There have been a ton of solid new releases over the past few weeks. Green Day, Grizzly Bear, Band Of Horses, The Killers and Mumford & Sons all have new albums out there definitely worth checking out. But there are two new releases that I keep coming back to for repeat listens.
When I listen to music most of the time I’m looking for great songs or melodies, interesting or meaningful lyrics, and great performances either vocally or from the musicianship on the tracks. The latest releases from Pink and Bon Jovi guitar player Richie Sambora have all of the above on display.
The Truth About Love is the sixth studio album by Pink and once again she comes out swinging with a mix of pop, rock, dance, R&B and hip hop that can only be described as Pink. The very first track on her very first album was called “Split Personality” and that mash-up of styles has been Pink’s signature sound ever since. While Katy Perry can do pop, Lady Gaga can do Madonna better than Madonna herself, and Kelly Clarkson continues to develop as an artist, Pink further establishes herself as the dominant woman in pop music with The Truth About Love. There are very few albums out there these days that sound this good from beginning to end and that you can pump your fist and dance to at the same time. The melodies and hooks are massive on this record as Pink continues to collaborate with big time pop producers like Max Martin (Katy Perry, Backstreet Boys, Bon Jovi) Butch Walker (Avril Lavigne, Weezer) and Greg Kurstin (Kylie Minogue, Kesha, Foster The People). The results are some of the tightest radio friendly tracks out there.
Still, the secret weapon for Pink is her voice. The girl can flat out sing. Like Adele and Clarkson, Pink has been blessed with a huge voice that will allow her to continue making records as long as she wants to. She is also a tremendous performer and she brings a punk rock attitude that makes you forget that you’re listening to pop music.
Give her credit also for writing or co-writing twelve of the thirteen tracks on the record including the cheeky first single “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” the Beach Boy-ish title track and the self-explanatory “Walk Of Shame” which picks up where 2006’s “U + Ur Hand” left off.
Richie Sambora, best known as lead guitar player and sideman in Bon Jovi, also has a really good new album out called Aftermath Of The Lowdown. His debut album, 1991’s Stranger In This Town, is actually one of my favourite records. Bluesy at times (Eric Clapton delivers a cameo solo on “Mr. Bluesman”) the album is seriously haunting, with tracks like “Father Time” and “The Answer” sounding unlike anything you’ve ever heard on a Bon Jovi record. While his second solo record Undiscovered Soul missed the mark, Sambora is back in a big way with this, his third solo venture.
Released on the indie label Dangerbird Records, the album plays like a diary testimonial of the trials and tribulations Sambora has faced and overcome over the last decade. From addiction and divorce to fatherhood and loss, Sambora wears his heart on his sleeve and unlike the generic themes of Bon Jovi records, Sambora is very specific and very personal in the writings on Aftermath.
The most telling songs on the album are “Seven Years Gone” where Sambora looks back on the loss of his father, end of his marriage and the seven years he spent drinking a lot of red wine and taking his share of prescription pain killers. Subsequent tracks “You Can Only Get So High” and “Learning How To Fly With A Broken Wing” tackle similar themes and are deeply personal recounts.
Sambora also seems to have returned to form as a guitar player. I’ve read where he actually started taking lessons at the age of 52 and he hangs out these days with the likes of Jimmy Page so he’s picked up a few tricks there as well. Sambora’s guitar playing is loose and bluesy on tracks like “Burn That Candle Down”, “Nowadays” and first single “Every Road Leads Home To You”. It’s also great to have a full album of Sambora playing guitar without the slightest sign of a talk-box in sight. While I love it on “Livin On A Prayer” I believe every Bon Jovi album since has worked the effect on to at least one track unnecessarily.
Like Pink, the secret weapon for Sambora is his voice. He is a better singer than Jon Bon Jovi hands down. He may not have the same charisma and charm, but his voice is outstanding weather he’s grinding out a rockin’ blues number of whispering a ballad and even using his falsetto. Aftermath Of The Lowdown is a wonderful opportunity for Sambora to put all of his talents on display before heading back to stage right for the next Bon Jovi album and tour in 2013.