Bon Jovi – The Circle [Deluxe CD/DVD Limited Edition] (2009, Island Records)
1. “We Weren’t Born to Follow” … 4:03
2. “When We Were Beautiful” … 5:18
3. “Work for the Working Man” … 4:03
4. “Superman Tonight” … 5:12
5. “Bullet” … 3:50
6. “Thorn In My Side” … 4:05
7. “Live Before You Die” … 4:18
8. “Brokenpromiseland” … 4:57
9. “Love’s the Only Rule” … 4:38
10. “Fast Cars” … 3:16
11. “Happy Now” … 4:21
12. “Learn to Love” … 4:39
When We Were Beautiful – Documentary
Jon Bon Jovi – Lead Vocals
Richie Sambora – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Tico Torres – Drums, Percussion
David Bryan – Keyboards, Piano
Hugh McDonald – Bass
Charlie Judge – Keyboards
Producer: John Shanks with Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora
It’s hard to believe after only releasing two albums in the 1990s that Bon Jovi is now on their fifth studio release in the 2000s alone (The Circle is actually their sixth studio release if you want to count their acoustic reworkings of their own songs on This Left Feels Right). And I haven’t even mentioned the live album and box set they released this decade! So yes, the band has been extremely active this decade with a steady stream of albums and world tours that sell out wherever they go.
The downside to all of this? Their music overall hasn’t been up to snuff with their ’80s or even ’90s output. Their “comeback” album Crush was great, different but great. Bounce rocked harder and was really good. After that, the band has turned into a bland rock band that doesn’t really rock at all and they’ve dabbled way too much in country rock in an attempt to stay relevant (but it worked for a bit, so what do I know?).
In hype for this album, Jon and Richie promised they were done with Nashville and that the album’s title was a reference to the band coming full circle and getting back to rock ‘n’ roll and that they were giving us a “big rock record”. Well, I can tell you this much — thankfully, most signs of Lost Highway are gone (perhaps lost?). I wouldn’t say this album is “big rock” at all, but it is a better effort than Have a Nice Day even if it still sounds similar to that release. I had been hoping this would be closer to Bounce (“Bullet” comes close), but no dice.
I realize that the band is laughing all the way to the bank with the steady stream of bland, safe rock ‘n’ roll made for their soccer mom fans, but I really wish these guys would pay attention to the minority of fans that want a harder edge and huge sing-along choruses. I don’t expect a sequel to Slippery When Wet or New Jersey (though the band does offer up the bass line from “Livin’ On A Prayer” for “Work for the Working Man”), I don’t want a nostalgia release, but throw me a few bones! Give me a couple of songs that have that feel good over the top vibe that band had up until Keep the Faith.
Noticeably absent is the classic Bon Jovi sounding ballad that doesn’t care what decade it is. Even on the awful Lost Highway the band managed to squeeze out the under appreciated “(You Want to) Make a Memory”. Desmond Child co-wrote that song and he helps out a bit on this album, but even his involvement can’t save this album.
Ultimately, The Circle is another collection of mediocre, thoughtful and mature rock songs (Just like U2!) that don’t please this old school Bon Jovi fan and I can’t imagine reaching for this album in the future.
The CD/DVD limited edition comes with the 75 minute B&W documentary When We Were Beautiful, which follows the band on their Lost Highway tour from 2007. It’s a pretty interesting look into the workings of the band.
Highlights: “We Weren’t Born to Follow”, “Work for the Working Man”, “Bullet”, “Brokenpromiseland”, “Happy Now”