Greetings, Glancers. Today we fluff up our mullets, stick a torch down our pants, and join the Poodle bunch as they embark on a mysterious new adventure into the 1990s – the decade when wuss rock was momentarily ripped to shreds by a new wave of young upstarts, only for them to implode and open the door for – well, nothing. There hasn’t been a single interesting advance in rock music since the grunge era. Regardless, we’re not here today to talk about such things, we’re here to listen to Keep The Faith, another monumental hit record for Bon Jovi which did see them shift in their musical direction to a more streamlined, mature rock approach, albeit one with many, many more ballads. It’s an album that I’m pretty familiar with, in that it has a hefty number of famous songs, but there are probably a few in there I have never heard so lets give it a shot and see if there are any goodies in the bunch.
I Believe: Warbling. Chugging guitars fading in. Swirling riff with building drums. A slice of cheese on the side. I don’t recall this one so far. Deeper vocals than usual in the first verse, with a touch of U2. Turns to usual rock vocals in second verse. Decent chorus, going for the stadium approach but lacking in the melody department.
Keep The Faith: A big, throbbing rocker with great build up in the verses and pay off in the chorus. We all know this one, fairly groovy as Jovi songs go, and the usual memorable melodies. It does take a strange military march/spoken approach near the end, but amazingly this doesn’t do any damage.
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: An unnecessarily cheese-laden intro with silly drums, hand-claps and yeah-yeahs almost makes this a complete mess, but luckily the melodies are sharp enough and the chorus is strong enough to pull things back from the brink. Everyone remembers the chorus melody and forgets all the other crap, so it must have something going for it – the second verse does get rid of most of the crap (and adds in some new crap) – it’s okay but could have been much better if they had just gone with a more straightforward rock approach.
In These Arms: The band channel U2 again and go for their first epic of the album. Luckily it pays off as this is a great track with powerful vocals, infectious melodies, and decent lyrics. Like a few others on the album the build up from verse to chorus is flawless.
Bed Of Roses: This is probably still my favourite Bon Jovi song, the rare Power Ballad which avoids being cheesy and has all of the important elements – atmospheric verses building to emotive, explosive chorus, and filled with melodies that you’ll be humming for hours after hearing. Perhaps unusually for the band, the lyrics are very strong but as expected the songwriting and playing is top-notch. A lighters in the air classic. I love the screeching guitar intro against the soft piano intro, the harsh middle section, everything really.
If I Was Your Mother: Starts with a phat riff. I don’t know this one. Chugs along heavily enough. Odd lyrics. Not much to say about the verses, and the chorus is fine – just plain and album filling stuff.
Dry County: I was always a bit partial to this one, but like many other people it seems that I forget about this one easily. Not sure why, I assume because I haven’t heard it often. I like the main melody, as kicked off in the intro – it has that atmospheric, burning ballad quality that I always fall for. I will say that the verses don’t do a lot for me, the lyrics are pretty odd for a Bon Jovi song, but the chorus is pretty good. There’s a pretty good Sambora solo, into musical interlude, into faster solo section which adds some icing to the cake. I suspect this is popular in Texas.
Woman In Love: I don’t remember this one, it feels a little like re-treading some of their 80s album filler tracks – sleazy, not much of a melody (the chorus attempts to go for glory but falls flat) or hook, and fairly standard rock playing from the group. It’s under four minutes so it doesn’t out stay its welcome but is instantly forgettable.
Fear: Continues the style and approach of the last song, though it’s a bit more robust. It has a better melodic quality but still isn’t memorable.
I Want You: An 80s sounding epic power ballad opening. The verses are more restrained, with soft guitars, piano and organ, and John singing at his most urgent. The chorus is fine but doesn’t reach the heights of their most famous work. I don’t remember ever hearing this one, and as it’s quite similar to many ones that I do know and like, it’s a pleasant surprise to catch this one finally. There are a few bridge type sections which stretch the song, but don’t add anything much of value.
Blame It On The Love Of Rock And Roll: I think I’ve heard this one before, but nothing about it sounds familiar. It has your standard rock stomp, but the verses and chorus are incredibly plain. Decent playing and vocals, ok lyrics, fun and upbeat, but very average stuff.
Little Bit Of Soul: Noises and chatter. Is this another experimental attempt? Electric and acoustics. Organs and piano. Finally singing. Light-hearted blues. More average melodies. Building, but more of the same. It’s another plain song which needlessly goes over the five-minute mark without actually saying anything.
So, Keep The Faith comes to a close and gave the band another bunch of hits. The first half of the album is peppered with brilliance, while the second half doesn’t have any standout moments with the exception of Dry County. Those five or so songs which keep the album afloat are among the best the band have recorded and prove again that they are gifted hitmakers. Yet again though, much of the album is simply treading the same old rock and roll ground with mid-tempo, blue jean forgettable hits, good for playing 8 ball and sinking beers to, but nothing else. The band would next release their greatest hits Cross Road, which I won’t review, but which could be considered their best album given that it contains their best songs up till this point as well as adding two personal favourites in Always and Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night. Next time, I’ll be reviewing their mid-nineties effort These Days.
What do you think of Keep The Faith? Do you have any fond memories of the album? Did you think the band successfully left the 80s behind and became a 90s band? Let us know in the comments!