Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Brother Cane's lineup changed shortly before they hit the studio to record this album, and the group's music has certainly changed a bit since their self-titled debut release in 1993. The band's second LP, Seeds, is a slick, heavy recording that dares to oppose '90s punk rock with their own combination of classic '70s rock and '90s grunge. The music and lyrics flow throughout, making it a very likable record. Standouts include "And Fools Shine On" and "Breadmaker."
Monday, January 30, 2012
A Southern grunge band that is a cross between the Black Crowes and Guns n' Roses with a twist of Aerosmith. Although the harmonica laced rocker, "Got No Shame" received at bit of airplay in the mid '90's, the rest of the album is just as good. Winding through sleazy rockers such as "Hard Act to Follow", "The Road" and "Make Your Play" , guitarist/vocalist Damon Johnson stellar guitar work and haunting voice proved to be every inch as good as his influences.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Meredith Brooks' debut album, Blurring the Edges is one of the most blatant examples of post-Alanis Morissette marketing by the record industry. At her musical core, Brooks is more like Sheryl Crow -- namely, a classic rocker with slightly edgy lyrics. She even works with producer David Ricketts , the former partner of Crows's Tuesday Night Music Club collaborator, David Baerwald. Ricketts gives Blurring the Edges a radio-friendly polish, one that glosses over any of the grit in Brooks' songs. And on the album's first single, "Bitch," Brooks and Ricketts devise an Alanis clone, from the semi-profane lyrics to the caterwauling chorus. "Bitch" isn't indicative of the rest of the album, which is considerably calmer and aimed at adult alternative stations, and while she fits neatly into the confines of that format, she doesn't really do anything to distinguish herself from the legions of similar post-alternative singer/songwriters. Blurring the Edges isn't necessarily a bad album --Brooks is a competent melodicist and her lyrics are occasionally promising -- yet it isn't a distinctive one.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
This band has the unique distinction of being both legendary and critically acclaimed, yet also something of a glorified one-hit wonder. After a platinum debut Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars and the massive hit "What I Am," the disappointing reception of their follow-up, Ghost of a Dog, led to a breakup that's lasted over 15 years. Can the brilliance of their breakthrough be recaptured in a very different musical climate? Well, the title says it all: Stranger Things have happened. The good news is that Brickell, besides still being a powerful and quirky singer/songwriter, joined forces with her old bandmates for purely creative reasons, rather than commercial or label pressure. It's almost like she's reconnecting with an audience who has stayed loyal through a few solo efforts and years of waiting for this exciting re-emergence.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Edie Brickell's comeback album, Picture Perfect Morning, is a pleasant record of adult contemporary pop with hints of folk-rock that are buried underneath the glossy production. Brickell sounds good and the production is impeccable, but the record never creates a consistent mood. More importantly, none of the songs are memorable, lacking distinctive, catchy melodies or memorable lyrics. As a result, the album is fine as background music but doesn't leave a lasting impact.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Folk ockers Edie Brickell & New Bohemians returned in 1990 with Ghost of a Dog, the follow-up to their extremely successful debut, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars. Once again, the musicianship and instrumentation are supremely appropriate, right down to the guest accordion licks that set the playful mood for "Carmelito." Top that with thoughtful, thought-provoking lyrics and memorable melodies and you have a great second record on the New Bohemian resume. Brickell has a way with phrases unlike most other songwriters. She finds the similarity in differences and uses it to her advantage, spinning webs with words entangled in unique rhymes and patterns. The opening lines are a perfect example: "If a child lives with money, he learns to spend his time/If a child lives with crazy, he goes out of his mind." This record is full of such cleverness. And as bouncy and whimsical as some of the songs are, such as "Woyaho," "Oak Cliff Bra," and "Carmelito," things get downright poignant, if not serious, on "He Said," "10,000 Angels," and "This Eye." However exquisite, Brickell is as a songwriter and vocalist, enough can't be said of the guys who support her musically. Kenny Withrow, Wes Burt-Martin, Brad Houser, John Bush, and Matt Chamberland are wonderfully creative musicians, and the cohesiveness of their sound is exciting to hear. These guys know what it means to play together, each giving his all without stepping on anyone's toes. Ghost of a Dog is definitely a record to own if you love the music that came out of the early '90s folk-rock scene. Along with the efforts of bands like 10,000 Manics, it stands the test of time and can be enjoyed over the years. But, sadly, it marks the second and last release from this band.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
