Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – Crush

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Greetings, Glancers. Bon Jovi have always been seen as an 80s band, but we know they had enormous success through the 90s too. After 1995’s These Days, the various members had gone and done their own things to varying degrees of success and by the time 2000 rolled around the musical landscape had changed dramatically. Could the band see in the millennium with another hit, and would anyone even care anymore?

You probably already know the answer to both of those questions, but if you don’t, here it is; yes. Crush was an instant smash, thanks to a string of hit singles and a sound which was both quintessentially Bon Jovi, but also found a way to speak to modern listeners. Even critics jumped on the bandwagon. I remember when the album was released that both people who outright refused to listen to guitar based music were listening to it, along with people who considered the band too soft and middle of the road. It’s an album I was pretty familiar with at the time, but haven’t listened to in a good ten years, so lets see how much I remember and if it holds up.

It’s My Life‘ was the first single and was of course a hefty hit. Harking back to their 80s sound with voicebox and references to Tommy and Gina, and reminds fans within seconds why they first fell in love. It’s big and brash, has a huge chorus, features lyrics designed to be belted out in a crowd, and is as simple a pop rock song as you’ll ever get. It’s not quite as euphoric as Livin’ On A Prayer, but it comes pretty close.

Say It Isn’t So‘ is another big single – they really front loaded this album with the big hitters – this can be a risky business if you leave the rest of the album without any instantly recognizable tracks. This one opens with an easy swagger, filtered vocals, and guitars reminiscent of many of the softer rock bands which were having hits around the time. I remember the chorus being stronger, listening now the vocals are really weird, the effect is too heavy and they waver around too much. There’s a strange keyboard part in the middle too, reminding us that 2000 was an odd time for rock music, as if it was unsure what direction it needed to move in.

Thank You For Loving Me‘ is a song I’m very familiar with and don’t really need to listen to again here. It was one of the songs my wife and I picked for our wedding day – she wasn’t having any outright metal for the ceremony, so the compromise was Bon Jovi. Nevertheless, it’s a great song and one of their best ballads. Sure it’s soppy stuff, but it’s good soppy stuff.

Two Story Town‘ opens with more turn of the millennium production – I can’t really say it’s dated but it is definitely a product of its time. This is a decent mid tempo rocker which doesn’t go full country – it flies under the radar but is good enough while it lasts. It’s clearly a step down from the first three songs.

Next 100 Years‘ starts with marching drums and a Sambora explosion before pulling back to a simple melody. It’s a good one too – nothing startling – and it builds up to an average chorus. It’s a song I try to like but it misses the mark while trying lots of different things. The brief bridge, the strings, and the solos are all good though – the song tries to go all Hey Jude for the ending, which doesn’t quite work, but it doesn’t totally collapse either. I like how they abandon this for the final minute and race towards the end with an epic solo and zippy violins.

Just Older‘ has another drum into, and again gets off to top speed for a brief moment before restraining itself for the verse. More lyrics about dreams and nostalgia fit well with the melodies and while the chorus doesn’t hit the heights, it’s fine. The verse and chorus compliment each other well, rather than having one outweigh the other. There’s another nice, twiddly solo leading into a softer section, though you know it’ll end with a bang.

Mystery Train‘ begins in acoustic fashion before the organ and electric guitars come in gently. I’ve always quite liked this one – it feels understated and genuine and again the verse and chorus are like glue. It feels like a song that most people will overlook or forget easily, but I think it’s one of their better non-singles – it doesn’t need to be so long though.

Save The World‘ starts steadily – drums, lots of string bends, and lots of violins. Those ‘education’ lyrics are a little cringeworthy, and the rest of the words feel cheesy, but it’s all well meaning. The melodies are great in places, but they are usually followed by something flatter rather than sustaining the quality. Again it feels too long, but it’s another fine song that just misses out on being really good.

Captain Crash And The Beauty Queen From Mars’ is Jovi going Bowie. Not really, but the name sound that way. Lyrics too. It’s a softer effort but a catchy one. This has single written all over it. It doesn’t have a huge chorus or anything, but it moves swiftly and I can see a lot of people enjoying it on sunny days. An easy love song, a little bit of poking at and making fun of young love while also revering those feelings.

She’s A Mystery‘ goes full ballad. That’s often a good thing for Bon Jovi, but sometimes a mess. This is a good one though, understated and subtle. It is missing a high point, instead happy to remain on a level. Verse and chorus melt into each other with the drums and guitar not really changing throughout. I like the backing vocals, I like the middle bridge, but it never reaches for that peak.

