David Bryan

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 single)

BON JOVI – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 Mercury single)

It’s impossible to acquire a “complete” Bon Jovi collection; trust me on this. Even Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have a complete Bon Jovi collection. Up to a certain point in time, it’s fun to collect as many B-sides and bonus tracks you can get your hands on.

The second single from “best of” album Cross Road (1994) was “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night”, and it was a pretty clear indication of where the band would go on their next album These Days.  But — surprise bonus — this single doesn’t have the studio version (that you already own) from Cross Road.  It has an uncredited live version instead!  Added bonus — Alec John Such on bass.  He had yet to be replaced (on stage, anyway) by Hugh McDonald.  This is probably the only live version of the hit with Such on bass.

Make no mistake, “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” is a great song.  There’s a Bon Jovi niche for acoustic rock songs with down-on-your-luck/inspirational lyrics.  “My life’s a bargain basement, all the good shit’s gone.”  This is Jon’s bread and butter.  He wouldn’t know a bargain basement if he was shopping for old Bon Jovi singles in one, but he does this kind of rock really well.  This is one of the last of his must-haves of the genre.

Another rare one, “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White”, is a studio track with the well-worn cowboy motif.  It’s from the movie The Cowboy Way featuring Jon’s old Young Guns buddy Keifer Sutherland.  Unexpectedly, this one is an  intricate hard-driving rocker, with a Sambora riff that he could take pride in.  Tico Torres is absolutely on fire on the kit.  That guy can lay down a groove while throwing in challenging patterns just for fun.  Why can’t Bon Jovi rock like this anymore?  This track feels more honest than the hard luck songs.

Two more live songs finish the CD.  These two are from Montreal in ’94:  “With A Little Help From My Friends” (Joe Cocker style) and “Always”.  The reason Bon Jovi can get away with “A Little Help From My Friends” is Richie Sambora, who always brings the soul and the integrity.  That’s not to say that Jon sucks.  Check out the note he holds at 3:57.  The man had lungs back in 1994!  The demographics of the audience are obvious: “Always” is almost drowned out by a sea of high-pitched screams!  It’s one of their last ballads that really deserves that kind of cheering though.

A great single is one that you can list to independently of the album, and doesn’t sound like a bunch of miscellaneous bonus tracks.  This single is like that.  There’s no wasted space, no filler, and no tracks you can get on the albums.  The live stuff is high grade and the studio track is extremely valuable for its hard rocking nature.  This is more like an EP than a single, but it’s all semantics.  Let’s just call it:

4.5/5 stars

 

You say you don’t like my kind,
A bitter picture in your mind.
No, it don’t matter what I say,
I hear you bitchin’ when I walk away.
I’ll never be what you want me to be,
You tell me I’m wrong but I disagree,
I ain’t go no apology.
Just because I don’t look like you, talk like you, think like you,
Judge and jury, a hangman’s noose,
I see them in your eyes.
Good guys don’t always wear white.

 

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – Bounce (2002, 2010 special edition)

BON JOVI – Bounce (2002 Universal, 2010 special edition)

Wrote off Bon Jovi after Keep the Faith?  Not so fast!

It was a post-911 world, which in strange hindsight was a more optimistic time than today.  Bon Jovi, always patriotic, had to respond.  While only a few songs relate to the tragedy, Bounce is easily the strongest Bon Jovi platter from the last 20 years.

That was my brother lost in the rubble,
That was my sister lost in the crush,
That was our mothers, those were our children,
That was our fathers, that was each one of us.

“Undivided” makes no bones about its subject.  It’s also one of the heaviest songs the band have ever laid down.  Much of this, according to the band, came down to a new guitar that Richie Sambora was using.  His tone is certainly aggressive and modern.

“Where we once were divided, now we stand united.”

If only temporarily.  It was certainly more inspiring in its time.  At least nothing can be taken away from the music, and Sambora’s always sublime soloing.

