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It pains me to give any Bon Jovi CD less than 4 or 5 stars, but after several listens to "This Left Feels Right" I can't give any more than 3.
There are two ways to listen to this CD - First, you can listen to these songs as remakes of classics. Considering they've been done thousands of times by the band, what new and interesting things can they come up with? Second, you can let each song stand on it's own as though it's the first time you've heard it - judge each on its own merit separate from the fact that it's a reprise of a classic. It's in this second method of listening that the CD fails. True, if listening in the academic sense of considering each song's original version compared with the new version it helps, but even then leaves you disappointed.
There are some great moments, however. I'll outline these below. And one of the things I enjoyed was being able to really hear Jon's lyrics crystal clear in certain offerings that were previously unclear (Bed Of Roses comes to mind as an example). I was just reminded of what a great lyricist he is.
A selected song-by-song walk-through might be helpful, and then I'll recap the 2 or 3 main themes I see throughout the CD.
Dead or Alive - This is probably the most disappointing offering on the CD. It's such a great song and had so much potential to be amazing on this CD. This version sounds like the club remix version of Dead or Alive. First of all, this definitely seems like the wrong choice for the song, and secondly (and worse) is that even in that context it doesn't sound good. In other words, even if you *had* to do the song in a programmed/remix sort of way, you could've done it much cooler than this. It sounds like old guys trying to be hip, using lame programmed beats and outdated remix effects. The song is also very linear with very few new ideas being introduced throughout. This definitely set the tone for the rest of the album.
Livin' On a Prayer - I think this one works better than most. The main feature of this is the use of Olivia d'Abo. At first I was confused as to why they would use an actress, a little known one at that, to sing such an important part. Then with a little research I discovered she is the producer's wife. Ah-ha. She doesn't do a bad job and has an interesting voice, but there could've been a much better choice in my opinion. It's also quite a trip when she first comes in - you're so used to hearing Richie sing that part, then this woman's voice comes in...at first it sounds like Richie on helium. But after a few listens it gets better. Again, this song is quite linear. Just straight ahead. And, like many other songs on the record, Jon chose to alter the melody drastically and it ends up sounding like he's singing the harmony instead of the lead.
Bad Medicine - I never liked this song that much to begin with and this bluesy low-key version doesn't help it that much. For most of the song Jon sounds like he's singing an octave too low, even in the chorus. You want him to bust out and he just never does, with the exception of a few licks in the verse.
It's My Life - Yes. This is one of the reasons to buy the record. To me, this version of their recent hit embodies what this record *should've* been. It's totally different than the original, yet is exactly the same song melodically and chordally. It's a haunting piano and string ballad and Jon sounds incredible on it. You realize what a truly great song this is when you hear it in this context.
Bed Of Roses - Here's the other reason to buy the CD. Piano, guitar, strings, percussion and Jon. How could that be bad? The song really shines in this arrangement. The only annoying thing (that recurs so many times on TLFR) Jon changed the melody in the chorus for the worse and downplays his amazing voice. Why?
Everyday - Why is this song on here?
I'll Be There For You - This is almost great. It's such a great song that it will always sound okay. But they drastically changed the chords of the song and also changed the melody in the chorus so it's much more boring. And again, Jon insists on singing an octave below where you want him to sing. The song just doesn't really go anywhere - the last chorus has the same passion as the first chorus (or lack thereof).
To close, the main problematic themes.
- Jon refuses to sing like we all know he can sing. I'm not sure if he's afraid of dating himself as an 80s/90s power singer, but that's what he is! And that's what we love about him.
- The melodies change too many times and rarely for the better. They are usually changed to remove what was formerly a high, dramatic part of the melody that was a strong hook of the song.
- The productions are pretty linear and don't really go anywhere unexpected or interesting. These have the overall feeling of worktape demos rather than actual completed masters.
- The song selection is pretty lame. I would like to have heard Blaze of Glory, Lie to Me, maybe These Days, This Ain't a Love Song, and In These Arms to name a few.
- As my review title says, I'm left with the feeling that they got most of these songs right the first time. To do them in another context mostly takes away from greatness.
- Richie looks like Zoolander on the back cover. But Jon's hair just keeps getting cooler somehow.
Hope it helps. If you're a diehard fan, get it. But unfortunately most of the things we love about Bon Jovi (great production, soaring vocals, incredible melodies and harmonies) just aren't here.