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Bon Jovi – Bon Jovi/7800 Degrees Fahrenheit/Slippery When Wet/New Jersey (Special Edition)

Label: The Island Def Jam Music Group
Format: CD/with access to open bonus content
Released: 2010
Reviewed By: Rich Catino & Kevin Alba
Bon Jovi: 8.5/ 10
7800 Fahrenheit: 8/10
Slippery: 9/10
New Jersey: 10/ 10

Editor’s Note: By Rich Catino

You ask…why would Metal Asylum be even reporting on Bon Jovi, yet alone reviewing reissues? Well, at one time, about 20 plus years ago, Bon Jovi was a harder rocking band than what they have become since the mid 90s. Never Heavy Metal, but sure, they had the edge and energy live to fit in with melodic Hair Metal explosion. And along with Def Leppard, we also have the Jersey boys to thank for making the sounds of harder rock more radio friendly for the masses helping to open metal music to a larger audience.

Did you know, in the 80s, Bon Jovi opened for Kiss, Ratt, and even Judas Priest, played the Donington Monsters Of Rock with Metallica, Wasp, Anthrax, Dio, and Cinderella, and the Moscow Music Peace Festival alongside Ozzy, Motley Crue, Scorpions, and Skid Row. So at one time, and if you compare pre with post "Keep the Faith" Jovi, the music is a bit different. "Keep The Faith" was the fork in the road, and since Jon has obviously changed the sound and direction of the band, taking the focus away from Richie’s harder edged riffs and solos, replacing them with more of a classic rock tone and David Bryan’s keyboards, removing the punch from the drums, and pulling back on the vocals.

Granted, Bon Jovi has become even more successful than they already were in the 80s with "These Days" (their grunge album), "Crush" from 2000, the Nickelback flavored "Bounce", 05’s "Have A Nice Day", the country tinged "Lost Highway", and the even more middle aged "The Circle" in 2009, but so disappointing how in the process have abandoned their roots found on those first four albums.

On a positive note…after 20 years of ignoring the debut (aside from ‘Runaway’) and "7800 Fahrenheit", at least "The Circle" tour lives up to its name as several lesser popular gems and rarities (from "Bon Jovi" through "New Jersey" ) have been performed for (us) the diehards.

Special Editions:

These 2010’s remasters are somewhat put together well, tacked on to the end of each album are several live bonus songs from that era, the booklet includes a replica backstage pass from the tour, informative linear notes, and a couple of photos from the given era. Along with the bonus’, these re-masters sound even more polished and louder than the 1998 ones, this especially noticeable on the first two albums.

The only complaint is how skimpy the bonus material is in The Vault online. Each CD allows you access to The Vault on BonJovi.com which gives the listener access to even more extras. For the debut, with repeat visits to The Vault all you get is one additional live bonus track and a bunch of photos from the era. Now the photos are cool but not necessary, for that, the booklet to each album could have been beefed up a bit more. As far as one extra bonus track for each album... what is the point? Time allowing, these tracks could have been included to each album rather than going through the whole online process to hear one more song.

A much better way to give the listener a true bonus for The Vault would have been to include live concert video footage from each era. Really, Bon Jovi should learn from Kiss’ “Kissology” volumes. Surely there are plenty of recorded shows, TV performances (especially from 84-90) in the real Bon Jovi vaults. They would have made a great addition to these Special Edition releases.

The live bonus tracks on each album are:
Bon Jovi – ‘Runaway’, ‘Roulette’, ‘Breakout’, ‘Get Ready’. Vault Track – ‘Shot Thru The Heart’.
7800 Degrees Fahrenheit – ‘In and Out of Love’, ‘Only Lonely’, ‘Tokyo Road’. Vault Track – ‘Silent Night’.
Slippery When Wet – ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’, ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’, ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ (Acoustic). Vault Track – ‘Raise Your Hands’.
New Jersey – ‘Blood on Blood’, ‘Born To Be My Baby’. Vault Track – ‘I’ll Be There For You’.


