Review Summary: A misunderstood record.
Bon Jovi has always been an easy to listen to band, playing for the most part mainstream pop rock music filled with memorable hooks. During the 80s, Bon Jovi released a total of 4 albums, with their most successful being ‘Slippery When Wet’ and ‘New Jersey’. Bon Jovi released positive radio friendly music throughout this era, creating classics like ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ and ‘Bad medicine’.
When the 80s ended, and the hair metal movement lost all its steam, Bon Jovi were smart enough to realize they had to change with the times, or risk being left behind. ‘Keep The Faith’ was the resulting record. A more mature sound could be found on this album, although the positive anthem rock influence could still be found in tracks such as ‘In These Arms’ and ‘Keep The Faith’.
‘Crossroads’ was released in the year of ’94, resulting in one of Bon Jovi’s biggest hits ‘Always’. The somber lyrics accompanying the song was a breathe of fresh air from the band, and ‘These Days’ continued to develop that.
‘These Days’ is a slower and darker Bon Jovi record. The band abandons their optimistic view of the world, for a deeper more cynical view. This can be seen in the brilliant opener ‘Hey God’, one of the few heavy songs on the album. Jon gives one of his best vocal performances here, as he brings together different stories of people living on the edge of the world. No more do they sing about keeping faith, as he repeats:
‘I know how busy you must be, but Hey God...
Do you ever think about me"’
‘Something for the pain’ follows the usual Bon Jovi formula closer; but Sambora gives the song a blues feel that is more reminiscence of his solo work than the usual Bon Jovi songs. The next three songs are all ballads, and individually their all good songs, but together they do seem to drag a bit. The title track is a fan favorite. It starts with a haunting ballad progression, as it slowly builds to a powerful climax, throughout Jon sings about the loss of innocence and homelessness.
The album picks up the pace with the bluesy ‘Damned’. Featuring one of Sambora’s best riffs and a catchy chorus, this song could easily be a crowd favorite at concerts but Bon Jovi have decided to ignore this song for most of the last 15 years. ‘My Guitar Lies Bleeding in My Arms’ follows ‘Damned’ and it’s the best song on the album. A depressive lyrics about the loss of love and inspiration, this a song which is substance over flash, something that has become quite rare in recent Bon Jovi records. ‘My Guitar..’ like the title track has a progressive song structure as its constantly building in intensity until it reaches a climax.
As expected following some great rock songs, Bon Jovi have to include some ballads. ‘(Its Hard) Letting You Go’ is the slowest song on the album, actually it’s the slowest song Jovi have ever recorded. The lyrics are cheesy and the songs drags, but a strong close to the song save it from being a total waste. ‘Hearts Breaking Even’ has no such luck. It’s a lesser version of songs we have heard Bon Jovi release countless times before.
The album picks up with ‘Something to believe in’. Jon sings about the false hope we cling to, claiming that we are aware that it’s nothing more than an illusion. Tico’s drums are left a bit of room to shine here; also Bryan’s keyboards play a huge part in giving this song its atmospheric feel.
‘Diamond Ring’ is a little acoustic number which closes the album. It ends the album on a positive note, even if the song is nothing to write home about, although the lyrics have a certain charm to them.
‘These Days’ was a moderate success, especially in Europe and Japan. After a world tour and a couple years’ hiatus, Bon Jovi returned to their more optimistic and more marketable song writing, resulting in a decade of mediocrity.