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Richie Sambora is more than just the lead guitarist from Bon Jovi, as his fans and Bon Jovi fans will surely testify. He not only plays guitar and co-writes the Bon Jovi material alongside lead singer Jon Bon Jovi, he is also a very impressive vocalist in his own right. Indeed it is not only his excellent guitar playing which is integral to Bon Jovi's sound, his vocals are too, which is something that maybe had gone unnoticed by many until the release of his debut solo album 'Stranger In This Town' in 1991, when his raspy blues vocals were finally on display for all to appreciate. The release of his first solo album saw him gain new fans, but also fans of Bon Jovi saw there was much more to this talented man than just Bon Jovi and from that moment on, fans have been greatly receptive to his work outside the band.
A few years later Richie followed up the success of 'Stranger In This Town' with a second solo release 'Undiscovered Soul' which once again showed that this man could easily have made his name as a solo artist full time if he so wished, although personally I am pleased he continued with Bon Jovi too as it is Richie's contribution to the band which has made me the huge fan that I am. Although I appreciate the talents of the other band members and realise they all contribute to the sound that is Bon Jovi, I can't imagine them without Richie Sambora and don't think I am alone in thinking this. Every concert I have seen Bon Jovi perform at, there is at some point a song where Jon Bon Jovi will leave the stage and announce his great friend will be performing the next song and the fans are then treated to Richie singing and playing his guitar for a song, which is always a highlight of the night to the appreciative audience and once again recognises his solo talent.
Those two solo albums are firm favourites in my cd collection and I have wondered for years whether or not there would ever be another Richie Sambora solo album. He would never rule it out when asked in interviews but the constant workload of tours and albums with Bon Jovi haven't allowed much time as the band always come first with him. Also major events in his private life (his divorce and loss of his father who died of cancer) left Richie battling also with alcohol addiction and he had a spell or two in rehab to help with this. The death of his father was something he struggled with, but with the support of his family and Jon Bon Jovi he has came through it and as he said himself recently "we don't learn unless there is pain."
So maybe writing a long-awaited third solo album 'Aftermath of the Lowdown' was something that has helped Richie on his journey to sobriety. Richie explained recently that he wanted to make an authentic record, feeling energised after a long tour taking in 52 countries with Bon Jovi, he began writing some songs which he decribes as a look back on his life over the last seven years which has featured plenty of ups and downs. He explained that writing these songs was totally different to when he is co-writing the Bon Jovi songs with Jon, as when he writes for himself it is 'his story' and explains the title of this album by saying the lowdown is the truth, and when someone speaks to you and gives you the truth, there's an aftermath to that which is sometimes good and sometimes bad. Richie's life was the truth and the songs are the aftermath to that.
Released in September this year, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of this album and so when a good friend of mine offered to buy it for me for my birthday which coincided with its release, I was thrilled to bits and couldn't wait to able to listen to it.
The first thing that strikes you with this album is it starts with a bang, unlike the previous two solo albums, as 'Burn That Candle Down' is literally a thunderous assault of guitars and distorted vocals as if Richie is describing the chaos and mess his life was seven years ago through the music and vocals here and it is the most hard-hitting track Richie has released as a solo artist in my opinion.
Things then calm down a little with the first single from the album 'Every Roads Leads Home To You' and Richie's vocals are freed from the distortion of the opening track. Richie sings of blindly running away from everything he thought he knew, over a very catchy hook with a great guitar solo midway which he excels at. This track has featured on a number of radio stations recently with Radio 2 playing it on a daily basis. I had first heard this a while back when it was made available as a free download for the fans and couldn't wait for the album release as I loved this song immediately.
'Taking A Chance On The Wind' features acoustic guitar to begin with and then Richie's blues-infused vocals tell of how the bad times fade. The full band comes in for another catchy chorus and guitar solo.
'Nowadays' puts me in mind of the Foo Fighters with its epic chorus which I could imagine Dave Grohl singing. It's loud, hard and fast and got me right from the start and remains one of my favourites.
Things calm down once again with 'Weathering The Storm' a beautiful ballad with a soaring chorus featuring a lyrical contribution from Bernie Taupin.
'Sugar Daddy' has a Muse style sound at the beginning and whilst I enjoyed the music very much on this track from the first listen, I wasn't as keen on the vocals and chorus at first, but it is something which has grown on me with repeated listens, as I think my love for the music means I cannot dislike it.
The production by Luke Ebbin along with Richie Sambora, is also excellent, clear, sharp and distinct throughout.
'I'll Always Walk Beside You' is another stand out for me. Acoustic guitar and the simple lyrics inspired by his daughter Ava as the song slowly builds, are touching, while 'Seven Years Gone' encompasses the past seven years and is my favourite track on the album. Both Richie's vocals and guitar give me goosebumps here as the track builds to include a rocking solo. " You wake up... move on" sings Richie as he describes waking up to seven years gone. He is really feeling his lyrics here and pours his emotions into this track which I think includes everything that shows off his talents.
'Learning How To Fly (Broken Wing)', contains a great hook and is full of guitar and hard hitting lyrics before things calm right down again with 'You Can Only Get So High' which describes his alcohol abuse. The track is another stand out for me telling of last night's clouded memory and empty bottle as Richie sings "You can only get so high, then you gotta come down", before he goes on to tell of his demons and life being one long after-party where he overstayed his welcome. There is so much emotion and meaning here in this very personal track it gets me with every listen.
Last up is the simple ballad 'World' a fitting end to an album telling of Richie's past seven years highs and lows.
I do hope writing the album was good therapy for Richie, as I do think he is looking back on top form and my only hope is that he remains in control and doesn't let his demons take over again.
It has been a long, long wait for another Richie Sambora solo album, but 'Aftermath of the Lowdown' was definitely worth that wait. It shows off Richie Sambora's huge talent and he deserves recognition for being more than just 'the lead guitarist in Bon Jovi'.
A brilliant album, highly recommended by me.