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

Review: This House is Not For Sale 11/4/2016

Friday, November 4, 2016

Bon Jovi Without Richie Sambora Is an Aging Dog That’s Lost Its Bite


Richie Sambora and Jon Bn Jovi.

While many people will forever associate them with their pop-metal heyday of the late 1980s, Bon Jovi has not only escaped the hair band ghetto but thrived by launching heartily into different musical phases.
They’ve gone hard and gritty (Keep The Faith and Bounce), pop-rock (Crush), Nashville-esque (Lost Highway), and misguidedly adult contemporary (2013’s What About Now). While some of the various twists and turns have not always pleased longtime fans, the band gets props for their lyrical maturation and for not sticking to the straight and narrow.
Which brings us to This House Is Not For Sale, their first studio album in over three and a half years and the first without original guitarist and chief Jon Bon Jovi songwriting collaborator Richie Sambora, whose skilled, soulful playing has been a vital part of the band’s sound since its inception back in 1983.
The six-string icon abruptly absconded with his guitar a quarter of the way through their 2013 world tour, their highest grossing ever and one of the highest grossing of all time, and his prolonged absence has had many fans wondering what’s next for JBJ and his Grammy-winning group. Their latest studio effort makes it clear that, with guitarist Phil X in tow, they are steadfastly moving forward.
Part of this trajectory includes reportedly naming longtime unofficial bassist Hugh McDonald an official member (it’s about effin’ time) along with Phil, whose other band The Drills revels in raucous hard rock. This roster change could offer a throwback to the days of Bon Jovi yore even as they carve out new territory, and with Jon feeling the need to purge his feelings about events of the last three years, those harder licks would make a nice fit.
Bon Jovi even returned to Avatar Studios, once known as Power Station, where they recorded their first album and where Jon cut the demo for “Runaway” (which included McDonald on bass) that helped land him his long-running deal with Mercury Records, which has since been revived through Island Records. It seems to be a conscious effort to return to their roots.

Many of the new Bon Jovi songs can be interpreted in two ways: as prototypical tunes about the struggles of everyday, working-class people (“I set each stone and I hammered each nail/This house is not for sale”) and as autobiographical confessionals about grappling with his record label (“The Devil’s in the temple and he’s making a mess/Got the Mona Lisa, got his hands up her dress”) and coping with the loss of his musical compatriot (“Are you living in a nightmare, are you living in a dream/Do you stand for something, will you fall for anything”).
The catchy title track, “Living With The Ghost,” the infectiously propulsive “Knockout” (with its grooving bass line), and the edgy “Devil’s In The Temple” in particular focus on coping with change and uncertainty, overcoming adversity, and pushing ahead. They are both personal and universal and among the best cuts—punchy and hooky. The vocals on those tracks are also among the most angst ridden on the album, with Jon sounding impassioned and sincere.
While there is some vim and vigor to be found on This House Is Not For Sale, a majority of the tunes veer toward mid-tempo, steadily chugging tracks that are often U2-ish in their sonic architecture. There are not a lot of rhythmic changes to be found. The big pop-rock anthem “Born Again Tomorrow” stands out mainly because the rhythm section drops out in the radiant chorus while the song loses little propulsion.
Throughout the album, those now standard “woah-oh” and “hey-ey” chants surface a lot (“sha-la-la” rears its head, too). Two of the ballads, the Chris Isaak-esque “Labor Of Love” and the romantic piano and string swooner “Real Love” (on the special edition), while pretty, are predictably housewife-friendly.

