New Jersey

#658: Wanted Dead or Alive

Happy belated birthday to this single, released March 3 1987!

 

GETTING MORE TALE #658: Wanted Dead or Alive

I didn’t care for Bon Jovi. They seemed like a “girls’ band”. It seemed to be all about the screaming ladies. I did like Europe. “The Final Countdown” was a pretty cool anthemic track, with a sci-fi lyric. The rock press were pitting one band against the other: “Who’s better, Bon Jovi or Europe?” I took Europe every time.

Besides, what the hell was a “Bon Jovi” anyway?*  Bon means “good”.  “Good Jovi to you, sir!”

I continued to ignore Bon Jovi, while receiving Europe’s The Final Countdown as a gift for Easter 1987. The album took a couple listens to get into, but once I did, “Rock the Night”, “Ninja” and especially “Cherokee” blew me away. Europe weren’t a “girls’ band” to me, with songs about Ninjas and Cherokees.

My sister and her friends loved Bon Jovi. One of them had a crush on keyboardist David Bryan. I thought he looked weird, like he had gummy worms in his hair. I remember they were writing “BON JOVI” and “DAVID BRYAN” in the sand at the beach. I erased it and changed it to “BON SCOTT” and “BRIAN JOHNSON”. Take that, eh? No wonder I thought Bon Jovi were a “girl’s band”. Anyone who had a younger sister at the time probably thought so too.

Considering that I own an extensive Bon Jovi collection now (Richie Sambora era only), something must have changed. What was it?

Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora wrote a song together in Richie’s mom’s basement. It was an acoustic song called “Wanted: Dead or Alive”. When I saw the music video in July of 1987, it changed all my impressions.

That 12 string acoustic rang true, on a song that deserves all the awards, video play and accolades. Something about the song was very real. Writing in that New Jersey basement about the road life was about as honest as Bon Jovi get, and you can hear it in the recording. “Wanted: Dead or Alive” turned me around rather quickly. I taped the video, and from there put “Wanted” on a cassette tape. The cassette tape had a lot of new songs from the summer of ’87: Ace Frehley’s “Into the Night”, and Ozzy’s live “Crazy Train” were among those tracks. Eventually I had to get all those albums.

I received the Frehley and the Ozzy for my birthday. I bought Bon Jovi later on in September. By then, I was familiar with all the singles and a track called “Raise Your Hands” from the movie Spaceballs. I just had to digest the album tracks.

Slippery When Wet was…OK, I guess. Not as good as The Final Countdown was.  Not all it was hyped to be, but good enough. “Social Disease” was pretty bad. Slippery struck me as a couple songs short of a great album. Good enough, though, to hang on ‘til the next one.

1988’s New Jersey was the next one. It seems they ditched 80% of the schlock and really tried to get back to their roots. I loved New Jersey and it was my first Bon Jovi CD once I had a player. Whatever authenticity they had on “Wanted: Dead Or Alive” spilled all over New Jersey.

“Wild is the Wind”, “Blood on Blood”, “Ride Cowboy Ride”, “Stick to Your Guns”, and “Homebound Train” had the magic. There is something real and close to perfect about those songs. Bon Jovi put out an album soaked in passion, as opposed to the sterile and clean Slippery When Wet. It didn’t match the 12 million copies sold of Slippery, but New Jersey was so slouch at 7 million.

It’s funny to be using words like “integrity” when speaking of Bon Jovi today. They’ve become an adult contemporary project; no longer a rock band. “Wanted” was their first acoustic hit and it’s often considered one of the landmark ballads of the era. In many respects, the lite-rock Bon Jovi of today was forged by “Wanted”. But that doesn’t tarnish the song itself. “Wanted: Dead or Alive” is still fantastic. Even better is the 1987 acoustic version, only available on cassette single (or Japanese CD single).

You can go ahead and scoff at Bon Jovi, in light of the last 10 or even 20 years. They’re a mere fraction of the group they used to be. Yet “Wanted: Dead or Alive” still stands as a high water mark that any band would be jealous to have.