As debut albums by young bands go, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars is nearly flawless. With a slight southern twinge in her voice, the 23-year-old Edie Brickell churned out brilliant lyrics and captivating vocal performances, backed by the solid and innovative players that comprised the original New Bos -- Kenny Withrow, Brad Houser, John Bush, and Brandon Aly. Twisting words like putty, Brickell wraps herself up in phrases and melodic lines with layers of meaning not easily grasped at first listen. Her simple observations offer deep contemplations for the willing disciples of her musical philosophies. The catchy breakthrough hit "What I Am" is the perfect example: "I'm not aware of too many things/I know what I know, if you know what I mean." Zen and the art of songwriting. On other fronts, Brickell's fascination with actress Edie Sedgwick turned itself into "Little Miss S.," while strained friendships inspired "Circle." Every song on this record hits its mark and is worthy of special attention. How well does "Nothing" capture the frustration of a non-communicative partner? Very well, indeed. Then there's "The Wheel," "She," and "Air of December." Highlights, one and all. Rather than an overblown big rock finish, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars closes with a solo acoustic performance of "I Do," a quiet plea for a partner who's equal and true, complete and steady; yet another testimony to the simplicity and thoughtfulness that this album and this band offer. "What I Am" did more than kick off a record, it jump started a career amidst the clamor of the late '80s folk-rock scene. Along with 10,000 Manics, Tracy Chapman, and others, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians took their place in the spotlight, basking in every second of their 15 minutes of fame.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
David Bowie has switched labels so often his catalog is cluttered with hits compilations, all purporting to be definitive. Since he is one of the few major artists with no compunction against putting all his hits on one disc, they're all excellent, and 2002's Best of Bowie is no exception, no matter which country you live in (brief explanation: sensitive to the needs of fans in different markets, Bowie and EMI/Virgin tailored a different Best of Bowie for every country it was released in -- a collector's and cataloger's nightmare, but the basics apply for each variation). Yeah, there are great songs missing, and it loses a little focus toward the end, but all the big, big hits are here, in great sound and logical sequence. Bowie made more than his share of great albums, but if you just want the highlights, this is as good as Changesbowie in capturing them.
Monday, January 23, 2012
On the basis of Tonight, it appears that David Bowie didn't have a clear idea of how to follow the platinum success of Let's Dance. Instead of breaking away from the stylized pop of "Let's Dance" and "China Girl," Bowie delivers another record in the same style. Apart from the single "Blue Jean," none of the material equals the songs on Let's Dance, but it's appealing pop-soul and dance stylings helped make Tonight another platinum success.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Saturday, January 21, 2012
After summing up his maverick tendencies on Scary Monsters, David Bowie aimed for the mainstream with Let's Dance. Hiring Chic guitarist as a co-producer, Bowie created a stylish, synthesized post-disco dance music that was equally informed by classic soul and the emerging new romantic subgenre of new wave, which was ironically heavily inspired by Bowie himself. Let's Dance comes tearing out of the date, propulsed by the skittering "Modern Love," the seductively menacing "China Girl," and the brittle funk of the title track. All three songs became international hits, and for good reason -- they're catchy, accessible pop songs that have just enough of an alien edge to make them distinctive. However, that careful balance is quickly thrown off by a succession of pleasant but unremarkable plastic soul workouts. "Cat People" and a cover of Metro's "Criminal World" are relatively strong songs, but the remainder of the album indicates that Bowie was entering a songwriting slump. However, the three hits were enough to make the album a massive hit, and their power hasn't diminished over the years, even if the rest of the record sounds like an artifact.
