Let me start off by saying that I’ve been a huge Bon Jovi fan since the 80’s. A big reason for that is that I think Richie Sambora is one of the most underrated guitarists. But even with no Sambora on their newest CD, This House Is Not For Sale, I was hoping that Bon Jovi would put out a great CD.
Jon Bon Jovi is calling this CD the start of a new chapter of Bon Jovi. It’s a bumpy chapter at best. I might as well address Sambora‘s absence first as it’s hard to ignore, especially in these areas:
- Guitar solos: New guitarist Phil X seems to go out of his way to not sound like Sambora. His style is so ingrained into Bon Jovi‘s sound that you anticipate what he would play. When Phil X takes it another direction, it sounds odd. That’s not to say that Phil X isn’t a good guitarist. It’s just a different style.
- Background vocals: Even more than the guitar solos, Sambora‘s background vocals are badly missed. Like Michael Anthony with Van Halen, Sambora‘s vocals are a distinctive part of Bon Jovi‘s sound.
- Songwriting: You can tell how much Sambora balanced out the song structure with Jon Bon Jovi. The CD has a different sound and feel. It’s much more pop than rock (more on that below).
OK, enough about Richie Sambora. What about the songs we got? The CD starts off in familiar territory with the first single and title track, “This House Is Not For Sale”. It’s in the same vein as “We Weren’t Born To Follow” and “Have a Nice Day”. Strong guitar chords with an uplifting message. This one falls a little flat for me though compared to the others, but it is catchy.
The rest of the CD is upbeat, but it doesn’t rock. It’s very poppy…enough that some songs – “Knockout” and “Roller Coaster” especially – sound like Katy Perry or Taylor Swift. They’ve teetered on that edge since coming back with Crush, but always seemed to still land a little more on the rock side. Was it Sambora that kept them from going too far into the pop realm? It seems that way.
Bon Jovi experiments with a few songs with varying results. “Labor of Love” reminds me a lot of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”. But, Bon Jovi sings it in a weird voice that I found sort of irritating. Random thought because it’s Christmas: the line, “It’s good. It’s good. It’s good.” reminds me of Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation when he finally snaps and is drinking egg nog. Irritating voice aside, I do find this to be one of the songs that stayed in my head. It grew on me.
The only other highlight for me is “The Devil’s In the Temple”. This is the closest they came to a rock riff. And, it might be the best example of how Bon Jovi might sound as a rock band now. Had there been a few more songs like this, I would have enjoyed the CD more.
Unfortunately, the rest of the songs range from forgettable to clichéd. I don’t usually include bonus tracks in my reviews, but there are a few that should have made the CD. If you can find “Real Love”, “All Hail the King” or “We Don’t Run”, these songs blow away crap like “God Bless This Mess” and “Come On Up to Our House”.
As much as I hate to say it, I’d skip this CD. You’re better off waiting for the inevitable reunion with Richie Sambora. Let’s hope it comes sooner than later.