‘This House Is Not For Sale’
2016 release from Island Records.
Jon Bon Jovi – Vocals. Phil X – Guitar. David Bryan – Keyboard. Hugh McDonald – Bass. Tico Torres – Drums.
Artist location: USA.
4.5 out of 5 stars rating.
Reviewed by David.
- This House Is Not For Sale.
- Living With The Ghost.
- Labor Of Love.
- Born Again Tomorrow.
- Roller Coaster.
- New Year’s Day.
- The Devil’s In The Temple.
- Scars On This Guitar.
- God Bless This Mess.
- Come On Up To Our House.
- Real Love (Deluxe Edition and Target Stores Exclusive Only).
- All Hail The King (Deluxe Edition and Target Stores Exclusive Only).
- We Don’t Run (Deluxe Edition and and Target Stores Exclusive Only).
- I Will Drive You Home (Deluxe Edition and Target Stores Exclusive Only).
- Goodnight New York (Deluxe Edition and Target Stores Exclusive Only).
- Touch Of Grey (Target Stores Exclusive, USA).
- Color Me In (Wal-Mart Stores, USA).
New album from Bon Jovi!
Talk about volatile words in this day and age among music lovers.
This is a line that, at this point in time, will either get your heart pumping, your excitement level go through the roof and make you want to cheer at the prospect of having another album from this classic band.
It will make you groan, roll your eyes and shake your head at the thought of yet another album from a band that formerly rocked in days long past.
Indeed, few bands have the power to elicit such sheer passion and dedication from the throngs of fans the world over and, at the same time, elicit the sheer disgust and hate of former fans over the change of direction in the past few albums.
In fact there is really no winning when it comes to talking about this band as you are just as likely to get mocked for liking them as you are to get cursed at for disliking them. There are very few bands in history that demand so much fierce passion on both sides of the fence.
Some folks feel ‘Keep The Faith’ was the last great album from the band while others think it was ‘Have A Nice Day’ or perhaps ‘Bounce’, but whatever the case may be for you personally, the general consensus among the former fans is that the comeback album for the band, 1995’s darker, moodier ‘These Days’, marked the beginning of the end for the band.
And then you have the die hard fans. The ones that are lifers in the Bon Jovi camp, the ones that soak up anything and everything the Jon Bon Jovi Group have ever released, even with the directional changes in the music we have seen over the years.
These are basically the two groups you will find when you mention the classic rock band. One group are passionate die-hards and the others are disgusted haters. There is very little middle ground with this band these days.
With a career encompassing three decades, thirteen studio albums, two live albums, two greatest hits collections, a re-tooled greatest hits record, a box set and countless singles to their name and selling well over one hundred and thirty million records, there is no denying that this legendary band and their iconic frontman are one of the best known and longest lasting bands left in the world as they still fill arenas and sell out tours the world over.
Indeed, regardless of your stance on the Bon Jovi of today, there is no denying the massive following the band has or the fact that they have given us some of the greatest and most well known stadium rock anthems and power ballads to ever come out of the genre. I dare say that anyone within the reach of rock music is no stranger to the opening chords of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’, the catchy chorus of ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’, the dualing guitars of Jon and Richie on the opening of ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ or the female swoon inducing ‘I’ll Be There For You’. These songs are all staples of the genre that, love them or hate them, have undeniably left their mark.
I myself fall into the catagory of die hard fan. They are my favorite band, and this goes back to their start and the amazing music they put out back then. I will readily admit that had I not been such a die hard fan prior to their change in sound then I likely would not care much for their more recent stuff, but the simple truth is that I love all things Bon Jovi. From those hair band days of the 1980’s to these more pop rock oriented albums of today, I love it all. They will always be my favorite band, if for no other fact then the utterly phenomenal music they put out in their hey day.
So the fact that I love this new album is no surprise to me or anyone who knows me. All it takes is one look at the massive collection of Bon Jovi music that I own for one to realize that I am more than just a causual fan, and believe me, I get more grief and playful ribbing from family and friends over my love of this band then anything else in life.
However, being that I now run a site writing reviews, I had to listen to this new record objectively and really think about it from the standpoint of how good the album actually was, period, and not just the fact that my favorite band in the world just released a new record and how I would love to just slap a perfect rating on it and go about my day. But I can’t.
So here are the thoughts, both good and bad, from a die hard fan on the new album.
