and in Canada (and New Jersey) we really like to party when it’s summer! But Love For Sale proved to me that they had more to offer. It might have been a joke but it was great!

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  1. I bought this album twice, first on vinyl the day it came out and then on CD. I don’t own any remasters though.
    I know this album is far from perfect, but I love it – it’s very much the soundtrack to my youth. I was a Bon Jovi fan from go, bought their first album the week it came out back in 1984 and I loved both that one and 7800 Fahrenheit. But this was a different beast that took Bon Jovi to new heights. I was completely floored when I heard You Give Love A Bad Name the first time, but I couldn’t stop smiling about the fact that Desmond Child re-wrote If You Were A Woman And I Was A Man that he originally wrote for Bonnie Tyler.
    Social Disease is another interesting piece. I remember hating it hard when the album came out and I wondered how in hell could they chose this one over Edge Of A Broken Heart or Borderline, both B-sides. Today, when I listen to this album, I love that song. The synth-horns are terrible still, but that song could have been an Aerosmith tune.
    What is also interesting is that Bon Jovi chose Fairbairn after hearing the Black N’ Blue album Without Love that Fairbairn produced – that’s where they got the title to this album’s Without Love song from as well. Too bad that the tune isn’t that great.
    So where side one is more or less perfect song-wise, side two falters. Raise Your Hands and I’d Die For You are both great, but Without Love, the horrible Never Say Goodbye and the “I wanna be Springsteen” song Wild In The Streets are all dispoable.
    Reading this review, I know I won’t purchase this album. A couple of live tracks just don’t cut it for me. An addition of Edge Of A Broken Heart and Borderline would have made me at least consider it.

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    1. Didn’t know that about the Black N’ Blue album Jon — thanks for sharing. Knowledge has been tucked away in my LeBrain.

      Sounds like we agree on most of the songs, except Social Disease! And then the next album had the cure: some Bad Medicine!

      By the way I’m getting a monk’s cloak so I can stomp around like Messiah Marcolin :) I like his monk-stomp or whatever it’s called!

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      1. Yeah the deal was Jon put a cassette in of Black N Blue and said it sounded better than the cd version of 7800 Fahrenheit !
        Fairbairn was already producing stuff by BOC,Krokus and of course Loverboy….
        Slippery is good …but I’m with ya Mike on New Jersey being superior!

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        1. It’s a freakin’ great record. And yeah now that I think back a bit, I think I agree with Jon a bit more. I think when it came out we all agreed that 99 in the Shade was one of the weaker tunes. But frig man that is still a great album and a lot more growth than one would expect at the time.

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  2. Great article. Better albums were to come. These Days was called a dark album but in the opinion of most fans, it was their best work.

    If they plan to continue, they need to figure out this issue between Jon and Richie, whatever it is. History shows that Jon cannot write a hit song without Richie’s input (he is the one who didn’t think Prayer was good enough for the SWW album) and Richie cannot sell out venues without the rest of the band (as shown by the canceled shows because of low ticket sales during the tour for his most recent solo album). Unless they can figure this out, I’m afraid this may be the end. I for one am a huge Jon fan and after attending 106 shows, I will not spend another dime on tickets unless Richie is on stage.

    BTW…the correct Livin’ on a Prayer lyric is “it doesn’t make a difference if we MAKE it or not”.

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    1. “BTW…the correct Livin’ on a Prayer lyric is “it doesn’t make a difference if we MAKE it or not”.”

      You’re right, of course, but I the (surely joking) version Mikey slipped in there is funnier than the correct lyrics. ;)

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    2. Hey Bon Jovi Fan!

      Yes, as Aaron said, I threw in that “naked or not” lyric as a joke. I do that to make sure people are paying attention! Looks like you were!

      I too fear for the worst if Jon and Richie cannot reconcile. Maybe I can’t understand because I’m not a touring musician with the same bunch of guys all the time, but they have been friends for such a long time! If only for their friendship, they should get in a room and talk. The friendship will mean more to them in the long run than any albums or songs.

      These Days is a really under-appreciated record. I rated it 5/5!

      https://mikeladano.com/2013/04/06/review-bon-jovi-these-days-special-edition/

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        1. Miiiiiike! He’s doing it again! HMO, What’s a “gurning?”

          Urban Dictionary says this: “The muscle tension in the face that usually ends up with the jaw and tongue rolling and teeth grinding as a result of amphetamines.”

          But that only makes his Scots terminology more confusing. Please, HMO, tell us what “gurning” means to YOU! Amphetamines? Do amphetamines give you gas?

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        2. This one I actually knew. Because I read a lot of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and gurning photos are very popular in those books. But gurning isn’t always a result of amphetamines, some people with no teeth do it on purpose!

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    3. These Days was a darker album. Remember, it was released in the mid 90’s and dark and depressive were the deal then.
      Half of These Days is brilliant, but that’s the album when things started to turn sour. Half of the album goes between pure shite and mediocre. Things would never be the same after that. I’m still hoping that they get their shit together and release one more great album. They haven’t done that since Keep The Faith.

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      1. Well dude you know I love These Days but I also recognize the elements of which you speak. Boy, we sure do seem to have an easy time disagreeing. I’m not sure why others can’t seem to just agree to disagree sometimes! I’ll say it man you seem to attract them to your site. I still don’t know what the Altar Bridge guy was really saying.