Lead single “Everyday” is less successful, leaning on modern production values instead of rock and roll.  At least it rocks hard and chunky for the most part.  The samples and effects could have been ejected without hurting the song.  But Bon Jovi’s biggest weakness after Keep the Faith was a dependence on ballads.  At least most of the Bounce ballads stand strong.  The first of these is one of the strongest, “The Distance”.  It utilizes Sambora’s crushing guitar effectively to create a rock/ballad hybrid.  You can headbang to the riff while crooning to the verses.  It’s topped with strings courtesy of David Campbell, making the whole thing so overblown…and so Bon Jovi.  That’s their style.  You either like it or you don’t.

“Joey” is less successful as a ballad.  It’s one of those “growing up in New Jersey” songs that Jon is good at writing.  “Blood on Blood” is the best example of that kind of song.  “Joey”, not so much.  The arrangement is generic and the words, well:  “I never cared that Joey Keys was slow, he couldn’t read or write too well but we’d talk all night long.”  I’m sure there are more lyrical ways of telling this story.

Midtempo “Misunderstood” is an album highlight (and second single).  The chorus is the selling point.  Vintage Bon Jovi melody and charisma.  Unfortunately single #3, “All About Loving You” is profoundly putrid, with drum machines and tinkling acoustic guitars aplenty.  A heavy rocker called “Hook Me Up” is also less than inspiring, although you can at least rock heavy to it in dumb fashion.

A pleasant ballad, “Right Side of Wrong” is similar to “Joey” but without the awkward lyrics.  What does it sound like?  Bon Jovi, with all the references he loves:  James Cagney, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Next, Sambora’s wah-wah guitar on “Love Me Back to Life” brings some heavy to another ballad, which is good, because there are three in a row.  It’s all about Sambora and the strings by David Campbell, which add some needed punch.

Most of the ballads to this point have featured piano with strings, but “You Had My From Hello” is a sweet acoustic number.  Pleasant is the word.  But the second last track “Bounce” is an ass-kicker and best track on the album.  “Call it karma, call it luck, me I just don’t give a f…f…f…”  OK, that sounds pretty cheesey.  Jon refusing to drop the F-bomb is funny when you think about it, but “Bounce” was a single, so it’s not like he’s going to swear all over it.  Richie’s solo is 2000s-era perfect, as good as mainstream music got back then.  “Bounce” rocks.  Unfortunately the album concludes on another cookie-cutter ballad, “Open All Night”.  It was written about an Ally McBeal episode that Jon guested in.  Hard pass.

The 2010 special edition includes a cool backstage pass and four live bonus tracks:  “The Distance”, “Joey”, “Hook Me Up” and “Bounce”.  The added value makes the upgrade worthwhile.

This album “bounces” back between rockers and ballads a bit much, but when the songs are solid, it fires on all cylinders.  Let’s say you trimmed two songs from the album to make it an even 10, like Slippery When Wet.  Then Bounce would be a more consistent listen, and perhaps considered a bit of a latter day classic.  It’s still probably the last “good” album they’ve released.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Real Life” (1999 CD singles)

Forget Valentine’s Day…except when it’s good for traffic!  Back in my single days I used to call it “Bon Jovi Day” and listen to nothing but Jon & Richie.  Here’s some Bon Jovi for you!

BON JOVI – “Real Life” (1999 Reprise & promo CD singles)

There was an unprecedented five year interregnum between These Days and Crush.  This pause allowed Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora to get some solo albums out of their systems before the band re-convened.  In the buildup to the new album, Bon Jovi contributed a new single called “Real Life” to the movie EdTV.  Remember EdTV?  There were two movies out at the same time about a guy who had his whole life broadcast on television 24/7.  One, The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey, was a huge hit.  The other, Ron Howard’s EdTV starring Matthew McConaughey, was the also-ran.  EdTV might have been more interesting, but bombed.  This rendered the Bon Jovi single relatively obscure.  It’s not the first time a Bon Jovi movie track misfired.  Remember “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White”?