I Got The Girl‘ opens softly – low bass, light beat, whispered vocals. It suddenly bursts open for the chorus leading to a faster pace and mid level volume. It’s all pretty sweet, lyrically, melodically, and yes it is catchy too. This seems like another of those underrated ones that it’s easy to forget about or miss. No need for that extended ending.

One Wild Night‘ starts like a Disney song from the 1940s before moving forwards 40 years to the band’s 1980s heyday. This is pure 80s played 20 years too late. It’s good though, if you like that sort of thing. It’s as raucous as any of their bigger hits and has all the trademarks – chorus, guitars, melody, shouting backing vocals. The ‘na na na’ parts will get you singing along and the weaker among you may even roll down the windows to join the chorus.

Overall Crush is consistent – it opens big and closes big, and the middle has a mixture of ballads and rock standards. There aren’t any truly bad songs, while the best songs are pretty good examples of what the band does well. A couple of the non-singles are good enough to stick in your rotation but like most of their albums the majority of the album tracks are interchangeable. Still, it’s a decent album from the band and the last one I really know anything about – from here on out it’s uncharted territory for me. Next time around I’ll be checking out Bounce – an album that I’ll probably know a couple of songs from. We shall see. Let us know in the comments what your thoughts and memories of Crush are!

Nightman Listens To Bon Jovi – Destination Anywhere!

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Greetings, Glancers! We continue our mini-detour from Bon Jovi’s main releases to see what their front man was getting up to in his spare time. Last time around we listened to Jon strap on his boots and go bareback through the South, living out his Wild West fantasies. With 1997’s Destination Anywhere, the musical landscape had changed and the main band had matured. Will his second solo effort also highlight these changes or will it be a self-serving piece of masturbation? I definitely know (and like) a couple of these songs already, and hopefully there are some new ones which I’ll get into.

‘Queen Of New Orleans’ – Good intro, a clearly late 90s rock sound. Oddly deep vocals. Verse is plain, the chorus is too tame and the vocals don’t work. Mostly boring but a different pace and approach from what we know, it does veer way too close to a lot of those soft rock bands of the era who each had one hit then disappeared.

‘Janie, Don’t You Take Your Love To Town’ – This is one I’ve always liked. It feels like a Bon Jovi song, but it has that mid-late 90s drum sound. Unlike the first track, this one has good verses and a crowd-pleasing chorus. It may be formulaic, but we don’t come into an album like this expecting it to break ground. I’d never actually heard the full version of this before – the single works just as well.

‘Midnight In Chelsea’ – There’s that beat again, except this time it sounds like some RnB fluff. I’m not sure what audience Jon was going after with these songs – it would alienate his core crowd and the people who listen to generic chart fluff aren’t going to be interested in hearing some old white guy do it. Still, this is better than the first song, lyrics seem okay, and the chorus has potential. It doesn’t quite paint the picture of America that he wants it to, but it’s fine – the chorus is a grower, but it goes on for a minute too long.

‘Ugly’ – Hmm, that riff seems familiar. Maybe I have heard this one before. Yeah, it’s one of those songs. We’re all ugly sometimes, except some of us are more often than others. And we’re all in different environments which mean different outcomes to feeling or being u-g-l-y. Still, it’s fine, average or slightly better.

‘Staring At Your Window With A Suitcase In My Hand’ – Experimental country. I like the verses. They are nothing new, we’ve heard this stuff by Bon Jovi and other bands before. As you know by know, I’m a sucker for those atmospheric, shadowy songs – this doesn’t quite fall into that category, but it’s close. Again it’s just okay – nothing bad, nothing really good, just ordinary.

‘Every Word Was A Piece Of My Heart’ – Odd vocals. Gruff but low. Ordinary verse, decent bridge and chorus, but lacking those extra pieces to push it over into the good song territory. These songs are simply too samey and forgettable at the moment. Weird middle vocals and solo.

‘It’s Just Me’ – Madonna drums. More weird vocals. Ordinary verses, reflective lyrics, decent bridge, average chorus. You know the drill by now, and unless the album picks up in the second half it’s going to be a very forgettable experience. Hmm, this one just keeps going doesn’t it? Solo flapping to end.

‘Destination Anywhere’ – A more respectable one all around this is. It has the same weird not quite country sound as other songs on the album. The verses are fine but luckily the chorus does the trick, even if it does come from nowhere and doesn’t connect well with any other part of the song.

