It’s impossible not to mention Bon Jovi when you’re about to review one of the members solo stunts. Listening to Bon Jovi of today, it’s easy to grasp why the other members want to go out on these adventures as Bon Jovi is nothing but Jon Bon Jovi’s solo career nowadays and not the band it used to be. Since the late nineties, Bon Jovi has left everything that was the band and is now nothing but but a dull pop band that doesn’t even come alive in a live environment. Which must be Hell for a creative and brilliant musician like Sambora. A musician with his roots in the blues and who also loves it when it rocks! Even though he probably likes the money that Bon Jovi brings in, musically the band have stagnated long ago. So for Richie to go solo and do something totally different to what he does with his day job isn’t exactly a surprising move. He did just that twice before. His first excursion as a solo artist, Stranger In This Town from 1991 was a brilliant record, full of his bluesy roots that for the first time showed a different side to Sambora and it was also the first time we made his acquaintance as a lead singer. Turned out that Sambora just wasn’t a good singer, he showed that he was a fantastic singer full of heart and soul and superior to the rest of his band in that department. It also turned out that, even if everybody knew that he was a great guitarist, we didn’t know how good he was and still is! He even got Eric Clapton to play on the track “Mr Bluesman”. On his 1998 outing Undiscovered Soul, also a very strong record but not as strong, he went more in an American West Coast rock way. Unfortunatley, neither of his albums became platinum sellers like the records he had made with Bon Jovi as the Bon Jovi fans probably didn’t get it and those who weren’t fans didn’t care because of who he was and he got stuck somewhere in the middle.
So, after years and years with mediocre radio pop albums with Bon Jovi, Sambora has once again had enough and decided for a third try in the solo artist world. This time he digs deep down into himself and reveals a lot of his personal demons that have reared their ugly heads throughout the last 10 years or so, because Richie has had some rough years behind him. Not only did he got divorced from his wife of many years, actress Heather Locklear and had to become a single father, he also had a hard battle with prescription pills and alcohol. He is now several years sober and both looks and sounds healthy and happy. Hence the title Aftermath Of The Lowdown.
This time he has again taken a different road to what he normally does and this time he means business. The record isn’t only lyrically important to him, but also as a musician and more importantly as a guitar player. Because on here, he shreds. He shreds like I have never heard him shred before. The guitar playing here is sometimes very aggressive, but the fact is this kind of playing suits him well, just as well as the blues suits does. The poor guy must have been starving for stuff like this after have been held back in Bon Jovi for all these years. And I love it! He goes a bit alternative on the opener “Burn The Candle Down”, but it rocks harder than anything Bon Jovi has done in decades and it is a killer track. “Every Road Leads Home To You” is the first single and it is a pop song, but a great pop song. “Takin’ A Chance On The Wind” is almost southern rock, bluesy but very catchy, “Nowadays” is straight forward pop rock, but with a punky attitude and “Weathering The Storm” is a loud ballad that hits you right in the guts. Brilliant! “Seven Years Gone”, this title really says it all, doesn’t it?, starts out as a ballad, but turns into a hard rock song – brilliantly arranged and “Learning How To Fly With A Broken Wing” is a heavy hard rock song that borders to metal and Sambora does that kind of music very well. There is not much to complain about here unless maybe “I Will Always Walk Beside you”, a pretty dull U2-ish track that goes nowhere.
In a fair world, this album (all of his albums, as a matter of fact) should sell millions. This is the stuff Sambora should be doing full time, not playing second fiddle to Jon Bon Jovi. Richie Sambora is one of the world’s most underrated guitarists and singers and Bon Jovi doesn’t equal respect. Today, that’s correct, but back in the day, Bon Jovi was a fabulous rock band that had their hearts in everything they did. That’s probably why Sambora hasn’t got the attention as a musician that he deserves. Hopefully all that will change with this album and the tour that will follow. I won’t be in the crowd when Bon Jovi tours next year, but when Sambora does, I’ll be in the front row. See you there!
Jon Wilmenius (8/10)
1. Burn That Candle Down
2. Every Road Leads Home To You
3. Taking A Chance On The Wind
5. Weathering The Storm
6. Sugar Daddy
7. I’ll Always Walk Beside You
8. Seven Years Gone
9. Learning How To Fly With A Broken Wing
10. You Can Only Get So High