This Ain’t a Love Song

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – These Days (Special Edition)

Bought this at Encore Records for $10.

THESE DAYS FRONT

BON JOVI – These Days (Special Edition, 2010, Universal Music)

Just as a general comment on the series of Bon Jovi “Special Edition” remasters from 2010:  They’re crap.  Sorry but they are. A couple unreleased live tracks? That’s it? Come on.  They remastered these things 10 years ago and I bought them all then.  I’ve bought almost every Bon Jovi album, in some cases multiple times. These Days? Three times now, just to get all the bonus tracks scattered hither and yon.  For that reason these Bon Jovi remasters are in my $10 or less purchase range.

As for the album, These Days, I think it’s the best Bon Jovi album.  It’s definitely more laid back than any previous Jovi platter, but it has a genuine quality to it that I like.  You may like the cheesey 80’s keyboard sounds yourself, but in 1995 Bon Jovi couldn’t release an album like that.  Keep the Faith was a great success, but These Days took the band to a new, darker, more soulful place. The production, once overly glossy, has been reduced to a purer, more live sonic clarity. This is a very organic album and many tracks sound live off the floor, such as “Diamond Ring”.  Tico’s got a great drum sound on this album too, the snare has a great tonal quality.

Lyrically, Jon has never sounded more real and heartfelt. A song like “These Days” gets me right where it hurts every time. Unfortunately, the biggest hit from this album was the single “This Ain’t A Love Song”. Well, it may not be a love song, but it sure sounds a lot like others I’ve heard, like “Always”.  Contrasting the generic ballad were some heavier rockers.  “Hey God” is positively angry. “Damned” has swagger.  Bon Jovi are always melodic, but the chorus in the infectious “Something For The Pain” is just awesome. “If That’s What It Takes” and “Hearts Breaking Even” are memorable and as strong as any previous Bon Jovi hit, but sadly remained overlooked.  The quiet “(It’s Hard) Letting You Go” is one of Bon Jovi’s best ballads ever, because it’s so understated, with the actual vocal delivering the song.

The best song is the brilliant “Something To Believe In”. If I was going to pick one song as the absolute peak of Bon Jovi’s entire career, it could be this one (tied with “Dry County”). Driven by some sparse dark bass and piano, it soon picks up the pace. Richie’s backing vocals punctuate Jon’s powerful chorus beautifully, and you won’t be able to get that “Hey! hey! hey!” out of your head.

Yeah, I’m a sap.  I love this album!

I like Eddie Vedder best.

What really sets These Days apart are the sweet harmonies of Jon and Richie.  They’ve always done great work together vocally but These Days is a whole level beyond that.  If you are a fan of Richie Sambora, I think you will enjoy These Days.  In a very real sense I think this represents Sambora’s greatest contributions to Bon Jovi.

This new remastered edition has two live bonus tracks, which unfortunately are both ballads.  “This Ain’t A Love Song” is one, I guess because it was the hit single.  Shame they didn’t use “Hey God”.  “Diamond Ring” is the other live ballad.  This one was a bit of a cult song I guess.  They wrote it back in the days of New Jersey and almost released it, a few times.   It got bootlegged and became an underground favourite.  This live version is recorded in Italy.  It’s great to hear Jon and Richie singing together like this, but again, I wish they put on a rocker instead of a ballad.  Richie’s guitar solo is awesome though.

My preferred edition, which I will cover in a separate future review, is the European 2 disc edition.  In a beautiful magnetic digipack, it contained lots of bonus tracks:  “All I Want Is Everything”, “Bitter Wine”, “Fields Of Fire” (Demo), “I Thank You”, “Mrs. Robinson”, “Let’s Make It Baby” (Demo), “I Don’t Like Mondays”, “Crazy” (live, lead vocals by Tico Torres), “Tumblin’ Dice” (live, lead vocals by David Bryan), “Heaven Help Us All” (live, lead vocals by Richie Sambora).

There are other editions with bonus tracks, including an Australian edition with a live CD (this is on my “want” list).  There were plenty of singles, and I’ll cover each of those in future reviews as well, because they each contained notable bonus tracks.   One was a track called “Lonely At The Top”, which to me sounds like it’s about Frances Bean Cobain. It has the lyric, “Tell Frannie I’m sorry she didn’t get to know her dad.” There was even a (great) cover of “Rockin’ In The Free World”, as well as a cover of “634-5789”, which featured Jon cracking up and laughing right in the middle of a verse!

So there you go. Get this album, but buy wisely.  Choose an edition that suits your bonus track needs (or lack thereof).

5/5 stars for the album, -1 for this ripoff edition!

Below, pictures and tracklists for all the singles that I have from this album, as well as the Special Edition 2 CD set from 1996.  It was a digipack with a neat magnetic clasp to keep it closed.