Tag Archives: Bon Jovi

Who Says There Are No More Heroes?

Time for a buddy film today – the 1991 crime drama offering from director Simon Wincer (“The Phantom”, “Free Willy”), the snappily titled “Harley Davidson And The Marlboro Man”.

1991-harley-davidson-and-the-marlboro-man-poster1

Mickey Rourke
Mickey Rourke

The movie opens with a shirtless biker Harley Davidson (Mickey Rourke – “Homeboy”, “9½ Weeks”) smoking in a motel room, while a naked woman lies on the bed. Without so much as a word, as Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive” plays, Harley leaves the room, gets on his motorbike (you know the make, right?!) and splits.

Don Johnson
Don Johnson

When we meet cowboy Marlboro (Don Johnson – “Miami Vice”, “Cold In July”) he is trying to hustle some native Americans over a game of pool, a plan which isn’t going too well and after a good old bar fight Marlboro leaves with his long-term friend Harley.

Don Johnson & Mickey Rourke
Don Johnson & Mickey Rourke

When the pair discover that their favourite bar is about to be closed due to the rent being skyrocketed by the bank they have an obvious solution. They’ll team up and rob the bank in question of the amount of cash needed to keep the bar permanently open. As you would.

Tom Sizemore
Tom Sizemore

Things go a little awry, however, when they hold up the bank’s armoured van and discover that instead of shed loads of cash they’ve actually stolen a designer drug called Crystal Dream that the bank’s corrupt president Chance Wilder (Tom Sizemore – “Heat”, “Blue Steel”) was dealing in to supplement his income.

The Black Trenchcoat-Clad Killers
The Black Trenchcoat-Clad Killers

Wilder is more than a little keen to retrieve his missing drugs and so begins a kind of cat and mouse game between him (and his seemingly indestructible black trenchcoat-clad killers) and Harley and Marlboro.

Chelsea Field
Chelsea Field

There is a side story about Marlboro’s involvement with a married motorbike cop called Virginia Slim (Chelsea Field – “Extreme Justice, “Flipper”), and other notable appearances include nightclub singer Lulu Daniels (Vanessa Williams – “Eraser”, “Hoodlum”) and the lead black trenchcoat-clad killer Alexander (Daniel Baldwin – “Mulholland Falls”, “Vampires”).

Harley tumblr_l7xeauPGEI1qba23ho1_500The film, released in 1991 remember, is for some unknown reason set in the future – the then-rather-near-future of 1996!

With character names being taken from brands (Harley Davidson, Marlboro, Virginia Slim (cigarettes), Jack Daniels (whiskey) and Jose Cuervo (tequila), the big question is whether the film is a kind of warning of the impending dangers of brand globalisation, or whether the scriptwriters just couldn’t come up with original character names.

Vanessa Williams, Mickey Rourke & Don Johnson
Vanessa Williams, Mickey Rourke & Don Johnson

For me, the jury’s out on that one. This is a film that falls firmly into cult classic territory. Is it terrible? Or is it knowingly taking the mickey out of itself? Some of the dialogue that Rourke and Johnson have to deliver suggests the latter, but at the same time the movie does seem to be terribly serious – at least in terms of appearing very cool.

Mickey Rourke & Theresa San Nicholas
Mickey Rourke & Theresa San Nicholas

There is a decent rock soundtrack, plenty of 90s MTV music video style cinematography, bikes, guns, babes, bikes, guns, explosions, bikes, guns… So who knows? What I do know is that regardless of its artistic merits (or lack of) I had a good time watching the film. And at the end of the day that’s probably the most important thing…2927

1988 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

Following on from my recent post on my top ten records from 1986 I am now reaching the final stages of that particular decade. Having covered 1980 all the way through to 1987 I’m left with just 1988 and 1989 to look back at.

So, let’s recap on my personal favourite ten albums of 1988…

  1. All About Eve “All About Eve”
All About Eve - All About Eve
All About Eve – All About Eve

The debut album from English gothic folk rock band All About Eve, this self-titled release would also prove to be the band’s most commercially successful.

Five of the album’s tracks were released as singles, all but one of which reached the UK top forty. These were “In The Clouds” (number 47), “Wild Hearted Woman” (33), “Every Angel” (30), “Martha’s Harbour” (10) and “What Kind Of Fool” (29).

My own personal favourite tracks were “Never Promise (Anyone Forever)”, “She Moves Through The Fair”, “Flowers In Our Hair” and the beautifully delicate “Apple Tree Man”.

Incidentally, during a period of unemployment after being made redundant a dozen or so years ago I actually answered an ad from the band when they were looking for a drummer, one of the criteria being that applicants should be unemployed. On the minus side I didn’t have a drum kit at the time and hadn’t played for a few years but, hey, it’s the closest I ever came to my early dream of rock stardom!

2. Bon Jovi “New Jersey”

Bon Jovi - New Jersey
Bon Jovi – New Jersey

Following up on the massive success of “Slippery When Wet” (1986) must have been a daunting task, but Bon Jovi were clearly intent of doing just that, with a double album originally planned until the record label rejected that idea.

When the single disc record did see the light of day, again utilising the songwriting talents of Desmond Child on a number of tracks, it was to become more successful, chart-wise, in the UK than “Slippery When Wet” had been and produced more hit singles too.

