Bon Jovi, "The Circle" (Island)
The fiddles and banjos have been packed away and the steel guitars, presumably, stolen. In their place are angry electric guitars, catchy choruses that demand to be shouted out in a football stadium, and a return to the unflappable optimism that has made these Jersey guys legends in the rock biz.
In short, Bon Jovi is back!
"The Circle" is the followup to 2007's wildly successful but country-fried "Lost Highway," which was a jarring sonic detour for the heroes of the New Jersey Turnpike. Thankfully, Jon Bon Jovi & Co. are keeping the faith with the still-developing but oh-so-recognizable sound that has been the band's trademark.
"We Weren't Born To Follow," the fist-pumping anthem that kicks off the disc, could have been right at home on "Slippery When Wet" or "New Jersey," with its timeless hooks and punchy beat.
They really do come full circle on "Work For The Working Man," which just as easily could have been titled "Livin' On A Prayer II," from the foundation bass riff that's almost identical to that of Bon Jovi's biggest-ever hit, to the dignified struggle of the little guy against tremendous odds. (At least they didn't bring back Tommy and Gina again.)
"Bullet" has a little of the "Hey God" anger and angst, asking the Almighty if he has "just given up" in the face of so much evil in the world.
A rejuvenated Richie Sambora makes his presence known here more strongly than on his last few albums, with more intricate and longer solos.
Throughout it all, "Hell yeah!" has replaced "Hee Haw." And as they say in New Jersey, that's a good thing, capece?
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: "When We Were Beautiful" is about trying to regain lost innocence and simplicity. It sounds like it can apply to the world, or to the band itself.