Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi



by ReturnToRock USER (303 Reviews)
November 7th, 2007 | 19 replies

Release Date: 1984 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A strong formative album from a band that would soon go on to fame and fortune. Cheesy, yes, but insanely addictive.

Bon Jovi. One of the most widely ridiculed bands of 80’s hair rock (along the likes of Europe or Poison), they nevertheless – like the aforementioned bands – managed to score a plethora of hits in the ten-year spectrum of 1985 – 1995. However, before Slippery When Wet brought along fame, fortune and superstardom (and girls, don’t forget girls!), Bon Jovi were just another aspiring New York band.

Well, not exactly «just another» band. After all, their lead singer, Jon Bon Jovi, was the son of renowned NY producer Tony Bongiovi. And he did collaborate with professional songwriters on his songs. So Bon Jovi were a notch above their peers when it came to chances to succeed.

Still, their 1984 debut is best viewed as a formative album. Jon and fellow co-founder David Bryan (Rashbaum) were still groping around looking for their sound, which by this time was lost somewhere between mainstream 80’s pop and the then-incipient glam-rock scene. That explains why tunes on this album range from the pure synthesized 80’s pop of Burning for Love (with Tico Torres’ drums sounding like an electronic drum machine) and the all-out arena rock of Get Ready.

Still, lack of direction notwithstanding, this is an excellent album. The playing is focused, the vocals are self-assured and pleasant, and the choruses are HUGE. Jon’s backing band is tight, with Bryan’s keyboard hogging the spotlight, but sometimes being pushed aside by the heavy guitar riffs of a certain Mr. Richie Sambora. Sambora first introduces himself on the second track, Roulette (opener Runaway was recorded with an entirely different band) and he makes quite a powerful first impression, with a solid, heavy hard rock riff. The heaviness is then mellowed out by Bryan’s omnipresent keyboard, but it helps provide the edge to such songs as Roulette, Get Ready or even power ballad Love Lies. His soloing is also good; never too show-offy, but technical enough to impress seasoned hard-rockers.

The rest of the band is bassist Alec John Such – who, like 90% of other bassists, merely does what is asked of him – and drummer Tico Torres (who, as noted above, sometimes sounds like a drum machine, mostly due to his alarming tendency to NOT use the crash cymbal, or for that matter, any cymbal at all). With the two constituting a solid rhythm section, the dividing factor is inevitably Jon Bon’s voice. As we all know, it’s mellow. Too mellow. At a time when singers such as Vince Neil and Steven Tyler were wailing their way into timpani everywhere, Jon prefers to adopt a smoother tone that aims for every young girl’s heart. This makes his lyrical attempts at bravado – Get Ready – sound a bit limp, but works perfectly in the more «romantic» songs, which explains why girls everywhere took to him like bees to honey, but also why most hard rockers will have nothing to do with him.

And then there are the professional songwriters. The fact that each of these nine songs was carefully crafted to be a radio hit detracts considerably from Jon & Co’s street cred. No wonder the best songs – to hard rock ears – are the ones where Jon and band are left to their own songwriting devices. Those are the tracks in which the band’s rocking capability reveals itself in the fullest, with Sambora’s huge riffs finally coming through.

Still, as I have said, the keyboard is the domineering element in these compositions. No wonder a keyboard is the first instrument we hear on this record – in this case played by the keyboardist for the E Street Band. It is the lead-in to Bon Jovi’s first bona fide hit, Runaway, and it has the strange particularity of not being performed by Bon Jovi. Sure, it’s Jon singing, but his backing band is an entirely different ensemble called the All-Star Review. This explains why the bass is much more intervenient, popping up from time to time with some quality fills. Overall, a strong track, although unashamedly poppy in its nature.

The glam factor is somewhat increased by following track Roulette, the first where the actual band play together, only to be brought down low again by the over-sappy cover of She Don’t Know Me and another very poppy number (with a huge chorus), Shot Through The Heart. Then it’s power-ballad time with Love Lies – a pretty good representative of the genre and only on track 6 does the glam aspect come up again. Breakout is the glammiest, Los Angeles-iest track here, and it could have been a Poison outtake. However, seventh track Hungry for Love, wouldn’t sound awkward in the hands of any 80’s pop-rock artist. Torres’ drums are at their most synthetic, and listening to the track brings forth images of cheesy VH1 video-clips. Fortunately, the remaining two tracks up the hard rock ante once more and make a whopping double-punch finale. Come Back – the absolute BEST chorus on the album – and the aforementioned Get Ready finally make hard rockers glad they stuck by for the duration of this album, simultaneously providing a nice bridge to the band’s later hard rock sound.

All in all, then, Bon Jovi’s first album is a solid effort, much better than the tripe the band has been putting out lately, but suffers a bit from lack of definition. The band hadn’t settled on what sonic route to follow just yet – a common situation in formative albums like this – but were quickly honing their writing skills, providing a good bunch of strong tracks for this eponymous debut.

PS: Aldo Nova is reportedly here somewhere, but I still haven’t been able to find him.

Reccomended Tracks

Shot Through The Heart
Come Back
Get Ready

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Comments:Add a Comment 
November 7th 2007


Hahahaha...bon jovi

November 7th 2007


Great review, except for:

Bon Jovi were just another aspiring New York band.

I know they come from New Jersey. Maybe you're talking about something else though.

I've only heard "Runaway", though, the newer material stands out to me more.This Message Edited On 11.07.07

November 8th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

New Jersey is across from New York :D

June 23rd 2012


Album Rating: 2.5

Predictable and boring album.

December 30th 2012


dude u have issues a 4 ???????????????

April 6th 2013


Actually, this is quite entertaining. I agree this is an overrated band, but they have their good
songs here and there.

They were my fav band for a time. But that changed once I got into metal.

July 26th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

Troo metal for troo party clowns

May 24th 2014


Album Rating: 3.5

Runaway is a jam

May 24th 2014


It's an alright album.
Slippery, New Jersey and These Days are much better, though.

May 24th 2014


Runaway is the only song I've heard from this, but it's definitely my favorite Bon Jovi song.

May 24th 2014


Roulette is a catchy song, nice chorus.

August 23rd 2016


Album Rating: 3.5

caught up in a game you can't win!

August 23rd 2016


u smell that? yeah, smells like cheeeeeeeese

August 23rd 2016


Album Rating: 3.5

cheese makes everything better!

August 23rd 2016


well......while it usually does, not all cheese is good

August 23rd 2016


Album Rating: 3.5

dude, just jam this the next time you and your boys are hangin out....they'll appreciate it hard

August 24th 2016


never liked bon jovi so i dont know bud

December 16th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

hahawas yankin ur chain dude

but Roulette goes pretty fucking hard

January 15th 2018


Album Rating: 3.0

A solid debut, with half a dozen great songs. A fun record.

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