 

 

*Real name:  Jon Bongiovi

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – New Jersey (Super Deluxe, part 2)

Concluding an in-depth review of the Bon Jovi New Jersey Super Deluxe edition. Previous reading:

BON JOVI – New Jersey (2014 Universal Super Deluxe edition, part 2)

Of all the Bon Jovi albums, New Jersey certainly deserved the Super Deluxe treatment.  New Jersey‘s promotional cycle included two VHS releases, both present on this DVD: The old Wayne Isham tour documentary Access All Area, and New Jersey: The Videos.  Isham was responsible for virtually every cool larger-than-life video Bon Jovi made.  In 1988, trendy grainy black and white footage was all the rage, and so Access All Areas, where we will begin, has an over-abundance of it.

In a piece of incidental pre-show rehearsal footage, Richie Sambora sings “Purple Rain”, proving who the talent in the band always was.  It is nice though to see everybody in the band hanging out, having a good time, and seeming like genuine friends.  As for the audience, it’s amusing to see the giant hair from the perspective of today.

The sound of “Bang” by Russian metal band Gorky Park indicates we’re off to the Soviet Union.  Bon Jovi were pioneering in being one of the only hard rock bands to play behind the Iron Curtain (they were officially sanctioned by the government), and this part of the show is certainly the most interesting.  Bon Jovi even have a ten-man blues jam with the Russian band, building bridges at the end of the Cold War.  The blues is universal.  This visit leads to the massive Moscow Music Peace Festival, which I had on tape from MTV, and wore completely out.  (Not shown: the backstage moment when Tommy Lee rips the shirt off Bon Jovi manager Doc McGhee’s back, for allegedly upstaging Motley Crue by using fireworks in Bon Jovi’s show, against prior agreement.  It’s a long he-said she-said story involving McGhee who was managing both Motley and Bon Jovi at the time.  Motley felt McGhee had prioritized Bon Jovi, and fired him immediately after.)

The boys have a blast in the warmth of Rio de Janeiro, quite a contrast with snowy Moscow.   In Tokyo they are chased by a swarm of screaming girls.  Through it all, even though they’ve been on the road forever and can’t wait to get home, they maintain themselves with a lot of joking around.  Fortunately Isham captured this endearing footage.  The live rehearsal stuff is also excellent, up close and in the faces of the band.

In a very cool moment backstage at Wembley, Bon Jovi, Cinderella and the Scorpions work on covers together for a big jam.  “Travelling Band”…holy shit, is that Elton John on piano?  Sure looks like it.  Rick Allen, Brian May, Lita Ford!  “I am the happiest kid on Earth!” shouts an excited David Bryan.  Another gig features Bon Jovi with the late comedian Sam Kinison on “Wild Thing”.  At Tower Records, they are threatened with arrest by the riot squad if they perform, so naturally Jon and Richie break out the acoustics and do “Ride Cowboy Ride”.  In swoop the fuzz, who had nothing to worry about.  Alec John Such’s birthday is celebrated in West Berlin, where they visit the wall.  (In a shivery moment, Jon is eyeballed by an East German soldier on the other side.)  Their cover of “The Boys Are Back in Town” is performed, and Jon takes a chip out of the wall.

Jimmy Page is present at a three hour charity gig at Hammersmith, and they jam on “Train Kept a Rolling”.  (Best moment: when Jon sings a Steven Tyler “wha-ga-ga-ga” in it near the end, just like Tyler did in Aerosmith’s version.)  It’s clear that even then Jon was the boss — he alone makes the setlist, and says if something goes wrong he’ll call the shots.  He comments he has “never been so nervous.”  Bad Company’s “Shooting Star” is a duet with Richie Sambora, who had been playing it long before Bon Jovi formed.  It’s a stunning version and it’s hard to imagine Bon Jovi ever doing anything this big again, both in terms of success and quality.

Australia!  “Bon Jovi: We go everywhere, but we live nowhere!” says Sambora.  “Love For Sale” is played at HMV for swarms of long-hairs both male and female (but mostly female).  Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party” is another incredible cover selection, and you have to give Jon credit for that.  The final show is a big multi-gig stand in Guadalajara, Mexico that almost never happened due to “politics” (money) and a riot!  The first gig is postponed to the next day forcing Bon Jovi to play a double-header starting at 11 am!  “We should go on stage in riot gear,” jokes (?) Jon.  (They don’t.)

