Together and with The Power of We, we can start a revolution. One Soul at a time... ~Jon Bon Jovi *** There's a Story on every street corner, my friend. All you have to do is open your eyes... ~Richie Sambora

"The Circle" a Review...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Part one of a very good three part review from the Examiner...

The only Bon Jovi 'The Circle' CD review you'll ever need

In director Tony Scott’s Oscar-winning film ‘Gladiator’, Russell Crowe’s character, Maximus, proclaims to his troops before entering into battle, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity”.

And so from one boys rock-n-roll dream, born of the elixir of the Rock N Roll Gods and driven by the runaway testosterone of youth, Bon Jovi, to a man, has closed the circle of their evolution by encapsulating their musical legacy in an album that is nothing short of a musical Handbook of Life’s Lessons.

The band’s fifth album this decade and third in five years is the most honest, realistic, and enduringly hopeful social statement they’ve ever made. In fact, one suspects that if P. Diddy or Lady GaGa had crafted it, they would be hailed as the Second Coming for their 'societal vision' and 'wisdom.'

Yet not surprisingly, the ‘critics’ continue to knock down, kick around and just plain disrespect this American and Proud of It musical fist of driven balladeers.

That's nothing but old news here. The delusional self-proclaimed and self-absorbed Kingmakers are loathe to consider the melodies, musical footprint, or meaning in a work; yet sit in supreme judgment void of respect for the countless hours of work invested in the songwriting, and the endless cuts and re-takes of the artistic studio experience. It's easy to judge when you're not the one snapping guitar strings and smoking like a chimney between takes until your throat feels like a salted road.

Bon Jovi can even have a bad hair day!Small wonder then that this past November, as ‘The Circle’ was coming out, L.A. Times Entertainment blogger Mikael Wood barely broke a sweat in his three-paragraph review.

In giving the album one-out-of-four stars, he tossed off a lame compliment about the band returning to their “blue-collar roots”, gushing “these guys obviously mean business when it comes to the victims of big business”, a reference to all of us shattered by the giant stink-bomb that escaped the global economy in late 2008.

‘Blue collar roots’?

Was Wood reviewing Bruce Springsteen perhaps? Note to Mr. Wood: Bon Jovi has been about hair and glam and metal and cowboys and leather jackets with cowboy frills hanging off them. There has never been any Woody Guthrie-type odes to death, murder, mayhem and jail that one finds in Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ or ‘Ghost of Tom Joad’.

Still the heavyweight champion of the rock world.The only thing blue collar about Bon Jovi is their decades old work ethic, and their refusal to be taken lightly.

In a moment of frappucino-driven journalistic pretension, Wood reduces the entire purpose, concept, and message of ‘The Circle’ thusly:

"The Circle" shows off Bon Jovi's still-sharp knack for wedding blandly optimistic sentiments to predictably soaring choruses. Unfortunately, it's getting pretty hard to tell one song from the next: First the singer's telling us "We Weren't Born to Follow," then he's remembering "When We Were Beautiful"; later, he reveals that "Love Is the Only Rule" before demanding that we "Learn to Love."

But the gross minimization of everything the band has accomplished over the years continued when Pop Doses Jeff Giles called Jon Bon Jovi a “craven opportunist” , implying that Bon Jovi treats his band more as a business plan than a beat-thumping ass-shaking rip-roaring goo-gushing music machine.

To add insult to injury, Giles unleashed this flaming turd of uber-journalistic sputum, reducing the entire CD to a cow chip in just four sentences:

The Circle is loaded for bear with the same stuff people have always responded to in (Bon Jovi’s) their records: huge, push-button choruses,plaintive knucklehead ballads; and cliches masquerading as lyrics that are supposed to signify something, but whose complete meaninglessness from a great Mobus strip of hoary platitudes and insultingly calculated populism”.

Quick, somebody get the Thesaurus away from this poser before I hork flaming JoviGuts all over his slippers.

Not to be outdone, even across the pond, where Bon Jovi has an immense following, Andy Gil of The Independent said 'The Circle “…all sounds utterly bogus, a sackful of platitudes harnessed to big, U2 styled stadium rock riffs”.

Tim Grierson from About.com called 'The Circle' an uninspiring, “cheesy, phony uplift” and added “it’s an album oppressively weighed down by commercial calculation. As a result, all you can hear are the cliches”.

Talk about missing the point.

Undoubtedly, there are good reviews out there, like The New York Post’s Dan Aquilante, who correctly identified it as an album about “fighting authority, discovering a personal path, overcoming life’s obstacles, savoring the good times and learning to laugh when things go bad”. Clearly Aquilante got it. “From end to end, this is an upbeat record that never wanders into sap”, he surmised.

Regrettably, it’s astounding how many fans and critics just don’t ‘get it’ about 'The Circle'.

Throughout his career, Bon Jovi has always said that a good album should have a beginning, middle and an end. Oversimplification? Perhaps: but the point is, the music should pull you in, the lyrics should tell you a story, and the last song should feel like the last chapter in a good book.

'The Circle' does all that, and then some. For starters, if it was just about the money, everyone in Bon Jovi could have just stayed home for a decade or so after the Lost Highway Tour, which was the top-grossing concert tour of 2008.

None of the band members are hurting for money after nearly three decades and millions in album sales. And, if anything, all of them have maturing families at home that could easily have pulled them out of the carnival life and back into domestic bliss.

No, something much more was happened here, and it wasn’t just about the band kicking and screaming into mid-life.

Bon Jovi has always infused their records with socially aware songs like “These Days”, “Somethin to Believe In”, “Dry County”, and “Keep The Faith”. They have been willing to acknowledge social ills like joblessness, and even addressed an adolescent’s sense of isolation and wanting in “I Wanna Be Loved” from ‘Have A Nice Day’.

What makes 'The Circle' so complete is that for the first time, Bon Jovi blended the music with his and the band’s charitable efforts. What began as a social commentary on the Great Recession of 2008 has turned into Bon Jov’s philanthropic clarion call, “It’s not about me, it’s about We’.

This was a turning point in Jon Bon Jovi’s thinking: in When We Were Beautiful, he spoke clearly about keeping Bon Jovi the rock band separate from Bon Jovi the social activist. This record has changed that.


...to be continued.

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I am and always have been a Bon Jovi fan. This blog is just my obsession taken a step further, my imagination in high gear if you will. I love to read and decided to see what would happen when I took that love of the written word and ramped it up a bit.

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