Following is the official band profile written by rock journalist David Wilde
and going out to the media with the release of THIS LEFT FEELS RIGHT.
The foundation for Bon Jovi's latest album is acoustic, but the mood is electric. On This Left Feels Right, the superstar rock band has taken a dramatic and brilliantly scenic left turn. Working with producer Pat Leonard, they've successfuly stripped down twelve of their past classics to their core and rebuilt them into something familiar but new and utterly unexpected. This Left Feels Right -- which came together quickly during twenty-two intense, and fulfilling days hot on the heels of their sold out final two dates of the Bounce tour at Giants Stadium this August.
On what's arguably the most unusual and accomplished album of Bon Jovi's career, everything old is new again. Familiar stadium anthems and big ballads have been reborn in powerful and surprising new ways. The album offers a wide range of ambitious musical textures. Nobody has ever heard Bon Jovi quite like this before. This Left Feels Right draws upon many of the best-known songs from the band's twenty year history of hits that began with Bon Jovi in 1984, followed by 7800O Fahrenheit in 1985, Slippery When Wet in 1986, New Jersey in 1988, Keep The Faith in 1992, the Cross Road compilation in 1994, These Days in 1995, Crush in 2000, the One Wild Night live album in 2001 and Bounce in 2002.
As they staggered -- exhausted but grinning -- across the new album's finish line at Henson Studios in Los Angeles, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora sat down to explain how a turn so Left turned out to be so right:
HOW DID YOU END UP TAKING SUCH A FASCINATING LEFT TURN?
JON: We were in Japan doing the domes and there was a three day period between gigs. We hadn't played an arena over there for ten years. We said, 'Let's do one arena show as long as we can make it different for the fans. Let's do it acoustic.' Reluctantly, the promoter agreed and over the course of a couple of days we put together arrangements. We played a couple of covers -- David Bowie's "Heroes," John Hiatt's "Have A Little Faith In Me," "The Joker" by Steve Miller -- and about thirty of our own songs. In the end, we did a three-hour-and-forty-minute set. We filmed it, recorded it, and said that's going to be our live acoustic record.
OR SO YOU THOUGHT.
JON: Yeah, until we heard it and decided that the result was. . . okay. I started feeling a bit like we were cheating. So in Amsterdam, during some days off, we went in and re-cut five of the songs with better miking techniques. We did a great job but then we realized that the only way we would live to the end of the Bounce tour was to get someone else to help us with the other nine tracks. I thought of Pat Leonard because of his work on the Unplugged albums with Rod Stewart and Bryan Adams. Thankfully, Pat was available. We said, "Come to Jersey and let's see how we get on." As we started talking, everything turned to "Want to go a little to the left with this?" "Should we take this left here?" After a while, we said, "How far to the left can we take this without jumping off the cliff?" Pat just pretended that he had never heard any of the songs -- or pretended that he had -- and we gradually discovered his influences were dramatically different from ours. That changed everything. Suddenly this became a much bigger and much more interesting project.
RICHIE: I don't ever recall a band doing this. They may have done something this radical with one or two songs, but this is going completely the other way. In the beginning, we just wanted to make an acoustic album and have something out there for fans. Pat really was the guy who turned this all around. And as a songwriter, I felt flattered because when we started stripping the songs down and rebuilding them, they were holding up so well. We were rediscovering our own songs. And we started thinking about the project in a different way. JON: So then we decided to throw out the Amsterdam tracks and now we're under tremendous time constraints to get this album done because we've already told the label we're delivering something this year and they're all planning on it. This entire album -- from its inception on August 21st -- came together in 23 days, from first day to final mix, twelve classics completely redone. This has been a real rush in every sense of the word. It's been such a pleasant and quick surprise that we realize in retrospect that we've been guilty of trying too hard. In the past, we added too much and thought too much. At least in recent years, we didn't have any time constraints, so we'd just keep going, keep adding. This time we had to just shut up and get over it. It was hard to choose what songs to do. The decisions were made based on time. We went down the list until we ran out of days to track.
