Sound — 7
Bon Jovi's last few albums have rapidly strayed from the rock genre that the band embraced back in the 80s, and it's latest CD Lost Highway bounces between adult contemporary and country more than ever before. While there's nothing wrong with letting go of the past, the CD just doesn't feel like the band's most original offering. Thankfully, there are some heartfelt songs (particularly in the lyrical department) that do deliver, with the always-reliable Desmond Child co-writing one of them. The band has always injected a strong country feel into many of it's songs, with Wanted Dead Or Alive and vocalist Jon Bon Jovi's solo Blaze Of Glory showing off the best of the country-rock style. Lost Highway actually feels more like a country album most of the time, dabbling heavily in adult contemporary country rather than old school Hank Williams. The production value is great, but it never approaches classic status like earlier hits like Wanted Dead Or Alive. Bon Jovi recruited the help of country stars like Leann Rimes (Till We Ain't Strangers Anymore) and Big & Rich (We Got It Going On), but the band is at it's strongest when it's just Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora with a few guitars and harmonies. The best track is easily the single (You Want To) Make A Memory, which was co-written by Desmond Child, the man responsible for such hits as You Give Love A Bad Name and Livin' On A Prayer. It's just a beautiful, stripped down ballad that is the most original piece on Lost Highway. The song was the only one in which Child helped out in writing, and that's very telling. While nearly all of the songs have vivid and engaging lyrics, the melodies just don't make the same kind of impression that (You Want To) Make A Memory does.
Lyrics — 10
Bon Jovi has mastered the art of storytelling like many great country artists out there, and it's absolutely the high point on Lost Highway. The title track could easily be considered the road trip theme on the album thanks in part to some cleverly penned lyrics about the traveling life. Bon Jovi sings, In my rearview mirror; My life is getting clearer; The sunset sighs and slowly disappears, and later adds So I drive watching white lines passing by; With my plastic dashboard Jesus. Lost Highway is a great opening track thanks largely in part to the descriptive lyrics. Summertime is another track where it feels like we're getting a detailed day-to-day chronicle, courtesy of Bon Jovi. He sings, It feels something like summertime; I was a warm breeze with a cool tan; Life mapped out on the back of my hand; When God was laughing I was making my plans. Bon Jovi's careful choice of words creates an effective mood of nostalgia, which in the end is a theme he carries through most of the record.
Overall Impression — 8
Bon Jovi amazingly still has most of it's original members (Bon Jovi, Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan, and drummer Tico Torres), with the exception of bassist Hugh McDonald. Considering they are an extremely competent group of musicians, it would have been nice to see them showcase a few more piano or keyboard solos. There are quite a few tracks that are driven by run-of-the-mill chord progressions, and Sambora is just much better than that. But every once in while Sambora does break out the slide (Any Other Day) or talk box (We Got It Going On) and it usually pays off. Although Bon Jovi found it's original home amidst the hair metal crowd, the band has now found a cozy spot in the world of top 40 radio. For someone who grew up with a more rock-driven sound (and yes, I'm sure some out there might not call it rock), at times something does feel missing from the new CD. But the band does seem to have won a crowd over in the adult contemporary and country worlds, and those fans will likely be very content with the songs on Lost Highway.