Richie Sambora Aftermath of the Lowdown review
Posted by: Kevin ()
Date: October 08, 2012 02:47PM

RICHIE SAMBORA – AFTERMATH OF THE LOWDOWN

Richie Sambora is an interesting character. After achieving massive success with Bon Jovi, he released a solo album in 1991 that veered far away from the arena rock of his day job. Sure, there were a couple of Bon Jovi-esque tracks, but a lot of the album ventured into a bluesy direction with some deeply personal lyrics. No one really expected this hard rock guy to come up with songs like Father Time, The Answer and One Light Burning—songs far away from anything related to Bon Jovi. It was a personal, reflective, almost mystical album, and ended up being one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. You rarely see an artist allow that deep of a look in to their psyche.

Undiscovered Soul followed in 1998, and by then, the blues rock had given way to a rootsy Midwestern Americana sound. The sound had changed, but in between the happy songs of a man in love were more thought processes of the intricacies of life. I don’t think it quite matches up with the debut, but it’s a solid rock album with plenty of highlights.

Since then, the Bon Jovi machine has been running at full tilt, and with the first break upon us, it’s taken 14 years for the next Sambora solo album to appear, but here we are in late 2012, and album #3 is finally released. It’s not a repeat of either album, but instead a new sound with some parallels to the past.


TRACK BY TRACK

Burn the Candle Down opens with a burst of guitars, then this dirty riff and…..distorted vocals? Why anyone ever thinks distorted vocals are a good idea is beyond me. I’ve rarely heard them used without being horribly annoying, and that isn’t the case here. If you can get through the vocal effects, it’s a decent groovy rocker, but that’s a tall order indeed. It would be much more appealing if the vocals were just left alone. The song itself is fine.
Every Road Leads Home to You is much more like it. A keyboard riff driven song, this is your breezy pop rocker in the vein of Hard Times Come Easy from the Undiscovered Soul album. Rather laid back with maybe a touch of The Eagles, and very catchy. Oh, the vocals are recorded normally.
Taking a Chance on the Wind starts with this swampy acoustic bluesy riff and vocals before turning electric, but keeping the same feel. The slow verse rises to mid-tempo for the chorus, with that country influence seeping in. Very enjoyable.
Drums and heavy guitars signal the return to rock mode on Nowadays with more distorted vocals again?!? Fortunately, the effects are not as prominent as the opening song, and disappear completely for the chorus. The song itself is not too far off from recent Bon Jovi actually.
Weathering the Storm is a ballad that rises to a big chorus. It’s co-written by Bernie Taupin of Elton John fame, and you hear a bit of that in the song. Cool lyrics, and that chorus gets bigger with every listen. Pretty cool.
A big guitar riff quickly turns distorted and more distorted vocals announce the arrival of the trippy-sounding Sugar Daddy, and the album would be better off without it. Enough said, and let’s move on to better things.
I’ll Always Walk Beside You is a brilliant haunting ballad and the album needed something this strong to erase the stench of the previous track. About halfway through, the song switches from acoustic to electric as the full band kicks in. This is a major dose of pure class. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this as a single at some point.
More piano kicks off Seven Years Gone which wanders through a laid-back verse before rising to mid-tempo for the chorus. Pretty cool. You start to realize that there’s a good set of quality songs around this point.
The long winded title of Learning How to Fly With a Broken Wing finally delivers a rocker without the vocal effects—and it’s a breath of fresh air. Soundwise, it’s not too far from Bon Jovi, but the pumping chorus has more life than most of the recent tracks from that band. Rocking song with attitude and a scorching (if brief) guitar solo. More like this please.
You Can Only Get So High is a classy piano ballad with some dark lyrics. There are some similarities to The Answer from Sambora’s first solo album—at least in the lyric and feel department. This really reminds me of a closing track, except that it isn’t.
World follows with an acoustic campfire styled ballad to end the album with Richie Sambora in storytelling mode. The lyrics are earnest in their message, but the whole thing is a bit too overblown and preachy. Fortunately, it’s short, clocking in at a bit over two minutes.