Access All Areas was a good rock doc for the time.  It feels whitewashed and scrubbed clean of blemishes, but that was music in general in the late 80’s.  The real pleasure is getting to see the other band members hanging out.  Alec John Such seems a funny, talented guy with a great voice.  David Bryan is clearly a lot more gifted than he gets to show off in the band.

The music videos (only mixed in stereo, unfortunately) are all you remember them to be: more mixtures of black & white, and colour footage, golly!  Both versions of “Bad Medicine” are included.  (More Sam Kinison!)  There are funny interludes with the band in between the songs, joking around back stage.  (Special guest: Skip Rope Skid Row’s Dave “Snake” Sabo.)  “Me, if I wasn’t a musician, I’d be a drummer!” says Jon. Of the music videos, “I’ll Be There For You” and “Lay Your Hands On Me” are the coolest, just no-nonsense stage performance clips.  “Blood on Blood”, which I’d never seen before, is a live version.

The DVD portion of this box set is a nice supplement, but you won’t be in a hurry to sit down and watch again.  The black & white/colour back and forth is very tiring.  Fortunately Bon Jovi seem(ed) like a nice bunch of guys from the neighborhood that have loads of talent, and fun to watch in any setting.

DVD: 3/5 stars
Bonus tracks: 4.5/5 stars
Album: 4.5/5 stars

Overall rating:  4/5 stars

Thanks for joining us for this massive review! Back to something else tomorrow.

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – New Jersey (Super Deluxe, part 1)

BON JOVI – New Jersey (2014 Universal Super Deluxe edition, part 1)

BACKLOG! I received this box set over 10 months ago.  We at LeBrain HQ are so busy with so much rock and roll that it has taken that long to finally give this entire box set a proper examination.  Fortunately, we (the “royal” we) have already reviewed New Jersey itself, in March of 2014 before this box set was released.  There is no need to repeat what was said in that review.  It is still an accomplished album worthy of its 4.5/5 star rating.  New Jersey was and easily remains a very high water mark.  For this review we will look at all the bonus tracks and the entire DVD in detail.  All three parts combined will probably give you the most complete look at the New Jersey Super Deluxe edition out there.

There are loads of bonus tracks to discuss, some of which were available before.  Bon Jovi must have known this release was always in the cards.  Look at the track list for their box set, 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong.  Not one of these demos is on that massive five disc box set.  Many of these tracks had been leaked a long time ago on bootleg CDs such as Keep the Faith/New Jersey Outtakes, but never issued by the band.  It’s natural to be cynical and say, “Well they must have been saving them for another box set like this one.”

“The Boys Are Back in Town” is an A-OK Thin Lizzy cover.  When Lizzy wrote this song, Phil Lynott almost had the blueprint for the future of Bon Jovi plotted out.  Bon Jovi, a back who love singing songs about the boys being back in town, were the perfect band to cover it and make it their own song.  Cynics may laugh, but Richie Sambora and Tico Torres are quality players able to inject class into the cover.  Keyboardist David Bryan uses the “organ” setting on his keys to offer appropriate backing for the boys.  It’s hard to have a winner with a Lizzy cover and not sound like a bunch of jackasses.  This one was recorded by Bruce Fairbairn for the 1989 anti-drug compilation Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell.

“Love is War” was good enough to be a single in its own right, but it was only the B-side to “Living in Sin”.  Perhaps the reason it was chosen for B-side status was that the verses and chorus don’t quite jibe.  The song has great, dark verses and a big old Slippery-like chorus.  It doesn’t quite sound like a New Jersey song, but it’s hard to track down today.

A very rare bonus track is an acoustic version of “Born to Be My Baby”, only available on a Japanese “Living in Sin” CD single.  Fans love when Jon and Richie just sit down together with a couple acoustics and do a live-in-the-studio rendition of a hit.  It’s an uber-rarity that LeBrain HQ did not even know existed before this box set was issued.  As usual, Richie’s soulful singing reaches deep into your guts.  His classical-influenced guitar solo is a masterpiece.