‘Learning How To Fall’ – More drum loops. This all seems ill-advised. More low. Some harmonica. Plain verse. Brief bridge. Plain chorus. Next.

‘Naked’ – Funky. This one at least is different. I imagine this is more like the sound he wanted to go with for the album, but it still feels like a lot of those other one-hit wonders of the era. ‘You can’t fake it when you’re naked?’ I don’t know about that…

‘Little City’ – More drum bits and bobs. Better guitar. Better vocals. It has the atmosphere and the shadows. Verses are okay, if it can pull off a good chorus then this could be a hidden gem. Eventually we reach a ‘sha la la la’ piece. It almost makes it but stays tantalizingly out of reach of true goodness. Ah well. Then it tacks on a minute of crap to the end.

‘August 7 4.15’ – Hmm, this seems more like it. Faster tempo, Springsteen vocals, catchy bits. Verses and bridges better than the chorus. Still, that’s two better songs near the end, but still not enough to save this from being a sleepy time record for sleepy sleep sleeps.

‘Cold Hard Heart’ – Closing with a ballad then. Or, something slower at least as this seems too downbeat to be a ballad. This is actually much better than almost anything else on the album, that is obvious from the opening minute. Good verses and great chorus. Three good songs to close – add a couple of the singles and you would have a pretty good EP.

That’s that then. An unfulfilling bore in all honesty. Points for trying to be different, but points removed for not fully committing to it and making something interesting. There are maybe only 4-5 decent songs here, the rest are filler and belong as B-Sides or on the studio floor. Tell me I’m wrong in the comments! Next up, the boys reunite and unleash Crush!

Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – Blaze Of Glory!

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You didn’t think he was going to do it, but back of the net! He (I’m) back, and yes, this time I’m going to branch off from the main Bon Jovi discography and listen to Jon’s two solo efforts. Blaze Of Glory or the Young Guns II Soundtrack was written and released at what most consider the band’s heyday – late 1980s, early 90s. At the time of writing, I have listened to and reviewed all of Bon Jovi’s pre-2000 albums so before I move on to the new millennium I thought I would cross off the two main solo albums. The other members of the band have released solo material, but I don’t know if I’ll care enough to listen to those – at least with Jon’s solo albums I am already aware of some of the songs and have a vague idea of what I’m getting myself into. Young Guns II is a particular favourite of mine and I’ve always been fond of the music – even though only two songs from this album appear in the movie. I haven’t heard the rest of this album, as far as I can recall, so it’ll be another interesting one for me. For you? Shut up and read.

Billy Get Your Guns: Starts in standard Bon Jovi style – big guitars and a little bit cheesy and 80s around the edges. He’s saying ‘Billy’ too much. Nothing exciting in the verses, light, fun, with a chorus which is a little better but still not anything special. There’s a pretty awful hand clap, music free section in there to reduce levels further.

Miracle: Ahh, that short intro brings back memories of watching the movie, before the song proper starts. This one seems like a nice enough ballad – I’ve probably head this before but I don’t remember exactly. More unfortunate hand claps in the chorus, along with some gospel backing – a decent chorus but it’s all very MOR 80s stuff. The guitar solo works well though.

Blaze Of Glory: The main event. Growing up as not a huge fan of Westerns in general, anytime I thought about cowboys I heard this song in my head. Even know, those opening notes make me think of The Wild West. Great song and typical of Bon Jovi’s best – atmospheric, melodic, big chorus. It’s great how the song fits in so well with the movie too, from lyrics to the actual music.

Blood Money: Harmonica and country guitars. Pat Garrett. Good verse melodies. Good melodies throughout. A short and sweet one, interesting and pretty.

Santa Fe: Drums and strings and piano. Nice intro. Good vocals again and more good melodies. Emotive and atmospheric, another great song which I’m surprised I don’t know.

Justice In The Barrel: Native American voices and other assorted sounds and words. This goes one for about a minute before the guitar comes in – great solo followed by manic drums, spoken words, gunshots and other swirling sounds. This interesting start gives way after a couple of minutes to a jarring, slightly cheesy riff. More very 80s stuff once the singing begins. The drums are unusually stuttered throughout. Decent middle section with more good guitars. A very odd song with equal parts good, bizarre, and crap.

Never Say Die: This is a faster paced song with memorable simple riff and catchy moments throughout. This one is quite familiar to me so I must have heard it before. Not sure about those random shouts, but that’s part and parcel of the BJ experience (matron). This could be a Bon Jovi band song from the 80s as it has the euphoric stadium chorus and the fist-pumping verses as any of their singles.

