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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

REVIEW: Aldo Nova – Blood on the Bricks (1991)

ALDO NOVA – Blood on the Bricks (1991 Polygram)

After Aldo’s career had been declared clinically dead and Aldo himself a “one hit wonder” (“Fantasy”), it took the mighty Jon Bon Jovi to resurrect him. JBJ, who co-produces and co-writes pretty much every song here, has a heavy stamp on this album. Considering that Aldo played on several Jon Bon Jovi releases, this album will appeal mostly to fans of the Well-Coifed One.

The problem with Blood On The Bricks is not lack of decent material, or lack of chops. Indeed, Aldo proves on several tracks that he is a burnin’ axeman, and he even takes a brief keyboard solo on “Bright Lights”. The problem here is that this album is choked to death in overproduction, and I have to blame JBJ for that. Every song collapses under its own weight of gang “whoa whoa” backing vocals, shrill instruments, and thudding shapeless drums with all the characteristic telltale signs of samples.

A song like “Medicine Man”, for example, is a decent if generic song on its own. However it stumbles under the weight of layers of backing vocals and overdubs. The production has spoiled this batch of pleasant if ordinary rock toons. This type of production value was way too common in 1991. Play Prisoners in Paradise by Europe, or Hey Stoopid by Alice Cooper for an idea of this sonic quality. Aldo’s album is recorded and mixed even worse than the afforementioned. And the lyrics are pretty juvenile. “His boom-box blastin’ some Metallica track”? Did Aldo really sing that?

Song highlights for me incluced the burning title track, “Bright Lights”, and nostalgic moments like “Touch Of Madness”, “Young Love” or “Medicine Man”. However aside from the guitar playing everything here is terribly generic; there’s nothing here that you haven’t heard before.  For example, “Veronica’s Song” boils down to a rewrite of Bon Jovi’s “Silent Night”, and that makes me sad.

Two more Bon Jovi connections to mention:  the great Kenny Aranoff, whom Jon likes to use on his solo projects such as Blaze of Glory, plays drums.   Phil X is pictured in the CD booklet as he was in Aldo’s touring band, but he does not play on Blood on the Bricks.  Phil X, known to his friends as Phil Xenedis, is currently on the road with Bon Jovi, filling in for Richie Sambora.

I do like the original cover, it was cool if a bit bland. This edition has an annoying “FEATURING JON BON JOVI” scrawled all over it, as large as the album title.  That also makes me sad.

3/5 stars