        Anyway I thought that a lot of bands, Poison and Bon Jovi included needed to change a bit in the 1990’s in order to stay relevant. It didn’t work commercially in Poison’s case and even in Bon Jovi’s case, it wasn’t as successful as Keep the Faith was. This Ain’t A Love Song was a huge huge single, but I think Always is a better song.

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        1. Hehe. Well, The Alter Bridge guy had probably smoked one big fatty before posting his comment…

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        2. To be honest, I think that both This AIn’t A Love Song and Always left me underwhelmed to say the least. They’re throwaways. I do like Lie To Me , though. Thing is, the songs on These Days that are good, are damn f**king awesome, my problem with that album is that I think that there are too many bad songs and fillers on it.

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        3. Could be. The different between you and me is probably just that I like a handful more songs on These Days than you. I loved It’s Hard Letting You Go, Something For the Pain, Hearts Breaking Even, If That’s What It Takes…it’s a very “summery” album to me.

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        4. Something For The Pain is great, If That’s What It Takes is also a good song. My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms is one of Bon Jovi’s best songs ever. But Hearts Breaking Even… What an Aerosmith ripoff that is, so very blatant. Hard Letting You Go is one of those songs I find really dull, that one and Bitter Wine, Diamond Ring… Really boring stuff…

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        5. I’m not a fan of those last two songs, but Bitter Wine was just a bonus track. I have a bootleg of Diamond Ring that goes back to the New Jersey sessions, they had that song a long time. My understanding is that they did play it live a couple times and it became a fan cult hit so they had to eventually release it…

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  3. Man, this takes me back to school days. It seemed like everyone had this tape. I know that I had it on tape as a kid, and then on CD at some point too. Don’t have it here now, though. Shame they didn’t put more effort into the reissue. These are opportunities that need to be grasped and throttled!

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    1. There was definitely effort put into the packaging, but all these Bon Jovi reissues have live tracks. Not what I, as a fan, wants! B-sides, unreleased demos, give us something of some real value. Even casual fans who are buying the album for the first time aren’t going to look at the back cover and say, “Wow, three live songs! I really need to buy this now!”

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        1. Maybe that should be three farts, to be commensurate…

          I look at it this way: wanna release a live album? Great, do that! The people who want it will buy it. And here’s where I agree with you, too, bonus tracks oughta be stuff you can’t get anywhere else, making the set worth the price of admission.

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  4. Spot on re: the filler on this album. One of the few rock albums I can of where the strongest tracks are the singles!
    A quick check of my collection confirms my memory that although I do have a few Bon Jovi albums, I’ve NEVER bought this one – was content, it seems, with picking up ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ and ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ as 12″ singles. ‘Edge of a Broken Heart’ was on one of them – a track that, as you say, would definitely have strengthened the album.

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    1. Thanks again for the kind words Michael.

      It’s very interesting that you never had this album, but did have the 12″ singles! I have an incredible 12″ single for Living On A Prayer, that is two 12″ records with 4 live Japanese recordings from the 7800 degrees tour. On Shot Through The Heart, they do a long long intro with Sonny and Cher’s Bang Bang.

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        1. I Believe is certainly among the strongest on KTF – Dry County is another highlight.
          Sleep when I’m dead is a toe-tapper, In these arms might be my favourite, and who am I kidding, over-the-top or not, I’m a fan of the power ballad Bed Of Roses!

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        2. Dry County is quite arguably the best song Jon and Richie have ever written. It’s certainly arguable. I thought Bed of Roses was the bomb but not so much anymore! I have their Spanish version of that on a compilation CD.

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        3. Yes that’s on Beatles Past Masters (1 or 2, not sure which).

          David Lee Roth has recorded three versions of his first solo album Crazy From the Heat: English, Spanish, Portuguese. To date only the English and Spanish versions are released.

          I also have Wind of Change by Scorpions in Russian, and Spanish. These have been re-released on the Crazy World special edition CD now.

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      1. I was fun linking over from your review today to this (almost 3-year old) thread!
        When I relisten, I’ll definitely look out for the concept album idea, I hadn’t thought about that when I listened this week!

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  5. The one and only time I seen em live was the Jersey Syndicate Tour in Winnipeg/August 1989!
    At the top of there game..great show set list comprised of Jersey and Slippery Nuthin was played from the first 2……missed em on the Keep The Faith tour than lost interest but still bought These Days…..

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  6. About unreleased tracks of SWW, this was another one that they didn’t include on it. Instead they gave it away exclusively to Swedish AOR / melodic rockers Dalton. But I also heard that a band called Witness did a version of it as well.
    When It came out I loved this song and I couldn’t get it through my skull why they didn’t record the song themselves. Today, I so get it…

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      1. True. But it was written during the SWW sessions. From what I heard, it was Bruce Fairbairn who took this one off the record.

        Dalton also got a song from Michael Bolton. Not bad for an unknown Swedish band on their debut.

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        1. By the box set, do you mean the 10 000 000 Bon Jovi Fan Can’t Be Wrong – thing they released some years agao? With all unreleased material on it?
          Because that box set left a whole lot of their b-sides out. Edge Of A Broken Heart is on there, but no Borderline, Love Is War or any of the songs that were on the bonus disc on the These Days re-release. No You’re Not My Lover either.
          I dunno why I bought that box set, actually, as there so much crap on it. I found it cheap in a second hand store, but to me that seems more like a collectors item for die hards and I haven’t been a die hard since 1992…

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