5-Star Review: Richie Sambora’s Aftermath of the Lowdown

I originally published this article on Examiner.com when Richie Sambora’s third solo record came out.  As promised, some of my content from Examiner is finding it’s way to this blog.
If you already read this review when it first came out then please share it with a fellow Richie Sambo Ho.  Or read it again! It’s damn good!
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“This is my favorite record I’ve ever made. It’s the most fulfilling and beautiful experience in my life as a musician”, Richie Sambora, 2012.

Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora is the quintessential contradiction wrapped in an enigma.

On the surface, the tall dark Duke of Juke is usually all big-puppy eyed smiles that are characterized by a mischievous glint of one who is in on the joke that others don’t know about.

Yet while he exudes a self-assured humble bravado in concert, one always has the sense with Bon Jovi’s other half that there is far more going on beneath the surface; that within Sambora a roiling churning and burning sea of emotion that would either devour him from within, or be extricated by a total surrender that would change his life and be the equivalent of a musical exorcism.

On his brilliant new CD, ‘Aftermath of The Lowdown’, Sambora is revived, reinvigorated, reborn and soaring high and free.

after2This record is an intensely personal and cathartic anthem to the emotional and professional havoc that can spring from personal demons and delusions run amok.

He has battled demons ignited by fame and any kind of dependency, whether it be too little love, too much drink, the invincible feeling of legendary regards, or musical talent sublimated by the will of others.

A cornerstone of any step-recovery program is not only brutally honest introspection and an assessment of the damage done to ourselves and others, but also the willingness to own our part in the mess and then be willing to fix things wherever possible…lest we be doomed to repeat the same mistakes if we don’t.

Once a person starts on the path of recovery, they can’t keep what they have (getting better), unless they give it away.

Not only is ‘Aftermath’ a vehicle by which Sambora atones to those in his world, but it’s also a forgiving piece of work—and ode to himself—and an ever-lasting reminder of what awaits if he falters.

No surprise then that Mr. Bluesman gives us total access, a front-row seat to hitting bottom, and a sterling example of the Jon Bon Jovi mantra, “It’s not how many times you’re knocked down; but how many you get up” that define you.

Beyond the incredible music on ‘Aftermath’ is his process of dealing with the raw emotions that rise to the surface of Sambora’s heart and mind, long after recovery has begun.

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The best analogy is that you can poor booze over Pride, Anger, Greed, Sloth, Envy, Lust and Gluttony and dull their painful hold; but when the drink is taken from the cup, all of those emotions converge like multiple-headed horsemen, and each one must be vanquished individually with urgent courage.

The Bon Jovi guitarist’s first solo effort in over a decade does just that, and more.

Released on indie label Dangerbird Records, this record is musically and technically as good as it gets.

Producer Luke Ebbin’s soundboard wizardry provides a unique texture and tone to each song, allowing Sambora to showcase the powerful influence of his idol, John Lennon, and even vocals that sound like David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust phase.

Nor does anything on this record sound like a Bon Jovi song, with Sambora unleashing guitar virtuosity better than anything he has recorded with Bon Jovi.

In fact, Aftermath of the Lowdown begs the question: if music like this has been bottled up inside this rocker like white lightening, why do we have to wait decades to hear more of it?

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BURN THAT CANDLE DOWN: is the opening barn-burner that harkens back to John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band with a layered wall of the sound that includes ball-smacking drums, screeching guitar, organ, and a crazed shred of a guitar solo that is nothing short of electric white lightening escaping the power line.

EVERY ROAD LEADS HOME TO YOU: logically the most ‘radio-friendly’ first single sheds light on the disconnection that life on the road can bring to love affairs and tested friendships.

Whether a love song for a misbegotten love or a psychic telegram to a longed-for daughter, Sambora is in fine form here with a sparse, efficient guitar solo interwoven with rolling synthesizer.

TAKING A CHANCE ON THE WIND: opens with a steel guitar twang that gives way to a blues driven vocal that showcases Sambora’s diverse vocal range.

An anthem of redemption, it celebrates a clear head and trusting heart no longer holding tight to familiar ghosts and demons of the past.

after6NOWADAYS: Powered by a muscular driving beat and featuring an opening guitar line that must make the Foo Fighters green with envy, it features a vocal that sounds like something John Lennon might have recorded for ‘Double Fantasy’.

It’s a frantic and frenetic thrill ride with a marvelous 1960’s-style voice distortion.

WEATHERING THE STORM: in what sounds like Richie sitting down and talking to himself, a hint of a British accent and the vocal lilt evoke David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust phase. Gut-level and honest, features inspired guitar work.

SUGAR DADDY: opens with an organ and back beat that harken back to Norman Greenbaum’s 1969 hit, ‘Spirit InThe Sky’.

It’s the anthem of a man who has realized that his love affair is nothing more than two people using each other for different means. Screaming guitars here break the chains of a man who feels knocked down, kicked around, and just plain disrespected.

I’LL ALWAYS WALK BESIDE YOU: this outstanding song showcases still more fabulous guitar work and Sambora tenor soprano that delivers an ode seemingly to an adored daughter. The guitar solo is sweetly ethereal, providing a musical arm about the shoulder that transcends time and space.

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SEVEN YEARS GONE: possibly the gem on the record that tells of a coming to, and then an awakening, augmented by a guitar solo that vaporizes the pain of the past while kicking down the heavy doors of a new beginning.

LEARNING HOW TO FLY WITH BROKEN WINGS: fueled by a desperate grunge feel, this song explores the impending danger of a person learning to live life over again at 53, ever reminding us that we can’t run and hide from ourselves, and that we can only turn ourselves around with total honesty.

YOU CAN ONLY GET SO HIGH: opens with an organ that soundtracks Sambora literally ‘coming to’, emerging from self-inflicted pain and suffering that the sanctuary of booze never fails to betray. It’s a recorded reminder to himself of all that he has been through and where he will pick right up if he forgets and reverts back to the way he was living.

WORLD: the final song is worthy of a ballad found on the Beatles’ timeless ‘White Album’, and had the intro been done with piano instead of guitar it would be right up there with John Lennon’s classic ‘Imagine’.

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In an era in music where the record industry machine spawns younger and younger acts to record sugar pop and hip-hop with precious little left to rock and roll, Richie Sambora and his partners on ‘Aftermath of the Lowdown’ have crafted a work that will stand on its own as a musical time-capsule, and that is clearly one of the best records of 2012.

Find and follow Glenn Osrin on Facebook and on twitter @wizardofosrin

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