“Real Life” was a decent tune, but it was a ballad at a time when Bon Jovi already had plenty.  There’s little to draw your attention, aside from Richie Sambora’s always alluring guitar and vocals.  The watery guitar tone is not far removed from These Days, but that album boasted the kind of ballads you’d never forget.  Songs like “Something to Believe In”, “These Days”, and “(It’s Hard) Letting You Go” are the kind of songs you carry your whole life.  “Real Life” is not.  In the wake of These Days, it was just another ballad.

Who is “Desmond Childs“?

This commercial single has two versions of “Real Life”, but there are actually four versions out there!  For the “album version”, if you don’t want the EdTV soundtrack, look for a promo single instead.  The differences between the album version and the radio mix are slight, but the album version has more guitar where the single mix has more piano.  The third version is an instrumental mix, which is nice if you want to listen to Richie’s guitar a little more.  The fourth and final version is an alternate mix that can be found on the box set 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong.

Finally, a live recording of “Keep the Faith” rounds out the single.  It seems to be a standby live B-side for this band.    They used another version on the 2013 single for “Because We Can“.  It’s certainly one of their most accomplished songs.  The bass groove and Tico’s busy drum patterns keep your feet moving.  It’s noncommercial and it strives to be something bigger.  It might be, in a technical sense, Bon Jovi’s most unapologetic and best hit.

Interestingly enough, “Real Life” is the only Bon Jovi video without David Bryan who was away on an injury.  I don’t think he missed out on much.

2.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1987 cassette)

BON JOVI – “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1987 Mercury extended play cassette)

Some rarities are easiest to find on tape.

That’s definitely still the case for “Wanted: Dead or Alive”, the 1987 acoustic version originally released only on an extended play cassette in most of the world.  This version, discussed below, is a Holy Grail collectable.  What about CD or vinyl?  There was a rare Japanese version with a slightly different tracklist, but for 30 years, all I had was this cherished cassette.

The tape has four tracks.  The original studio version (titled “Long Version” here to avoid confusion with the  4:10 single edit) leads side A.  “Wanted” is Bon Jovi’s first truly brilliant song.  An extended cowboy metaphor about the road, it’s timeless.  It always has been.  Richie Sambora’s 12 string guitar made all the young guitar kids want to play one.  His backing vocals were the real highlight.  Funny thing about Bon Jovi:  the backing vocalist was better than the lead singer!  Smoking guitar solo too, where every note counts.  You can hear Richie pushing those strings and wrenching that solo from the instrument.  It’s a perfect song, with every component serving a purpose and coming together.  The old west as seen from New Jersey.

The acoustic version of “Wanted” is the real delight here.  It’s just Jon and Sambora together with two acoustic guitars.  Jon explains the details in the liner notes, but only the cassette has this information: one more good reason to hunt down the tape.  Read below:

“On March 18, 1987 or somewhere there bouts, Richie and I flew into New York to mix some live tracks for a radio special.  After a couple hours of record making, donut eating, and MTV watching we got bored, picked up two acoustics and started to jam.  The results are here on tape, the way we wrote it, just like it was in the basement on that cold January night in Jersey.”

If that doesn’t set the scene, nothing will.  Richie sings more of the lyrics, and belts out a killer acoustic solo too.  It was this recording that demonstrated to me the talents of Mr. Sambo.  What it lacks in glossy finish, it makes up for in spades with vibe.

On side B, the live version of “Wanted” is another rarity.  It’s an extended 8:13 full band version, with a long instrumental prologue.  According to the liner notes (again, only on the cassette), it was recorded at Cobo Hall in Detroit on March 11, exactly a week before the studio jam was recorded.  It’s likely this is one of the live songs that Jon and Richie were in New York mixing on the 18th.  (Production is credited to both.)  You may have lots of versions of “Wanted” already, but owning an extended take from early ’87 is better.

The tape ends on “I’d Die For You”, a song that was good enough to be a single in its own right.  However, it wasn’t.  It’s just an album track from Slippery When Wet, but it’s safe to say it’s a bit of an unsung classic.  The Japanese CD version, on the other hand, comes with the non-album rarity “Edge of a Broken Heart”, one of their best tunes ever.  After “Edge”, there is an exclusive unlisted interview with all five band members.  Inside, Japan also got a “Bon Jovi Dictionary (R to Z)”.  Presumably the other volumes of the dictionary can be found in other Japanese CDs.

