TimesDispatch.com TLFR review
|"This Bon Jovi CD feels half right"
The decision to not only go mostly acoustic but also to remodel some of its tastiest rock hits into ballads means that Bon Jovi is squarely aiming "This Left Feels Right" at its massive female following.
Sure, plenty of guys dig Richie Sambora's deft guitar squealing and Jon Bon Jovi's wealthy blue-collar ordinariness. But boys usually like things loud, and "TLFR" is all about sparseness and paring down.
It's an iffy proposal, and one that works about half of the time. Bon Jovi, the singer and charismatic frontman, stretches his voice to a new level of sultriness on "Bad Medicine," a formerly silly rocker that has been recast as a sexy blues number, complete with Sambora's muddy talk box laying a slinky foundation. Also interesting is "It's My Life," transformed from an anthem of defiance into a movie-soundtrack-ready opus of strings, piano and surprising depth, and "Lay Your Hands On Me," another formerly massive anthem dialed down to a shuffle beat with country-ish picking from Sambora.
Though Jon Bon Jovi receives plenty of attention on any Bon Jovi release, he truly deserves it here, as his vocals, tinged with more than a dollop of newfound drama, expose the solidness that often lurks beneath the big choruses and thick hooks of the band's material.
That said, he tries a bit too hard to Tom Waits his way through "You Give Love A Bad Name," almost unrecognizable with Sambora's slide guitar, a new tempo and overamplified raspiness on the vocal track. "Livin' On A Prayer" has disappointment potential for longtime fans as well. Singer and actress (but mostly actress) Olivia d'Abo takes on the role of Gina to turn the song into a duet. But her idiosyncratic voice strips the onetime hopeful "Livin'" of its optimistic core and turns it into a somber bummer.
The only major complaint about "TLFR" is the band's last-minute decision to yank two new songs from the track listing. Perhaps they're saving "Last Man Standing" and "Thief of Hearts" for next year's planned boxed set - another offering that will appeal mostly to die-hard fans only.
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