RICHIE: We're proud because it is a pretty ballsy thing to do. Here are some songs that have been big hits in the consciousness of the global record-buying public, but we decided to continue down this path and keep going left. We did this instead of just doing them like our arrangement of 'Livin' On A Prayer' and 'Wanted Dead Or Alive' we did all those years ago at the MTV Video Music Awards -- the two of us, with just acoustic guitars. This is a long way from that.
THAT PERFORMANCE HAS BEEN CREDITED WITH HELPING INSPIRE THE WHOLE UNPLUGGED MOVEMENT. DO YOU FEEL A SENSE OF PRIDE IN THAT?
RICHIE: Absolutely, even though it was basically a total accident. The art of putting music on TV was not what it is today, technically speaking. We saw so many people coming off badly on TV because of that. We just said, why don't the two of us go out there and show people that we're real and put the songs out there in their bare state. We were on tour, and it was a day off. We went back on the road and everyone was talking about it. A month or so later, it was 'Unplugged.' I said, "Thank you. Where's my check?!"
WHERE DID THE TITLE COME FROM?
JON: The title feels so right, but it wasn't my idea for a time. My title was At The Steps of Graceland because twenty years and ninety millions records sold later, we're getting close to that strange territory. But that was somehow too thoughtful and intelligent a title. Then somebody said to us, "This left feels right," and I said, "There's the title right there." I wanted the album cover to be a picture of a car driving off a cliff -- like in Thelma & Louise. This whole experience has been a trip. This set out to be an acoustic record, but then it became an eclectic record. It took a left turn and never looked back. It's literally more that I even hoped. It became a reinvention, old friends in new clothes.
RICHIE: I love the title because it means what it says. We're making a left turn with our music, and to me it's the best thing we could do. I haven't had this much fun since Slippery When Wet. The inspiration is so new and this album is so different. Slippery was our breaking point, and we knew it. When we were making that record we were having a blast. It was a fun record to make -- an easy record to make. This album has that same feel, except we're seventeen years older. We should be pissy rock stars. I should be mad that I'm in the studio for fourteen hours a day, but on the contrary, I'm waking up tired as shit but energized by what we're doing. This is the most exciting thing we've done in years.
YOUR SONGS HAVE CHANGED IN POWERFUL WAYS. FOR INSTANCE, "KEEP THE FAITH" WAS A BIG, AGRESSIVE ANTHEM AND NOW IT'S A SORT OF SOULFUL PRAYER.
JON: I think it says a lot for the songs that they're able to be that versatile, and the lyrics are able to come across in a new context. Reinvention is not such an easy thing when you're so connected to the song. But when you get an outside third party and you can volley back ideas, it can become something new.
DID THE MEANINGS OF THE SONGS CHANGE FOR YOU?
JON: Yeah, they did. Like with 'Lay Your Hands On Me,' I felt almost like Peter Gabriel singing it -- I found myself reaching my hands out. 'Wanted Dead Or Alive' becomes this sort of very modern Zeppelin groove. 'It's My Life' is an introspective ballad. Then there's a song like 'Everyday' from Bounce that didn't happen at radio, but I believe in it and want people to hear it in a fresh light. I don't know how anyone else will react to it. I have no delusions of grandeur. I don't know if it will sell zillions of copies. But in this season of people putting out greatest his with a new song at the end, I couldn't do that. I did that once. The only way I could do this was to give people some value. In this era, you have to give people value. So we've gone the extra mile when we really should be back at home.
RICHIE: 'Wanted' ever surprises me. 'Prayer' is so new and so good. We figured if we're going the other way, why not have a woman sing this with Jon? That way it will be a whole different thing -- almost like a conversation. We talked about some people, but then Pat played a demo tape of his wife, Olivia d'Abo who's an actress and a singer. I immediately volunteered to play guitar on her record for free. She really had the vulnerability that I heard in my head. She and Jon have such chemistry. I'd been singing the song with Jon for so long that it didn't have the same impact. The great thing is doing all this made these songs contemporary again, and it re-educates people on who we are. On the whole, the album surprises me, especially the fact that three and a half weeks ago, this didn't exist.