“Bad Medicine”, “Born To Be My Baby”, “I’ll Be There For You” and “Lay Your Hands On Me” all reached the top thirty, with final single “Living In Sin” making number 35.

The record had a bluesier edge to some tracks, and there is a more diverse range of songs as shown on tracks such as “Blood On Blood”, “Love For Sale” and one of my own favourites “Homebound Train”. The hits from “Slippery When Wet” may be more well-known but as a complete album I believe that “New Jersey” is the better of the two.

3. Dare “Out Of The Silence”

Dare - Out Of The Silence
Dare – Out Of The Silence

When Thin Lizzy split after their farewell tour in 1983 many wouldn’t have thought that keyboardist Darren Wharton would go on to achieve success fronting a band of his own. However, Wharton formed the melodic rock band Dare in the mid-80s and their debut album “Out Of The Silence” hit the shelves in 1988.

The album was heavy on anthemic tunes, such as “Under The Sun”, “Return The Heart” and “King Of Spades”, the latter a tribute to the late Thin Lizzy leader Phil Lynott. There were also four singles in “Abandon”, “Heartbreaker”, “Nothing Is Stronger Than Love” and the sublime “The Raindance”.

I saw the band supporting Swedish rock band Europe on their UK tour in 1989 and thought they could be set for big things, but record sales tailed off and the group were dropped by their label after their second album. The band are still a going concern with a gentler, more celtic sound, and still producing quality music but “Out Of The Silence” remains a classic debut.

4. Iron Maiden “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son”

Iron Maiden - Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son

The seventh studio album from Iron Maiden was the last truly great album during vocalist Bruce Dickinson’s first tenure with the band.

A concept album of sorts the group’s sound took on a slightly more progressive element (which has really taken hold since Dickinson’s return for “Brave New World”), the album’s title was both a reference to the fact that it was their seventh record and also to the folklore idea of the seventh son of a seventh son having special powers.

Four singles came from the album – “Can I Play With Madness” (the video for which was filmed at Chepstow Castle), “The Evil That Men Do” and live versions of “The Clairvoyant” and “Infinite Dreams”.

My own favourite number on the record is “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” itself, a near ten minute epic with time signature changes and plenty of texture. Superb.

5. Lita Ford “Lita”

Lita Ford - Lita
Lita Ford – Lita

Former lead guitarist with all-girl rock band The Runaways from 1975-1979, Lita Ford launched a solo career in 1983 with “Out For Blood” with a far more heavy metal orientated image.

Success finally came with her third album “Lita” and it’s four singles “Kiss Me Deadly”, “Back To The Cave”, “Falling In And Out Of Love” and the duet with Ozzy Osbourne “Close My Eyes Forever”.

Lita’s image certainly wouldn’t have harmed sales, particularly to young men (as I was at the time), and I fondly recall seeing her support Bon Jovi that year.

However, at the end of the day the record is a great commercial hard rock record with some really catchy songs and earns its place on this list on that basis!

6. Magnum “Wings Of Heaven”

Magnum - Wings Of Heaven
Magnum – Wings Of Heaven

Magnum were a band that had been treading the boards for quite a while by the time that their seventh album “Wings Of Heaven” came out in the summer of 1988, having been formed around 1972.

They had achieved some chart success previously but this would prove to be their most successful album, reaching number 5 in the UK. The record also produced three hit singles – “Days Of No Trust”, “Start Talking Love” and “It Must Have Been Love”.

All tracks were written by guitarist Tony Clarkin, who continues to pen excellent compositions to this day, and included in those on this album are my favourites “Wild Swan”, “Pray For The Day” and the anti-war epic “Don’t Wake The Lion (Too Old To Die Young)”. An excellent melodic rock album from start to finish.

7. Queensrÿche “Operation : Mindcrime”

Queensrÿche - Operation : Mindcrime
Queensrÿche – Operation : Mindcrime

This is the second concert album on this list, which may well say something about my fondness for more complex music over simple pop tunes. Even though it’s 1990 successor “Empire” would achieve greater chart and sales success, “Operation : Mindcrime” is probably the most celebrated album in American progressive metal band Queensrÿche’s catalogue, and even spawned a sequel in 2006’s “Operation : Mindcrime II”.

The record tells the story of Nikki, a recovering drug addict, who recalls how he was drawn into a revolutionary group, headed by Dr. X, and the events that followed. It was a big success for the band, both with fans and critics.

Four singles were released to promote the album – “Revolution Calling”, “Breaking The Silence”, “Eyes Of A Stranger” and “I Don’t Believe In Love”, and tracks like “Suite Sister Mary” and “Operation : Mindcrime” also help to make this such a strong record.

Queensrÿche may have become something of a farcical soap opera in recent years with claim and counter-claim between now ex-singer Geoff Tate and his former bandmates, but “Operation : Mindcrime” remains a high point in progressive metal.

8. Romeo’s Daughter “Romeo’s Daughter”

Romeo's Daughter - Romeo's Daughter
Romeo’s Daughter – Romeo’s Daughter

Romeo’s Daughter were managed by the then-wife of producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange who was apparently so impressed with their songs that he agreed to produce this, their self-titled debut album.