Famously, Bon Jovi once considered the awful title Sons of Beaches for their 1988 album.  Disc two is called the Sons of Beaches Demos and there are plenty more great tracks here that are familiar to bootleg collectors.  The opening demo version of “Homebound Train” is even bluesier and greasier than the great album take.  Anyone who doubts the instrumental ferocity of Bon Jovi can check this out and see what the original lineup was capable of.

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“Judgement Day” opens with traditional “nah-nah-nah” Bon Jovi vocals, giving it a sound-alike quality to other more familiar Bon Jovi songs.  It is good enough that it could have been on an album (or single B-side).  Then “Full Moon High” (also known as “River of Love” on bootlegs) is familiar.  I recognize the music from somewhere else: it became the Keep the Faith B-side “Save a Prayer”!  The riff is intact, and what “Full Moon High” amounts to is an alternate 80’s version of it.  It is just as great as “Save a Prayer”, and it is difficult to pick a preferred version.  “Full Moon High” is an achievement, and Richie’s guitar playing is nutso.  “Growing Up the Hard Way” is back to the “nah-nah-nah’s”, and it sounds as if this is an early version of “Love is War”, but with a very different chorus.

With a slinky, dusky song behind him, Jon urges someone “Let’s Make it Baby”.  This tune would have been good enough for Keep the Faith, but did not surface until a double disc version of These Days was issued in the mid-90’s.  This is a noticeably different mix from that release — more raw.  Then “Love Hurts” goes into upbeat territory with a decent set of melodies to sing along to.  It is a bit similar to “Love is War” once again, but that’s why these songs were never officially released before.  I’ve had this song in my collection for 20 years, but not with this level of audio quality.  Likewise “Backdoor to Heaven”, a ballad that fans have loved for a long time (just not officially).  Again, this song was probably deemed too similar to others such as “I’ll Be There For You”.  Same with “Now and Forever”, another ballad of high quality, but also similarity.

A harder-edged “Wild is the Wind” demo is otherwise very similar to the album arrangement, with some different bits on keyboards and acoustic guitars.  Singling out Tico Torres as drummer extraordinaire, I love his hard hitting style.  Same with the excellent “Stick To Your Guns”; it’s more or less already complete at the demo stage.  The rawness is a beautiful thing…you can hear Richie talking at one point.

The one track of all of these which LeBrain HQ was most excited about is “House of Fire”, a song that Jon donated to Alice Cooper for his Trash LP.  Brother Deke over at Arena Rock told us, “Don’t worry Bon Jovi do it great!”  Cooper’s version was “unremarkable” [LeBrain Trash review], but Bon Jovi did it right.  If Alice didn’t release his own single for it, I wonder if Jon would have?  One word:  infectious.

Fans in the know have always loved “Does Anybody Really Fall in Love Anymore”, another ballad that might be deemed too similar.  Another issue is that the chorus really reaches for the high notes, and Jon misses most of them on this demo.  Somebody probably realized it would be a difficult song to bring to the concert stage.  The bootleg version of this is more complete, with backing vocals filling it out.  This demo, perhaps earlier than the one that was bootlegged ages ago, lacks all backing vocals and sounds like it may be live in rehearsal.  “Keep going,” says Jon to someone, indicating this is likely the case.

IMG_20151004_091117“Diamond Ring” became such a fan favourite after the band played it live that this New Jersey demo was tried out again for Keep the Faith, and finally made an album in 1995 for These Days.  Each arrangement of the ballad was different from the last.  This one is the earliest, featuring bluesy electric guitars and organ.  Its final incarnation was much quieter.

Very conspicuous by its absence:  “Rosie”.  This was written by Richie and Jon about someone they knew growing up (as many of their songs are).  Desmond Child and Diane Warren helped them finish it, and it was recorded by Sambora for his first solo album Stranger in This Town.  Since that album featured Tico Torres and David Bryan on drums and keys, you can almost consider that a Bon Jovi song.  But why is it not here, with the demo sessions that it belongs with?  It’s cynical but not unlikely to think it’s due to Jon and Richie’s feud.  Shame.  There are other Sons of Beaches demos missing that are out there on bootlegs, such as “Love is War” so don’t fool yourself, this is not a complete set of ’em.

