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Bon Jovi - Burning Bridges (Album Review)

Thursday, 03 September 2015 Written by Simon Ramsay

Although the title of this record suggests a swipe at departed guitarist Richie Sambora, it's actually a bitter parting shot at Bon Jovi's long-time, soon to be former, label, Mercury Records. Initially billed as “special release for the fans” to accompany a forthcoming tour, the album now represents the dreaded filling of a contractual obligation.

The record arrives in a cheap, brown paper bag-style cover with no credits, nor information about where the songs originated. The official line is that the bulk have been pulled together from recent years and given a fresh lick of paint, but the running order was nevertheless keenly debated by the band’s devout fans, who even went as far as to compile a potential record's worth of well known outtakes that might be, but subsequently weren’t, included.

What's less shrouded is the reason for its release. Bon Jovi himself has made no bones about the fact that the aptly titled 'Burning Bridges' is little more than a means to an end, acting as a recorded full stop to their tenure with Mercury.

If that sounds cynical, check out the spiteful title track. A country crooned burst of bar room vitriol, it includes the lines: “After 30 years of loyalty, they let you dig the grave. Well I’ll give you half the publishing. You’re why I wrote this song. See you all in hell.”

The complete absence of Sambora, bar a solitary co-write, is also curious given its grab-bag origins. Possible smoke and mirrors aside, the album isn't too bad. While its pacing hasn't been given any TLC – it opens with a very slow song - and there's little overarching thematic or musical cohesion, most of the songs are enjoyable enough, with two cracking moments.

We Don't Run is a brand new tune that whets the appetite for next year's album. A ballsy, anthemic rocker with a typically empowering, massive chorus, it features explosive solo work from producer John Shanks. Sambora co-write Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning is also top drawer, if strangely familiar. The chorus is not far off being a note-for-note counterpoint to Nickelback's Gotta Be Somebody, released in 2008.

The rest of the tracks are mostly ballads and pleasant mid-tempo tunes that will repulse fans of their early work but delight those who appreciate recent offerings. A Teardrop To The Sea and Who Would You Die For? boast a dark, claustrophobic ambience reminiscent of their 'These Days' period, with the latter delivering a Shanks solo that even recalls Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb. No shit.

Blind Love, We All Fall Down and Life Is Beautiful, meanwhile, are tuneful enough without ever threatening to be future classics. Although featuring some impressive fretwork, Fingerprints is so boring you may have nodded off by the time Shanks cuts loose.

Sambora remains the elephant in the room, though, and debates about whether this is now just a Jon Bon Jovi solo vehicle won't be settled by this release. Without his input, harmonies and style they are lacking something, but given Jon's apathy towards this record we'll have to wait until next year’s era-launching new album to see what a fully firing Sambora-free Jovi sound like.

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