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December 02, 2005

Bon Jovi pushes ahead with new sounds

With more than 100 million records sold during a two-decade career, it's been proven time and time again that the members of Bon Jovi know how to expand their audience.

Bon Jovi pushes ahead with new sounds

By Alan Sculley
Thursday, December 1, 2005

With more than 100 million records sold during a two-decade career, it's been proven time and time again that the members of Bon Jovi know how to expand their audience.
On the band's new CD, "Have A Nice Day," Bon Jovi has tried to reach out to another demographic -- country music fans.

The band, which performs Tuesday at Mellon Arena, teamed up with Jennifer Nettles, singer for the country band Sugarland, to record a country version of "Who Says You Can't Go Home," a tune that also appears on the CD in a straight-ahead rock version.

The country version of the track -- complete with additional fiddle, mandolin and other instrumentation -- was produced by Dann Huff. It is being pushed to country radio, and Bon Jovi and Nettles performed the song on the Country Music Association awards show Nov. 15.

For a band that on its early albums helped create the pop-metal blueprint -- hair metal was more derisive term -- and with later songs like "Keep The Faith" and "It's My Life" came to embody radio-friendly mainstream rock, this foray into country may seem calculated and perhaps even crass.

But as guitarist Richie Sambora explained in a recent teleconference interview alongside keyboardist David Bryan, doing a country version of a song isn't as big a stylistic stretch as some might think.

"Honestly there's been a little country with (the song) 'Wanted Dead or Alive,' and things like that," Sambora says, mentioning a popular hit for the band. "We've had those elements, and now it's just kind of catching up to us. So, it's a nice thing. And I love country music, I got to tell you, I watch CMT all the time. I'm a big country music fan now. I got into it over the last couple years."

Time will tell if "Who Says You Can't Go Home" will be Bon Jovi's ticket to a new audience segment. As it is, "Have A Nice Day" has gotten off to a strong start. With first-week sales of 202,000, the CD generated the band's best single week of sales in 15 years.

"Have A Nice Day" comes after a period of resurgence for the band, which in addition to Sambora and Bryan includes singer Jon Bon Jovi and drummer Tico Torres.

Formed in 1983 in Sayreville, N.J., the band made its big breakthrough with the back-to-back hit albums "Slippery When Wet" (1986) and "New Jersey" (1988), which sold a combined 19 million copies in the United States alone, spawned a string of number one hits such as "Livin' On A Prayer," "You Give Love A Bad Name," "Born To Be My Baby" and "Bad Medicine."

But in the 1990s, the group's fortunes slipped as music trends began to shift away from the pop metal sound that pushed Bon Jovi to the top of the charts. But that slide ended with the 2000 CD, "Crush," which featured the mega-hit single, "It's My Life," and went on to sell 8 million copies.

The rebound continued with the 2003 CD, "Bounce," and with the release of "Have A Nice Day," Bon Jovi appears assured of having another major hit CD.

Musically, the new CD fits squarely in the mold of past Bon Jovi CDs, offering a patented mix of hooky anthemic rockers mixed in with a few power ballads.

If there's any shift in the sound, it's toward a bit more rocking, guitar-centric feel. Sambora cites two factors in bringing this dimension to the forefront

"Number one, from a songwriting standpoint you have to write that kind of song to actually house those kind of big sounds," he says.

But Sambora and Bryan both say today's music environment, where a crop of new bands -- they mention Louis XIV, Kasabian and Snow Patrol as favorites -- are leading a resurgence in rock music, also made it more timely to add some edge to Bon Jovi's music.

"I'm very, very enthusiastic about the fact that there's a lot of great new rock bands coming out," Sambora says. "I know myself I like to listen to satellite radio, and there's a station I listen to often called, 'Alternative Nation.' There are a bunch of young new bands that are coming out with great new stuff now -- You know, what's going on in today's music world is definitely a part of what we do."

Several of Bon Jovi's new rockers have been finding their way into the live set early on the tour, along with plenty of familiar material from earlier albums. One twist on the new tour is the presence in Bon Jovi's touring lineup of two members from Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes -- guitarist Bobby Bandier and keyboardist Jeff Kazee.

"We're always evolving and changing, and I think it just was a change up, you know, to see, let's see five guys singing, and let's see if we can make the sound a little bit, (more full)," Bryan says. "I mean, Jon and I started out in Atlantic City Expressway where you had 10 guys, you know, with a horn section. So, we're used to a big sound."

Posted by riesambo at December 2, 2005 12:09 PM