Though this cassette has an overabundance of “Wanted”, you simply need to get that acoustic version.  You want the one that’s 5:31 long, recorded in March ’87.  In fact, you need that one.  And even though CD is the superior format, the tape has the liner notes and other details you won’t find on CD.

5/5 stars

Thanks to Mitch Lafon for helping me locate a CD copy of these tracks!

VHS Archives #65: Bon Jovi full band interview – original lineup (1992)

I’ve been teasing this one for a few weeks.  It’s rare to get interviews with anyone from the original lineup of Bon Jovi other than Jon and Richie.  It’s even rarer to get a full band interview.

Michael Williams hosted all five members on MuchMusic’s Start Me Up program, before the release of Keep the Faith in 1992.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

Jon Bon Jovi,
Richie Sambora,
David Bryan,
Tico Torres,
and Alec John Such.

BON JOVI!

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – Red Hot and 2 Parts Live (1985 EP)

 

All hail the mighty Aaron of the KMA.  He is a very generous man.  He is known to send parcels to friends all over the world, and he always keeps an eye out for things that people look for.  He’s incredible that way, and he deserves a tremendous amount of recognition for all he does for the Community.

 

BON JOVI – Red Hot and 2 Parts Live (1985 red vinyl Polygram EP)

Preamble:  Although I forgot about this, back in the fall Aaron did his regular Toronto shopping excursion.  He found a Bon Jovi 12″ single that I’d never seen before.  But I was tapped out, cash wise.  I had done my own Toronto trip to pick up an an absolutely massive toy for my collection.  Apparently he texted me about the Bon Jovi, and I asked him to leave it there because I couldn’t afford it.  Naturally he bought it anyway and secretly stashed it away.

Aaron sent me a big box of goodies for Christmas (and reviews of those will come too!) but the Bon Jovi was the centerpiece.  I didn’t actually open this box of goodies until Easter.  Due to illness and circumstance, our family finally just got around to celebrating Christmas.  I saved his box until then.

This three song EP, on brilliant clear red vinyl, has two live tracks and one remix.  “Hardest Part is the Night” (from 7800° Fahrenheit) was mixed by David Theoner though the differences are minor.  Interestingly, it was also issued as its own single with “Always Run to You” on the B-side.

The other two tracks were recorded live in Japan in 1985.  “Tokyo Road” was later released on the remastered 7800° Fahrenheit as a bonus track, but that CD doesn’t look nearly as pretty as this vinyl.  It’s a little odd hearing Jon introduce it by saying, “Welcome back to ‘Tokyo Road’…” when in fact they were the visitors in Tokyo, but whatever!  Jon’s the professional frontman, not me.  “In and Out of Love” is the real treat, featuring an extended guitar solo, and a different version from the one on 7800° Fahrenheit.  The track is still over 10 minutes long with all that (smoking) noodlin’, but Sambora fans who miss him will want to have this.

Fans of early Bon Jovi — hunt down this EP.  Get it or live your life without this awesome live Bon Jovi that you won’t get otherwise.

4.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1994 single)

BON JOVI “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1994 Mercury single)

Christmas of ’94 was a good one for Bon Jovi.  Their first greatest hits record Cross Road was a smash, returning Bon Jovi to the charts.   It spawned two hit singles:  “Always” and later on, “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night”.  With all that going on, it is understandable if you missed another Bon Jovi single that was just under the radar.

“Please Come Home for Christmas” is billed as a Bon Jovi single, but in actuality it’s a Jon Bon Jovi solo track.  It was first released exclusively to the album A Very Special Christmas 2 (1992), billed to Jon Bon Jovi and not performed with the band.  By ’94, “solo” and “band” Bon Jovi were becoming blurred.  Jon’s solo track “Blaze of Glory” was on Cross Road even though it’s from Jon’s first solo album.  Nowhere on the “Please Come Home for Christmas” single is it indicated that this is a Bon Jovi solo recording, further blurring the lines.

