Without A Song: Bon Jovi, ‘Keep The Faith & ‘These Days’

bon-jovi

Without a song throws a spotlight on bands, albums and tracks beloved of Skin Back Alley. Old, new, classic or cutting edge, our aim is to share good music that has touched us through the years.

In 1995, the world of rock was a radically different place to the one it had been at the height of Bon Jovi’s popularity in the late 1980’s. For one, Kurt Cobain had been thrust into the role of grunge poster boy and then had just as quickly ended it all, changing the landscape of guitar music in his wake. An alternative miserabalist/realist outlook had permeated the mainstream.

Whether because of – or despite – this change in the prevailing mood, Bon Jovi had started to overhaul the tone of their music and image with 1992’s Keep The Faith. Gone were the poodle perms of old and in their place had come leaner cuts and less flamboyant threads. Gone were the overwrought cliches of having “seen a million faces and rocked them all,” newly apparent were a greater depth of feeling and a more nuanced outlook in their character sketches. And in “Dry County” they had recorded a near ten minute epic that came as close as the New Jersey rockers ever have to emulating their home state superstar, Bruce Springsteen.

Following the release of their greatest hits package, Crossroad, the group took this new development to the next level. Upon it’s release These Days was received with mixed reviews. A more muscular guitar sound and dense production, combined with decidedly downbeat lyrics, made many wonder where the good time bar band they had come to know and love had disappeared to. But for others, the album represented what many had thought the band capable of if they would only try; something akin to an artistic statement.

The first album the group recorded without bassist Alec Jon Such, this was Bon Jovi’s “dark” record. On opening track “Hey God” a family man reels at the deity and the world that have left him on the brink of homelessness. During “Something to Believe In” our narrator is on a quest for faith, whilst during its counterpart, “Something for the Pain”, he is worshiping at a different altar altogether.

This previously unheard of depth and diversity continues with album centrepiece, “My Guitar Lies Bleeding in my Arms”. The lyric of the song seems to explicitly discuss the changing nature of Bon Jovi’s world: “I can’t write a love song, the way I feel today. I can’t sing no song of hope, I got nothing to say.” For a man who has built a multi-million dollar career from penning power ballads, that’s no small admission. Accompanied by some subtle guitar licks and a powerful central section that sees the most punishing sound Richie Sambora has wrangled from his guitar since “If I was your Mother”, it is perhaps the most affecting track on the album.

Musically and artistically the group have never again achieved the same level of success in their recorded output, even if they have continued to be a cash cow. Later career missteps, like the largely acoustic album This Left Feels Right which saw them reinterpret their own back catalogue, or the bland country-tinged rock of Lost Highway, haven’t done much to broaden their horizons or deepen anyone’s understanding of their craft. Richie Sambora was more successful in that regard on his second solo outing, Undiscovered Soul. But the one-two of Keep the Faith and These Days are a fine legacy from the Garden State’s second most successful sons.

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Dolly brings mud, fire and Richie Sambora to Glastonbury

Dolly Parton_Glastonbury_Jonathan Short
Photo: Jonathan Short/Invision/AP

All eyes may have been on Metallica’s set at Glastonbury last weekend, but in the end it was Dolly Parton’s appearance the following day that seemed to generate all the headlines.

Whilst the California thrash kings’ show went off in style and largely without a bad word, Parton’s set seems to have unexpectedly attracted conflict and controversy.

In a pre-show press conference, Dolly was quoted as saying: “This is a very exciting day for me and we’ve got all kinds of things going on.”

“I don’t have a bit of mud on me!” she continued. “When I was coming in this morning I was looking at all the mud and thinking, this is not that different from where I grew up in the mud. My daddy was a farmer in East Tennessee and I grew up on a farm — mud is mud wherever you go.”

When Dolly took to the stage, her set included a cover of Alicia Keys’ hit single “Girl On Fire”, and a guest appearance by sometime Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, who duetted with Parton on the New Jersey stadium rockers’ song “Lay Yours Hands On Me.” A studio version of the song features on Parton’s new album, Blue Smoke.

Nevertheless, whilst all seemed to be going well on stage, accusations started flying across the web that Parton was in fact lip-synching her set, rather than performing live. The first suggestion seemed to be made by Sky News’ Kay Burley via Twitter, labeling the country megastar’s show “disappointing.”

Actor Stephen Fry was among those coming to Parton’s defense, saying it was an “HD live processor issue” which made her appear to be miming such legendary hits as “Islands in the Stream” and “Jolene.”

In a statement, a Parton representative has strenuously denied the miming claim, saying, “Some people don’t know an amazing singer when they hear one.”

Watch Dolly Parton and Richie Sambora’s duet below and decide for yourself!

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New music releases, 30th June 2014

Here are this week’s new and notable music releases for the 30th of June, 2014:

KATL - High Priestess
High Priestess, Kobra & The Lotus

Revival, Bellowhead
Mutineers, David Gray
The Division Bell (20th Anniversary Edition), Pink Floyd
Isolate and Medicate, Seether
Games of Thrones Season 4 OST, Ramin Djawadi
From Parts Unknown, Every Time I Die
New Jersey (Deluxe Edition), Bon Jovi
Remedy, Old Crow Medicine Show
Saga City, Saga
High Life, Bryan Eno and Karl Hyde
Magic Forest, Amberian Dawn
Hardcore Lives, Madball
A Sunday Night Above The Rain, Marillion
Legend (30th Anniversary Edition), Bob Marley
Devil’s Road, Walkabouts
Our Year, Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis
Naturbal, Vintersorg
A Fistful of Desert Blues, Lydia Lunch and Cypress Grove
Tracing Back Roots, We Came As Romans
The Process Of Self-Immolation, Alraune
A Poet’s Life, Tim Armstrong

You can by all of the above and many more at the Skin Back Alley Music Store.

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Richie Sambora had “no freedom” in Bon Jovi

Richie Sambora 2014

Richie Sambora has been speaking out in a radio interview following his departure from Bon Jovi last year.

Speaking to Rock Radio NI ahead of a solo European tour, Sambora explained that he felt a lack of freedom to express himself musically as part of Bon Jovi.

“There’s freedom there, obviously,” the guitarist said. “That’s one of the main things I was missing in music over the past years – and also in Bon Jovi, actually. There wasn’t enough room to improvise, to have that moment where you can actually lose yourself musically.”

He also revealed that he is working on a new solo project with his touring guitarist, Orianthi. “What I’ve done is assemble an amazing group of musicians. I asked the guys in my band to express themselves and bring all the input they can. The process of songwriting is easier than it’s been in a long time… The songs are just coming out of me right now – I just keep writing and writing,” he says. “I always felt there was some kind of nobility centred in my desire and passion for what I do. I still have that, I think I have it even more now.”

“I’m loving music right now. I feel like I’m 15,” he said.

There was a flurry of drama last year after Sambora pulled out of a leg of Bon Jovi’s world tour just hours before it was due to begin. A series of claims and counter-claims emerged from both the Sambora and Bon Jovi camps, but the guitarist has always claimed that he will rejoin the band in the future.

Meanwhile Sambora released a new song, “Lighthouse”, last month to benefit a planned New Jersey drug rehabilitation centre. Speaking of his own addictions Sambora said: “I got firsthand experience. I never did heroin, but obviously I did other stuff. We can’t be scared silent. Together we can make a difference because this epidemic has to stop.”

“I wanted to do something optimistic, a beacon of light and hope. Everyone needs that light when they’re far off the shore.”

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