Richie Sambora has been at the top of the rock tree for decades, as the lead guitarist for megastars Bon Jovi. However, as anybody with even a fleeting knowledge of music will testify, Sambora's contributions are far from limited to just the fretboard - he not only co-writes the bulk of the bands work with lead singer Jon, but is a gifted vocalist in his own right, integral to Bon Jovi's sound. His vocal talents were displayed in stunning fashion when, in 1991, he released his first solo album 'Stranger In This Town'. A classy, blues infused record packed with quality, 'Stranger...' saw him gain a legion of fans, receptive to his work outside of the monstrous shadow of his parent band. The tour which followed cemented Sambora as a frontman in his own right, handling guitar and vocals with aplomb while delivering superb versions of his own material and Bon Jovi classics. 1998 saw his second solo release, 'Undiscovered Soul', a mature, sensitive and beautifully crafted album which left you in no doubt that Sambora could easily make his name as a solo artist full time if he so desired. His constant workload of tours and albums with Bon Jovi have meant fans have had to wait a long time for solo album number three, but finally 'Aftermath Of The Lowdown' has arrived. Was it worth the wait though? Explaining the title by stating "This is the truth, the lowdown, and after you speak that truth, there's always an aftermath," originally had me worried. Sambora has had his problems over the past few years and I feared that he might be tempted to become a little bit maudlin, as lyrically the press release said he was dealing with everything from single parenthood to substance abuse to divorce. As much as I enjoyed 'Undiscovered Soul' it was a mellow record and I wondered if we would have more of the same here. However, the first thing that strikes you is the sonic blast of 'Burn That Candle Down' - a thunderous assault of guitars and a distorted vocal over a pounding backbeat. Easily the hardest rocking thing Sambora has created as a solo artist, as openers go it firmly plants the flag as something you need to pay attention to and Richie comes out swinging. The album's single 'Every Roads Leads Home To You' is up next, a master class in contemporary song writing. The piano intro leads into a fantastic verse where Richie's voice, free from distortion, shimmers with quality. The hook laden chorus is instantly memorable and it's obvious why this was chosen as the free download to whet the appetites of fans. 'Taking A Chance On The Wind' features acoustic guitar and Sambora's rich voice carrying the tune, before the full band comes in for another memorable chorus. Modern rocker 'Nowadays' kicks things up a gear with plenty of fire and a outlasting groove before the mood settles down with the beautiful 'Weathering The Storm'. Featuring lyrics from Bernie Taupin, Richie gives a phenomenal vocal performance here before the soaring chorus takes the song to even greater heights. 'Sugar Daddy' starts with an electronic intro before the guitars and the infectious chorus line come in. Sambora's playing is superb as ever, and the production by Luke Ebbin, co-writer of the album, with Sambora, is first rate. It's an album full of highlights as 'I Will Always Walk Beside You' gives goosebumps thanks to the impassioned singing. 'Seven Years Gone' is a tour de force which builds and builds, including a great guitar break in the bridge allowing Richie to rock out. Better still is the awesome 'Learning How To Fly With A Broken Wing', a terrific driving rocker which some trademark Sambora fireworks in the lead lines and one of the best hooks on the album. The spacey 'You Can Only Get So High' rides along on a breezy vibe before the record ends with the sublime 'World', a perfectly crafted ballad. It has been a long, long time since 'Undiscovered Soul', but 'Aftermath Of The Lowdown' has definitely been worth the wait. In Luke Ebbin, Sambora has found a phenomenal creative foil who has helped him deliver a record that is his most rocking to date, contemporary enough to sound relevant today while still keeping his roots intact to please his existing fan base. Masterful, and highly recommended.
James Gaden - Fireworks Magazine
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