Sound — 6
It has been a bizarre time to be a Bon Jovi fan, and it isn't too difficult for those rock listeners who have been left outside of the feud between lead vocalist and mainman Bon Jon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora to understand why. After Jon gave Sambora an ultimatum which would either result in the founding guitar player heading back out on the road and into the studio or spending time with his family and being kicked out of the band, Sambora chose the latter. The remaining members of Bon Jovi would then head back on tour with the aid of guitarist Phil X without actually naming him as the official replacement for Sambora, before heading into the recording studio to record and release the band's thirteenth album "Burning Bridges". While this would all be generally digestible for dedicated Bon Jovi advocates, here's where things become more bizarre. "Burning Bridges" would later be described by Jon as a "fan album", meaning that those recent recording sessions with Bon Jovi were actually dives into the archives to retrieve songs from previous albums (with Sambora) that didn't make the cut and rework them for release. The actual "new" Bon Jovi album that will feature all new compositions won't be out until next year, and essentially "Burning Bridges" is something to justify another world tour.
At this point, it would be rather effortless to count "Burning Bridges" out as just an effortless rehash with possibly one worthwhile track to walk away from, right? That's where it gets even more interesting in the case of this latest installment. What we find on "Burning Bridges" surpasses anything that has come out under the Bon Jovi name in years, especially when compared to the dreadful 2013 soft rock release "Because We Can". The members of Bon Jovi actually deliver some of their best hard rock anthems since 2009's "The Circle". Yes, that's probably because this material is largely based on the sessions for "The Circle," but it is still a readily accepted improvement for the band. "We Don't Run" could be interpreted as a modernized take on the Bon Jovi brand of old, but the bold group vocal harmonies and driving chord progressions are enough to compel the listener to throw their fist in the air and jam along. "Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning" is the same way, and maybe even rocks a little harder due to the strengthened emphasis on laidback melodies and a sing-along guitar solo. If one turned to the list of songwriting credits, it wouldn't exactly be a surprise to see (who else?) but Richie Sambora's name there alongside Jon Bon Jovi, but that alone may make "Burning Bridges" a more tolerable title for purists.
Lyrics — 7
Jon Bon Jovi has never been known as a dynamic lead vocalist. Although he does press for some dark groans on the aforementioned "We Don't Run," his middle-of-the-road vocal range has done wonders for the Bon Jovi catalog and has allowed the band to venture across contemporary rock, country rock, pop rock and hard rock territory over the years. It's that similar breed of lyrical execution which is featured all throughout "Burning Bridges," whether it's the all-too-familiar assortment of ballads ("Fingerprints," "Life Is Beautiful," "Blind Love") or the raging upbeat moments on "We All Fall Down" and "A Teardrop to The Sea".
Overall Impression — 7
Is the latest Bon Jovi album "Burning Bridges" a "new" album? That depends solely on what you consider "new" to mean. They're fresh recordings with the band's current lineup, and I'm sure some interpretations were included along the way. These tracks are also some of the finest hard rock compositions to arrive from Bon Jovi in some time. Rather than questioning the status of what we find on "Burning Bridges," it may prove to be more worthwhile to turn towards the future of the band. If all Bon Jovi can do is rely on the previously abandoned scraps of earlier efforts when Richie Sambora, someone Bon Jon Jovi seemingly can't bury the hatchet with, was in the lineup and writing material, this progression may be over just as soon as it begins.