A new record from Bon Jovi doesn’t exactly make me jump for joy these days. Especially when said album only contain leftovers from some of their later records. I’m sorry, but if Bon Jovi’s last few records sucked ass, then how good can a record full of leftovers from those albums be? Oh me oh my! Apparently, this album is more of a final statement and to say goodbye to en era. First, Bon Jovi has decided to part company with their record company for over 30 years, Mercury Records and the split doesn’t seem friendly at all. Another split within the Bon Jovi camp that hasn’t been friendly either is the one from guitarist / song writer / singer Richie Sambora, a guy that to many fans was as important to the band and its sound as Jon Bon Jovi himself. Sambora was the guy with the blues influences and the Hard Rock guy in the band, the guy who made sure that Bon Jovi were a Rock band instead of a Pop band. With Sambora gone, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how much Rock Bon Jovi will be in the future, especially when you consider the fact that Bon Jovi hasn’t been a Rock band for at least 10 years or so, even with Sambora in the band. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out at least one of the reasons for him to leave the band. That said, Sambora do play on this album and I guess that was the whole point of releasing it – goodbye to Richie Sambora and to Mercury records and welcome to a new label – whatever that might be – and welcome a new guitarist – whoever he might be, Matt O’Ree or Phil X or whoever. My guess is that Bon Jovi now will continue as a three-piece of JBJ, drummer Tico Torres and keyboard player David Bryan. I think the new guitarist will be a non-official member just like bass player Hugh McDonald who replaced Alec John Such in 1994. Be that as it may, Bon Jovi hasn’t been a real band for 20 years or so – the rest of the band was reduced to Jon’s backup band ages ago. Bon Jovi in 2015 aren’t anything else than Jon Bon Jovi with a bunch of hired hands and the Bon Jovi sound has been gone for equally as long. You might have guessed that I don’t have much faith in Jon and his boys anymore, but I need to stress that I was once a huge fan of this band – I still listen to the first five Bon Jovi records with much pleasure. But the band that has given us useless shite like Lost Highway (2007), the underwhelming – to say the least – The Circle (2009) and the 2013 stinker What About Now (reviewed here) or the mediocre half Pop / half Rock stuff like Crush (2000), Bounce (2002) and Have A Nice Day (2005) has little to do with the band I once held so dear. So if I’m no longer a fan of the band, why even bother with a review, then? Well, see, as a former fan, I’m still curious to see what JBJ will come up with and I guess that even though this lot make me disappointed time and again, there is still a part of me that has hope that JBJ will turn things around and make Bon Jovi a Rock band again. Maybe because I know that there is a rocker inside the mainstream Pop dork somewhere.
Opener “Teardrop To the Sea” bring little hope, though. First of all, the song is a ballad. Hey Jon, no rock band – no band in whatever genre – open an album with a ballad – ever! That said, the song isn’t all that bad, quite the contrary. It’s dark and melancholic and wouldn’t have been a bad fit on These Days (1995). Sambora’s solo is damn amazing here and the guitars are surprisingly high in the mix. But the song should have been number three or four in the set list. First single – and one of two songs that aren’t leftovers – “We Don’t Run” turns out to be a real killer. Where earlier singles like “Because We Can” fails miserable, this one really bring out som hope for the future. It’s an ultra catchy song, but it holds a much heavier rhythm than Bon Jovi has given us in years. And before you say anything, to just turn up the guitars a notch does not count as heavy! Just saying if anyone wants to point out the somewhat louder guitars on The Circle – that album is neither heavy or a Rock album! “Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning” is also a newie, but this one doesn’t give me as much hope. It’s an ok pop song that has more in common with mediocre stuff like “Someday I’ll be Saturday Night” or “Captain Crash And The Beauty Queen From Mars”. It’s also a complete rip-off of Nickelback’s “Gotta Be Somebody”. But with “We All Fall Down” we’re right back in the slime that Bon Jovi has been giving us lately. It’s a mediocre, radio friendly Pop ballad, no more, no less – dull! Another ballad follows, “Blind Love” and this is even more boring than the last one. Give this one to a person with a sleeping disorder – problem solved! “Who Would You Die For” is another soft Pop song that lies on the ballad border. It’s a bit darker than what we’re used to but still forgettable – not bad, but not that good either. Then comes – you guessed it – another ballad. This one is called “Fingerprints”, but as a rather big surprise, this one is really good. It has grandeur and it sounds big, although Sambora’s backing vocals is way too low in the mix. But his guitar solo here is bloody great! “Life Is Beautiful” is an uptempo acoustic guitar based Hard Pop song, it’s ok, but forgettable. Sixx A.M. has a song with the same title, listen to that one instead, it’s way, way better. “I’m Your Man” is pretty good and sounds like it could be off Crush. It’s an uptempo Pop rocker that will probably work live, but won’t go down in history as one of Bon Jovi’s greats. They end the record with the title track, an acoustic sing-along pub rock song. It may work in the background with 10 beers downed, otherwise it’s a pretty useless tune. However, the lyrics here speak volumes about their split with Mercury Records. how about this: “After 30 years of loyalty, they let you dig the grave / Now maybe you can learn to sing or strum along / Well I’ll give you half the publishing / You’re why I wrote this song.”. Not much left for the imagination, is there?
To be honest, I’m a little surprised that a throwaway album like this actually is better than many of the later “real” Bon Jovi records. Well, “better” might not be the right word here, let’s go with “less bad” instead. But that doesn’t mean that this album is that much to write home about. Nope, the album contain too many forgettable and dull ballads and softies, Pop songs that sounds like they have been written exclusively for some radio executive somewhere. However, the new written tune, “We Don’t Run” actually bode well for the future – maybe all the crap that has happened lately in Jon’s life, not only with the record company and Sambora, but also the fact that Jon’s daughter has been battling a heroin addiction, may have put some anger back in Jon’s body and maybe his new music will mirror that. That said, no music in the world is worth your children’s bad health and we cross our fingers that she will be fully recovered. But how will a Bon Jovi future without Richie Sambora turn out? I will keep myself posted on that subject, of course, but despite the fact that their new single is really good, I have little hope that Bon Jovi will release anything worthwhile in 2016 when their new album comes out. My hope is that JBJ realise that he has lost his plot and that he realise that it’s time to let his hair down and rock again and reunite with both Sambora and Such and go back to what made them a huge act in the first place – five musicians and friends jamming in some garage trying hard to create the next big thing. Call me naive, but I really believe that that could happen!
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
8. Life Is Beautiful
9. I’m Your Man
10. Burning Bridges