Friday, January 20, 2012
Taking the detached plastic soul of Young Americans to an elegant, robotic extreme, Station to Station is a transitional album that creates its own distinctive style. Abandoning any pretense of being a soulman, yet keeping rhythmic elements of soul, David Bowie positions himself as a cold, clinical crooner and explores a variety of styles. Everything from epic ballads and disco to synthesized avant pop is present on Station to Station, but what ties it together is Bowie's cocaine-induced paranoia and detached musical persona. At its heart, Station to Station is an avant-garde art-rock album, most explicitly on "TVC 15" and the epic sprawl of the title track, but also on the cool crooning of "Wild Is the Wind" and "Word on a Wing," as well as the disco stylings of "Golden Years." It's not an easy album to warm to, but its epic structure and clinical sound were an impressive, individualistic achievement, as well as a style that would prove enormously influential on post-punk.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
David Bowie had dropped hints during the Diamond Dogs tour that he was moving toward R&B, but the full-blown blue-eyed soul of Young Americans came as a shock. Surrounding himself with first-rate sessionmen, Bowie comes up with a set of songs that approximate the sound of Philly soul and disco, yet remain detached from their inspirations; even at his most passionate, Bowie sounds like a commentator, as if the entire album was a genre exercise. Nevertheless, the distance doesn't hurt the album -- it gives the record its own distinctive flavor, and its plastic, robotic soul helped inform generations of synthetic British soul. What does hurt the record is a lack of strong songwriting. "Young Americans" is a masterpiece, and "Fame" has a beat funky enough that James Brown ripped it off, but only a handful of cuts ("Win," "Fascination," "Somebody up There Likes Me") comes close to matching their quality. As a result, Young Americans is more enjoyable as a stylistic adventure than as a substantive record.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Borrowing heavily from Marc Bolin's glam rock and the future shock of A Clockwork Orange, David Bowie reached back to the heavy rock of The Man who Sold the World for The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Constructed as a loose concept album about an androgynous alien rock star named Ziggy Stardust, the story falls apart quickly, yet Bowie's fractured, paranoid lyrics are evocative of a decadent, decaying future, and the music echoes an apocalyptic, nuclear dread. Fleshing out the off-kilter metallic mix with fatter guitars, genuine pop songs, string sections, keyboards, and a cinematic flourish, Ziggy Stardust is a glitzy array of riffs, hooks, melodrama, and style and the logical culmination of glam. Mick Ronson plays with a maverick flair that invigorates rockers like "Suffragette City," "Moonage Daydream," and "Hang Onto Yourself," while "Lady Stardust," "Five Years," and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" have a grand sense of staged drama previously unheard of in rock & roll. And that self-conscious sense of theater is part of the reason why Ziggy Stardust sounds so foreign. Bowie succeeds not in spite of his pretensions but because of them, and Ziggy Stardust -- familiar in structure, but alien in performance -- is the first time his vision and execution met in such a grand, sweeping fashion.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Since Tom Scholz is such a slow worker, there were only four Boston albums between the group's 1976 debut and this Greatest Hits collection in 1997. That may mean that there isn't much music to compile, as the reliance on their biggest-selling album, Boston, suggests, but that doesn't matter for most casual fans, since Greatest Hits gathers all of their best songs, from "More Than a Feeling" to "Amanda," on one compact disc. For the collector, the record isn't quite as appealing, even if it contains three new songs as bait. These three songs simply don't deliver the melodic punch or guitar crunch that distinguishes the group's best work. It's nice to hear original vocalist Brad Delp on "Higher Power," but "Tell Me" is slight, and an instrumental version of "The Star Spangled Banner" is nearly an insult. So, for the devoted, Greatest Hits is a mixed bag, but for less dedicated listeners, it may be all the Boston they need.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Boston's long-awaited fourth album, Walk On, which this time took Tom Scholz a full seven years to complete, failed to capture the attention of most AOR fans and became the group's first record to not spawn a hit single. Perhaps the reason was AOR and classic rock stations began losing their audiences in 1992; more likely, it was because Scholz's legendary perfectionism didn't yield the same results it did in the past. Although the production is certainly state of the art and is overflowing with detail, there aren't any memorable songs or hooks to justify such extravagance. On the surface, the record sounds fine, but there is no substance beneath the layers of gloss.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Boston reunited for an album and a tour that filled arenas back in 1987. The only thing about the reunion, only vocalist Brad Delp and guitar mastermind Tom Scholz remained in fold. Bringing in Sammy Hagar's guitarist Gary Phil, David Sikes on bass and returning drummer Jim Masdea to an enormously successful tour. Their third album, Third Stage was played in it's entirety along with most of debut and some off of Don't Look Back. I saw them in Alpine Valley during that tour.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
After rushing their second album Don't Look Back, Boston took eight years to complete the album Third Stage. The long delay is even more surprising considering that their sound didn't change at all; even though only songwriter/guitarist Tom Scholz and vocalist Brad Delp remained from the original lineup, they were the ones responsible for Boston's sound. As such, it is difficult to avoid comparisons with their landmark debut. Third Stage has some strong moments, especially the number one hit "Amanda" where the band blends acoustic and electric guitars to complement the layered vocals. However, the songs are not as strong as those on their debut, and the album is marred by the presence of instrumental fillers and an attempt to cling to a theme of "journey through life's third stage." Thus, rather than focusing on universal topics such as the exuberance and uncertainties associated with youth, the mature lyrics are lost on most of their young rock audience. Given the time between albums and the changes in the pop landscape, it was a little disappointing to find Boston stuck in the same sound. The album still sounds great when it works on all cylinders ("We're Ready," "Cool the Engines"), but the album is not filled with enough satisfying moments. This may be nostalgic pop rock of the '80s, but casual listeners should start with their debut.