I can remember at the time being a tad dismissive of the group, perceiving them to be a female-fronted answer to the previous years’s massively successful “Hysteria” album by Def Leppard, which Lange also produced, and certainly the similarities are there to be heard.

In retrospect, although the production sheen and guitar / drum sounds are reminiscent of the Def Leppard record, that cannot detract from the fact that Romeo’s Daughter did have some great songs and, in Leigh Matty, a really good singer.

Three excellent singles came from the album. “Don’t Break My Heart”, “I Cry Myself To Sleep At Night” and “Heaven In The Back Seat” (which also featured on the soundtrack to the movie “A Nightmare On Elm Street 5”).

The album was further boosted by tracks such as “Wild Child” (covered by Heart in 1990), “Velvet Tongue” and “I Like What I See”. An often overlooked classic of the genre.

9. Status Quo “Ain’t Complaining”

Status Quo - Ain't Complaining
Status Quo – Ain’t Complaining

“Ain’t Complaining” was studio album number eighteen from legendary British rock band Status Quo, and the most typically 80s sounding release in their history, taking them even further from their 70s heads-down no-nonsense boogie sound than 1986’s “In The Army Now”.

Although it was the group’s first album since 1971 not to make the UK top ten, reaching only number twelve, it nonetheless produced three hit singles. “Who Gets The Love” hit number 34, “Ain’t Complaining” made number 19 and “Burning Bridges” got all the way to number 5.

My favourite, easily, of the three albums released by the reformed Status Quo during the second half of the 80s, this record has some superb pop/rock material with tracks like “Everytime I Think Of You”, “Cream Of The Crop” and “One For The Money”.

Sure the album sounds very much of its time, but there are some great songs and superb melodies to be found here and it remains one of my favourite Status Quo albums.

10. Transvision Vamp “Pop Art”

Transvision Vamp - Pop Art
Transvision Vamp – Pop Art

Transvision Vamp’s “Pop Art” is the fourth debut album to make this year’s top ten, suggesting that it was a good year to find new bands, even if none of them have gone on the achieve major success.

Formed in 1986 by guitarist / songwriter Nick Sayer and singer / focal point Wendy James, the band had a pop/punk sound and aesthetic and, for a while, looked like they could be the next big thing. However, despite two top five albums and ten top fifty singles, it was all over by 1991.

While they were around, though, they were great. Four tracks from “Pop Art” were released as singles – “Revolution Baby” (twice, numbers 77 and 30), “Tell That Girl To Shut Up” (45), “Sister Moon” (41) and the brilliant “I Want Your Love” (5), and the rest of the album isn’t bad either.

Other notables from 1988 – Margaret Thatcher was in her third term as the Prime Minister of the UK whilst Ronald Reagan was nearing the end of his second term as President of the USA. In football Liverpool won the old First Division back from Everton, and the FA Cup went to Wimbledon. In cinemas, top films released included “Rain Man”, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Twins”.

So that’s nearly all of the eighties covered, next up will be 1989…

1986 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

As promised a week or so ago, when I looked at my favourite albums of 1980, I’m now going to look at those from 1986. There was a lot of great music released in ’86 which meant that it wasn’t easy to narrow down my list to just ten records and a number of excellent ones slipped through the net, so honourable mention must be made of Black Sabbath “Seventh Star”, Bruce Hornsby & The Range “The Way It Is”, Europe “The Final Countdown”, Huey Lewis & The News “Fore!”, Judas Priest “Turbo”, Paul Simon “Graceland”, Peter Gabriel “So”, Slayer “Reign In Blood”, Toto “Fahrenheit” and Van Halen “5150” – another ten albums that could have made my list, were it not for the fact that the following ten are the ten that did make it to my personal top ten for the year…

  1. Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet”
Bon Jovi - Slippery When Wet
Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet

US rock giants Bon Jovi were only moderately successful until their third album came along. “Slippery When Wet” broke the band into the big time. The bulk of the songs were written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, with additional input from songwriter Desmond Child on four tracks, including the singles “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Livin’ On A Prayer”.

In addition to these, two further singles were issued in the UK. “Wanted Dead Or Alive”, which features one of my all-time favourite guitar solos, and the ballad “Never Say Goodbye”.

On top of those, there are some great hard rock tracks on this record including “Let It Rock”, “Raise Your Hands” and the rather excellent (if non-PC) “Social Disease”. Rightly regarded as a highpoint in Bon Jovi’s career, this is a superb album from start to finish.

2. Genesis “Invisible Touch”

Genesis - Invisible Touch
Genesis – Invisible Touch

The follow-up to the group’s self-titled album from 1983, “Invisible Touch” hit the streets in the summer of ’86 and went on to become one of their most successful albums ever, achieving the number one spot in the UK and number three (their highest album chart position) in the US.

To promote the album five of the record’s eight tracks were released as singles – the title track, “Throwing It All Away”, “Land Of Confusion” (the video for which featured puppets from the then popular “Spitting Image” TV show), “In Too Deep” and an edited version of “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”.

Of the remaining three tracks, “Domino” was a ten minute, two-part, epic, “The Brazilian” a great instrumental and “Anything She Does” the only track not performed by the band on their subsequent world tour. Despite not being released as a single there was a video made for the latter track which featured Page 3 model Maria Whittaker as well as Phil Collins’ fabulous mullet!