Come back tomorrow and we’ll look at the final disc in this set, the DVD.

To be concluded…

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REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Born To Be My Baby” (7″ single)

I thought it would prudent to post a mini-review today, lest some of you thought I had lost my mind earlier.  What’s the date again?

BON JOVI – “Born To Be My Baby” (1988 Polygram 7″ single)

This single is a beauty.  I bought this 45 at the Zellers store at Stanley Park Mall in Kitchener when I was a young fella.  It doesn’t have any exclusive tracks — not even single edits which were very common on Bon Jovi 7″ singles.  Instead it came in a collector’s package with cardboard picture sleeve, and three postcards.

The postcards are interesting to me for a reason.  Look at the group photos of the band.  Jon’s face is always obscured.  These pictures from the New Jersey period represent a brief time when Jon was trying to give the band more face time.  Check many photos from that era — his back is often to the camera while the others look straight ahead.  I read a quote in a magazine where Jon was pissed that people only knew Richie Sambora as “the guy in the cowboy hat”.  He was trying to give them attention and I think that’s cool.

The two tracks on the single are two of my New Jersey favourites!  “Born To Be My Baby” was always a cool groove.  I enjoy listening to Tico Torres’ drums on this track.  Understated but perfect.  But “Love For Sale”?  Shit, I think that’s the best tune on New Jersey!   Proof of the talent of this band, drunk or sober.  Hard to imagine it was just something that happened and got recorded.  It actually makes me a little sad today — sad that Jon and Richie have now broken up this amazing chemistry.

Fun single though!  Glad to have kept it all these years.

4/5 stars

BORN TO BE_0003

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – New Jersey (1988)

BON JERSEY_0001BON JOVI – New Jersey (1988 Mercury)

Slippery When Wet sold 28 million copies and went to #1 in over half a dozen countries, including Canada. The easy way to follow that might have been creating a carbon copy album, a sequel to follow it. Bravely, Bon Jovi chose not to do that. Their ambition was running high. The next album (tentatively titled Sons of Beaches after a line in the song “99 In the Shade”), was intended to be a double. The record company ixnay’d that due to the cost, but Bon Jovi had written and recorded plenty of good songs. The proof of this is that some of the best, including the B-side “Love Is War”, didn’t make the final single disc album.

New Jersey is not a carbon copy of Slippery nor any other Bon Jovi record. It’s more raw, more rock and roll, with bluesy elements added. There are dueling solos, long song structures, live jams and even a song in mono! Bon Jovi’s three main musicians (Richie Sambora, David Bryan, Tico Torres) performed and recorded some of their best playing on this album. Indeed, if New Jersey had come out under a different band name I don’t think many people would have recognized it as Bon Jovi. I think it remains one of their highest achievements, if not the very highest. Clocking in at almost an hour, it was a long varied album even if it wasn’t a double.

Slippery began with a long, ominous opening and New Jersey maintained that. “Lay Your Hands On Me” begins with drums and chants, but soon morphs into a top-ten (US) soul-rock single. The guitar is muscular and song is about as heavy as Bon Jovi get. “Bad Medicine” follows; the first single and one of the more pop-rock oriented songs. On the last album, Jon claimed he had a “Social Disease”, this time he needs a shot of “Bad Medicine”. I don’t think “Bad Medicine” is one of their best songs (I felt it was “just another Bon Jovi song” back then) but it sure had legs. It’s still a concert highlight today. I do prefer the album version to the single version with its playful, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, I’m not done!” false ending.

“Born To Be My Baby” was written acoustically and intended to be “the hit”. I think it’s just fine electrically, which is how it was recorded. I got this one as a single in a cardboard sleeve with post cards (see below), and I prefer it to “Bad Medicine” by a fair deal. The “na na na, na na na” vocal part is catchy as hell and the song rocks hard enough for the dudes. The ballad and single “Living In Sin” follows. It too was a huge hit, helped by a black & white video with some blonde-haired male model that looked like Mike Tramp, for the ladies.

