Inspiration has been a little thin on the ground recently, so I apologise for the lack of posting although I'll blame it for now on having started back at uni this week. However, in the meantime, I wanted to do a little feature on my favourite Bon Jovi album, and probably the fans' favourite too: These Days. This album had always been my favourite, even before discovering it was generally considered the band's best offering by casual fans and die-hards alike. It's now 15 years old which is quite unbelievable, but I guess all classic albums stand the test of time, whether they were written to or not. It was always a special one for Bon Jovi, as it reflected the real maturing of the band as song-writers, and also signficantly was their final studio release until they all got their hair cut and burst into the new millenium five years later with chart-friendly It's My Life from Crush, sparking a whole new generation of fans (including this one). It was also the first album since the departure of Alec John Such, the band's original bass player, to be replaced by 'session player' Hugh 'Huge' McDonald, although I don't know anyone that doesn't consider him an actual member of the band. There's a really nice moment in the 1995 Live in London tour DVD where Jon excitedly announces that the album has 'knocked Michael Jackson off the top spot' of the album charts, and did particularly well in the UK with 4 top-ten singles. I wanted to feature a few highlights for me from the album, so here goes...
Track 1, Hey God, is definitely an attention-grabber. You might expect the title-track to be the crowning feature, but the sultry piano intro doesn't catch your ears as much as Jon's spoken "OK we ready?" with a snap of Tico's drumsticks followed by his reply, "Just about" and Jon's final "Let's go" before Richie's huge opening riff kicks off the album. Before I'd grasped the concept of 'characters within songwriting' I always wondered, when I was a lot younger I'm hasten to add, how Jon could really be asking "Hey God, do you ever think about me?", considering the band's global success. Shedding my naive thoughts along with my tender years, I later understood the grasp of creating characters rather than Jon singing from a first-person perspective.
Track 2, Something For The Pain has been making a comeback recently which is nice to see; I think anything performed from These Days is appreciated by Jovi fans and the winding, lyric-heavy breakdown is perfect, whilst track 3, This Ain't A Love Song, broke the boundaries of the usual Jovi love-songs, although still managed to make its mark as a ballad.
At Track 4 we reach the title track, and it's definitely a highlight on the album. The heartfelt verses mixed with the uplifting choruses find the perfect balance of emotions; whilst it still maintains itself as a piano-based ballad, it's definitely got the foundation of a classic rock stadium song. For the Lost Highway tour, Richie took to singing lead vocals for These Days (as featured below) and I just remember being totally blown away hearing his soulful voice gracing such a fantastic song. The intricate differences in phrasing and the slight nuances as compared to Jon's vocals gave the song a whole new feel, and I'm still undecided as to which I actually prefer.
And how about an acoustic version?
My favourite part in track 5, Lie To Me, is as the second verse comes in, and Richie sings two lines of backing vocals in response to Jon: "I don't wanna die no more". It's always stood out as a highlight of the album and I'm not sure why really as it seems quite insignificant, maybe it's just the beautiful tone of Richie's vocals. Track 6, Damned, is a real funky dirty groovy number, and includes one of my favourite ever Richie solos which has really got to be felt to be appreciated.
Track 7, My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms, is another interesting lyric almost in the same vain as This Ain't A Love Song; "I can't write a love song/The way I feel today/And I can't sing no song of hope/I got nothing to say". It's always one of very few live videos I've found where there are more than one obvious mistake, as you'll see in the video below. Whether it's problems with sound onstage I don't know, or maybe it was just a bad omen Richie brought when putting his hair in a ponytail, either way they deal with it well and get through the song unscathed, except for a few definite 'stink-eyes' shot about the stage!
Track 8 sees Jon's first solo writing contribution on the album, (It's Hard) Letting You Go which I love to sing and play myself. It fits so perfectly within the darkened feeling of the album, and is also nice to hear a Jovi song not in 4/4. Hearts Breaking Even at track 9 has always been in the shadows for me, but possibly because I know that the next track is my favourite ever Bon Jovi song. Something To Believe In was my favourite song from the first time I heard Richie's "Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!", which set off the feeling for the track that I can't quite explain; a somewhat misty, brazen feel. It's again so dark and moody but has this great funky bridge section which almost sounds out of place but isn't, and also showcases a fantastic note held by Jon for what seems like forever before a raspy, yelpy scream ends it which has never been recreated live with the same effect. And the solo, especially the extended live version, is amazing.
The last few tracks of the album wind it up wonderfully; If That's What It Takes filling the last thumping spot whilst Diamond Ring is dripping with romanticism, conjuring images of dark, smokey rooms lit only by candlelight. And finally, Bitter Wine caps off Bon Jovi's greatest, darkest and most heartfelt creation to date. It's, of course, a classic album to be left off of all 'classic album' lists and snubbed by Rolling Stone or Q Magazine, but it'll always be mine, and the fan's, favourite ever offering, and that's got to be worth more to the band than any countdown or opinion poll.