 Guitarist Phil X has good hard rock credentials and chops, but it feels like, riffing aside, the man just isn’t allowed to truly let loose here.
“Devil’s In The Temple” serves up snarling riffs and rhythms that lead up to a mid-section that cries out for a nice, wailing solo…that never comes. Phil plays flashy but brief lead breaks on the title track and “Born Again Tomorrow” and is allowed a short, tasteful solo on the closing song “Come On Up To Our House,” but they feel almost obligatory. They are exactly eight bars each time.
The third and last bonus track on the special edition, the snarling and majestic “We Don’t Run,” one of the few solid tracks on Burning Bridges that gets imported here, would have made a great ending to the regular edition of the new album. It’s one of the most driving and aggressive tracks on This House Is Not For Sale, but ironically John Shanks is the one who gets to tear things up for a few bars. Phil X is like many younger members brought into a veteran band, often stifling their individuality somewhat to fit into the whole, but this is where he could have made a difference. He has big shoes to fill, but he really needs to get a proper shot at it.
Then there is keyboardist David Bryan, the most underutilized man in rock.
Here you have a classically trained player who also has a passion for blues and rock. He was set to go to Julliard when his high school bandmate Jon enlisted him into the ranks. Some of the songs Bryan wrote on their early albums had larger than life choruses that totally fit with the group’s oeuvre. He has worked on movie soundtracks with Larry Fast, released two solo albums, and not only co-wrote a cheeky off-Broadway musical (The Toxic Avenger) but a multiple Tony Award-winning Broadway one (Memphis) as well.
This House Is Not for Sale has us yearning for Bon Jovi nostalgia, and we're not even talking about 1986—we're talking 2006.
In the way that Phil X, Hugh McDonald, and drummer Tico Torres are churning out straight eighth notes on a lot of the new songs, Bryan has generally been relegated to playing chords over a majority of the last few albums and often gets buried in the mix. He rarely gets to shine anymore. Even the delicate, pretty piano work fueling “Real Love” could have shown more color. What gives? He’s a great talent. Exploit him.
A principal culprit here beyond JBJ is longtime producer John Shanks. He came onboard with Have A Nice Day in 2005 and has been co-writing many of their songs over the last 10 plus years.
He plays guitar on this album as well and is now part of their touring line-up. Shanks undeniably has a great pop pedigree that has racked up millions upon millions in record sales, and yes, he worked on the last Van Halen studio album. But he has been smoothing out and polishing Bon Jovi’s rough edges too much, notably here and on 2009’s The Circle. The latter, while one of the Jersey boys’ best albums, actually could have used less refinement. Bon Jovi have been at their most successful when they straddle the line between hard rock crunchiness and pop melodicism. The pop side has taken over too much over the last decade. It’s time for a change.
Don’t get me wrong, This House Is Not For Sale has its moments, and many of these new songs are better than I expected, particularly in light of the baffling castaways collection Burning Bridges released last year. But many of them are simply middle of the road and lack the bite that made us fall in love with these Jersey boys to begin with. This feels like a lost opportunity to fully match the emotional turbulence that Jon is channeling with a heavier sound and more gusto. I’m not feeling nostalgia for 30 years ago either; more like a decade back.
I’ve been contemplating the future of a lot of hard rock bands in recent months, especially with many heritage acts now in their 60s. Some people can grow older gracefully, others not so much so; it depends on the group and their raison d’être. With members still in their 50s, Bon Jovi could indulge their adult contemporary side further and probably remain accessible to a lot of their loyal audience.
But right now, especially with a younger gun in tow, these guys still have energy in reserve to keep rocking hard for a little while longer. Bring it on. Knock us out.

source

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Jon Bon on Extra...

Jon Bon Jovi Opens Up About New Album


“Extra’s” AJ Calloway sat down with Jon Bon Jovi, who opened up about the emotional road to making his band Bon Jovi's 14th album.

The rocker shared about the new record, "You know what I realized, it’s been four years since ‘What About Now.’ It’s been a lifetime. Other days, it feels like it was yesterday 'cause it seems like the last tour was yesterday; it’s three years ago now, and I was just in this fog and there’s a lot of things that I had to process so that I could get to a place where I could write it down, music I could share with people. But coming out of that fog now, I feel great."



One of the things he had to process was guitarist Richie Sambora leaving the band. “There was a number of things — I mean, as we sit here in the hallowed halls of my record company... We had a big falling out and that, too, was one of the things that was rectified. Of course, everyone knows that once Richie didn’t show up for work anymore we had to go on — that was another issue — so there's been a number of things that weren’t expected, and so I had to process that.”

As for how it he got through it all, Jon revealed, “I had a lot of friends and you know what was great, is I can say I had a lot of help, I had a lot of people helping me to get through it — friends when I needed friends, shoulder when I needed a shoulder, and I did, I needed that shoulder, so the writing was the end result of that breakdown, the turmoil, the coming to the crossroads and figuring out what the hell happened to me and 'where am I going with this?' because we don’t make music frivolously… I had to have something to say and I needed the tools to say it, which was the band and the support.”

The rock star admitted he took a page out of Beyoncé’s book, drawing inspiration from her latest album. He said, “Having seen Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade' I said, 'I'd like to make a video for every song,' and we've never done that before… Tidal said, ‘We'll make a video for every song on the record if you want to do that,' and I said, ‘That would be great,' and we could really tell the stories behind the lyric, so there's no performance video, these are like little mini-movies, and so I really applaud Tidal for taking the shot.”

In Bon Jovi’s “Labor of Love” music video, Jon cast a surprise young star instead of appearing in it himself. “You know who's in it, though, is Bob Dylan’s grandson, Jake Dylan's son. Levi Dylan is the handsome young man in the video. He’s a great kid and we put him in a couple of them.”

The group's newly released single, ‘This House Is Not for Sale,” is also helping him move on. “'This House Is Not for Sale' is about integrity; it’s about a rebirth, also.”