You Really Got Me Now: What a silly opening. What a silly tavern song. I guess it’s maybe good for a chuckle, but it’s nonsense that shouldn’t be on the album.

Bang A Drum: Drums. Chord. This sounds more reasonable. Drums pull back. Preacher. Decent verse. Good chorus. Similar inspiring stuff as your standard Bon Jovi fare. Backing choir for the chorus. Decent bridge. Here comes the solo? Yes. Extended outro with more prominent choir work. A perfectly fine song.

Dyin’ Ain’t Much Of A Livin’: Taking a famous Eastwood movie quote as the title for one of your songs seems like a good enough idea. Slow pace. More atmospheric soul searching. The chorus doesn’t have the impact it needs to. I think the verses and chorus work well on their own, but there is a slight disconnect between them so everything doesn’t sync up. Hmm, that na na bit actually sounds a little like a song I wrote, slightly.

Guano City: And so we reach the end. Seems like they have gone instrumental. It pumps along in dramatic fashion, reminds me a little of The Untouchables. Too short and doesn’t add anything to the album whatsoever.

A mixture of good and bad then – par for the course. Plenty of the songs fit with the tone of the movie and stand well on their own, but there’s only two or three here you’re going to choose to listen to multiple times. Next time it’ll be Jon’s second solo effort – again a soundtrack, but this time for a movie I haven’t seen – Destination Anywhere. Let us know in the comments what your thoughts of Blaze Of Glory and Young Guns II are!

Nightman Listens To – These Days – Bon Jovi

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s back to 1995 now, a year when Grunge was on the wane, Britpop was on the rise, and Bon Jovi were still riding high on the success of Greatest Hits album Crossroads and its two new singles Always and Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night. If those two songs proved that the band had the chops to continue through the turbulent decade, they needed to follow it up with a new album which could really drive that point home. These Days wasn’t as big a smash as the previous album, at least not in the US, but the band’s overseas powers continued and they had another big seller on their hands along with a string of singles. Looking at the track list there’s only three that I definitely recognize, though I assume I’ll probably remember one or two more once I listen. So far in this endeavour, Bon Jovi hasn’t done as good a job as Bryan Adams or Madonna at showing me new unheard gems, so maybe we’ll get one or two this time around.

‘Hey God’ starts with a distant drum. Then a voice. Then a crunching intro, rougher guitars and drums than we’re used to and an ever so slight country line in the mix. The drums step up a beat and the pace quickens for a thumping continuation. The pace and volume eases off for the verse, picking up again for the chorus as Jon belts out the words. I don’t think I’ve heard this one before, but it’s a good start – heavier and without the cheese and plainness which has so far plagued a lot of their album tracks. Though I see videos for this on Youtube, so maybe this was a single I somehow missed upon release. The vocals have a greater edge and don’t sound forced or growled for fashionable purposes. Lyrically it seems like it’s telling a story and the chorus hints at being influenced by the major grunge and alt-rock lyricists of the time. It probably doesn’t need to be over 6 minutes, but it doesn’t feel that long.

‘Something For The Pain’ starts with some sort of broken harpsichord wrangling before the main riff comes in. I do know this one, but don’t recall and particular fondness for it. Listening again now it feels like classic Bon Jovi – verses, bridge, and big chorus all mingling for attention. Te verse melodies are my favourite piece, the bridge feels a little average, but the chorus roars from the stereo and is sure to be another crowd-pleaser, even if it is a simple one. The middle section is a little bit different from what the band does, doesn’t work as well as it could have, but it’s not bad. Two good songs so far, and the two big hitters are up next.

‘This Ain’t A Love Song’ is the first ballad of the album. It opens with a soft touch and proceeds with a swaying last dance tenderness. This song has an absolutely fantastic bridge and the chorus is excellent too. The verses have that chatting over an empty beer glass quality, the lyrics punctuated with regret and nostalgic pain. The strings which come in are too low in the mix to make much of an impact – as much as I love strings I don’t think they are needed here. The song effectively avoids the cheese and is one of the band’s most effective ballads, and for my money one of their better songs.

‘These Days’ starts in somber form, with brilliantly evocative pianos and guitar – one of their best introductions, easily. The lyrics are good too, and once the drums kick in the Springsteen influence is plain to hear. The grunge influence is clear today, at least from the lyrical perspective – the emotion and wisdom therein perfectly suited to Bon Jovi’s musical style. It’s easy to forget that this one is essentially a ballad too once we hear the chorus, it’s a chorus as good as any the band has written and has a habit of taking centre-stage in our memories. I think this is one of their most emotional songs, and subsequently one of their best. Four songs in and this is as good a rock album as you’re ever likely to hear – can the rest of the album possibly live up to the opening?

