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The Circle
Bon Jovi
The Circle
Island Records
Mark Balogh
4.0 stars

Here I have the new BON JOVI album in my hands and since they are a band I have followed for over twenty years it’s always something I look forward to when they announce and release a new record. “The Circle” is the eleventh proper studio release by the group and as a longtime fan I look at BON JOVI’s career in three separate stages.

First there was the time between 1984 and 1991. It’s the time the band started and then built themselves into one of the most popular groups in the world and became the darlings of MTV along the way. Then you had the times between 1992 and 1999. Some could call this the “lean years” as there were just two studio CD’s released (“Keep The Faith” & “These Days”). But for me 1995’s “These Days” my always be the quintessential BON JOVI record. The band was at the height of their creativity in my mind. I believe we are currently within the third stage of the band’s existence and for me that started in 2000 when the band made their comeback of sorts with the “Crush” album. That record and especially it’s lead single, “It’s My Life”, put the band back on the map and made them relevant again (at least here in the US as they always remained huge in Europe). Since then they have released no less than five records, and so that brings us the new album, “The Circle”.

When I first heard the lead single a couple months ago I really thought “We Weren’t Born To Follow” wasn’t as special as their recent lead singles like “It’s My Life” or “Have A Nice Day” but after living with the song for a while I now think it is just a good as those other singles and was the perfect choice from this record as the first radio track.

After “We Weren’t Born To Follow” opens the new record I was treated to an epic track of sorts with “When We Were Beautiful”. The song is introspective and has a great mood to it. The song also happens be the title of the new film/documentary from the band that is currently being shown on Showtime and will be included on a DVD with the new record when it’s released.

“Work For The Working Man” is a song just as it’s title depicts. It’s about being a blue-collar guy and is very much a track that sits comfortably with the BON JOVI name next to it while the next track “Superman Tonight” is another great track that sounds like a cross-section of the “Crush” and “These Days” albums. It’s got a cool vibe with an uplifting theme running through it.

“Bullet” sounds like something from either the “Keep The Faith” or “Bounce” albums with it’s edgy guitar sounds from Richie Sambora. It’s a nice track but seems to lag a bit only brought up to speed with Sambora’s excellent solo.

“Thorn In My Side” is another track that sounds like it could have come from the “Crush” or even “Have A Nice Day” era. It’s a decent little rocker with a nice chorus and some more cool guitar work from Sambora.

The first ballad of sorts appears with “Live Before You Die” and again has a “Crush” vibe and features some nice string arrangements to accompany it. It’s not a ballad in the truest form but it is a slower tempo tune complete with piano from David Bryan.

“Brokenpromiseland” is an interesting tune that features a little different feel from a BON JOVI tune and at times has an almost U2 meets COLDPLAY vibe. It’s a bit experimental but works quit nicely and isn’t all that far away from the BON JOVI sound as to alienate any fans.

“Loves The Only Rule” is a favorite of mine after my initial listens. It’s an uplifting tune with great vocal performance and feel from Jon Bon Jovi. It’s a simple song with a simple message but it works quite nicely and I think it would make a great concert track that I could envision even being taken to another level in the live environment.

“Fast Cars” is a track that I wasn’t quite sure about on my first listen but it has turned into cool number for me. The chorus takes a few listens to get into to as Jon takes a slightly unique vocal approach with his phrasing but I got used to it quickly and now actually dig the song.

“Happy Now” sounds like something from the “Keep The Faith” era, even having a bit of a “I Believe” vibe to it. It again has kind of a COLDPLAY feel to it but when I remember that “I Believe” had a U2 sound to it at the time it isn’t that far of a stretch for “Happy Now”.

The album closes out with another mellow tune in “Learn To Love”. It features another impressive vocal performance from Jon Bon Jovi.

Overall, “The Circle” is a return to form in my eyes to what started with the bands “third stage” of existence that began with the “Crush” album. Lets face it… we will never get another “Slippery When Wet” or “New Jersey” from the band but that’s OK. I wasn’t to sure about the previous “Lost Highway” record but I did think albums like “Crush” and “Have A Nice Day” were great records and with the band throwing in a few moments of “These Days” and “Keep The Faith” into “The Circle” it makes it a well worth it release to say the least.

Band Lineup:
  • Jon Bon Jovi – Lead vocals
  • Richie Sambora – Guitars
  • David Bryan – Keyboards
  • Tico Torres – Drums
  • Hugh McDonald - Bass


Track Listing:
  1. We Weren’t Born To Follow
  2. When We Were Beautiful
  3. Work For The Working Man
  4. Superman Tonight
  5. Bullet
  6. Thorn In My Side
  7. Live Before You Die
  8. Brokenpromiseland
  9. Loves The Only Rule
  10. Fast Cars
  11. Happy Now
  12. Learn To Love


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