There’s been something of a trend of late for artists (particularly classic rock bands) to release extensive sets containing all or a selection of their studio albums, usually remastered on 180 gram vinyl with replicated artwork and a fancy box. Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Status Quo, Rainbow and Sting are all great examples, as are Queen and the Beatles, the latter having released boxes containing both stereo and mono releases. Such sets offer a great way for a fan to own large slices or an entirety of a band’s back catalogue on vinyl without having to seek and pay the prices for original releases – though the sets often come at a hefty price, as does most new vinyl.
It all started on a chilly night in (I think) November 2016. Scrolling through iTunes and picking songs at random from a never-ending list of classic rock favourites, my thoughts turned to two sets then occupying the top shelf of a vinyl cabinet. They were the studio collections from Queen and the Beatles – the two biggest sets in my collection, totalling fourteen and fifteen albums in each respectively.
As Bon Jovi’s ‘Wild In the Streets’ from 1986’s ‘Slippery When Wet’ began to play, I found myself wondering why they hadn’t joined the trend. A quick google revealed that they had in fact announced a set, scheduled for release on February 10 2017. It carried an RRP of £350, and was available as a preorder from Amazon at a price of just over £370. I was a little dismayed to learn that Amazon had been offering the set for £199 the previous month and had hiked the price for reasons known only to them. In my experience amazon’s preorder prices seem to fluctuate wildly, often pricing preorder items above the RRP and dropping them on release, at least where music is concerned. This trend, coupled to the fact that they refuse to match the lower prices offered by other retailers means I rarely preorder music from Amazon, despite the benefits of a Prime membership. I waited several months, agonising over this release, and eventually ordered it after the release date from What Records for significantly less than the cost on Amazon.
I am a huge Bon Jovi fan, and have been for many years. I have a few original pressings on vinyl though not all. This set sees Bon Jovi’s studio albums from the 2000s pressed on vinyl for the first time. ‘These Days’ and ‘Keep The Faith’ are available on vinyl in the US for the first time, the former with two previously unavailable bonus tracks. While majority of the bands studio albums are available individually, the set includes five exclusive pressings. These include the band’s latest studio albums (‘Burning Bridges’ and ‘This House is Not For Sale’, as well as Jon Bon Jovi’s solo releases ‘Destination Anywhere’ and ‘Blaze of Glory’. The set also includes an exclusive extras compilation featuring ‘Always’ and rarities.
The albums have been remastered for the release. The box is a well-made two-part slipcase. It would’ve been nice to have received a download card inside the box to gain access to digital copies of the new remasters. Doubtless they’ll be released on CD soon, or as ‘high-resolution’ files. The albums are pressed to 180 gram vinyl. Commonly (and wrongly) called ‘audiophile vinyl’, it should be noted that the weight of a record is no indication of its quality. Factors such as mastering, cutting and pressing quality, the quality of the vinyl material itself and the cleanliness of the record tend to have a bigger influence on the sound quality than the weight or thickness of the record. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a bit of extra weight however, if anything it makes the records feel more substantial as you load them onto the player.
Each album includes replica artwork and inner sleeves. The sleeves are thick card and while I’m pleased that they’re included I was disappointed to note the absence of poly-lined protectors for the records. Consequently every record in my set was a dust magnet owing to the large amounts of static present on the records as they were pulled from the sleeves. I don’t use paper sleeves because of the static issues and their tendency to leave surface scratches on the records. I would like to see more labels and pressing plants including a decent sleeve not just with box sets but with single records too.
I listened to the albums in order. Doing so ensured that I’d hear each pressing in the box before writing the review, but also allowed me to appreciate the transition in Bon Jovi’s sound from heavier stadium rock with rousing choruses and massive solos to soulful, emotional ballads. It was those ballads that saw many fans lose interest in Bon Jovi’s music, but I actually think that some of their later work is their best. Tracks like ‘This Ain’t a Love Song’ from ‘These Days’ and ‘Bed of Roses’ from Keep The Faith are stunning compositions that truly demonstrate the musicianship in the band and Jon Bon Jovi’s vocal ability.
The quality of the pressings is, for the most part, outstanding. Some of the earlier albums aren’t dead quiet, a persistent tick through the intro of ‘Social Disease’ from Slippery When Wet being particularly annoying. I couldn’t detect any noise on the later albums bar the odd click as the stylus approached the run out groove. Levels are kept conservative, and some of the albums are split across two LPs for better sound quality. The pressings are completely free from distortion (except where distortion is present in the recording), and are very easy to listen to with bags of detail.
I compared the remaster of Slippery When Wet to my 1986 original. This isn’t the best comparison as my original has a little wear, most notably inner groove distortion during ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’. The rest of the album however is quiet and it clearly showed the difference between the pressings. The original is loud and raucous, not to the point of being unlistenable but certainly to the point where high volumes or a particularly bright system makes it a somewhat unpleasant listen. The new pressing is more laid back though it still rocks. It’s a bigger, more vibrant sound with more depth. A massive difference and a real pleasure to listen to.
In summary, Bon Jovi’s aptly titled ‘The Albums’ release is an impressive set and a worthwhile addition to the collection of any Bon Jovi fan, or any fan of the classic rock genre. Though priced perhaps on the high side, the set is well presented and the vinyl inside is of excellent quality as shown by a very revealing system. With some exclusives inside including a disc of tracks that never made it onto the albums, This is a fantastic way to own Bon Jovi’s current catalogue. Highly recommended.
Individual releases, also in the set
|Bon Jovi||1984||Single LP, 180 Gram|
|7800° Fahrenheit||1985||Single LP, 180 Gram|
|Slippery When Wet||1986||Single LP, 180 Gram|
|New Jersey||1988||Double LP for best audio quality|
|Keep The Faith||1992||First vinyl pressing in the US|
|These Days||1995||First vinyl pressing in the US, with two bonus tracks|
|Crush||2000||First vinyl release|
|Bounce||2002||First vinyl release|
|Have A Nice Day||2005||First vinyl release|
|Lost Highway||2007||First vinyl release|
|The Circle||2009||First vinyl release|
|What About Now||2013||First vinyl release|
|This House Is Not For Sale||2016||120 Gram Pressing|
|Blaze Of Glory||1990||Jon Bon Jovi Solo release|
|Destination Anywhere||1997||Jon Bon Jovi Solo release, first vinyl release|
|Burning Bridges||2015||First vinyl release|
|This House Is Not For Sale||2016||First vinyl release, 180 gram pressing|
|Extras||2017||Created exclusively for the box set featuring “Always” and international rarities|