|Bon Jovi Have A Nice Day||Island Records|
UICL-9027 (Japanese Release)
At this point in their career, Bon Jovi need a great album. Bon Jovi fans want a great album. Both Crush and Bounce were solid records with highlights, but individual downfalls and each sold a less than the albums before them.|
Bon Jovi are still the biggest band in this genre and one of the few that continue to have record company support and worldwide press exposure on demand.
This is a big release – the promotional efforts behind it suggest that the label are happy with what they have been delivered and they intend to make sure fans know about the new album. If only they put such effort into many other equally deserving acts.
Such was the band and labels desire to deliver a great album, the original album turned in 12 months ago was reconsidered as the band went back into the studio to record new tracks.
The biggest question I had over this album is whether the band would once again misjudge the balance of the album and relegate better tracks to B-Sides and Bonus Tracks.
Both Bounce and Crush would have benefited substantially from substituting B-Sides for some of the included tracks. Alas they weren't and thanks to modern technology, fans re-sequenced and rearranged the album themselves.
The good news – Have A Nice Day is easily the band's best album in sometime, but it is international fans that are getting the better album. The US version omits a couple of vital rock tracks that add strength to the overall release found in other territories.
Of most interest on Have A Nice Day is the band's updated sound. I expect this point to be heavily debated. On Bounce, Bon Jovi tuned down the guitars on the rock tracks and it just didn't work.
On Have A Nice Day the style is kept mostly consistent throughout and the whole band's sound has been updated – not just the guitar sound, or not just the rockers.
This is easily the band's most contemporary release ever, but curiously the band seems intent on chasing the most popular sound of the day rather than forging new territory of their own, such as they did when they released Keep The Faith.
Have A Nice Day producer John Shanks is the man driving the band's sound here. He co-writes several tracks which help bring the band into a new era. The band co-produces with Shanks, which shows this album has been a real team effort and I believe that shows. Long time collaborator Desmond Child, who appears on 2 co-writes here is listed as the album's executive producer – another sign of 'all hands on deck'.
Some fans aren't going to like the new sound and may not be as willing to step into the contemporary arena with the band. But the fact is that it suits the guys.
Shanks has worked with the likes of Ashlee Simpson; Anastacia; Kelly Clarkson; Alanis Morissette; Lindsay Lohan and Diana DeGarmo in recent times. He is a Grammy Award winning producer and worked with Bon Jovi to update their sound and approach.
Have A Nice Day has a sound that is more comparable to Goo Goo Dolls and Matchbox Twenty than Slippery When Wet or New Jersey. Added orchestration, production effects and strings on two tracks add many different dimensions to the band's new sound.
Best news for fans is that the rockers outweigh the ballads, even on the US version. On the international version that ratio is further extended.
In fact, with the last 3 tracks of the basic album plus 2 UK and Japanese bonus tracks, we get 5 rockers in a row. When was the last time that happened on any Bon Jovi album?
Track By Track:
You won't find many better tracks than the ultra catchy Have A Nice Day. However, once again, Bon Jovi kicks off with a lead single and lead track which doesn't accurately represent the sound of the rest of the album. This track has a close relative in It's My Life, but is still a foot stamping, fist pumping hard rock anthem that will ensure the band remains at the forefront of radio airplay worldwide. Yet another massive hit for the band! The track was actually re-written and recorded from its original form. These lyrics are better for sure, but the band did leave something out of the original that would have been cool here. A 15 second interlude where JBJ whispers the chorus about two thirds of the way through the song was a great change in pace and would have made this song even better.
I Wanna Be Loved is a perfect follow on from the high energy of the opening track. This is a dark and moody mid-tempo rocker with a distinct lead guitar break. It mixes some of those Living On A Prayer Jovi sound effects with an ultra modern production. I love the dark vibe of the song, the deep personal lyrics and the big chorus, which borders on modern rock.
The album dips a little with two very safe tracks. The rock ballad Welcome To Wherever You Are and the breezy uptempo Who Says You Can't Go Home? Are both very safe and predictable Jovi staples. These Days, Bounce and Crush all have similar tracks. These are very enjoyable – especially the feel good melodic rock of Who Says You Can't Go Home, but we have heard it all before.
