Review Summary: Bon Jovi take a stab at writing a music album.
Bon Jovi is an American rock band best known for their feel good catchy 80s rock songs. World known anthems such as ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ and ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ are still played regularly on radio stations and it’s practically impossible to not have heard at least one of these tracks.
A part of the hair metal movement, the band looked destined to be left behind with the rest of makeup heavy rockers as the heyday of that musical movement reached its end. Bon Jovi could see that change was coming, so they adapted to the times with a more mature sound, releasing their fifth album ‘Keep the Faith’ towards the end of 1992.
The band not only shifted musical style, but also changed their look. Leaving behind the big hair and hot pants, Bon Jovi became focused in mixing the sound that made them successful in the 80s, with a new sound that would help them survive in the 90s. This album, and their sixth album, are deeper, more mature and have a more hard rock feel to them.
‘I Believe’ opens the album in brilliant fashion, as a distorted guitar riffs fades in surrounded by Jon’s voice, the riff then gives way to a brilliant hard rock riff. Jon shows that he still has the best mainstream voice in the business as he starts to sing with same real emotion. The song follows a typical hard rock structure, including a memorable solo and a catchy chorus. ‘Keep the Faith’ follows the opener and somehow manages to upstage it. The song is hopeful without being happy, there is a particularly beautiful part when the song slows down and a marching soldier drum beat is played, the emotion that Jon puts in those couple of verses are truly touching.
‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’ and ‘In These Arms’ were hits in their time, and they are closer to the usual Jovi. The former is a typical party song, it has a simple drum beat and a good chorus, but it’s nothing too special. The latter is an insanely catchy song, even though musically the song is simple. ‘Bed of Roses’ follows and I’m sure anybody who has ever had their heart broken has heard it. Bon Jovi has made a career from ballads, and by the early 90s they had already mastered their formula. ‘Bed Of Roses’ follows a typical pattern, as a soft piano and guitar riff are played. Despite the beautiful lyrics, Jon actually wrote the song while on a hangover and the lyrics represent what he was feeling at the time.
‘If I Was Your Mother’ and ‘Fear’ are the heaviest rock songs on the album, and the former could be Bon Jovi heaviest song ever. Despite its cringe worthy title, ‘If I Was Your Mother’ is a great song, with some of Sambora more memorable work. ‘Fear’ has a memorable riff and a decent chorus, but overall nothing too special.
The album dips a bit in quality towards the end, ‘Woman in love’ is just bland musically and lyrically and ‘Blame it on the love of rock n’ roll’ is just a weaker version of ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’. ‘I Want You’ has a great chorus, but the solo is weak and the verses are average. The closer is an okay blues song with some soul influence, and the band seems to be genuinely having fun with it, but the song is just nothing really worth mentioning.
I’ve mentioned the opening songs on the album, and I’ve briefly mentioned the closing points, so all I have left is that one song right in the middle, a little number called ‘Dry County’. This is by far the best track on the album, and also the best track any member of Bon Jovi has ever recorded and probably ever will. Clocking at just less than 10 minutes, ‘Dry County’ is about a small town recently hit by a decline in the oil industry and its inhabitants who have come to rely on this industry to survive. It is truly the definition of an epic ballad, starting with a dark piano and consisting of numerous of rises, climaxes and two long and powerful guitar solos. ‘Dry County’ is truly one of the perfect songs of the 90s, the chorus is catchy and the lyrics are unique but since it focuses on the hopelessness people feel in such situation, it will ring home with many different people.
‘Dry County’ is an important point in the band’s history, since it’s the moment, for me anyway, that Bon Jovi stopped being entertainers and for at least 9 minutes they became musicians that are not trying to please the masses but instead are attempting to write something truly special.
Bon Jovi continued to develop this sound with the more introspective ‘These Days’, and then went back to the more stadium rock music they are known for, with mixed results. It’s now 2012, and Bon Jovi have been releasing mainly below par albums for most of the last decade. It seems that after 20 years, they have not found another reason to try to write some actual music with some actual feelings. But hey Its their life.