"This House Is Not for Sale" drops tomorrow and Bon Jovi's upcoming tour kicks off in February.


QNote: for some reason I can't seem to embed the video here. So if you go here, you can see the video. Sometimes I really hate technology. Grrr... :)

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JBJ on Trump, Bono, Bieber and his split with RS

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

From the NewStatesman

Jon Bon Jovi on Trump, Bono, Bieber — and the agony of his split with Richie Sambora

"I should have cancelled but there was not a chance in hell. The shit I went through on that last tour. I have earned this grey hair."


It's something unheard of in the modern PR junket, but Jon Bon Jovi interviews are running early. Breaks have been built into his day but he doesn’t want them. He’s somewhere in this suite at the Savoy Hotel in central London: remnants of black tea steam in a delicate china cup next to a recently vacated chair. Soon his compact frontman’s frame appears in the doorway, stomach flat as an ironing board – and to my dismay it becomes apparent that this will be a sunglassesinterview. They’re removed just once, 30 minutes in, for a weary pinch of the nose.

It’s been a terrible three years. “Turmoil”, as he put it, to Jo Whiley the previous afternoon during a three-minute chat at an album launch. He didn’t get time to say why but everyone knows. His compadre Richie Sambora – partner for 30 years, co-writer of their four No 1s, fellow New Jersey boy and guitarist in one of the biggest bands in the world – is gone: he stopped showing up for work in 2013 and now tours the world with his girlfriend in an act he describes as “Sonny and Cher on steroids”. Jon, who has played to 32 million people, launched a new album cautiously with a string of gigs that could be described as boutique. Neither mentions the other on stage.

Other things went wrong for Jon Bon Jovi. The band fell out with their record label. And two years back, he tried and failed to buy the American football team the Buffalo Bills. He already had one team – and when it was rumoured he would move the Bills from Buffalo to Ontario, Canada, there was uproar. Whole areas of the struggling city declared themselves “Bon-Jovi Free Zones”. His music was banned from bars and strip clubs. It must have been painful for the man who’s spent 30 years, like a kind of blockbuster Springsteen, reflecting the blue-collar worker in the American musical psyche. He and Richie’s biggest hit, “Livin’ on a Prayer”, followed the fortunes of a young couple during the union strikes of the Reagan era. Fans debated whether the song’s fictional Tommy was a strike-breaker. “No, no, Christ no. He just lost his job – it wasn’t that he crossed the picket line!” said an anxious Jon in 2009.

In discos, dives and weddings across the planet, floors still fill to his anthems’ opening bars. From the philanthropy career (he builds homes for low-income families) to his campaign work for Al Gore, John Kerry, Obama and both Clintons, Jon Bon Jovi has been a model citizen. He spent two years on the White House Council for Community Solutions, which, he assures me, actually “meant we had to show up for meetings and do things”. He has said, however, that he’d never go into politics full time “because 50 people hate you before you’ve even walked out the door”. He called it a “shit job”.

“No,” he qualifies. “They asked me who had the better job, me or Bill Clinton. I said me, because I get to keep the house and the plane.” So he’ll never run for office. What about Springsteen?


“Bruce isn’t a politician,” he says. “Bono is more of a politician than Bruce.”

He stands up and moves across the room, throwing open the floor-length windows that look out over the Thames. Tour boats are moving up and down the river, and he’s been bugged by a particular one all morning – someone is singing through a Tannoy in a high, male voice. “Did you hear that? At first I thought it was someone falling off the bridge. I thought it was someone jumping. Heh heh.” His gloominess is strangely performative.

“Here’s my take on Trump,” he says, getting back to work. “The one demographic he’s currently leading in is the white, older, somewhat educated male. That demographic are coming from a place of disappointment and fear. Fear because they don’t know where their pot of gold went. Disappointment because they have now realised the American dream isn’t going to happen.

“Hillary has to embrace the voices of the Sanders millennials who are resolved to the fact that they are not going to own a home or have two cars, but are very concerned about the environment and their own futures. The Trump demographic, they’re probably non-believers in global warming because they’re uneducated and they’re not paying attention. With regard to the Republican candidate, I wish there were a better mouthpiece to speak up on behalf of those people.”

When Jon Bon Jovi was 26, he was hurt by a review that made fun of his inspirational music, which celebrated the simple values of loyalty and friendship and, as the writer put it, appeared to believe in Rocky Balboa running up the steps in Philadelphia. Then Jon had a realisation: “I live that life,” he said. “If I went to Washington tomorrow I could probably meet the president. I was Rocky.” The American dream happened for him.