Musically this was the commercial side of Genesis at their best, and even though it sounds very much of its time with synth bass and electronic drums very much evident. Nonetheless, this is a classic record and one that I still play often.

3. Iron Maiden “Somewhere In Time”

Iron Maiden - Somewhere In Time
Iron Maiden – Somewhere In Time

This was something of a divisive album amongst fans of Iron Maiden when it was released in September of 1986. This was because of a marked change in sound which incorporates synth guitar and bass.

Two tracks were released as singles, both written by guitarist Adrian Smith, “Wasted Years” and “Stranger In A Strange Land”.

In addition to these, there are some standout tracks on this record including “Heaven Can Wait”, “Caught Somewhere In Time” and the superbly complex epic number “Alexander The Great”. Throughout the album the material is very good and the performances from all band members are typically on the money.

“Somewhere In Time” may not be a universally loved Iron Maiden album, but in my view it is a very underrated one, and actually one of the best from the first period with Bruce Dickinson as lead vocalist.

4. Kim Wilde “Another Step”

Kim Wilde - Another Step
Kim Wilde – Another Step

The first pop album on this list. I’d been vaguely aware of some of Kim Wilde’s early hits, like “Kids In America”, but it was her 1983 hit “Love Blonde” and its cool swagger that made me sit up and take notice.

One of my crushes of the era, Wilde really hit her stride in terms of commercial success and great catchy pop tunes with her late 80s albums – “Another Step” and the following “Close” from 1988.

Three singles came from this record. A cover of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”, “Another Step (Closer To You)” and “Say You Really Want Me”. The sound of this album was more rocky than her previous material, though still contains plenty of keyboards and 80s sounding drums etc.

I would personally have changed the running order, as the uptempo songs all come first with the latter part being given over to the more balladic numbers, and I think it would have perhaps flowed better if the songs had been mixed up a bit.

Despite that, and the limitations of Wilde’s voice – which actually add a charming vulnerability to much of the material – this is still, to my mind, a great 80s pop album.

5. Metallica “Master Of Puppets”

Metallica - Master Of Puppets
Metallica – Master Of Puppets

Without doubt, this is the heaviest record to make this list. Metallica’s third studio album, “Master Of Puppets” was their first release on a major label.

A real step up from “Ride The Lightning”, this album was to see the band begin to make it big. Although not a commercial success in the same league as 1991’s self-titled album (also known as “The Black Album”), this particular record has been very influential in the decades since it’s release.

Just one single was released to promote the album, “Master Of Puppets” itself, which failed to chart either in the UK or the US.

Regardless of chart positions etc., this album has rightly become regarded as one of the highlights of Metallica’s recording career because it is a splendidly cohesive record. The performances are tight and passionate, the songs classics of the genre and the production noticeably better than on their previous recordings.

The last record to feature bassist Cliff Burton, who was killed in a tour bus crash just six months after it’s release, there are a number of stone cold classic Metallica tracks present, including “Battery”, “Master Of Puppets”, “Disposable Heroes”, “Orion” and “Leper Messiah”.

6. Nik Kershaw “Radio Musicola”

Nik Kershaw - Radio Musicola
Nik Kershaw – Radio Musicola

Nik Kershaw’s first two albums were released within eleven months in 1984. There followed a gap of almost two years until third album “Radio Musicola” came out, which will have no doubt had an effect on its chart success given how fast things can change in the world of music, especially pop music.

Four singles were released. “When A Heart Beats” (which was bizarrely not included on the vinyl version of the album) reached number 27, whilst “Nobody Knows” and the title track narrowly missed top forty positions. Fourth single “James Cagney” failed to chart however.

There were some superb Kershaw compositions contained within the album. Not just the singles, but tracks like “Don’t Let Me Out Of My Cage” and “What The Papers Say” were further examples of his knack of writing a great, catchy and memorable melody.

7. Pallas “The Wedge”

Pallas - The Wedge
Pallas – The Wedge

Scottish progressive rock band Pallas had achieved some cult success with their first two releases “Arrive Alive” (1981) and “The Sentinel” (1984) and then lost their original singer.

Replacement vocalist Alan Reed’s arrival coincided with a streamlining of the group’s sound. Whilst still firmly rooted in progressive rock, there was more focus on melodies and shorter, more accessible songs. I hadn’t heard Pallas prior to “The Wedge”, however, and my introduction to the band was when they had supported rock legends UFO in November 1985.

Not as well known as the work by fellow progressive rock band Marillion in the mid 80s, this album is a cracker. A couple of ballads are present, of which the brilliantly evocative “Just A Memory” is by far the best, but it’s the rockier and proggier numbers that work best for me, like “The Executioner” and, “Throwing Stones At The Wind”.

Best of all is the eight minute epic “Rat Racing”, lots of time changes etc. The use of the Emulator sampling keyboard kind of dates the album, I suppose, but I still enjoy listening to this record as much now as I did when it first came out. An unheralded progressive rock classic.

8. Queen “A Kind Of Magic”

Queen - A Kind Of Magic
Queen – A Kind Of Magic

Another band that had progressive tendencies. At least, they did in their mid 70s work. By the mid 80s, however, the band really were firmly into commercial rock / pop territory.

