|Bon Jovi This Left Feels Right||Island Records|
Bon Jovi's new re-recorded Best Of release is more a question of "what if?" rather than what is. What could have been, rather than what is on offer.|
I'm quite open to hearing new interpretations of past hits, but it's a huge double edged sword. How do you pay homage to tracks already made classic and adopted by many as personal anthems, yet do something different enough with them to warrant the exercise taking place.
I was quite interested in hearing this, but as has been the case with the last 3 Jovi releases – the promise held isn't necessarily repaid.
Don't get me wrong – this is very slick. It's very well produced and flawlessly executed. But it just don't have any wow factor.
I am a fan of Bon Jovi's past acoustic renditions of their mega-hits. The guys have done it numerous ways live over the years, with the occasional bootlegs and live B-Sides well worth collecting.
In this case it seems the band have been most concerned with updating their sound and modernizing the delivery of these classics. While listening to the songs, I the majority of my thoughts drifted towards wondering what could have been, or wishing particular songs were different to what they are.
This seems to be a little too cleaver for the sake of being cleaver in places, then rather bland in others.
It must be said that the production here – courtesy of the super smooth and high-tech friendly Pat Leonard – is first rate. The layers of instrumentation are lush and the band couldn't have picked a better producer to help them modernize the songs with various effects, tricks and modern pop traits. But how will the fans feel about this?
Track By Track:
Wanted Dead Or Alive is probably the most dramatic transformations and opens the album. It's an interesting version, but in my mind falls short of what could have been – much like several other tracks here. I don't like the fact that the verse features Jon's vocals filtered through various effects. I do like the super heavy guitar/drum rhythm that kicks in occasionally and would like to have heard more of that. I'm also left to ponder where Richie Sambora is vocally. This became and continues to be a huge song for him and Jon to duet on live. Why not do the same here?
Livin' On A Prayer is one of the band's best ever songs and a personal favourite. Here it has been stripped right back to a slow tempo ballad with an atmospheric chorus that suits the song. It's not a long way from what has been done by the band live. That's the good news. The bad news is once again – where's Richie? The song is a duet with a female lead vocalist. Why not again take the opportunity to feature the very underrated vocal talents of Mr. Sambora? Oh well, minor point, the song actually works really well. It would be hard to kill a classic such as this!
The new Bad Medicine is sultry mid-western ballad with a slightly country-ish tinge to it. The bad news is that the verse simply has no vitality. It's as flat as a roadkill rat.
It's My Life features some nice instrumentation – a beautiful harp to open, some haunting piano throughout and some lush synth/string effects over a very laid back vocal. This track works a treat and is very enjoyable.
Lay Your Hands On Me is another old personal favourite. Here it features a rich acoustic layer and a strong, but restrained softly sung lead vocal giving the track an almost Gospel feel. Maybe it would have been cool to take it all the way and develop that angle further?
You Give Love A Bad Name has been turned into a swampy blues ballad, with at times, a horrible twang in the lead vocal. Not sure what JBJ was trying, but I don't like his delivery on this track. The track is again stripped of much of its natural energy.
Bed Of Roses was and remains a ballad. It's had strings and a more pronounced piano part added to it and has been jazzed up with some slick production techniques, but otherwise remains pretty much the same.
Everyday is been turned into a modern ballad of sorts. It picks up the tempo mid-song into an acoustic pop track with a slight country feel.
Born To Be My Baby is another mid-tempo tune that is a few notches slower than the original and features several layers of guitars – acoustic and bass and is another track that seems to have had the life sucked out of it. Another intervention from Richie Sambora could have given it a lift and returned some intensity.
Keep The Faith was a watershed song for the band. It signaled their re-invention back at the early 90's. Not so here. This time we have a soft, slow acoustic ballad that has a style that has been done 2 or 3 times already on this album.
I'll Be There For You is another original ballad that is featured. This one has had a bit of work done to it – now more in a Beatlesque style with a couple of extra layers of effects and a soft, raspy vocal from JBJ.
Always closes out the album. The band has chosen one of the better tracks to ensure the album ends on a high note. This track remains a ballad, but has been made even more intense and modernized by some good production effects and a new layer of keyboard dramatics. A good sentimental ballad that has been intensified and made that little bit darker.
The main problem is the pace. Bon Jovi again prove they are getting too old to rock with a 12 track collection of ballads. Some tracks work extremely well, but as an overall album, it's just a little too laid back.
The bottom line is that I must question how much I am going to listen to this. I'm still playing New Jersey, Slippery When Wet and Keep The Faith today – many years after their release. I can't see myself playing this next month, let alone years from now.
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