Side one’s closer was the heartfelt epic “Blood On Blood”, which was not a single, but still gets played live today. Once again, Jon has managed to capture the essence of his young adulthood, growing up in Sayreville, New Jersey. Jon, “Danny” and “Bobby” are three friends who went through everything together. But with the years and miles between them, Jon lets them know that if he got that call, he’d be right by their sides. Lyrically, it’s this kind of thing that was Jon’s bread and butter, and it also resulted in a great song musically. “Blood On Blood” is one of the band’s proudest achievements.

BON JERSEY_0002If “Blood On Blood” was not enough musicality for ya, then “Homebound Train” is Bon Jovi at their most impressive. A 5-minute blues-rock workout, “Homebound Train” is one of those tracks that laymen just won’t believe is Bon Jovi. The band laid down some harmonica and guitar solos backed by some serious groove, something not often associated with Bon Jovi. “Homebound Train” would have to be among the band’s best tracks, and it serves to open a killer side of vinyl.

“Wild Is the Wind” might be considered a ballad, I think it’s more an anthem. If you can’t stop singing along to it, congratulations, you have a pulse! The chorus is brain-explodingly good. “Ride Cowboy Ride” follows, which is a brief instrumental in mono. Although it’s intentionally just an intro to the next song, on its own it’s an enjoyable listen – in fact it made my own mix tapes on its own a few times. “Ride Cowboy Ride” serves to introduce another cowboy anthem, “Stick To Your Guns”. The title reflects the positive affirmations of the lyrics, but this is just another standout song. Any one of these songs could have been singles.

A massive single, “I’ll Be There For You”, slows the side down a bit by being so soft. I’m sure there are those out there who don’t hate this song. Musically it’s fine, but the lyrics…I just can’t handle the lyrics. “When you breathe, I wanna be the air for you.” What does that even mean?

“99 In the Shade” contains the lyric that almost named the album: “I see those Sons of Beaches out there living it up, in the surf and the sand, yeah that life ain’t so tough.” This would be the weakest song on the album. It’s a standard Bon Jovi boogie, nothing wrong with it, but it pales compared to the rest of the songs on the record. Having said that if it were on Bon Jovi’s latest, it would be one of the best songs…

A personal favourite is last: “Love For Sale”, recorded live “during one hell of a party”. This drunken jam is among the most magical musical moments on any Bon Jovi album. Consider that it was the 1980’s, and the band just came off the ultra-sleek Slippery When Wet. They threw down a drunken, smoking acoustic blues jam to close the album? Yeah, man – cool! I’m down. It’s hilarious and fun, not to mention Richie just smokes on that six-string. Tico’s on the brushes and Jon sounds blasted.

And that’s New Jersey, an album the band had to be proud of. It went #1 all over the place, and multi-platinum in the US. It’s a curious mix of rootsy hard rock quality, and pop melody. It’s certainly among the best examples of such a mixture.

4.5/5 stars

BONUS GALLERY!  “Born To Be My Baby” 45 rpm single!

I believe this baby was about $2.99 at Zellers in 1988.  It came with postcards which I obviously kept.

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – Greatest Hits: The Ultimate Collection (2 CD)

Part 1 of a 2 part Bon Jovi series.

ULTIMATE BJ_0001BON JOVI – Greatest Hits: The Ultimate Collection (2 CD)

I guess Bon Jovi were due for a new “hits” CD. Crossroads, after all, was 16 years old at that time, and Tokyo Road was only made available in Japan. Ultimate Collection isn’t the ultimate collection that I would have put out.  If you’re going to do two CDs, you have room for great also-rans like “Last Cigarette” and “Something For The Pain”.  Still, it’s not a bad Bon Jovi collection. Listening to it front-to-back, I was pleasantly reminded of all these hits, and man, Bon Jovi had a lot of hits. From early stuff like “Runaway” to the New Jersey classics such as “Born To Be My Baby”, to the newbies like “Have A Nice Day”, this has pretty much all the key Bon Jovi radio hits. Unfortunatly, you’re going to miss out on second-rung hits like “Dry County” and “Joey” but for the uninitiated, or those who just want a good sized Bon Jovi collection, this is the place to go.  I think it’s important to explore albums such as New Jersey (the review of which is Part 2 in this series) and Keep the Faith, as well as hits.

