The ham and cheese of rock are back with a new record, following their so-called “country”-inspired detour, “Lost Highway”. With “The Circle”, Bon Jovi is once again claiming that they are going back to the big arena rock sound of their late 80s hey day. “The Circle” is as much “New Jersey” as “Lost Highway” is a “Ropin’ The Wind”. In other words, big arena rock this is NOT; but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a decent record from Jon Bon and the Jersey boys. And to their credit, “The Circle” is generally more upbeat and not overwhelmed with the band’s proclivity for sappy power ballads.
We have all the elements that set the stage for a reliable Bon Jovi effort: yet another blatant retread of their biggest hit “Livin’ On A Prayer”, a song referencing Superman, a piano ballad that gives the vestigial David Bryan something to do, and a handful of tracks letting us know that Billy Falcon and Desmond Child are still alive somewhere.
Things get off to a predictable start with the driving single, “We Weren’t Born To Follow” but then suddenly get stuck in molasses with the sleep inducing “When We Were Beautiful”. They step back up to the plate with a Springsteen-esque track “Work For The Working Man”, which is a tune the Boss could have pulled off much better. Then comes “Superman Tonight”, which, while lyrically challenged, is a decent midtempo track with an enjoyable chorus. Beginning with “Thorn In My Side”, the album really picks up in terms of delivering the catchy AOR we expect from modern Bon Jovi, serving up some of the best tracks the band has done since “Have A Nice Day”. Bottom line regarding “The Circle”: the record has its moments, but too many lackluster tracks interspersed among the standouts bring down my enthusiasm for it as a whole.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11