The first thing that is apparent is that Jon has not changed his sound one iota from the ‘The Circle’, ‘What About Now’ and ‘Burning Bridges’ records. Which is not a surprise at all. Do we really expect at this point that they will rip out another ‘Slippery When Wet’ or ‘New Jersey’ album? As awesome as that would be there is absolutely no chance of it ever happening again. Those days and that sound are long gone, get used to it. Yet people still seemed surprised, even after years and multiple albums, that anything new the band releases does not sound like the classic band. So for those that have not figured this out yet, no the band does not sound like they did thirty years ago when they were all 20 years old. No, they are not really a “rock” band anymore so much as a pop rock incarnation of the band they used to be. No, Jon does NOT sound like he did back when ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ came out, he sounds like a 54 year old man does and is doing songs that his voice can handle now. Don’t go into the album expecting the same sound they had in 1986 because it is most definitely not there.
So moving on, we have the same sound we have been getting from the band recently. If you did not care for those past few albums then you may as well stop reading and move on because you almost assuredly will not like this one either. This record falls somewhere between the sound of the ‘Have A Nice Day’ album and the ‘What About Now’ album. We have some rockers like the ‘H.A.N.D.’ influenced title track and we have more mellow songs like ‘Come On Up To Our House’ that feel more like the recent releases from the band.
The absence of guitarist, backup vocalist and co-writer Richie Sambora is amazingly not very noticeable in the songwriting. Sure his sound and voice are not present but I was rather surprised that the songs still sound the same as they have been the past few albums that Sambora was a part of, which makes me wonder just how much say he actually had in the writing.This is the first album from the band ever that has no ties at all to the former member. Though he did not play on the last release, ‘Burning Bridges’, he still had some writing credits on the record. This new one is a completely Sambora free album. And that, in and of itself, is not a negative as far as the music is concerned.
Jon and Richie were a dynamic duo. Their writing, their playing and their voices all blended so amazingly it was a thing of beauty and Sambora is an outstanding guitarist and vocalist. In those aspects he is sorely missed.
But let’s not downplay Phil X. This man is a hell of a guitarist and he makes his presence known here. I have seen the band live with Phil and I can assure you that this man can more than hold his own among these legends. Yet he is a bit of a legend himself within the music world as a studio session musician he has played with the likes of Rob Zombie, Tommy Lee and Daughtry to name a few as well as being an ex-member of Triumph, appearing on their 1993 record ‘Edge Of Excess’. Now he is officially a member of Bon Jovi and he seems to have found his place among the band. He does an outstanding job on the record, as he does with them live as well.
LONGTIME bassist Hugh McDonald, who most do not realize has actually been with the band since the very start, having played as a session musician with them as far back as the debut album in 1984, is finally here. Though he has been the unofficial bassist since the departure of Alec John Such in 1994 he has never been a part of the band officially as a member. In fact, aside from the ‘Real Life’ single in 1999 when David Bryan was unavailable for the photo shoot, he had never been pictured with the band until this year when he finally became an official member of the band and has since been included in all promo shots and the music video for the first single.
And of course back are original members David Bryan and Tico Torres, two amazing artists that are still on top of their game here. Both do an excellent job, as always, on the record. Bryan, who has always sung backup, takes over the main backing vocals here since Sambora’s absence.
So the music?
Well, as I said, there is nothing new here. Likely since you are reading this then you have already heard at least one track from the record, like the opening title track and first single of the album, ‘This House Is Not For Sale’. This is the typical song one expects from the Bon Jovi of today, very pop rock in nature, a song that could fit easily alongside the opening songs of ‘Have A Nice Day’. I love it, it is a terrific track full of all of the hooks that made the band what it is today and it is an easy pick for their lead off single and even seems to have stolen some of the sounds of that opening song from the 2005 record.
‘Living With The Ghost’ is a song that has a sound somewhat akin to ‘The Circle’ record. An upbeat song that is not bad but it is not one of the best of the album.
‘Knockout’ is another track that has been released early. It is a fun, upbeat track that also sounds like material from ‘What About Now’. A highlight from the record.
The first ballad comes in at track four. ‘Labor Of Love’ is the weakest ballad of the album in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song, just, for a band that has so many powerful ballads in their catalogue, it doesn’t quite hold up as well. Still, a good song though.
‘Born Again Tomorrow’ is a rocker, as mentioned earlier, a song that asks us the question if we were born again tomorrow and had the chance to re-live ours lives would we change anything or go through it all again for what we have now. An excellent track that could slide in easily among the songs of ‘Have A Nice Day’.
‘Roller Coaster’ is an excellent track with a very very catchy chorus to it. Another rocker, this is my favorite track of the album. Just a terrific song and what a great chorus.
‘New Year’s Day’ is your typical Bon Jovi song of now days, upbeat and poppy. Nothing original but a fantastic melody and a great little song.
‘The Devil’s In The Temple’ is an interesting track, but it works. The melody is a bit different then their usual stuff, think a bit of ‘Something To Believe In’. Not that it sounds anything like that song at all but the way the melody of that song was different then the usual Bon Jovi fare is similar here. This one reminds a bit of that track in that way, though this one is not a ballad. Great track.