The last Queen album to be promoted with a world tour, which I was fortunate enough to attend at Knebworth Park in August ’86, “A Kind Of Magic” was an unofficial soundtrack to the film “Highlander” (also released in 1986) with six of the record’s nine songs being featured in the film, albeit in different versions.

One of the band’s most successful albums, “A Kind Of Magic” saw an astonishing seven of it’s nine tracks released as singles. Four charted in the UK – “One Vision” (number 7), “A Kind Of Magic” (number 3), “Friends Will Be Friends” (number 14) and “Who Wants To Live Forever” (number 14) – whilst the remaining three, “Princes Of The Universe”, “Pain Is So Close To Pleasure” and “One Year Of Love” failed to do so.

Not the best Queen album, in truth, with the four hit singles representing the very best of the material on offer. The record as a whole suffers from a lack of consistency, perhaps as a result of much of it being written for the film. That said, it’s head and shoulders above the “Flash Gordon” album and does contain two of the very best Queen singles in “A Kind Of Magic” and “One Vision”.

9. Status Quo “In The Army Now”

Status Quo - In The Army Now
Status Quo – In The Army Now

This was the album that marked the start of the second real phase of Status Quo’s recording career. With founding bassist Alan Lancaster having fought and lost to guitarists Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt over ownership of the band’s name, Rossi and Parfitt reconvened with longterm keyboardist Andrew Bown and a new rhythm section – bassist John “Rhino” Edwards and drummer Jeff Rich to record “In The Army Now”.

The album was the band’s most successful for a while, and produced four UK top twenty hit singles – “Rollin’ Home”, “Red Sky”, “In The Army Now” and “Dreamin'”.

Alongside those numbers there are some really good album tracks like “Save Me”, “End Of The Line”, the country flavoured “Invitation” and my favourite “Overdose”.

Granted it all sounds a little dated now, with prominent 80s keyboards, but this is another album that still gets regular airings.

10. Tesla “Mechanical Resonance”

Tesla - Mechanical Resonance
Tesla – Mechanical Resonance

I discovered US hard rock band Tesla when they supported Def Leppard on the first UK leg of their mammoth world “Hysteria” tour in 1987, but their debut album “Mechanical Resonance” was released in December ’86, so it belongs on that year’s list.

Two tracks saw the light of day as singles, the brilliant “Modern Day Cowboy” and “Little Suzi”.

This is one of those rare albums, and a debut one at that, which contains absolutely no filler. Jeff Keith sings brilliantly throughout, Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch tear out some stonking great guitar riffs and facemelting solos, with bassist Brian Wheat and drummer Troy Luccketta underpinning the whole thing with solidity and power.

Personal highlights include “Cumin’ Atcha Live”, “Gettin’ Better”, “We’re No Good Together”, “Love Me” and “Cover Queen”, but in truth this is one of the best hard rock albums I’ve ever heard and is essential listening from beginning to end. Classic stuff.

1986 was also the year that I passed by driving test, so a lot of this music would have made it onto cassettes and been played on my car stereo, which could go some way to explaining the nostalgic appeal of lots of the music from this year and 1987.

Elsewhere in 1986 Margaret Thatcher was in her second term as the Prime Minister in the UK whilst Ronald Reagan was also in his second term, as President of the USA. In football Liverpool won the old First Division and the FA Cup, securing the Double. Cinema-wise, top films released included “Top Gun”, “Platoon” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.

The next eighties year to be looked at will be 1988…

Burning Bridges

do1fztuThe past year has seen some big changes in the world of US rock legends Bon Jovi, both in terms of personnel and record label.

Bon Jovi In 1986
Bon Jovi In 1986

Formed in New Jersey, the group’s initial line-up was singer Jon Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora, drummer Tico Torres, keyboardist David Bryan and bassist Alec John Such. These were the five behind the band’s first four albums, including the wildly successful “Slippery When Wet” and “New Jersey” records of 1986 and 1988 respectively.

Jon Bon Jovi In 1992
Jon Bon Jovi In 1992

Following the “Jersey Syndicate Tour”, which ran from 1998 through to 1991 the band took a short hiatus before reconvening for the less hard rock sounding “Keep The Faith” album in 1992.

Hugh McDonald
Hugh McDonald

After the release of the “Cross Road” greatest hits album in 1994 bassist Such departed and bass duties were taken over by Hugh McDonald – though despite appearing on all the band’s records and tours since then McDonald is not officially a band member, even now twenty-one years later.

Richie Sambora & Jon Bon Jovi In 1995
Richie Sambora & Jon Bon Jovi In 1995

1995 saw the release of the darker “These Days” record, and then the band took a four year break before starting work on their next studio album “Crush”.

Since then, at least in terms of simple sales figures, the band’s albums have been on a downward trajectory. Although chart positions for each subsequent record, both in the UK and the US, have been either number 1 or 2, physical sales have continued to decline. This will undoubtedly be partly due to the modern culture of downloading music for free from the internet.