There are also some bonus tracks that didn’t make the album for reasons I can’t explain. Backseat Driver is a groovy pub rocker with attitude set on burn. Really cool and fun track that would go over great live, and some biting hilarious lyrics to boot. The musical breakdown also gives Richie a chance to let loose on the guitar a bit, and then he really goes to town near the end of the song. Kinda cut from the same cloth as Learning How To Fly…, but it has an identity of its own. It’s also a rocker without a vocal effect to be found—and that has to count for something, right?
Forgiveness Street is another ballad with a passing similarity to Harlem Rain from the Undiscovered Soul album. Very dark lyrically, but with a hint of redemption. Solid track.


THOUGHTS & RUMINATIONS

Listening to this album, even if you haven’t been paying attention to the news, it’s pretty clear that Richie Sambora has been through hell and back over the past couple of years. That’s some pretty powerful emotions to deal with, and he’s poured out his soul on this album. He’s also covered it up with vocal effects on several songs. I just don’t get why you use vocal effects on a singer who can actually sing. It just defeats the purpose, and ruins some decent songs. Speaking of singing, Richie is in fine voice. His range may be deceased, but there is plenty of soul and attitude in the vocals, and he sounds really good here. He’s one of those vocalists who live through their lyrics, and does a really good job of selling the song. He also gets some good opportunities to cut loose on the guitar on this album—especially if you add Backseat Driver back into the mix.

Richie Sambora has made an album here that is something like a dark rehab version of Undiscovered Soul. There are a couple of big rock tracks, but mainly, this is the late night album to listen to when you are in a reflective mood—similar to the mood of the Stranger in This Town album. It’s piano driven as much as it’s guitar driven, could best be described as Midwest Americana sound with touches of country, pop, and the blues influence that you always get from Sambora with his voice. While the ballads greatly outnumber the rock songs, there is significant variation in the sound, so things don’t start blending together and sounding alike. I’ve heard the album described as These Days 2, and as long as you eschew the couple of Bon Jovi anthem rock songs on that album, it’s an appropriate comparison. I absolutely loved that album for what it was, and the feel is similar on this album—deeply personal lyrics used to exorcise some demons wrapped up in a commercial package.

My main issue is the tracks chosen for the final running order. As is, you’ve got a pretty good cd, with some obvious flaws. If you drop Sugar Daddy and World, replace them with Forgiveness Street and Backseat Driver, and do a bit of rearranging, you keep the pace going better and throw out some of the vocal effects songs. With that done, you have a worthy successor to the Sambora solo catalog, and one of the better albums of the year. Just wish the powers that be did that to begin with instead of leaving someone else to correct it for them. Let’s hope the wait next time is a bit shorter.

Preferred track order:
1)Burn That Candle Down 2) Every Road Leads Home to You 3) Taking a Chance on the Wind 4) Nowadays 5) Weathering the Storm 6) Learning How to Fly on a Broken Wing 7) I’ll Always Walk Beside You 8) Seven Years Gone 9) Backseat Driver 10) Forgiveness Street 11) You Can Only Get So High

Rating (rate all tracks 1-10 and do average. 7 is filler. 8 solid. 9 exceptional. 10 classic. Also 1/2 scores allowed)
Official release: 83
Redo: 87
Kevin

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SubjectViewsWritten ByPosted
Richie Sambora Aftermath of the Lowdown review1075 Kevin 10/08/2012 02:47PM
Re: Richie Sambora Aftermath of the Lowdown review 326 jamesrock 10/08/2012 05:03PM
Re: Richie Sambora Aftermath of the Lowdown review 228 Kevin 10/09/2012 02:04AM
Re: Richie Sambora Aftermath of the Lowdown review 220 jamesrock 10/09/2012 02:34AM
Re: Richie Sambora Aftermath of the Lowdown review 138 RockerChic 10/12/2012 04:54AM


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