None of that really matters; Bon Jovi is Jon’s band and this single gathers together his first three Christmas recordings in one place.  It’s actually a great value.

The old Charles Brown seasonal classic has been covered over and over, notably by the Eagles.  Jon’s version isn’t bad either.  You either like Bon Jovi or you don’t.  If you like Bon Jovi then this will probably be right up your alley.

Next up, one of the B-sides from Keep the Faith and an original song too:  “I Wish Everyday Could Be Like Christmas”.  This has the vibe of Keep the Faith, with full production by Bob Rock.  Why can’t everybody be kind to each other every day like they are on Christmas?  It ain’t easy to write an original Christmas song, and Jon did an excellent job on this one.  I’ve always preferred it to “Please Come Home for Christmas”.

Finally, from the first Very Special Christmas album (1987), it’s a live take of “Back Door Santa” (Clarence Carter).  That means it’s from the Slippery When Wet tour.  Vintage Bon Jovi with cheesy keyboards right out “Social Disease”.  It’s not good but it’s here!  Meaning, Bon Jovi fans don’t have to look for A Very Special Christmas to complete their collections.

Two for three decent songs isn’t bad.  All are non-album tracks, so that’ll make this single worth it to you.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Richie Sambora – Stranger In This Town (1991 2 CD deluxe)

scan_20161021-2RICHIE SAMBORA – Stranger In This Town (1991 Mercury 2 CD deluxe)

Bon Jovi went on hiatus after the lengthy New Jersey tour.  Their future appeared uncertain.  Jon had released his first solo album, a soundtrack called Blaze of Glory. Alec John Such was reportedly opening carwashes in Hungary, although that was probably a joke answer in a magazine interview.   Meanwhile, the rest of Bon Jovi (Richie Sambora, David Bryan and Tico Torres) gathered in the studio to record.  With Tony Levin on bass and Chapman Stick, the group assembled Richie’s first solo album, Stranger In This Town.  Although fans were worried about a possible split, there was much excitement for Richie to have a chance to sing his own songs.  Adding to the hype, Eric Clapton appeared as a special guest.  (Randy Jackson played bass on one song, “One Light Burning”.)

Sambora seemed to determine to fly his own colours.  Predominantly, that’s blue, as in the blues.  He also mixed in soul, pop, and rock to create an album that wouldn’t alienate any Bon Jovi fans.  David Bryan contributed songwriting, and there is even one Bon Jovi song in the mix.  It’s not a guitar album, although it need not be stated that the guitar playing on this album is brilliant.  Richie went for feel and atmosphere rather than flash.

This is apparent on opening track “Rest in Peace”.  It’s not really a full-fledged song, but more an introduction to the album.  It even has listening instructions:  “Turn down the lights…light a candle…welcome.”  That doesn’t sound very rock and roll, does it?  But it is good advice.  That’s the kind of album this is.  “Rest in Peace” is loaded with soul, and this merges with the pop rock on “Church of Desire”.  A song like this wouldn’t have worked with Bon Jovi.  It has more soul, and its quiet production lets the music breathe more than Bon Jovi songs do.  It’s a brilliant track, and Richie’s solo just blasts.  Different from Bon Jovi, but accessible for Bon Jovi fans:  it’s an ideal song for a first Sambora album.

The blues single “Stranger In This Town” sounds like something Richie had been aching to do for years.  Backed by a choir of vocalists, this is Richie fulfilling some musical dreams.  Both blues fans and rock fans should enjoy the middle ground where they meet on “Stranger In This Town”.  As a single, it seemed to represent the image Richie was going for.  This album has three singles in a row, making the first side a little more consistently strong.  “Ballad of Youth” was the debut single, combining Bon Jovi’s anthemic melodies with Richie’s new laid-back vibe.  It even has a Bon Jovi-like positive message.  “Don’t waste your life away, thinkin’ ’bout yesterday’s blues.”  The excellent third single was the synth ballad “One Light Burning” which almost sounds like Richie Sambora joined the Cars.  For the programmed sounds and percussion, Richie said they had “about 100 computers” networked together.  Oh, 1991!  Though a ballad, it’s the centerpiece of the album.