JON, RICHIE'S GUITAR IS VERY DIFFERENT AND VERY STRIKING ON THIS RECORD.
JON: Richie has blown me so away on this record and I've always known what a great player he is. Other people sometimes don't because it's hard for him to completely shine in the context of this band. But to me he's always been a guitar hero, and I hope this record will show people just how fantastic he is. He's picked up the bizoki and the mandechello -- instruments he's never played in his life and used them in such interesting ways. Fortunately, the whole band was so fresh from the road that we were all still in players mode. All of us -- Richie, Dave,Tico, Hugh -- really came to play.
RICHIE: I've been an acoustic player for a long time. When I was a kid, the nights I couldn't book my band -- Mondays, Tuesdays, sometimes a Sunday -- I was taking acoustic gigs by myself or with one guy on bass, doing harmonies with me. It's always been a forum where I've been comfortable. There were guys I studied in the small clubs in New Jersey - that's how I learned how to play acoustically. Also I grew up loving that Led Zeppelin acoustic sound.
THE VERSION OF 'WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE' ON THIS LEFT FEELS RIGHT HAS A DEFINITE ZEPPELIN POWER.
RICHIE: Oh sure. Jimmy Page was a huge influence -- his twelve string acoustic stuff with open tunings especially -- and for this new version of 'Wanted,' we really tried to get a real John Bonham sound out of that drum set. When we were originally writing 'Wanted Dead Or Alive' there was no acoustic guitar on the radio. We wanted to bring it back alive. This album is an extension of that. The acoustic base is at the forefront of what we're doing here.
AND RICHIE, WHAT ABOUT JON'S VOCALS ON THE ALBUM?
RICHIE: Jon's vocals are incredible. He's been able to take some of his early influences, like Tom Waits, and take a real storytelling approach here. With the anthems and the pop music you play when you're playing stadiums, it's hard to make it all that intimate, although we've done acoustic sets in our shows. But doing this album, we've all grown artistically. I think this will surprise a lot of people.
WHAT DID PAT LEONARD BRING TO THIS PARTY?
JON: This album wouldn't be what it is without Pat. He's probably the best producer we've ever worked with. Bruce Fairbairn -- God rest his soul -- took us from 7800o Fahrenheit to Slippery When Wet. Pat's influence is just as dramatic on This Left Feels Right and I've already told him, if he thinks we're doing the next album without him, he's crazy.
SO WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE TO BRING THIS MUSIC ALIVE?
JON: It will be a nightmare. Remember we made this record a couple days after finishing a tour. We'd need another guitarist, Pat and a percussionist to do any date with us. There are just too many parts here -- we can't play them all. We'd have to rehearse and that's a curse word in our dictionary.
RICHIE: Yeah, it would be a lot of work, but it would be fun. Obviously with all the different tunings and all the instruments, there would be a lot to figure out. But I'm going to miss this process when it's over.
ON THIS LEFT FEELS RIGHT, YOU'VE TAKEN SOME OF THE SONGS OF YOUR YOUTH INTO ADULTHOOD - THEY SOUNG ALL GROWN UP.
JON: We don't pretend to be anyone we're not. There was a new band recording here today. One of the guys was wearing a Bon Jovi t-shirt. He saw me in the parking lot and said to one of our tech guys that he got into this because of us. Like, I remember running into Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers at some industry function when I started out and saying the same thing. And now we're twenty years on and there's a new generation coming up and they're going to discover or rediscover what we've done. I don't want these songs to become nostalgia. It's that old saying, "Every new beginning is another beginning's end." This album is the end of another era. This left feels right.