Bon Jovi In 2013
Bon Jovi In 2013

However, from my perspective, each album has become a little less vital and memorable than the last, and even though each has had at least one or two decent songs, I felt in fact that the best track on the band’s 2013 “What About Now” was the bonus track “Every Road Leads Home To You” which wasn’t a group recording at all, as it had been a single and album track from Richie Sambora’s solo album “Aftermath Of The Lowdown” the previous year.

Nikki Lund
Nikki Lund

Having temporarily been absent for a run of live shows in 2011 to go into rehab, Sambora was reported to have bailed out on the band’s 2013 tour after the initial run of North American dates, for unspecified reasons. Perhaps more rehab, perhaps suffering burnout from all the beautiful women he has had to deal with (actresses Heather Locklear and Denise Richards, manager Nikki Lund and now fellow guitarist Orianthi… I know, life’s tough, right?). Bon Jovi stated in late 2014 that Sambora was no longer in the band, saying “He’s quit, he’s gone, no hard feelings”, whilst Sambora himself said “…I still see the possibility of a return”.

Richie Sambora & Orianthi
Richie Sambora & Orianthi

Sadly, it seems that – at least for the time being – Sambora is history. This is a great shame because not only did he contribute some great songwriting and superb guitar playing, but he is also a great singer in his own right (when he took lead vocals on a track during the band’s gigs it was usually a highlight of the show for me) and is arguably a better singer than Bon Jovi himself!

Bon Jovi In 2015
Bon Jovi In 2015

In addition the band have now parted company with record label Mercury after a thirty-two year relationship, with the last release on the label being the new album, the band’s thirteenth studio release, “Burning Bridges”, described by Bon Jovi as a “fan album”, stating that “it’s songs that weren’t finished, that were finished, a couple of new ones like the one we released as a single (“We Don’t Run”), it’s sort of a hint as to where we’re going musically, but the new album, the real new album, will be early next year.” It’s also undeniably designed to finish the band’s contractual obligation to the label.

So, with all that in mind, is the record any good? Does it sound like an album or just a collection out outtakes from various recording sessions? Is album number thirteen lucky or unlucky?

John Shanks
John Shanks

According to the band’s website the musicians involved in the recording of these songs are Bon Jovi, Bryan, Torres and McDonald with guitar duties being handled by co-producer John Shanks.

Richie Sambora & Jon Bon Jovi In 2011
Richie Sambora & Jon Bon Jovi In 2011

So we must presume that one the songs that Bon Jovi stated “were finished” he has had Sambora’s contributions removed and replaced by Shanks, even on “Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning” the one that Bon Jovi, Shanks and Sambora wrote together? Seems a little harsh given that this is supposedly a fan album. Mind you, that in itself begs the question who exactly are all the other records for?! Perhaps the truth of the matter is that previously unused songs and ideas were rehashed and completely re-recorded by those listed above.

Tico Torres
Tico Torres

Whatever, what about the music itself? Well, “We Don’t Run” starts off badly with a Europop sound but soon starts to rock nicely enough, although the chorus is still too poppy in sound for my liking.

David Bryan
David Bryan

The aforementioned “Sunday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning” is good, and features a great guitar solo from Shanks. “Who Would You Die For” meanwhile, despite some more poppy sounds is actually sonically in the same general territory as the “These Days” record and again benefits from some great guitar work from Shanks in that latter stages.

John Shank
John Shank

Less positively, the mainly acoustic “Fingerprints” seems longer than its six-minute duration and some of the lyrics throughout the album are somewhat throwaway.

Mercury Records
Mercury Records

Final track “Burning Bridges” is a country-style singalong which aims Bon Jovi’s scorn at Mercury, with lines like “…after thirty 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…”. Now, whatever the disagreements may have been between band and label that lead to them ending their association this seems a little over the top – after all Bon Jovi has become a very, very rich man thanks at least in part to the efforts and support of that very label, certainly in the lean early days.

Bon Jovi In 2015
Bon Jovi In 2015

Ultimately, this isn’t a bad album and it does actually come across as an album rather than collection of unused stuff – although the pacing is a little off, starting with a ballad. The performances are all shiny and professional and the songs pleasant enough with one or two pretty decent ones. But this is never going to be regarded as a classic Bon Jovi album in my book.

Bon Jovi In 1986
Bon Jovi In 1986

I have been a fan of this band since the mid 80s, have all their albums and have been to see them in concert several times over the years too. Now that they are, effectively, reduced to the singer, the drummer and the keyboard player where do they go from here with next year’s proper new album?

Jon Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi

Perhaps the loss of Sambora will lead Bon Jovi to up his game. Maybe they will strive for greatness once again or try something new – but maybe it’ll be, rather like this stop-gap album, business as usual with the emphasis seemingly on the business rather than the rock ‘n’ roll. Time will tell…

bon-jovi-burning-bridges-maxwells

“Burning Bridges” tracklist:

A Teardrop To The Sea / 2. We Don’t Run / 3. Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning / 4. We All Fall Down / 5. Blind Love / 6. Who Would You Die For / 7. Fingerprints / 8. Life Is Beautiful / 9. I’m Your Man / 10. Burning Bridges

Wheddon Cross

First post in a while as my wife and I got back yesterday from a week’s holiday away on Exmoor, with the kids and the puppy.