It’s possible they intended “Mr. Bluesman” to be the centerpiece, but the lyrics are difficult to digest.  When you write a song as a tribute to your hero, such as this tribute to Eric Clapton, lyrics are always the trick.  Thankfully Mr. Clapton’s guest guitar appearance, though brief, does tell us the story.  Hearing him rip on this blues ballad is like a searchlight cutting through the murky haze.  But here’s the weird thing.  Didn’t Eric find Brian May’s tribute song “Blues Breaker” embarrassing?  Yet he appeared on this ballad?

IMG_20151004_091117“Rosie” is a Bon Jovi song that was heavily bootlegged, from the fruitful New Jersey sessions.  It sounds like Bon Jovi, but Richie’s version has way more guitar.  Unfortunately the Bon Jovi version has never been released.  It was mysteriously not included on the Sons of Beaches demos that came out in 2014, even though the other songs were.  One has to assume Jon didn’t include it on his set because Richie already had his version out.  The next track “River of Love” is a title that has nothing to do with the Bon Jovi demo of the same name.  This is the first and last really greasy rocker on the album.

It’s ballads from there out, but terrific songs nonetheless.  “Father Time” (written with Desmond Child) is a melancholy rock ballad that Jon probably wishes he wrote.  It’s a powerful song, like an amped up “One Light Burning”.  Guitars burn up and down your spine while Sambora soothes your ears with his soulful croon.  Tico and David provide the solid base upon which the song is built.  Their expert chops are essential parts of the entire album.  Things draw to a close on “The Answer”, an acoustic lullaby-like song that has a lot of heart.  A sentimental ballad asking existential questions is an unconventional way to end an album, which is part of what makes it special.

Mercury did something unusual for the era, but very common today.  They released Stranger In This Town as a single CD, and a 2 CD deluxe edition.  The deluxe is housed in a long box, and has two bonus tracks.  At the end of CD is “The Wind Cries Mary”, which saves fans from having to buy the atrocious Ford Fairlane soundtrack on which it originated.  It’s a smoking Hendrix cover, and the best tune on that soundtrack.  On the second CD you will find an almost 20 minute interview with Richie discussing the songs on this album.  No revelations here; it’s really just an extended promo for the album.  Half of it is music anyway…snippets of the same music from disc one!  An OK extra, but the real bonus is “The Wind Cries Mary”.

The final extra, usually missing on the second hand market, is the metal guitar pick shaped pendant.  It has Richie’s solo logo on it, but nobody’s going to be wearing this thing.  All this is packed in the box, which is a beauty but awkward to store.

As an introduction of the “real” Richie to the fans, Stranger In This Town was a success.  He differentiated himself from Bon Jovi, and also proved he could sing an entire album easily.  Critically and commercially, the album was less successful.  There were mixed reviews, with the rock press hung up on the soft songs.  With the benefit of 25 years’ hindsight, Stranger has aged well, better than Bon Jovi itself.

4/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “This House is Not For Sale” (single)

BON JOVI – “This House is Not For Sale” (2016 Island single)

THE GOOD: Decent song, a little bit of rock, some tasty guitar work from Phil X, very much another Bon Jovi singalong for the working man.

THE BAD: More of the same. We’ve heard Bon Jovi do this exact kind of song many times over the last 15 years. Apparently the addition of Phil X hasn’t injected much new into the sound.

THE UGLY: It’s nice to see Phil X and Hugh McDonald on the cover art…but why did it take 20 years to finally put a picture of Hugh on the cover?

The new Bon Jovi album This House is Not For Sale will be out October 21. It’s far too early to judge, but the lead single doesn’t indicate that much has changed in Jovi Land. If you liked their last bunch of albums (basically everything from Have a Nice Day to Burning Bridges) then you’ll enjoy “This House is Not For Sale”.

3/5 stars

THIS HOUSE

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – Burning Bridges (2015)

FLAMING TURDS

“Flaming Turds” artwork courtesy of SARCA at CAUGHT ME GAMING.  Thanks Sarca!