‘Lie To Me’ start with Twin Peaks synth, always a good thing. More storytelling lyrics. Intelligent use of guitars. Ah yes, I have heard this before (once the ‘yeah yeah yeahs’ started I remembered) but there’s enough here that it feels new to me. It’s another ballad, not as instantly catchy as the two previous songs but the ‘yeah’ hook is great and there are plenty of moments in and around the chorus which lift it above the average. Another good song then.

‘Damned’ starts with more spoken parts. There’s an unusually funky riff for the band, not quite Chili Peppers, but something you wouldn’t expect from the band. Then we even get trumpets in the chorus. It’s a step down from the previous songs, but there is enough sport and fun and invention in this one to stop it feeling dull. There’s a kick-ass solo too, if you’re into that sort of thing. Possibly worth shaving thirty seconds off.

‘My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms’ is one I thought I may have heard before, based on the name. Listening now, I don’t remember anything about it though. It feels like a darker ballad – that grunge influence again – even the guitar tone feels an awful lot like Alice In Chains in places. Nice avoiding of an obvious chorus there – it’s more obvious next time around, but still unusual enough that it doesn’t feel traditional. Heavier guitars come in eventually to give an unexpected oomph, followed by a decent, almost poignant solo. The song continues in this fashion for another couple of minutes, rounding out another strong effort.

‘It’s Hard Letting You Go’ starts with more synth, more ghostly than the Twin Peaks stuff, but with a similar vibe. Is this another ballad? More good vocals, more thought over the lyrics and construction than they have shown on previous albums. It’s certainly slow and littered with sadness which seems genuine, can’t believe I haven’t heard this one before. It feels like it’s retreading a lot of what they covered on Bed Of Roses – to the point that some of the lyrics and their delivery are almost identical, but it’s still another very good song. The momentary string bonuses work well too. I have to say this has been an unexpectedly fantastic album so far, I was genuinely concerned by the lack of recognizable names on the track list before starting, but safe to say this is their best album so far – lets not throw it away on the final few tracks!

‘Hearts Breaking Even’ starts with a mid tempo, mid volume before falling back to ballad levels. The verse is slow and simple, the bridge is pretty great, but the chorus doesn’t quite match the build up. The chorus is fine, but it feels very familiar even though I’m pretty sure I haven’t actually heard this song. Maybe it’s one more slight ballad too many on an album which has shown that it has much better ones. Still, that bridge is good enough to sell the song, and undoubtedly plenty of people will love the chorus. Some funny scratchy vocals near the end.

‘Something To Believe In’ has a stumbling drum intro followed by piano and bass and shouts. Again it all feels so much more well thought out than their previous album tracks. There’s a leisurely maturity to the song, a confidence that suggests the band have been writing at this quality for years when in truth their singles had been vastly superior to their standard album tracks. It’s another terrific song which continues to build upon the early laid foundations – I love songs which continue to build upon the same idea or riff or melody. There’s a bizarre drum and bass freak out in the middle too, another sign that the band were just throwing ideas against the wall to see what would stick, and surprisingly so far most of them have.

‘If That’s What It Takes’ opens in uplifting fashion, guitars bouncing jovially and fading easily to an effective verse. Yet again the songwriting is strong, the melodies run evenly through equally good bridge and chorus. It’s quite difficult writing these posts as I listen for the first time as I keep wanting to simply listen to the songs and not worry about typing random first impressions. Funny effects on the voice and guitars etc. Again the little experiments, the little additions of strings, the subtle things all pay off. No complaints.

‘Diamond Ring’ has slow guitar and bass and a very familiar melody. Where did they rip this off from – it’s on the tip of me tongue. It’s all very nice again, solid vocals and melodies, good acoustic sound and playing, and a fine closing song to an album which more often than not treads into dark places.

Finally! As mentioned in the intro, the other artists I’ve been listening to long term on the blog have fared a little better in their hidden gems with Madonna making a couple (so far) of fully coherent and strong albums. With These Days, out of nowhere Bon Jovi have crafted what is presumably their masterpiece – and they did it without a truly massive hit on the scale of Living On A Prayer or Always. That said, the singles I knew of beforehand are as good as ever but the songs around it are of a consistently high quality – at this point in my run through I didn’t think they were capable of it, especially considering that this is the last album in their classic period. It would be five years before they returned in a new century, and a new millenium with Crush – an album I remember being labelled as a comeback. It seems that label is not accurate as a comeback usually assumes that they previous work was maybe not up to scratch. This however is an album to remind you why you fell in love with the band in the first place and I’m now looking forward to Crush because of it.