Bon Jovi

The self titled debut perhaps gives the best bang for your buck offering four bonus tracks plus a fifth when accessing ‘The Vault’. Aside from their first hit ‘Runaway’, these live versions are all considered rare and something fans (the hard rockers) have been longing to hear. ‘Roulette’ is a solid bar-room rocker and ‘Shot Thru the Heart’ especially sounds amazing with Richie’s guitar as the driving force. The appropriately titled ‘Get Ready’ packs just over 7 minutes of punch and shows just how hungry this band was and ready for world domination.


On to the studio tracks, ‘Breakout’ captures a moment in the 80s when teenagers emulated their heroes writing anthemic songs and jamming in their parents garage, ‘She Don’t Know Me’ (which also had a video) is a classic for the time and youth, ‘Burning For Love’, and ballad ‘Love Lies’ all foreshadow what was to come.


7800 Fahrenheit

"7800", the "red headed step child", also includes great bonus live songs and seeing is how the band ignores the album makes these super rare; including Richie’s guitar solo, ‘In and Out of Love’ (the promo video was actually shot on the Seaside Boardwalk) clocks in around 12 minutes and rightfully was the albums opening headbanger. ‘Only Lonely’ is perfect pop metal with memorable leads and chorus, ‘Silent Night’ is a true power ballad, before the term became popularized by Motley Crue’s ‘Home Sweet Home’, and ‘Tokyo Road’ was a live staple for many years inspired by the band’s experiences in the east.


Other album highlights include ‘The Hardest Part Is the Night’, ‘Always Run to You’ and ‘Secret Dreams’ are carried by crunchy metal riffing combined with a polished keyboard-crafted instrumental frame on the latter. With "Fahrenheit", Bon Jovi took melody and harder rock to the next level on this lyrically darker effort.


Slippery When Wet

With "Slippery When Wet", Bon Jovi has arrived at the dance, armed with the soon to be monster MTV/radio hits ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’, ‘Livin On A Prayer’, ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’, and ‘Never Say Goodbye’ (which strangely never received airplay on MTV??)...ready to party and take everybody’s women backstage. ‘Let It Rock’ set the stage for the album’s rousing energy and commercial potential, and includes an excellent classically arranged keyboard intro from David Bryan. ‘Raise Your Hands’ has long been a crowd favorite and ‘I’d Die For You’ feature more of Sambora’s harder edge guitar licks, with ‘Wild In The Streets’ closing the album on a high note.


Nothing special getting ‘You Give Love’ and ‘Prayer’ live, but ‘Wanted’ acoustic is nice to have in the collection (although the version done on MTV would have been better).


New Jersey

"New Jersey" is the boys at the height of their powers, learning from and using the best parts of the first three albums to make a guitar driven, diverse, fun, mature, and hard rocking album named after their home-state.


As the intro builds to ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ (the video showed the band at their best) and Richie Sambora’s metallic guitars electrify the arrangement, its evident "New Jersey" is a freight train. First video/single ‘Bad Medicine’ was a no brainer hit, up-beat rocker ‘Born To Be My Baby’, ballads ‘I’ll be There For You’ and ‘Living In Sin’, were just unstoppable. On the flip side, “New Jersey” featured a mastering in songwriting, spawning ‘Blood On Blood’ about growing up and the brotherhood between good friends, the aggressive ‘Homebound Train’ that features show stopping tradeoff of guitar and keyboard solos, the camp-fire jam ‘Love For Sale’, and the underrated dynamic ‘Wild Is The Wind’. Hands down Bon Jovi’s best album ever!


In Closing…

Regardless of what we want versus what we got, overall these re-masters are worth picking up. Aside from hearing great live tracks another bonus is the replica backstage passes from each tour with "Slippery" including the original album artwork of the busty chick in the yellow shirt and "New Jersey" features a Mafioso looking man in a suit with top hat holding a machine gun…very fitting for the Garden State. These four albums have sure stood the test of time and in 2010 are still major parts to the soundtrack of our lives (as we are sure it is with many) and will continue to be. Bon Jovi’s first four albums are some of the best hard rock (with a metal edge) ever released and an essential part to any rocker’s collection.

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