Almost every Bon Jovi album has hits included here, right up to The Circle. The song flow is excellent, hitting you with hit after hit after hit, landmark ballads sprinkled in between. And I give credit for the inclusion of “Blood On Blood”, a song that was never a single but has been a huge concert favourite due to its real life story of JBJ’s childhood. Not to mention it’s just a great song.

ULTIMATE BJ_0003The four new songs create feelings of moderate indifference to great dislike. “What Do You Got?” is another trademark Bon Jovi ballad, certainly nothing special, outshined to a great degree by all the other tunes here. It’s easily forgettable and feels tacked-on as an afterthought. But two of these new songs — “No Apologies” and “The More Things Change” are just awful songs. Cheesy, contrived, choose whatever words you like, they’re juvenile and awful and really don’t fit in among the classier hits. To me these are B-sides and perhaps should have been held back as B-sides.  Or just deleted completely.

Packaging is not the greatest. There are full songwriting and production credits, but they are arranged in such a way as to make finding information difficult. Performance credits are even harder to find — I couldn’t find bassists Hugh McDonald or Alec John Such’s names anywhere in the credits, and their pictures are also not included. There are a few more recent photos of the main four guys. No liner notes.

On the whole, despite the fact that I don’t really like the four new songs, I don’t regret this purchase. It’s going to be a great road CD. It is a good way to hear tunes like “We Weren’t Born To Follow” without listening to the album it came from, which I wasn’t too keen on. So, no regrets. I think most fans will like the album, they might even like the new songs.  Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom enjoyed it in the car and commented that she knew many of the songs.  Newcomers would be wise to pick this up as it has a great hit-per disc ratio!

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Because We Can” (2013 Japanese single)

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BON JOVI – “Because We Can” (2013 Island Records Japanese single)

There was a time I used to look forward to new releases by Bon Jovi.  It’s been a long time since I felt that way.  I thought the band bounced back (pun intended) with 2002’s Bounce, then they lost me immediately again with This Left Feels Right.  I don’t like to give up on bands that I used to feel strongly about, so I decided to check out Bon Jovi’s newest single, “Because We Can”.

I chose the Japanese single as it had one more track than the European.  I had not even heard the song yet.  It is written by Jon, Richie and songsmith Billy Falcon, produced by Jon and John Shanks.  (In other words, more of the same…)  The single came with a small 6-panel fold out poster and lyric booklet in English and Japanese.

The light glare completely erased Dave Bryan from this photo!

The light glare completely erased Dave Bryan from this photo!

Like many fans who have been hanging on long past Bon Jovi’s best before date, I found the song disappointing.  Rather than growing, it sounds like Bon Jovi are returning to the mainstream modern pop sounds of Have A Nice Day or even Lost Highway.  Bon Jovi’s never been the hardest rocking band, but they have written some great passionate rock songs in the past.  “Because We Can”, by title alone, should be in your face and proud of it.  Instead, it’s another faceless Pop Jovi song.  I’m going to write my own Pop Jovi song called “Who Says We Ain’t Strangers Tonight Because We Got It Goin’ On”.

I hate the chorus, it would be embarrassing to be caught singing this one.  There are some nice guitar licks flitting here and there, almost Brian May-like in sound, but barely audible.  Everything is buried under a thick blanket of backing vocals, plastic drums and electronic sounds.  You can barely make out Richie’s voice, and what passes for a guitar solo is really just a layered guitar melody.  At least the Japanese single comes with an instrumental version, which will allow you to hear Richie’s simple and sparing guitar.

The third and final track is a 7 minute live version of “Keep the Faith”, from 2010 in New Jersey.  Even this is slightly more laid back than the original 1992 version.  But at least it shows that Bon Jovi can write and play challenging material while keeping it accessible.   From the manic drum patterns to Richie’s smokin’ solo, this live version is everything that “Because We Can” should be.  Richie really shines on this track; I hope he comes back.  Bon Jovi without Richie ain’t Bon Jovi.

Based on this single, I won’t be buying the new album What About Now unless I find it cheap.

1.5/5 stars