What are your thoughts on These Days? Is it one of your favourite albums or have you dismissed it simply because it is Bon Jovi? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Keep The Faith – Bon Jovi!

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!

Nightman Listens To – New Jersey – Bon Jovi

Greetings, Glancers! Before all the Snookies and muscular metrosexuals began stinking up the place, Bon Jovi were celebrating their home with their 4th album and mega hit New Jersey. Riding high on the success of their previous album, the band were rapidly becoming one of the biggest in the world, but it’s rare that a single album is enough to sustain a band or prove their abilities, and so the boys needed to prove themselves. New Jersey arguably goes further than Slippery When Wet by branching out a little from their usual sound successfully, while knocking out another number of glossy rock anthems which have stood the test of time. Like most of the band’s biggest albums, I’ve likely heard every song here at least once, but I can’t say for sure that I’ve listened to the album in a single sitting. Lets rectify that now!

Lay Your Hands On Me: Echoing drums, cheesy ‘hey’ shouts, and phaser/guitar/airplane noises to create a strange opening. A minute in and the experimental sounds still abound, with a few spoken pieces added. Eventually the gospel like organ and choir starts before giving way to the 80s Jovi sound. It’s nice that they’re trying new things in their first song, but strip that all away and we have another straightforward, mid-paced, well written anthemic rick song. The verses aren’t great, Jon has some odd vocal tics, but the chorus is great. There isn’t much more to it – the chorus gets stretched out for the last couple of minutes, with further backing vocals and instrumentation to give added oomph.

Bad Medicine: A famous guitar/synth intro gets us into fist pumping full swing and no time is wasted as the chorus blasts out in the opening moments. Funky verses at a mid-stomping pace lead into an anthemic bridge with singalong lyrics before tailing into that big chorus again. Simple stuff, but very catchy and yet another track for a wide range of listeners to headbang to. There isn’t much else to the song, a decent solo in between repeated choruses spreads things out to the five-minute mark, although all that ‘wait a minute’ nonsense at the end could, nay, should have been cut.

Born To Be My Baby: Three big hits in a row, this one again wastes no time in getting to the point with catchy chanting leading into atmospheric pumping synth similar to ‘Runaway’. This is a high energy track which sometimes gets lost amidst all the more famous singles from the band, but I’ve always felt it’s one of their strongest. It’s perfectly 80s, but the melodies are great throughout – verse, bridge, and chorus are each breathless and excellent. A particular scratching solo works well, and those 80s stadium drums make you want to run through the streets in an 80s movie montage.

Living In Sin: This one opens like an 80s pop ballad, and I don’t remember it. Guitars and drums come in eventually, though it’s all soft, middle of the road stuff. The chorus is once again anthemic but it isn’t working for me as I don’t recall hearing it before and it doesn’t have a particularly strong hook. A standard solo followed by a rinse and repeat to end brings an ok song to its conclusion… nothing memorable here, fairly standard 80s ballad cheese, but I imagine a lot of young couples got naked to it at the time and it likely holds a strong nostalgic value.

Blood On Blood: Another hit which opens with tinkly guitars and other effects along with tumbling drums and weird synth and Baywatch piano. South Park vocals with a Springsteen feel give a triumphant anthemic feel, and the pace and the chorus ensure this is another classic. It’s a feel good, fast paced smiling rocker with nice backing vocals and some good melodies. We bring things down a notch for a quiet, whispered section before bringing it all up again for a final chorus section. So far this is shaping up to be the strongest Bon Jovi album yet, but I don’t recognise most of the upcoming songs, so we’ll have to see if it drops in quality for the second half.

Homebound Train: Lone guitar whining which recalls Led Zep opens this one, before a big riff comes in. I don’t remember this one, but it seems funky enough. The ‘down down down’ section sounds familiar so I must have heard it at some point. It’s an odd vocal choice for the lyrics as Jon sings it in a sleazy style, when it appears to be a simple song about going home, though maybe it’s all about sex and I haven’t been listening properly. Nice duel between synth, harmonica, and guitar, pretty good guitar solo, then a funky mid-section. A decent enough, fun rock track.