It’s the WEEK OF FLAMING TURDS!  This week we will be looking at a collection of malodorous music.  Strike a match, you’ll need it for these stinkers!  

For a “drunk review” of this same album by Aaron over at the KMA, click here!

BURNING BRIDGESBON JOVI – Burning Bridges (2015 Mercury)

Like the gambler, I lay my cards on the table:  Richie Sambora was a critical component of Bon Jovi, perhaps as important as their leader.  That’s the way we see it here at LeBrain HQ.  A Bon Jovi without Sambora is a far less interesting animal.  Still, we do have a responsibility to listen to their first post-Richie album, Burning Bridges, with open ears and report back with accuracy.  So let us begin.

Burning Bridges is a set of unreleased and new songs, and also their last record with Mercury.  By calling it a gift to the fans and not considering it a “real” album, the pressure was off.  Producer/co-writer John Shanks handles guitar duties with Jon Bon Jovi on acoustic.  Billy Falcon also co-wrote a number of tracks, and there’s even one lone Richie co-write.

Things begin slowly on “A Teardrop to the Sea” but there is a dark edge to it that is appealing and reminiscent of the underrated These Days album.  I question the wisdom of opening an album wish such a slow number but it does make a strong first impression.  It is sparsely arranged yet powerful, and with or without Richie it sounds like Bon Jovi.  All it needs is one of his bluesy, soulful solos…alas.  Shanks does his best to imitate the axeman. “We Don’t Run”, the single, starts off well but then it descends into another glossy, overproduced digital mess with another imitation Richie solo. Potential wasted.

Sambora co-wrote “Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning” but it’s just paint-by-numbers Pop Jovi. You can predict the hooks coming, although you gotta give credit to the talent of Tico Torres for throwing in some cool drum beats. Pop Jovi strums the acoustics again on “We All Fall Down”, a ballad completely interchangeable with similar ones on any Bon Jovi album over the last decade. Ditto, “Blind Love”. It’s like Kleenex: You pull one out, and an identical tissue takes its place!  Pop Jovi continues balladeering on “Who Would You Die For”.  It does have a dark and low key These Days kind of vibe, but the slick production and programming are completely unnecessary.  I’d give the song a C though rather than a D or lower, because it’s dramatic enough, crap production aside.

Unplugged “Fingerprints” is horrid, flaccid and flatulent for its entire six minute length.  Lyrically, at this point I’m convinced that Jon is just writing down the first things that come to his mind.  “I gave you my fingerprints, guilty or innocent,” he sings with false passion.  More woah-oh-oh singing commences on the nauseatingly contrived “Life is Beautiful”, clearly a leftover from Bon Jovi’s new country period (Lost Highway).  The crapslide continues with “I’m Your Man”, upbeat at least but without a spine.  Finally we have “Burning Bridges”, the song Jon wrote about leaving Mercury, and it’s actually the best song on the album!  Yes, it’s country, but it sounds more or less like a jam, without the annoying production.  The lyrics are pretty hilarious and are by far the most interesting ones on the album.  It’s pretty obvious what it’s about so if you want a taste of the music industry from Jon’s perspective, give it a listen:

“After 30 years of loyalty,
They let you dig the grave,
Now maybe you could learn to sing,
Or even strum along, I’ll give you half the publishing,
You’re why I wrote this song.”

Ooft!  Elsewhere he invites them to play this song in hell!  A bitter end indeed.

Burning Bridges is an unnecessary album to own.  It’s bookended by two decent songs, with the last being the only one that I would consider for a mix tape.  The “real”  new Bon Jovi album, This House is Not for Sale, comes out this spring.  Perhaps with new guitarist Phil X (formerly of Triumph) in the mix, some chemistry will finally return.

1/5 stars

 

1. “A Teardrop to the Sea”
2. “We Don’t Run”
3. “Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning”
4. “We All Fall Down”
5. “Blind Love”
6. “Who Would You Die For”
7. “Fingerprints”
8. “Life Is Beautiful”
9. “I’m Your Man”
10. “Burning Bridges”