The next ballad, ‘Scars On This Guitar’, is far better than the first one. This is another highlight for me. I love ballads and this is a wonderful one here. An ode of sorts to his guitar, his friend and confidant who he pours out his heart to and, in typical Bon Jovi fashion, the lyrics are certainly Jon’s all the way, take a listen and you will know what I mean. Excellent track. The music video shows the frontman sitting and singing and reflecting back on his life as it shows clips throughout of him in his younger days at various concerts.
Another poppy rocker comes up next in ‘God Bless This Mess’. This one has a bit of a ‘H.A.N.D.’ and ‘Lost Highway’ feel to it. A song about accepting your life, mess and all, and being just being happy. It finds Jon acknowledging his ageing and admitting he is not what he used to be with lyrics like ‘my voice is shot I’m going grey’.
‘Reunion’ is an upbeat song with a message that is Bon Jovi all the way. All about living your life to the fullest and making the most of it, this little song is terrific. Kind of a mix of ‘Lost Highway’ and ‘The Circle’ in sound.
‘Come On Up To Our House’ is a mid-tempo ballad that, again, certainly has a Bon Jovi-esque message to it. With a lyric like ‘Tell me your life story and I’ll finish every line’ there is no doubt that you have found yourself in the middle of a Jon Bon Jovi ballad. This song marks the end of the album on the regular version.
The following five tracks are only available on the Deluxe Edition of the record and all five of these plus another exclusive song are available in the US at Target Stores and yet one more available at Wal-Mart Stores.
Let’s face it, a Bon Jovi ballad is nothing new to any of us and none of us expect anything new from them at this point either. You either love his ballads or you don’t. I, of course, love them but obviously some are better than others. ‘Real Love’ is one of the stronger ballads the band has done in a while and it certainly blows ‘Labor Of Love’ out of the water and trust me when I say this is most certainly a Bon Jovi ballad in every sense. It is a beautiful song with an outstanding chorus. One of my absolute favorites of the record.
‘All Hail The King’ is absolutely the weakest song on the album and pretty much the sole reason for the 4.5 rather than 5 star rating. It is not a bad song necessarily but it is just not very good in any sense of the word. In fact it is one of the very few songs from the band that I just don’t care much for. Another, more mid-tempoed, rocker.
I am not sure why they felt the need to include ‘We Don’t Run’ on this record unless Jon just wanted it included on a big official release and not just the glorified fifth disc of the box set known as ‘Burning Bridges’, but here it is again. Still a great song.
‘I Will Drive You Home’ is another good, mellow ballad that sounds more like a track from ‘Burning Bridges’.
The Deluxe Edition’s last track, ‘Goodnight New York’, is a pop rocker that would fit on any of the band’s last four albums and it closes out the record in a fine way.
In the US there is an exclusive track available with all of the above songs as well at Target. The song, ‘Touch Of Grey’, is a fairly upbeat track with the same vibe of the last few albums to it.
Also in the US available Wal-Mart stores there is yet another bonus track available called ‘Color Me In’. It is yet another slow, mellow track and quite honestly sounds like something from the box set. Die hard fans that want every track will want this one, everyone else, pass.
Love them or hate them and say what you will about Jon, but the man has always known how to turn a phrase and write some great lyrics that always have a message that most anyone can relate to and like all of their other records we have the same style in the optimistic messages here, albiet a very reflective tone in general. Songs about love, about hope, about living life, overcoming obstacles you face and being the best version of yourself you can be pervade every track here. From love songs to uplifting songs to the title track which says that you won’t sell yourself out and be something that you are not. That you will not be swayed in your beliefs and that you will stand up, be true to yourself and say ‘This House Is Not For Sale’.
Now I’ll be honest, my first inclination was to give this a perfect 5 star rating because I do in fact like every single song on the record. But liking every song on the album and every song being worthy of a perfect score are two very different things and with being honest about it, the fact is that it is just not quite a perfect album.
So, bottom line, this is the same Bon Jovi we have seen since 2005. There’s nothing here that we haven’t heard 100 times before, and that suits me, as a fan, just fine. For those of you who don’t care for the directional changes the band has taken then it is the mark of death for the record. And even as such a big fan that is something that I can certainly understand. This holds very little resemblance to the Bon Jovi of old and it is not for everyone, and that is fine. But for those that remains fans like myself then check it out. There are some great songs to be had from the album. It is not their strongest or best album obviously, but it is a solid release from a classic band that, at the very least, deserve respect for still making music and still being one of the biggest rock acts in the world to this day.
Yes, I’m going to say it…
‘This House Is Not For Sale’.
‘Born Again Tomorrow’.
‘The Devil’s In The Temple’.
‘Scars On This Guitar’.
‘God Bless This Mess’.
‘We Don’t Run’.
‘Touch Of Grey’.