Wild Is The Wind: Lots of harmonics on the guitars in this quiet opening. I knew it wouldn’t be long before the Cowboy Jovi appeared. I wasn’t 100% if I had heard this when I saw the track list, but yes I’ve heard it, even though I don’t remember it fully. The song becomes standard Bon Jovi rock stuff by the time we get to the chorus, but it’s a pretty great song; atmospheric, ok lyrics, musically and melodically strong, and a slightly more complex song from a structural standpoint. None of the hooks are as instant as the band’s most famous tracks, but there’s a consistency meaning they’re equally strong. One of the guitar parts sounds an awful lot like a guitar part from Bryan Adams’s .Heaven’.

Ride Cowboy Ride: We’re defo into Cowboy territory now, as the name suggests. A radio static tune with acoustic guitars and duel vocals serves as an introduction for the next track, but as a standalone song it fine, and the main hook is catchy without lapsing into full-blown Country disasters.

Stick To Your Guns: This opens with a blast before calming and transforming into an acoustic ballad for the verses. It’s another inspirational, full-blooded American anthem of the Springsteen ilk, but the chorus isn’t as powerful as the verse, and we all know that an anthem only works if the chorus is the peak. The chorus is fine, it’s just a little weak when placed beside the very good verse. I do like the way the guitar solo merges with the vocal when it begins.

I’ll Be There For You: This is the band treading into complete acoustic rock and ditching the synth to make a more honest, typical ballad. Even though the guitars are electric, and the drums are big, at its core this is an acoustic track. The verses are good, and unlike the previous track, the chorus takes things up a notch to ensure we move into anthem territory. The song does get stretched a little needlessly with an overly long second verse – it seems like an attempt to fit as many lyrics in as possible, but we get the idea after a few lines. Still, another good song.

99 In The Shade: When I saw the name of this one I immediately had visions of 80s cheese, though the name wasn’t familiar to me. It starts at a high pace, with Queen-esque harmonies before merging into standard 80s rock. Oh lord, ‘tell the boys’… as soon as you hear something like that, you know you’re fighting a lost cause. Yes, my assumptions were correct, this is all 80s cheese, how wonderful it is to party and all that shite. Most of the lyrics of the verses are lost, the chorus lyrics are light and shite, and there aren’t any melodies of note. There is a lot of shouting though, if you’re into that.

Love For Sale: Talking and harmonica messing around. Sounds like the band pretending to look like they’re arsing around. This continues at a high pace with a demo feel. It sounds like they are having fun anyway, there’s a great solo, the drums and bass are non-existent. It’s an odd choice of a final track for an album packed with stadium filling anthems and really should have been a hidden track if they really wanted to include it. It’s an ok song, but isn’t worthy of closing the album.

A mostly, consistently good album then, with a first side of hits, and a second half of lesser tracks ranging from very good to ok, and only one which I would consider poor. This is probably the best Bon Jovi album out of the four I’ve covered so far, and there are still quite a few hit albums coming up as the band began that treacherous crossover into the nineties. As with each of the Bon Jovi albums so far, there isn’t a lot of wisdom or emotion on display – these are party or driving albums, heart-pumping songs to get you moving and smiling, and it’s easy to cut away the chafe from the good stuff. Let me know what you think about the album in the comments – any special memories of hearing the songs at the time of release or if you feel it is another poodle rock mistake!

Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet

Hello Glancers! It’s time once again to turn back the clock to that hallowed period of the dying embers of the 20th Century, a time when men stapled poodles to their scalps and shoved rats down their drawers, both for that authentic size-enhanced look. After two extremely forgettable, lackluster albums, it was make or break time for JBJ and the boys. Looking for a more mainstream approach, the boys sought out songwriter Desmond Child and in the space of a few months they had written and recorded the monster they wanted. While I can safely say I have never listened to this album from start to finish in a single sitting, I’m pretty certain I’ve heard every song before, though looking down the track list there’s a few I’m not sure of. Regardless, this is the moment that Bon Jovi made it big, releasing a monumentally successful, and some would say, classic album.

Let It Rock: There’s the big production, and a monstrous metallic noise, followed by a bizarre organ mess, before the song falls into huge, plodding rock song. It’s pure 80s in tones, sound, style, and theme. Looking back at what we know of the album and the more famous songs, this seems like an unusual choice to open the album with. It’s pretty poor, though it does of course have its catchy moments, the musicianship is fine, and while the chorus is stadium-sized as we would expect, it isn’t one anyone is likely to remember, especially given the songs which surround it. Decent guitar solo though.

