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When in 1991 Bon Jovi temporarily split and went their seperate ways, Jon Bon Jovi recorded the soundtrack to Young Guns 2 whilst lead guitarist, Richie Sambora, decided to record his own solo album. This album recieved much postive critical acclaim but, for some reason, did not sell as well as it might. Still over the years, the album has garnered something of a cult apreciation and Syranger In This Town is regarded favourably by the majority of Bon Jovi fans!
For me, this album has never really appealed. I love Richie Sambora, think the guitar on this album is simply amazing but am just not over enamoured by any of the 10 songs featured here. I think part of me keeps waiting for Jon Bon Jovi to appear though it would be wrong to compare this to anything recorded by the band. Stranger has a much more bluesier, edgier sound to it and has been inspired by the likes of Eric Clapton who even appears on one of the tracks. And that is one of the reasons I am not keen ~ I cannot deny his talent but I have never really enjoyed Eric Clapton's work.
For me, no one paticular track stands out but don't mistake me....I don't hate this album, I just feel really very very neutral about it. If it was on, I would listen to it but I would not choose to put it on! I want to like it much more than I actually do and it is such a shame that Richie cannot meet ther potential this album promises.
If you want to hear Richie at his best, check out his second solo album, Undiscovered Soul. A friend at work lent me this recently and it is a much better, more mature collection. For me this debut, Stranger In This Town, feels too much like an uncut and unpolished diamond; too rough for me......Undiscovered Soul on the other hand is much more refined!
For anyone who does not know, Richie Sambora is the lead guitarist with Bon Jovi. A man with a massive talent who in my opinion deserves a lot more credit from the music critics than he receives.
Not only is he an amazing guitarist - as anyone who has seen Bon Jovi live can surely testify - but he has a really good voice too! With Bon Jovi he provides backing vocals, but also does take the lead now and then at concerts. I actually prefer his voice to Jon Bon Jovi, who is a great singer, so this shows just how much I rate Richie!
Richie's own style is blues- rock, and he sings with so much soul, that when he released his first solo album 'Stranger In This Town' back in 1991, whilst Bon Jovi were having a break, I was really looking forward to hearing his solo work.
All the tracks on the album are written by Richie Sambora, and some are co-written with a couple of friends including his Bon Jovi bandmate David Bryan.
David Bryan also plays keyboards on the album, and Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres plays the drums and percussion. They are joined by Tony Levin on bass guitar, with guest appearances by Eric Clapton and Randy Jackson. Richie of course, plays guitar and provides the vocals.
From the very first listen to this album, I absolutely loved it. You may be forgiven for thinking that this would be like a 'Bon Jovi' album without Jon Bon Jovi, after all, the other members of the band are playing on the album. Well it's not! It is a superbly crafted album which highlights Richie's talent as both solo and band performer. An album of blues-rock songs, sung and played in Richie's inimitable style.
There are ten tracks on this album :-
1. REST IN PEACE :- The album starts with a slow haunting track, featuring nothing else but an amazing vocal lament from Richie. His voice full of raw emotion while he plays guitar. Some might think it is unusual to begin an album this way, but I think it serves as a great introduction for what is to follow. Richie does state on the CD cover : "Turn down the lights, light a candle...Welcome..." and this track goes hand in hand with that fitting statement. A brilliant opening piece.
2. CHURCH OF DESIRE :- An up-tempo track which will have your foot tapping right away. Excellent guitar solo mid-way through the song, as Richie sings of dancing with the devil down lonely street :-
" Looking for a window in the house of tears
Living in hell , I pray the rain disappears"
3. STRANGER IN THIS TOWN :- The title track of the album, co-written with David Bryan, and one of my favourite tracks. Slow, and full of soul. The line in this song : " Everybody loves a winner, till the winners lose," never fails to move me as his voice soars, full of emotion. This track was released as a single.
4. BALLAD OF YOUTH :- Begins with an acoustic intro, moving quickly into a fast-paced catchy blues rock song. This track was co-written with a member of his former band 'Shark Frenzy' and was the first single taken from the album. A good strong track.
5. ONE LIGHT BURNING :- Another of my favourite tracks here. Again written with former bandmates from 'Shark Frenzy', this was also released as a single. A slow ballad, with moving lyrics and again an excellent vocal performance full of feeling. Features guest appearance from Randy Jackson on bass.
" All alone in the dark, no walls or windows
Trying hard to define heaven from hell
Standing out in the rain, with just one shadow
Nothing to see or believe
6. MR. BLUESMAN :- Another slow blues ballad, featuring Eric Clapton playing a great guitar solo here, complimenting Richie perfectly. Richie stated this was a milestone in his life when Eric agreed to perform on his album.
"And when he'd bend a note, a tear would fill my eyes
Where are you playin'
7. ROSIE :- The album gathers tempo again with this catchy track, originally written for Bon Jovi, so it is no surprise that this is the only track to sound anything like Bon Jovi on this album. Yes it sounds like it could be a Bon Jovi rock anthem, but Richie firmly puts his blues-rock stamp on it.
8. RIVER OF LOVE :- Has a short cowboy-feel intro which reminds me a little of Bon Jovi's Wanted Dead Or Alive, or Blaze of Glory, mixed with the haunting feel of the first track on this album, but then quickly moves away from this and gathers tempo to become a strong track with great guitar.
9. FATHER TIME :- I think this has to be my favourite track on the album. Richie delivers another amazing vocal here and you can just feel the emotion and despair as he sings of a lost love, it is so moving. A slow rock ballad which builds throughout, and literally blows me away each time I hear it.
" Father time
I couldn't make her want to stay
I couldn't seem to find the words to say
Now I have to live in yesterday..."
10. THE ANSWER :- Another of my favourite tracks, begins with an acoustic guitar and soft vocal from Richie which builds to another amazing bluesy sound vocal on the chorus. An acoustic track with excellent lyrics, as he sings of the wonder of the meaning of life from being young, and searching for the answer. "There's a world in every drop of rain" - Brilliant! A great end to a great album.
" The lightning flashed as angels rode fiery chargers through the clouds
That answer scared me into tears, as all the grown-ups laughed out loud..."
Overall I give this album ten out of ten and it is one of my favourite all-time albums. No weak tracks on here in my opinion.
You do not have to be a fan of Bon Jovi to appreciate this album, as it is so different. I just feel that if someone other than a member of Bon Jovi had released this album then it would have received great critical acclaim. Unfortunately the music press are often far too prejudiced, and just think Richie Sambora = Bon Jovi and are not prepared to pay any real attention to Richie Sambora. He often features in rock fans Top 20 lists etc, but is sadly overlooked by much of the music press as the talented musician he really is.
It doesn't seem to bother Richie, however, but in my eyes and no doubt to countless other music fans who have also highly rated this album, the man is a legend!
Give it a listen - you may be surprised!
If you do, and find yourself liking the album, you may wish to know he released another solo album 'Undiscovered Soul' which is also brilliant.
Stranger In This Town is available from Amazon priced at £5.98.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Rest In Peace
2 Church Of Desire
3 Stranger In This Town
4 Ballad Of Youth
5 One Light Burning
6 Mr. Bluesman
8 River Of Love
9 Father Time
10 The Answe