Friday, January 13, 2012
The follow-up to Boston's mega-hit first album, Boston, Don't Look Back took two long years to complete, and it's hard to figure out why because it's almost exactly the same as their debut. The guitars still sound like they are being fed through computers and stacked into great walls of sound by robots, lead singer Brad Delp still sounds like he is ripping his throat out, and the harmony vocals still sound like a choir of androids warbling angelically. Most importantly, the songs are overflowing with hooks, there are plenty of riffs to air guitar to, and the songs stick in your head like dirt on a dog. The main difference lies in the semi-melancholy tone of the record. Boston was a nonstop party of a record but one look at the song titles lets you know that Don't Look Back is a little different: "A Man I'll Never Be," "Used to Bad News," "Don't Be Afraid." These songs reveal a reflective side that was nowhere to be found on Boston. Not to say the record doesn't rock because it does mightily. "Don't Look Back" has a killer riff that's very similar to the timeless riff in "More Than a Feeling," "Party" is a storming rocker much like "Smokin'" and "It's Easy" is mellow 70's AOR at its absolute best. Don't Look Back is basically Boston, Pt. 2, but don't let that put you off because even though the band was treading water they were treading it like Esther Williams. This record is better than 96.7% of the AOR records released in the 1970s, combine it with Boston and you are looking at two tickets to AOR paradise.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Broadcasted live on the King Biscuit Flower Hour, Boston proved that they were more just a studio creation of Tom Scholz's blend of harmonized guitar riffing and Brad Delp's spectacular singing voice. Boston can actually recreate their masterminded studio efforts on stage! What's even more by throwing in a few jams for good measure.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Boston is one of the best-selling albums of all time, and deservedly so. Because of the rise of disco and punk, FM rock radio seemed all but dead until the rise of acts like Boston, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen. Nearly every song on Boston's debut album could still be heard on classic rock radio decades later due to the strong vocals of Bradley Delp and unique guitar sound of Tom Scholz. Tom Scholz, who wrote most of the songs, was a studio wizard and used self-designed equipment such as 12-track recording devices to come up with an anthemic "arena rock" sound before the term was even coined. The sound was hard rock, but the layered melodies and harmonics reveal the work of a master craftsman. While much has been written about the sound of the album, the lyrics are often overlooked. There are songs about their rise from a bar band ("Rock and Roll Band") as well as fond remembrances of summers gone by ("More Than a Feeling"). Boston is essential for any fan of classic rock, and the album marks the re-emergence of the genre in the 1970s.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
One thing buried amidst all Bon Jovi's detours of the new millennium -- there wasn't just 2007's contemporary country Lost Highway, there was the acoustic reworking of hits This Left Feels Right in 2003 -- is that the group has been sober-minded throughout the decade, reacting to 9/11 on 2002's Bounce, exploring the morass of W's American on 2005's Have a Nice Day, and now creating a soundtrack for the Great Recession on 2009's The Circle. Subtlety has never been a concern for Bon Jovi, so the group makes it plain that they will be the ones to "Work for the Working Man," while they wonder "who's gonna bail out all our shattered dreams" on "Brokenpromiseland." Explicit references to the broken state of blue collar America pile up throughout The Circle, but instead of setting these wannabe working man anthems to the kind of Springsteen-esque rock that's their trademark, Bon Jovi, with the assistance of producer John Shanks, have decided to make their own version of a U2 album, apparently because no other sound sounds as serious as U2. Everything on The Circle exists in a big wide open space conjured by echoed, delayed guitars, shimmering keyboards, and spacious rhythms, an atmosphere that's just as likely to recast the "Living on a Prayer" bassline as something as sadly ominous as it is to ease into chanted, African-inspired vocal hooks ("When We Were Beautiful"), both signifiers of the band's pensive pretension. A knack for oversized choruses remains hardwired in Bon Jovi, but in this gloomy context, they act as reminders that they once sounded like they were a working band for working men instead of rich men fretting about a world they've long left behind.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Serious country fans know that "Lost Highway" is a Leon Payne-written Hank Williams classic, but even though Bon Jovi's 2007 album shamelessly trades on iconographic country imagery in a bid for a genre-skipping crossover hit, it's designed for those country fans who don't much care about Hank's legend (never mind knowing anything about Leon Payne). Bon Jovi has little to do with any country prior to Garth Brooks, a move that makes sense since Garth was the gateway drug to country music for old Bon Jovi fans in the '90s. In that regard, it makes perfect sense for Bon Jovi to refashion themselves as a modern country act, because their heartland anthems are as thoroughly middle American as any country artist, and in 2007 country was at the core of mainstream pop music; in other words, the band's fans already have made the crossover, so they wouldn't see this crossover move as crass, just as catching up. But when it comes right down to it, Bon Jovi's self-styled country album has little to do with contemporary country in 2007, either.