What About Now
Why does Bon Jovi crank out an unending string of relentlessly upbeat, unavoidably catchy songs in the style that made the Jersey boys famous 30 years ago and kept them there?
Because they can.
The band’s 12th album, What About Now, fairly bursts with the encouraging self-help anthems that have long defined the Bon Jovi sound and style, from the early days of Tommy and Gina Livin’ on a Prayer to keeping the faith and realizing It’s My Life.
One listen to Because We Can and its chorus will be burned into your brain forever. It’s one of many odes to faithfulness, trust, perseverance and a belief that no matter how bad things get, it’ll be OK as long as we hold on tight to each other and don’t lose hope. Richie Sambora adds a harmonic guitar solo adapted from Capt. Crash and the Beauty Queen from Mars from their 2000 album, Crush.
The title track literally sounds like a session with a self-help psychologist and it’s a guarantee you’ll hear this song at Democratic presidential rallies in 2016.
But the most interesting is Room at the End of the World, where Jon Bon Jovi sings of heaven as a calm, unhurried place where dead roses bloom again, where truth has its turn, where young love never dies, where there’s no sin and “where we never said goodbye.”
— Wayne Parry
Reading Jodi Picoult novels is sort of like watching episodes of Law & Order. There’s a fairly routine formula, a couple of twists, as well as a courtroom scene. And more often than not, it works.
In The Storyteller, Picoult breaks the pattern to a degree, and fails, badly.
The novel is about Sage Singer, a young woman from a Jewish background who becomes friends with Josef, an older German man in town. Soon, Josef asks Sage to help him die, a fate he says he deserves because he was a Nazi officer.
Sage decides instead to report Josef to the authorities, who encourage her to find out more about him. In the process, Sage learns more about her grandmother Minka’s own story of surviving the Holocaust, a tale that — in an unsurprising surprise — has links to that of Josef’s.
In typical Picoult style, each chapter is told through the eyes of a different character. At the heart of the book is the tale of Minka — a captivating, haunting, gut-wrenching Holocaust story. It is the strongest part of the book, and a big chunk of it.
But the rest of The Storyteller is a mess. There are too many coincidences, too many unnecessary twists and too many quirky characters that distract more than anything else. Sage, for instance, is a baker. But did her boss really have to be an ex-nun? And what was the point of Sage being in a relationship with a married man? And he had to work at a funeral home?
There’s no standard Picoult courtroom drama at the end of The Storyteller, but that’s a relief — it’s an overly busy novel that tries to do way too much as it is.
— Nahal Toosi
Imagine a jam session at Eric Clapton’s house. He’s not likely to trot out Layla for the 3,478th time. Instead, he and pals with names like Paul McCartney, Chaka Khan and Steve Winwood would probably dive into a tasty bag of cover tunes that inspires and delights them.
Such is the cozy feel one gets listening to Old Sock, Slowhand’s 21st studio album and his first on his own Bushbranch record label. Recording primarily with three other musicians, Clapton gives the Gershwin brothers’ Our Love Is Here to Stay a sultry, bluesy feel, while Winwood’s Hammond B3 Organ-dominated Still Got the Blues takes the Gary Moore classic into roller skate rink territory — and delightfully so. Both Taj Mahal’s Further on Down the Road and Peter Tosh’s Till Your Well Runs Dry boast unsurprising reggae tinges.
Clapton’s guitar wizardry is understated but elegant here, especially on the lilting Angel and the muscular Gotta Get Over, one of the intimate set’s two originals.
This Old Sock wears well.
— Melinda Newman