Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi

Mercury, 1984

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I remember a time in high school when, among fans of hard rock/heavy metal, the rooms had a demarcated line of division. On one side were the hard-core metallers, like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Metallica; on the other, the softer side of hard rock, like Poison, Dokken and Bon Jovi. Rare was the person who could straddle both sides of the divide and like each version of the music equally… and, full disclosure, I was not one such person at the tender age of 16.

As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve learned to appreciate what each and every band brought to the table during their respective careers—and this includes Bon Jovi. But having listened again to their self-titled debut from 1984, one would have been hard-pressed to have said they saw greatness and superstardom hidden within those nine tracks. If anything, this was an album that featured a band still trying to find not only its place in the musical cosmos, but its own unique voice.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Such a statement should not be surprising when one comes to the realization that “Runaway,” the first hit Jon Bon Jovi and crew had, was actually not performed by the classic lineup that fans came to know. Guitarist Richie Sambora, bassist Alec John Such, keyboardist David Rashbaum (later known as David Bryan) and drummer Tico Torres  are nowhere to be heard on this particular track; the music is performed by session musicians. I’m not saying this makes it a bad song—indeed, it’s probably the highlight of the disc—but it does show that Bon Jovi the band was still very much in its infancy, something Jon Bon Jovi himself would probably have admitted.

So, of the eight tracks featuring the group that would later bring us “Livin’ On A Prayer” and “Raise Your Hands,” what of this material? Well, it’s not unpleasant, but it’s hardly noteworthy. The good tracks like “Roulette” and “Come Back” do pique the listener’s interest a bit, but there aren’t enough moments on Bon Jovi to keep such momentum going.

And it’s not that tracks such as “Breakout,” “Shot Through The Heart” and “Get Ready” are bad or unlistenable. If anything, they’re just uninspired pabulum, meant to fill a disc while the group discovered just what they were capable of as musicians and songwriters. Granted, every band needs a place to start; I’d have argued that the mid-’80s lineup of Bon Jovi might have benefitted by waiting to enter a recording studio until they had some more road mileage under their belts.

Bon Jovi, at its core, does present a picture of where the band was circa 1984—but offers precious little insight into who they would become. It’s an unstable first step into the rock world that, quite honestly, could have (and should have) been better, and should be approached with some caution, even by diehard Bon Jovi fans.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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