I’ve already listened to this album like seven times before writing this review, so you can tell I have a lot of good things to say about Richie’s debut solo album! Just a little background on him first, Richie Sambora was the lead guitarist for Bon Jovi from 1983 – 2013, he and Jon did most of the songwriting for the band. Richie also provided backing vocals, and many people took note of how well Richie and Jon’s voices sound together! While in Bon Jovi, he released three studio albums, Stranger In This Town (1991), Undiscovered Soul (1998), and Aftermath of the Lowdown (2012). Unlike his work with Bon Jovi, Richie’s musical style is very blues-orientated, and I thought I was going to hate it at first, but I’m starting to dig this stuff now!
Like previously mentioned, Richie’s music is very blues-oriented, but it’s got the right amount of rock ‘n’ roll in there too. When the first song came on, I was like, “DANG, that dude can sing!!!!” Those were my exact words! He sings from his heart and has an unbelievable range. Besides his guitar playing, Richie’s vocals caught me off guard throughout the whole album!
I loved the transition from “Rest In Peace” to “Church Of Desire,” it was nicely done. The first song dies down, and then the drums kick in for the second song. Plus, the guitar work is so impeccable and tasteful! Richie seems like a very spiritual person for many reasons, “Church Of Desire” being one of them.
“Stranger In This Town” is my favorite song on the whole album because the lyrics sounded like they were coming out of my mouth! Growing up, I’ve always felt invisible and thought that nobody would notice if I were to disappear one day. This song spoke to me, and it was almost like the song was calling out my name! Richie delivers on the vocals with so much passion and emotion, like he was singing the song to me! Being in Bon Jovi, people just knew him as the lead guitarist that always wears a hat, but they don’t get to know him as a person. So everywhere he went, he felt like a stranger.
I watched two interviews from 1991 while doing my research for this album, that piece of info was from one of them. “Stranger In This Town” is the most blues-rock oriented out of all the songs on the album, and I love it! The chorus gets me every time!
I loved that Richie’s songs always had a message or a sign of hope. Like for example, “Ballad Of Youth” is about not wasting time thinking about past mistakes and moving forward with the present. When you’re young, everything seems innocent, however, as you get older, times get tough, and it’s hard to hold on sometimes, you can’t help but wonder why did things turn out this way? “One Light Burning,” besides that wicked guitar solo, it was a magnificent song. I learned from another interview that Richie wrote it about 12 or 13 years before the album came to be. He wrote “One Light Burning” during a very confusing time in his life, and when you’re young, there’s a lot of exploring and searching for answers in life. But even in a world full of darkness, there’s still a beam of light to carry you through!
I’ll never forget the story of how Richie got Eric Clapton to play on “Mr. Bluesman.” They met on the International Rock Awards in 1990, three days previously, Richie was asked to give Eric the MVP (Most Valuable Player) Guitar Award, then a day later, they asked if he would play with him at the end of the show, which he said yes. The next day, Richie thanked Eric for being a big part of his musical development; that’s how they met. He grew up with Eric’s music, and since Richie was a self-taught guitar player, it was like Eric taught him how to play.
He’d listen to his records, and it seemed like he and Eric already had a connection because music is like a friend to people. So, Richie wrote him a letter asking if he’d play on the record for the track, “Mr. Bluesman,” which is about a young boy who wanted to be a guitar player. You can guess what happened next!
When it comes to rock ‘n’ roll, there are two factors to consider: is it loud and does it have a good beat? “Rosie” had both of those, and Richie’s growls on the song made it extra special! I read that Tico Torres (and David Bryan) helped Richie out on this album, so no wonder why the drums were so aggressive! Both are members of Bon Jovi as well; Tico Torres is the drummer, and David Bryan is the keyboard player. Except, now I wonder how Richie got the inspiration for this song, did he write this about a girl named Rosie or was it just for fun?
Stranger In This Town had a variety of songs; it had fast songs, like “River Of Love,” and ballads like “Father Time” and “The Answer.” The latter had a beautiful acoustic guitar part. Richie showcased his ability to jump from low to high notes and the other way around. Also those vocal runs; my goodness!
I enjoyed “River Of Love” a lot though! First of all, the title had a nice ring to it! Also, out of all the songs on Stranger In This Town, this is probably the most sexual one lyrically. If there were a music video for this song, all the women would never take their eyes off of Richie! Just the power in his voice, the catchy chorus, the dangerous guitar riff, the pounding drums, and the lyrics “To make you feel like a woman, Makes me feel like a man.” Brilliant!!!
I listened to the expanded edition of the album, which featured the song “The Wind Cries Mary,” and it was SO WORTH IT because of that guitar solo with chords that should be illegal to play! The bass riff too! Everyone had their chance to shine! I especially loved the instrumental with the guitar and drums; they supported each other well.
It seemed like Tico was playing without even thinking about how to play. He played what he felt was right to match the guitar solo. There were some triplets, rolls, sixteenth notes, syncopation, everything! Though it is a cover, I liked how Richie made the song his own.
I thought the best debut studio album I’ve ever heard was Justin Bieber’s My World 2.0, look how far I’ve come since then! This album was just full of surprises, and half of it was from Richie’s killer vocals! I kind of wish he did more solo work because he’s so talented in many ways, but he was busy with Bon Jovi and other projects, so that’s understandable! Though whatever the future has in store for Richie, I know he’ll be in good hands!
If you do have a chance to listen to Stranger In This Town, please do so! Even if you are not a blues-rock fan, it’s worth it, trust me!!!
Take care and see ya real soon!