120 million albums sold, 2600 concerts played, in over 50 countries and a total attendance of 36 million fans. All this success in a rock orientated genre... but now a country album? Yes, long gone are the days of scarily large hair and tight trousers it seems for Bon Jovi who return with their 10th, country orientated, studio album, ‘Lost Highway’.
The title track of the album, ‘Lost Highway’, is a particular favourite of mine. It shows imagination executed well through the use of the pedestal and the violin... Oh my god country instruments! However, the rough guitar and acoustic sounds also save Bon Jovi fans from the thought that this album would resemble country songs by slack-jawed yokels. In fact, it is hard to pin-point the country in the song due to the arrangement and it still holds clear sounds of traditional Bon Jovi. It is a song of optimism and holds the message of breaking free from the past and driving forward to clearer skies.
‘Summertime’ is a disappointingly pedestrian song on the album. The ‘we will rock you’ drum beat intro is a rather clichéd approach for Bon Jovi, as they have always been anything but a traditional rock band. The whole song isn’t one which stays in the mind and straight from the opening chords, you want it to be over.
‘You Want to Make a Memory’ is an elegant affectionate ballad, which incorporates a lightly toned vocal with sophisticated lyrics speaking of the memories between a boy and girl, what else would it be about? Until the ending chorus where the vocals are taken up a pitch and stretched however, the song is disappointingly average. The solo is short, the keyboard is weak and the drums non- existent...poor Tico. The song wants so badly to become a hit but it just isn’t powerful enough.
‘Whole lot of leavin’ is a song which reminds me of autumn, in that it is mellow and speaks of darker times approaching, ‘seems like lately there’s a whole lotta leavin goin on’. The song itself shows the internal structure to ‘Lost Highway’, as Jon wrote the song for his right hand man Richie, who suffered a divorce and death of his father. It is an emotional song, but the meaning behind it is subtle, as the music is rather jolly and current. The soft guitar sound used in the beginning, changes into a full throttle power chord orientated song, which again highlights Richie’s skill in playing the guitar with emotion. The solo is also particularly effective as the guitar screams into a breakdown, where Jon is accompanied by the soft guitar rhythm, to use the lyric ‘do we got it anymore?’ With the volume turned up, it’s hard not to go ‘Hell yeah!!!’
‘We got it goin on’ is a definite crowd pleaser and a song which brings the rock into ‘lost highway’. It is stuffed full of classic Richie Sambora talk box action and gravely vocals. The highlight of the song is the talk box solo, which is cleverly crafted and inspires the whole song. The song also includes name checks for Jon and Richie and the immortal line ‘we’ll be bangin and sangin just like the Rolling Stones’ Anyone who does not want to party after this song must be socially retarded.
‘Any Other Day’ is a hidden classic on the album. It holds a reminiscent chorus, immediately catchy and inspiring. The tone of the voice and lyrics match the moody rhythmic drum beat which quickens to form a power chorus, which is a trade mark of this band... ‘Livin on a Prayer’ anyone? The lyrics are well done and the high-point for me is the almost ‘tick-tock’ beat of the drum in the verses which matches lyrics such as ‘alarm clock rings’ and ‘hit that snooze button these three times’. It can be played in any environment and is, therefore, timeless.
‘Seat Next to you’ is another one of those downers on the album, recording the bands feelings to their home life, a rare insight into their world. The slide used for the intro adds a great deal of emotion, as the guitar seems to whine and make an effort to create the soft sounds. This relates directly to the love-story lyrics used and creates a great mellow song.
‘Everybody’s broken’ is a solid ballad with the title highlighting its message. The guitar chords used create a very clever progression, and when the chorus peaks, the gain on Richie’s guitar really gets the full impact it deserves. The drum beat is relaxed, and the keyboard work intricate, which puts emphasis on the guitar work. A steady drum beat allows the vocals to gain their depth, as Jon can stretch the notes without worrying of being overpowered by the backings, therefore putting across the key message of the song. Like ‘Any other day’ I feel that it is a stadium classic, and these two songs are the highlights on the album.
‘Till we aint strangers anymore’ is a soulful ballad, and the only track on the album involving a duet with LeAnn Rimes, and their voices blended and melded as one well. The Mandolin introduction, sets the songs mellow tone promoting Jon’s vocal range and delivering that power, missing from ‘You want to make a memory’. Having said that, the song becomes a bit too soppy as the music breaks down and is ruined by the lyric ‘make love with me baby’. Hair metal Bon Jovi fans look away now!
‘The Last Night’ captures the theme of a changing wind and relates to troubling modern times, ‘these days it’s hard to have a heart’, to help being offered through another, ‘I’ll be the shoulder you can lean on’. This help comes through the chorus which forms optimism to the surrounding depth of content held in the verses.
‘One Step Closer’ is a pleasant tune with clever mandolin picking. It’s about a change in mentality, much like the record itself in moving away from socially conscious records to the internal ‘Lost Highway’. It is a pleasant song for the record but one I feel cannot be called on regularly, unlike other songs from the album which will leave you pressing repeat.
‘I Love This Town’ is a suitable end to the record and is the most country-orientated song of the album, allowing Jon to put a country swing into the vocals. It carries the message of small town and hometown pride, but it’s not for me. The lyrics don’t appeal to me in any way...maybe that’s because I don’t love my town, but it just appears to me as a cheesy song, trying to promote the unity of America (Long live the American Dream!!!). In fact, the song was used for major league baseball, so it relates to the common American citizen... very over the top and because of that- rather annoying.
This is a country album but its country influence is only small which, depending on your view, is a blessing or a curse. Yes, the songs would not hold their own on the ‘crossroads’ album, however, stop looking back people!! I see no problem with this album and it is a brilliant addition, yet typically, people will criticise it for Bon Jovi were too clever for their own good in producing ‘Livin on a Prayer’. Basically, get over the past brilliance, take an open mind, and you will find this album inspiring.