Pop Jovi

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”

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – The Circle (2009 CD/DVD edition)

CIRCLE_0004BON JOVI – The Circle (2009 Island CD/DVD edition)

The Circle is an apt title for this Bon Jovi album. They returned from their pop country detour down the Lost Highway and returned to essentially exactly where they were on the previous album, Have A Nice Day. If you are familiar with Bon Jovi, you know that Have A Nice Day was an OK record full of pop rock like “Last Cigarette”, modern and slick. That’s what this record is too, but that’s starting to get a little old.

First single “We Weren’t Born To Follow” (I find that title ironic as Bon Jovi didn’t spend much of their career leading, musically) is a great, uptempo song with a catchy chorus and slick guitar playing by Richie Sambora. It’s another in a long succession of latter day Pop Jovi successes. The best tune on this record is the the “statement song” regarding the economic collapse: “Work For The Working Man”. However, isn’t there something we’ve heard here before? Doesn’t Hugh McDonald’s bassline sound a lot like the one from “Livin’ On A Prayer”?  Even if it’s little more than a rewrite of the same hook, it’s a great song with a powerful chorus.  It has some muscle to it, and is one of the few songs on the album that does.  Rhythmic and strong, this echoes not only “Prayer” but also “Keep The Faith” in some respects.

Elsewhere on the album, there are some intriguing sounds that almost remind me of the back-to-basics goodness that was These Days, and the heavier moments on Bounce (see: “Bullet”).  However “Bullet” is also bears unpleasant similarities to Collective Soul. There are also moments that take me back to Lost Highway and Crush ,but not in a good way.  Songs like “Fast Cars” and “Brokenpromiseland” (ugh!) just sit there like the flaccid Pop Jovi songs that they are.  Bon Jovi are on cruise control.

CIRCLE_0002My two favourite Bon Jovi albums of recent vintage (ie: post-Keep the Faith) are the criminally underrated These Days, and Bounce. What the band need to do is: A) get their MVP back, Mr. Richie Sambora.  B) write an album without all these outside writers like John Shanks and Billy Falcon, based on rock and roll, not the radio.  The Circle is close at times.  “Learn To Love” for example was written by Jon and Richie with Desmond Child, and approaches a vintage These Days epic quality.

How likely is Bon Jovi to rock out like they used to? The DVD documentary included with this edition of The Circle is not encouraging. Entitled When We Were Beautiful (named for the U2-like song on the album), it is an insightful look into the inner workings of Bon Jovi.  It also has some enticing live clips. (Please, Jon, please! Release a full length audio version of Richie singing “I’ll Be There  For You”, it’s great!) However it is quite clear that Jon is the driving force of the band, and the rest of the guys are salaried employees of the corporation.  Jon is very clear that he’s a businessman and he must make albums that he thinks people will like.  It’s unfortunate that he’s decided that pop music is the answer.  I think it’s unlikely Jon will be breaking new ground again soon.

But you never know.

3/5 stars

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

Part 238: Lightning Strikes

RECORD STORE TALES Part 238:  Lightning Strikes

September, 1994

What a rotten week. I had just started my last year of school.  Fresh with the sting of rejection from that summer’s crush, with shoulders hunched, I cut a lonely figure in the hallways.  All my old school friends were gone. I had taken a bunch of classes that I didn’t like. I had nobody to talk to at school, but thankfully I now had the record store. The store gave me something to look forward to when I didn’t have much else.

I still have lyrics that I wrote from that period, and they’re…well, they reflect my age and some of my emotions at the time:

Evil man,
With demon smell,
Down on your knees,
Back into hell.

I came home from class one morning to discover that a lighting storm had fried my stereo, among many other home appliances. It was a Panasonic deck with CD and cassette. It was just toasted. My sister’s Sony stereo had also burned out in the storm. I was essentially without a good way to listen to music. I still had my lousy Walkman with its crummy earphones, but I didn’t have any way of playing a CD.

While insurance companies sorted out the damages, I waited to replace the stereo. In the meantime, Bon Jovi had just released their new single, “Always”, from their forthcoming greatest hits set called Cross Road. I loved Jon’s heartbroken lyrics, but the really good track was a B-side called “Edge of a Broken Heart”. It was a catchy commercial Pop Jovi song, an outtake from Slippery When Wet, and one of their better tunes. Certainly one of their best B-sides. But I had no equipment to play it on.

Luckily I was going to work on the Sunday, and I was working alone for the whole day. I could therefore listen to whatever I wanted, and I brought a couple discs to work to play. One of them was “Always”, and I looked forward to listening to it. I really enjoyed the slow Sunday shift, as it was only four hours long, and I always worked alone on Sundays.

JOVI

I walked to work as I always did.  I already had a key.  I unlocked and unpacked the pack of CDs that I brought with me.  Bon Jovi was my first selection.   I inserted the disc into the player, and turned up the volume so I could hear the music as I vacuumed.

I was startled by two figures at the door.  My boss, the store owner, was one, and the other was Trevor who was our new hire. What the hell were they doing there? Meanwhile, they had that exact same question for me!

“I’m opening the store…what are you doing here?” I responded.

“I’m here to train Trevor,” my boss answered. “and Trevor’s scheduled to work today.”

“No…I’m scheduled. Aren’t I?”

A quick look at the calendar had revealed that Trevor was scheduled in, and I had the day off!

“Shit…to be honest I was really looking forward to working, my stereo is blown at home and I have these new CDs!” We had a laugh at my expense, and I left feeling a little like an idiot.  I was mostly disappointed that I didn’t get to play my new Bon Jovi.

It was another week before I finally got my new stereo. Having the ability to play CDs again was a salve, to soothe my aching soul. I could not believe how much I missed it. That brief period without the ability to play my discs was a dark start to the school year. Gratefully, it got better after that!