Rock’n’roll was not an impossible fantasy for the son of two ex-marines growing up in Sayreville, New Jersey. “Thirty miles south from where I lived is this beach town [Asbury Park] that Bruce was able to make famous – the biggest places he could play at that time were literally a 3,000 seat theatre. He made the unattainable accessible.”

In 1973 the state of New Jersey lowered the drinking age from 21 to 18, largely to allow soldiers returning from Vietnam the right to purchase alcohol. He says the new drinking age helped him break into the music scene. “At 16 or 17 I could get into bars and play.” His parents were supportive, he explains: “They said, if you’re going to be in a bar until three in the morning, at least we know where you are.” Like most of his peer group he had no college aspirations. His cousin Tony ran a recording studio in Manhattan where – sweeping floors, like a hair-metal Kris Kristofferson – Jon was able to cut some demos. He got a record deal at 20: “Then it got a little bigger, and a little bigger until it got to the place where I am, and no one had dreamed of that.”

Like any good Italian boy, when he started making money, he tried to put a bit back. He bought expensive things for the family – such as holidays and cars. He warned them about a trip to Italy a year in advance so they could plan time off work. How long did it take his family to get used to their son having more money than them?


“They didn’t get used to it,” he says grumpily. “They still aren’t happy with it. They’re still resentful of it sometimes. They were like, of course I want it – then they got it and they were like, I hate this f***ing house. Really? You don’t have to stay here. . .” At several points in our conversation, he slips into imaginary dialogues.

“We weren’t the first and we’re not the last. Elvis did it 50 years ago and I’m sure that Harry Styles did it two years ago. It’s a confusing time when you become that guy and have the ability to share with your family the fruits of your labour. People think that money makes you smart. It doesn’t. It makes you rich.”

His cousin Tony sued the band, claiming he’d had a part in developing their sound. His brother – another Tony – worked within the touring entourage in the early days. “Two of my brothers, actually,” he corrects. Are they still employees?

“Yes and no . . . Sorta . . . Anyway."


It’s not fashionable in the UK to talk about your rock band as a business. Sambora once explained that Bon Jovi “created 42 markets” by touring 42 countries. “I think you’d be hard pressed to get someone to even f***ing name 42 countries,” he added. In 1989, they were guests of honour in Gorbachev’s Russia. I ask Jon to recall his experiences of this historic moment. I can see his eyes through his shades and he’s staring into the middle distance.

“Records were still on the black market – even having a list of the records you owned could get you put away. The hotel rooms were definitely bugged. The bottled water was very salty and the meats were dried.”

He is starting to enjoy this. “The entire Aeroflot fleet had glass noses so they could be converted at any moment into military aircraft. And they didn’t have brooms. They’re trying to sweep out the stadium on the first night, and it was a bunch of sticks tied together. I’ve not been back since.”


Jon Bon Jovi sees himself – as his band name would suggest – as “the CEO of a major corporation”.

The group is not, and has never been, a democracy. Once, the band’s curly-haired keyboard player, Dave Bryan, was asked whether this bothered him and he said, “I’m semi-bothered about it but not enough to ruin my life. You can’t fight City Hall.”

Jon says it’s the Henry Ford theory of management: someone’s name has to be at the top of the paper. However, the group’s appeal was always a double act – that brittle romance between lead singer and guitarist that lies at the heart of many classic rock bands, from Mick and Keith, to Steve Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, who may grow to loathe each other but stay together for the sake of the songs. Sambora – multi-instrumentalist and a flamboyant guitar hero – explained his role in the band like this, in 2009:

“I’ve always had it in my head that the success of our band was going to be our leader being very, very happy – and I tried always to be there for him as a friend, and from a musical level, and from a business standpoint. If can help Jon be in a great mood as much as possible, I’m going to do it and that’s what I’ve put on myself as a responsibility.”

Jon, who is clean-living, and Richie, who is not, kept it going for a long time. In the early 1990s, Bon Jovi nearly split but were saved by group therapy at the hands of the psychologist Dr Lou Cox, who runs a company called EgoMechanics in New York.

“It was fabulous,”says Jon. “We got the idea from Aerosmith. He wasn’t like Brian Wilson’s guy [the svengali Eugene Landy]. He got his hourly fee and he left.”
I called Cox at home: he was a kind, avuncular voice on the end of the phone. He told me he made Bon Jovi act out their feelings for one another: “I would have them be angry at each other in a kind of role play, just to find out they could do it safely and not kill each other.” He talks about family dynamics being laid down early – certain prohibitions against “speaking up”. And about the honeymoon phase in the life of a major rock band “when they are literally in love with each another . . . Then you have your first fight and the air goes out of the balloon. How do you manage, going forward, when it isn’t all wonderful feelings?”
*****
This is a long interview, but very interesting.  You can read the rest of it here.

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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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