So, with lots of washing etc. to get through there’s not much time to spare for my blog straight away, so just a quick update today, really…

The Travellers Rest
The Travellers Rest

Despite some rather variable weather we spent a great week at The Travellers Rest just outside the small village of Wheddon Cross.

The house was very lovely and clean and we were provided with a fantastic homemade victoria sponge upon arrival. There were two bedrooms plus a pull-out sofa bed in the dining area, and a first floor lounge area with superb views out over the valley behind the house, plus two bathrooms (one with a bath and the other with a walk-in shower). It’s safe to say that we were all very comfortable and enjoyed the facilities very much.

Places that we visited during our stay included Saunton Sands near Barnstaple, Dulverton, Tarr Steps, Dunkery Beacon and Dunster.

The View From The Back
The View From The Back

I managed a MTB ride based on a route taken from MBUK magazine from Winsford whilst the rest of the family visited the Exmoor Pony Centre too. So plenty to catch up on.

Added to that are a number of new music releases that I will be wanting to digest and talk about over the coming days and weeks, including albums from Ahab, Bon Jovi, Butcher Babies, Deep Purple, Grace Potter, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Nile and Spock’s Beard, as well as more movies and books, so stay tuned…

War Of Kings

Europe_War_of_Kings_album“War Of Kings” is the new, tenth, studio album from Swedish hard rock legends Europe, probably best known for their 1986 hit single “The Final Countdown”.

Milton Keynes 1989 Poster
Milton Keynes 1989 Poster

I have very fond memories of seeing Europe performing as headliners at the Birmingham N.E.C. in 1988, and then as special guests to Bon Jovi at the Milton Keynes Bowl in the summer of 1989, on a bill also featuring Skid Row and Vixen. To my mind they were easily the best band that day, having included a couple of new songs set for their upcoming album, “Prisoners In Paradise”, as well as storming versions of the Elvis number “Hound Dog” plus “The Flight Of The Bumblebee” as guitar feature. They certainly eclipsed Bon Jovi that day.

However, any momentum that had been built on the back on the successful “The Final Countdown” and “Out Of This World” albums had been lost by the time “Prisoners In Paradise” was finally released in late 1991, particularly as grunge was huge by then, with many of the biggest hard rock bands of the 1980s suddenly finding life very tough! Splitting in 1992, no more was heard from Europe until late 2003 when the band announced their reformation and the recording of a new album, “Start From The Dark”. Whilst that album featured a detuned guitar sound, the band have been steadily developing a classic hard rock direction since then with a string of solid releases.

Joey Tempest & John Norum
Joey Tempest & John Norum

This new album continues in that vein. It is very much a classic sounding hard rock record, with echoes the great rock bands of the 70s to be heard. The use of hammond organ and a massive drum sound add to this perception. Front man Joey Tempest’s vocals are as powerful and soaring now as they ever were and guitarist John Norum delivers some seriously tasty lead guitar solos. The highlights of this record, for me, are “War Of Kings”, “Nothin’ To Ya”, “California 405”, “Rainbow Bridge” and “Light Me Up”, but in truth this is a very good album from the opening sound effects through to the reprise of the title track at the end of closing instrumental number “Vasastan”. Excellent stuff!

Europe
Europe

“War Of Kings” tracklist: 1. War Of Kings / 2. Hole In My Pocket / 3. Second Day / 4. Praise You / 5. Nothin’ To Ya / 6. California 405 / 7. Days Of Rock ‘N’ Roll / 8. Children Of The Mind / 9. Rainbow Bridge / 10. Angels (With Broken Hearts) / 11. Light Me Up / 12. Vasastan

1995 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

“It was twenty years ago today…” so go the lyrics to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Well, it may not be to the day, but it’s now twenty years since 1995 – although it doesn’t feel like it!

I’ve been thinking for a while about posting an irregular series on the subject of my favourite ten albums from a particular year, and figure that 1995 is as good a place to start as any other.

So here, in no particular order (it’s hard enough to narrow my choices down to the small number required for this as it is!) I present for you, my favourite ten albums of 1995…

1. Bon Jovi “These Days”

Bon Jovi - These Days
Bon Jovi – These Days

This was Bon Jovi’s sixth studio album. The first since 1992’s “Keep The Faith” and the departure of long serving bass player Alec John Such, this release is generally regarded to be the band’s darkest record to date.

Five hit singles were released in the UK, all but one reaching the top 10 (“Hey God” made number 13). A consistently good record, there isn’t a duff track here, highlights include “This Ain’t A Love Song”, “(It’s Hard) Letting You Go”, “Something For The Pain” and the title track with my favourite being “My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms”

2. Gary Moore “Blues For Greeny”

Gary Moore - Blues For Greeny
Gary Moore – Blues For Greeny

Gary Moore’s third album since the former Thin Lizzy guitarist’s career had seen him turning from hard rock to blues, this one saw him paying tribute to Peter Green, founder of Fleetwood Mac.

The album is made up solely of cover versions of tracks written by Green. As always, Moore’s guitar playing is excellent – superb technique and sublime feel, with “Driftin'”, “I Loved Another Woman” and “The Supernatural” being personal highlights – the latter showcasing the stunning sustain that Moore was able to wring from his instrument.

