Friday, December 21, 2012

Richie Sambora - Aftermath Of The Lowdown [album review]

Released in September

Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora takes a break from his main gig for Aftermath Of The Lowdown, his third solo album and first since 1998. Sambora undoubtedly felt the need to scratch his independent creativity itch, with the ability to fully dictate the creative direction of the music he writes and performs probably being one of the only things that the mostly democratic dynamic in the Bon Jovi juggernaut can't satisfyingly provide him with. That much is obvious after spending some time with his fine first two solo releases and Aftermath Of The Lowdown, an album that retains enough of the musical identity established by the musician over the past three decades, while also mostly departing from Bon Jovi's sound and exploring some interesting different musical avenues.

Unusually, the eleven track album is back-loaded with the best material, starting with song number seven, "I'll Always Walk Beside You". It won't win any awards for originality, but is still a standout with a great chorus and structure where the song's spare first half is accentuated by the full band kick-in on the last half. It's also representative of the deeply personal lyrical content that flows throughout Aftermath Of The Lowdown, as Sambora here pens a heartfelt ode to his daughter. The next three tracks lyrically explore more profoundly emotional territory for Sambora by looking squarely at the substance abuse-related struggles he's undergone over the past several years: "Seven Years Gone" is a more than agreeable slice of melodic hard rock, "Learning How To Fly With A Broken Wing" complements its raw subject matter with what may the heaviest sounding piece of music Sambora's ever had a hand in creating (perhaps only the exceptional and somewhat obscure Bon Jovi track "Good Guys Don't Always Wear White" would give it a run for its money), and the foot is eased off the gas pedal for the mid-tempo and very pleasant "You Can Only Get So High", which is the closest any of the material comes to sounding like Bon Jovi. It's followed by "World", the album closer and what I think is the LP's weakest song, wherein Sambora fully indulges his Beatles fetish.

It's Aftermath Of The Lowdown's "side A" that largely flounders, with too many substandard songs that fail to stick with you in "Takin' A Chance On The Wind", "Nowadays", "Weathering The Storm" (co-written with Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin), and "Sugar Daddy", which features an interesting gritty guitar part set to maximum fuzz, but little else of interest. They're all preceded by "Burn The Candle Down", an average album opener where Sambora throws down some stellar guitar solos and "Every Road Leads Home To You", another moderately good song whose highly accessible sound made it a logical choice for the album's lead single.

I'm always curious to see how the solo projects of members from megabands is received by the paying public, because they're certainly not known for having a very good track record in terms of commercial success. Aftermath Of The Lowdown follows that same pattern, selling a paltry 3,000 copies in the U.S. during its first week of release and debuting at a rather embarrassing #182 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Even considering the aforementioned trend and the fact that the album was independently released (and therefore likely wasn't promoted like a major label release would have been), that number still completely shocked me, purely because of the size of Bon Jovi's following.   

After the 14 year gap between solo projects, it's nice to hear Sambora exercise his full musical talents here, with his excellent soulful singing voice, more varied songwriting that also looks to have been quite cathartic for the musician, and an opportunity to show off a little more guitar flash than is possible in Bon Jovi. I just wish the decent Aftermath Of The Lowdown had a little more quality consistency to it.  

Rating: C+

Related post: my November 2009 review of Bon Jovi's The Circle album

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