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Have a Nice Day, Bon Jovi's ninth studio album of original material, picks up where 2002's Bounce left off, showcasing a harder, heavier band than either 2000's Crush or Jon Bon Jovi's 1997 solo effort, Destination Anywhere. Not only that, but this 2005 album finds Jon Bon Jovi picking up on the serious undercurrent of Bounce, writing a series of angry, somber neo-protest songs that form the heart of this record. While he's not exactly explicitly political here, there's little question that he's dissatisfied with the world today, whether it's about life in small town America or the sorry state of pop music; he even goes so far to write a variation on Bob Dylan's classic "Chimes of Freedom" with "Bells of Freedom." Since he's stretching out lyrically, the band finds a comfort zone in sticking in the tried-and-true arena rock that's been their signature sound for 20 years now. While they sound appropriately grand and powerful -- this is one of the few groups that sounds right at home in large venues -- at times they pump up their choruses a little bit too much, so they sound strident, not anthemic. That heavy-handedness, coupled with a loud but colorless production from Bon Jovi, guitarist Ritchie Sambora, and John Shanks, with Desmond Child acting as executive producer for the whole thing, gives Have a Nice Day a sound that's a bit too monochromatic for the band's ambitions, or for its own good: at times, getting through the record can be a little bit of a chore, since there's not much fun to be had here. Nevertheless, it's hard not to admire Jon Bon Jovi's attempt to stretch himself, particularly when he balances his earnestness with tunes as gentle as "Wildflower."
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Bon Jovi's four-CD/one-DVD box set of rarities, 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong, inspires two immediate reactions. The first: How in the world did Bon Jovi have four discs' worth of unreleased material in their vaults? The second: Who on earth would want to hear 50 rarities from Bon Jovi? To anybody who's not a devoted fan, the New Jersey group always seemed like a quintessential singles-driven band. Sure, they had many albums that were blockbusters -- 1986's Slippery When Wet and its 1988 follow-up, New Jersey, dominated the American charts in the latter half of the '80s -- but those were hits because of the singles that ruled the radio, hits that were so well crafted, it was hard to believe that Bon Jovi left material behind, but as this box set proves, they did. Apparently, the band followed the lead of their fellow Jersey icon Bruce Springsteen and cut more material for each album than they could possibly have used. Starting with Slippery When Wet, the band would record somewhere between 30 and 40 songs for an individual album, then whittle it down to a 12-track album, which means a whole bunch of completed material was left behind. Some of it turned up on soundtracks or foreign-market B-sides, but most of it lay unheard in the vaults until Bon Jovi assembled this box to commemorate their 20th anniversary (which arrived around the time they sold their 100,000,000th record, hence the title).
Friday, January 6, 2012
Even if it was classified as pop-metal, Bon Jovi never really was much of a metal band, relying on big, catchy melodies and not guitar riffs to make their songs memorable. That's why, in 2000, they're able to make an album like Crush, which strays far enough into pop/rock to actually stand a chance of getting airplay (which it did, with the hit lead single "It's My Life"). The guitar crunch on the uptempo numbers keeps Bon Jovi from becoming a full-fledged pop/rock band, but in addition to the typical hard rockers, there are nods to heartland rock, Bryan Adams-style adult contemporary balladry ("Thank You for Loving Me"), the Beatles' (the surprisingly effective "Say It Isn't So"), and even British glam à la T.Rex or David Bowie ("Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen From Mars"). Occasionally, it sounds like the band is attempting to cover as many bases as possible for multi-format appeal, but for the most part, the variety -- coupled with the consistently polished songcraft -- makes for a surprisingly listenable album. The production is a little more electronic-tinged, but not obtrusively high-tech, so the band doesn't come off as desperate to sound contemporary. Aside from a couple of missteps (the soppy, aforementioned "Thank You for Loving Me" and the mawkish posturing of "Save the World"), Crush is a solidly crafted mainstream rock record that's much better than most might expect. Even if Crush is more measured than Bon Jovi's early work, "Just Older" sums up the band's acceptance of their status nicely: "The skin I'm in is all right with me/It's not old, just older."