3. James House “Days Gone By”

James House - Days Gone By
James House – Days Gone By

I first began to appreciate country music in the early 90s, thanks in no small part to cable TV channel CMT. One of the artists that I was introduces to through CMT was James House, an American country artist. “Days Gone By” was his third album, features backing vocals from country stars Raul Malo of The Mavericks and Trisha Yearwood, and is full of absoultely brilliant songs, half of which were released as singles in the US. My favourite tracks are the fantastic “Little By Little”, “A Real Good Way To Wind Up Lonesome” and the biggest hit “This Is Me Missing You”

4. AC/DC “Ballbreaker”

AC/DC - Ballbreaker
AC/DC – Ballbreaker

The first new AC/DC album in five years, “Ballbreaker” is just what you would expect from the band. The record was produced by the founder of Def Jam Records, Rick Rubin, a man known for revitalising many of the acts he had produced.

This album contains the usual mix of catchy riffs, solid rhythm section, Angus Young’s lead guitar work and Brian Johnson’s gruff deliver of some gloriously non politically correct lyrics, particularly on tracks such as “Cover You In Oil”! Other highlights include the number one single “Hard As A Rock” and “Hail Caesar”

5. Oasis “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?”

Oasis - (What's The Story) Morning Glory?
Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

Recorded at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?” was the second album by Oasis, and easily their best – by my reckoning at least. In 1995 Oasis became one of the biggest bands in the UK, and they enjoyed no less than six single releases from this album – although two only reached the lower end of the charts, there were two number 1 hits (“Some Might Say” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger”) and two made number 2 (“Roll With It” and “Wonderwall”), and the album itself went on to sell in the region of 22 million copies. A record that can truly be described as a modern classic.

6. Paul Weller “Stanley Road”

Paul Weller - Stanley Road
Paul Weller – Stanley Road

The third solo album from Paul Weller, former frontman of The Jam and The Style Council, “Stanley Road” features guest appearances from Noel Gallagher (Oasis) and Steve Winwood (Spencer Davis Group / Traffic).

Aside from great numbers such as “The Changingman”, “Broken Stones”, “Porcelain Gods” and “Out Of The Sinking”, Weller’s finest hour also includes the beautiful “You Do Something To Me”

7. Shania Twain “The Woman In Me”

Shania Twain - The Woman In Me
Shania Twain – The Woman In Me

The second country album to feature here, Shania Twain’s “The Woman In Me” was here second album release. However, whereas her first album two years earlier had contained generic country, and only one co-write credit for Twain, this time she co-wrote all but two tracks, and was solely credited for one of the others. The other huge difference was the involvement of legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange (AC/DC / Def Leppard / Bryan Adams). Lange was heavily involved in the writing as well as producing the album, and as a result of their mutual efforts the record went on to sell around 20 million copies and spawned eight hit singles, including three number 1 singles in the US. It would be three more years before pop remixes saw Twain become a big hit in the UK, but for those of us aware of her in ’95, this album shone with diamonds including “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”, “You Win My Love”, “Any Man Of Mine”, “The Woman In Me (Needs The Man In You)” and “(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here!”

8. UFO “Walk On Water”

UFO - Walk On Water
UFO – Walk On Water

Although not a commercial success, this album from legendary British hard rock band UFO was notable for the return of lead guitarist Michael Schenker to the band, alongside singer Phil Mogg, bassist Pete Way, drummer Andy Parker and keyboard/guitar player Paul Raymond for the first time since the late 70s.

Although he subsequently left again just a handful of shows into the band’s world tour (before returning, leaving, returning… on and off until finally leaving again in 2003), the guitarist’s presence lifted the band and they produced their strongest album for a while. My favourite tracks are “Venus”, “Pushed To The Limit” and “Running On Empty”, and the inclusion of re-recordings of two of the group’s classic songs (“Doctor Doctor” and “Lights Out”) doesn’t hurt – though the “bonus tracks”, one each from Mogg/Way, Michael Schenker Group and the Paul Raymond Project are rather out of place.

9. Brother Cane “Seeds”

Brother Cane - Seeds
Brother Cane – Seeds

Probably the least known album (and band) here, “Seeds” was the second album from US southern rock band Brother Cane. Led by singer / guitarist Damon Johnson, the band had a degree of success in the US, with lead single from this album reaching the number 1 spot, although the album itself didn’t fare too well. A shame, as it’s full of great tracks like “Kerosene”, “And Fools Shine On” and “Hung On A Rope”. Johnson has since played with Alice Cooper before becoming a member of Thin Lizzy / Black Star Riders.

10. Prince “The Gold Experience”

Prince - The Gold Experience
Prince – The Gold Experience

Released during the time when Prince had fallen out with his record label, Warner Bros., and adopted an unpronounceable symbol as his name, “The Gold Experience” was arguably the last really great album released by him. Although not as strong as 91’s “Diamonds & Pearls” or 92’s “Symbol”, and certainly not as good as 87’s “Sign O’ The Times”, there is some excellent material on offer here – “Endorphinmachine”, “Pussy Control”, hit single “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” and “Shhh” all being classic Prince tracks.

So there we have it – my top ten albums of 1995. A year in which John Major was British Prime Minister, Blackburn Rovers won the Premier League, and top film releases included “Die Hard 3”, “Toy Story” and “GoldenEye”…