You Give Love A Bad Name: Well, that’s more like it – an instant classic rock song, complete with sensual growls, big riffs, and an even bigger, shout-it-out chorus. Growing up as a hard rock and metal fan, it’s difficult to avoid Bon Jovi and songs like this, and the topic of conversation when speaking about the band always eventually turns to whether or not a metal fan should ‘like’ the band. I’m not one for such elitism though, and I’ll recognise a good song when I hear it. This rings true for much of the BJ catalogue – their hits are hits for a reason, namely, that they are well-written songs with good playing and memorable melodies. I’m fine with that, although it’s obvious that many of these songs are cheesy and a product of their time. Take out some of the 80s arrangements and styles though, and you’re still left with an essentially great piece of songwriting.

Livin On A Prayer: And so it remains. As mentioned before, it may be cheesy, and it may basically be a pop song covered in heavy, glossy guitars, and a stadium rawk sensibility, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of the most anthemic songs of all time, and one of the best songs of the decade.

Social Disease: Sex noises. Disappointment. 80s blasts with unfortunate brass. Trumpets and guitars do not mix. This is a rather silly song that doesn’t really go anywere. It tries to be… I don’t know… seedy or something, but it’s more middling garbage. Towards the ends, the pace changes slightly to allow the designated guitar solo, but this is one to ignore.

Wanted Dead Or Alive: Chains. Synth. Cowboys. Guitar. Epic riff. Yay, it’s another classic song. The first of several cowboy ranch rustlings songs the band would produce, and probably the best, the sign of quality here is in the masterful build-up, the subtlety, and the creativity which marks it out from the lesser songs on the album. The lyrics show vast improvement over the standard fare, and musically it shows maturity in the songwriting when compared with songs like the previous one. Naturally, it isn’t long before the solo is whipped out and the volume is turned up, but it’s both a well-written, cracking tune, and a guitar player’s dream.

Raise Your Hands: Then the subtlety goes out the window for this slice of Van Halen-esque sleazy cheese. It’s all very silly, but at least it’s energetic and fun, and the chorus is fairly catchy. With a little more thought this could have been another decent anthem, but as it stands it’s a crowd-pleasing peace of fluff which gets steadily more laughable with all the shout-outs to cities and cheering and whistling.

Without Love: Cheese land of the 80s one hit wonder power anthem variety. Actually though, this is a pretty good song. The verses are stronger melodically than the chorus – with a better chorus this could have been much better. Aside from being another pop song smothered by big boys and their big guitars, it’s a fine song. I’d like to hear a more stripped down version of this. I imagine most people will see this one as either entirely forgettable, or an underrated classic.

I’d Die For You: Runaway part 2. Like part 1, it uses the synths to its strengths, creating that wonderfully atmospheric 80s tone. Again the verses are stong here, the pre-chorus is a mess, and the chorus could have been much better. It’s okay, it’s another case of a missed opportunity. With all these songs requiring a little more polish and thought, this could have been a genuinely awesome album, but of course I’m sure the band and the fans are more than pleased, and I don’t think it would have been possible for the album to have sold any more than it did anyway.

Never Say Goodbye: I always had a soft spot for this one, but then I always did like a power anthem when it’s done right. Those fluttery synth noises are entirely unnecessary, and this time it’s the chorus which is stronger melodically, while the verses aren’t too great. The lyrics are fine, typical US romantic nostalgia, the guitar melodies are terrific, and it’s the sort of tear-jerker which men of a certain age and certain disposition may admit to getting a lump in their throat about.

Wild In The Streets: We close with an up-tempo slice of Springsteen-esque cheese. Thankfully, it hits all the right knows, the synth even works, the melodies are memorable, and everything feels even. It’s definitely an energetic song to do the Spac-leg to, and the joy of it overcomes the cheese. Another great solo, and (which I haven’t mentioned yet) Jon’s vocals seem much stronger than on previous releases. A fine finish to an overall fine album.

So, many would say that this is the high point of their career. Sales certain point towards that fact, and it does contain a number of their most famous tracks. However, we all know there are more hits to come, so I’ll be listening to those at some point. As already mentioned, there are a number of undisputed classics here, but a small number of fillers, and small number of middling songs prevent it from being, in my mind, the classic that it could have been. People will continue to listen to the famous ones over and over again for generations to come, far beyond the time when there isn’t even anyone alive who still remembers the 80s (aside from eternal me), while the other tracks will fade away. What do you guys think? Is it an all time classic? Or is it too cheesy to accept?

I am not ryte
Doing the Spac-leg