Picks and Pans Review: New Jersey

updated 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/31/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Bon Jovi

Better take a few breaths before tuning into this sucker. The aural avalanche starts instantly, and as it envelops you, you may find the oxygen growing mighty scarce. This is rock music that comes at you steep and deep. With their fourth album, Bon Jovi has become the Humble Pie of the '80s, only sleeker and sexier, not to mention a lot richer. How do they do it? They aren't distinguished songwriters (and on this album, they are less inspired than usual). Their style never strays from a standard blues-tinted hard-rock sound. But they play their music well and passionately and with true ensemble balance. The guys are also picking up a few tricks as they go along. Clever introductory passages make Lay Your Hands on Me and Stick to Your Guns sound more elaborate and ambitious than they really are. What makes New Jersey most striking is Bruce Fairbairn's extravagant production touches. He carries the record through a bombastic midsection that includes such tracks as Living in Sin and Blood on Blood. Fairbairn's wizardry could make even your little brother's band sparkle. Of course your little brother's band probably doesn't have the combination of Jon Bon Jovi's sassy voice, Richie Sambora's galvanizing guitar and Tico Torres' nose-guard drumming. All right, so the lyrics are mindless ("If you're ready, I'm willing and able/ Help me lay my cards on the table"). You want poetry, go check out Robert Frost. If you want to dance around in your bedroom and play wicked air guitar, go to New Jersey. (Polygram)

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