Thursday, January 5, 2012
With These Days, Bon Jovi firmly established themselves as an adult contemporary act. They still have their fair share of rockers, but they seem half-hearted and incomplete. Instead, the band sounds the most comfortable with love ballads and working class anthems, from hits "This Ain't a Love Song" and "Lie to Me," to the acoustic "Diamond Ring." In fact, as the years go by, Bon Jovi gets musically stronger. Not only are their best songs stronger now, their playing is more accomplished. Keeping these improvements in mind, it's no surprise that the group was one of the few pop-metal bands to sustain a career in the mid-'90s.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Keep The Faith reintroduced Bon Jovi after almost four years of side projects and hiatuses. The musical climate had shifted considerably in that time, a fact that wasn't lost on the band. Keep the Faith blatantly brought to the surface the Bruce Springsteen influence that was always lurking in Bon Jovi's sound, and used it to frame Keep the Faith's more serious interpretation of the band's pop-metal groove. Instead of gripping stupidly to the Aqua-Netted mane of glam rock power balladry. Some of the album's straightforward hard rock songs faltered, since they didn't sizzle like the band's vintage material and fell flat next to more inspired material like "In These Arms." But while miles of open highway separated the songwriting of Jon Bon Jovi and his mates from that of Springsteen, Keep the Faith deserves plenty of points for ambition, and it did succeed in updating the band's sound -- even if the replacement parts were bought used.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Abandoning his rough-and-ready rock & roll band, Jon Bon Jovi took a stab at respectability with this non-soundtrack to the film Young Guns II. Given his cowboy songs on Bon Jovi albums, it made sense that he'd be "inspired" by the Western, and he filled these songs (written without the help of bandmate Ritchie Sambora or hired hack Desmond Child ) with references to shoot-'em-ups. Mainstream rock producer Danny Kortchmar put together the studio band, along with guest stars Jeff Beck, Elton John, and Little Richard, and the sound had more space and less drive than the lite-metal of Bon Jovi. Unfortunately, that kind of approach put the spotlight squarely on the singer/songwriter, and Jon Bon Jovi wasn't quite up to the scrutiny, writing dumb lines like "Tell my guns I'm coming home" and "I been broke and hungry/I think they're both my middle name" in a context in which you could actually make them out without the lyric sheet. The New Jersey cowboy tried to howl his way through, and his still faithful fans dutifully bought the record, but Jon Bon Jovi wasn't really ready to carry off a starring role without his usual supporting cast.
Monday, January 2, 2012
Bob Jovi had perfected a formula for hard pop/rock by the time of New Jersey, concentrating on singalong choruses sung over and over again, frequently by a rough, extensively overdubbed chorus, producing an effect not unlike what these songs sounded like in the arenas and stadiums where they were most often heard. The lyrics had that typical pop twist -- although they nominally expressed romantic commitment, sentiments such as "Lay Your Hands on Me" and "I'll Be There for You" worked equally well as a means for the band and its audience to reaffirm their affection for each other. The only thing that marred the perfection of this communion was Jon Bon Jovi's continuing obsession with a certain predecessor from his home state; at times, he seemed to be trying to recreate Born to Run using cheaper materials.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Slippery When Wetwasn't just a breakthrough album for Bon Jovi; it was a breakthrough for hair metal in general, marking the point where the genre officially entered the mainstream. Released in 1986, it presented a streamlined combination of pop, hard rock, and metal that appealed to everyone -- especially girls, whom traditional heavy metal often ignored. Slippery When Wet was more indebted to pop than metal, though, and the band made no attempt to hide its commercial ambition, even hiring an outside songwriter to co-write two of the album's biggest singles. The trick paid off as Slippery When Wet became the best-selling album of 1987, beating out contenders like Appetite for Destruction, The Joshua Tree, and Michael Jackson's Bad.