The band recovers some lost ground with one of the highlights of the album. Last Man Standing is a remake of an older song, showcased on the 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong box set. This is a more aggressive and urgent version, with an increased tempo and an updated sound in line with the album's production style. All in all, a great rocker.
One is never too far from a Bon Jovi ballad and Bells Of Freedom is the big acoustic driven ballad for this album. Co-written by Desmond Child, this track has all the hallmarks of being the third single from the album, but one hopes the band will chose a more bold statement to make, by choosing one of the edgier tracks.
We are at the halfway point more or less and for me, this is where things get more interesting. The slow to mid-tempo Wildflowers isn't an ideal fit at position 7 as I think the album's pace lags a bit, but nevertheless, this piano rock ballad has an interesting sound. It's part Jersey, part Matchbox Twenty and has a certain Eddie & The Cruisers vibe to it.
Now, it's time to rock. Last Cigarette is another album highlight for me. This is a great uptempo feel good rocker with some great lyrics and some very nice guitar soloing. The chorus features one of the better singalong hooks from the album and I pick this as being a fan favourite in months to come.
The tempo dips again, which might have been a problem if not for I Am being a classic track. This is another dark and moody mid-tempo rocker, with a definite Goo Goo Dolls style production. Possibly the most modern rock sounding track the band has yet recorded, this could be a monster at radio if given the chance. You just can't help but love the chorus.
The rocker Complicated is another very modern sounding track. Modern to the point where some fans may not like the sound, it rocks bigtime and has another very catchy bridge and chorus arrangement and matches the darker tones of the previous track.
Things keep rocking along in fine style with Novocaine. Another dark and moody lyric drives this modern rock track with a chorus that isn't as instant as the previous tracks, but is solid nevertheless.
Another rocker makes it three uptempo numbers in a row. Finally the band is getting the message from fans. Story Of My Life features the same updated sound prevalent throughout the album, but is a bit more old-school Jovi in direction. Another good uptempo chorus will have fans singing along and is another highlight.
That concludes the regular portion of the album. Different territories now get some bonus tracks, but the Japanese release which gets all three.
The US version adds a duet version of Who Says You Can't Go Home – a song they originally recorded with Keith Urban! It was re-recorded with Jennifer Nettles of country outfit Sugarland – obviously a better option for the record label, looking to promote both artists.
Back to the bonus tracks on hand - It's hard to conclude why Dirty Little Secret and Unbreakable would not appear on every version of the release. These are both uptempo rockers of the highest quality and easily surpass tracks like Bells Of Freedom, Welcome To Wherever You Are and Wildflowers.
Why does the band think US fans won't be able to handle more rockers on their albums?
Both tracks appear on the UK release, so fans there will have an album that concludes with 5 rockers in a row! That should have been the case for all territories.
Dirty Little Secret is a mid-to-up tempo track that rolls along at a reasonable pace and features a great chorus and is something different for the band – hence why it is so enjoyable.
Unbreakable is even better. Featuring a very processed pop intro, a thick heavy guitar riff breaks through and drives this song.
This is possibly the second or third best track of the whole album! The chorus is super heavy and features a real groove and like the opening track, would be right at home on modern rock radio, with the guarantee of getting feet stamping along.
The Japanese release closes with something all Bon Jovi fans are familiar with – a big sentimental ballad. These Open Arms is not unlike several other ballads previously released and for that reason isn't essential.
However, it is a classy ballad nevertheless and major dose of string orchestration makes it a very lush ballad with a Goo Goo Dolls style finish.
However, they are chasing a sound that already exists with other artists, so it will be interesting to see how longtime fans react. The song quality is great – this is easily the most consistent and enjoyable record since These Days and perhaps even Keep The Faith.
It's great to hear the band rocking more regularly again, but definitely points removed for the selection of the bonus tracks and taking the safe option for the US release. Wildflower and Welcome To Wherever You Are would have been better bonus tracks and Dirty Little Secret and Unbreakable would have been bolder choices to fill the album.
If speaking only of the US release, the rating would be 86%
This album could have been an even bolder statement, but I'm happy with the result and the overall balance. I think fans will find it hold up well over the coming months and will have longer legs than both Crush and Bounce.
The memory of This Left Feels Right is all but extinguished.
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