Did you miss Part 1? Read it here.
There have been countless shows with thousands of fans who have had their world rocked in one way or another by Richie Sambora.
Whether it was the happy grit and swagger of a live Bon Jovi show, or the countless music videos where he is ever the work-manlike presence on ballad or rocker, Mr. Bluesman never looks like someone had to hold a gun to his head and force him to play.
Ah Mr. Bluesman.
Those truly uninitiated fans and clueless critics who are unfamiliar with the true scope of Sambora’s work will look at that moniker and exclaim, “Why do they call him that when Bon Jovi music has nothing to do with classic blues?”
For starters, the blues ain’t just about being down, disrespected and depressed. They are the chords of life painting the atmosphere with moments of intense joy and extreme confidence; the frightening uncertainty of a love unrequited; and the wrenching wake-up call that you've had your last whiskey shot, paid for with your last dollar, on the last step down to the bottom.
They make the passion and emotion within a musician bubble to the surface in the magnificence of a virtuoso guitar lick, an anguished love vocal or a celebration of life’s moments that are few and far between, blissfully devoid of suffering.
Think Riche Sambora ain’t got the blues? This is where there is a radical disconnect with his music from what he churns out with Bon Jovi.
Take a listen to either of his stellar solo efforts, 1991’s Stranger In This Town, and the subsequent Undiscovered Soul from 1998. Both efforts are resplendent offerings of Sambora’s vocal expression, from the growling chorus of Rosie to the nuanced One Light Burning, which offers a soulful guitar line throughout.
His third solo record, Aftermath Of The Lowdown released in the fall of 2012, is a ground-breaking departure from his previous works in that the guitarist rips open his chest and practically hands the listener his heart as he bares his soul in work as cathartic as it is masterful.
Fortunately, what big-name industry critics don’t value in Sambora fellow musicians do: Eric Clapton, one of his idols from childhood even played lead guitar on the Sambora song Mr. Bluesman, with Richie playing acoustic guitar in support of the guitar maestro.
Now seriously, if Richie Sambora weren’t a respected musician, do you think Eric Clapton would be caught dead jamming with him? Hardly.
His solo recordings unveil a refreshing diversity and unexpected musical sophistication that is not readily apparent from his predictable and formulaic body of work with Bon Jovi.
If it’s delicate strumming you seek, World and Harlem Rain have that in abundance; while Downside of Love and The Answer eclipse the blues genre and stand on their own as some of his best musical arrangement and vocals.
Flat-out haunting and gut-level honest? Seven Years Gone and You Can Only Get So High are emotionally gripping and ethereal.
And if you want juevos out rock tinged with that whimsical attitude Sambora often exudes, then If God Was A Woman , Hard Times Come Easy, Ballad of Youth and Nowadays deliver unexpected humor and fortitude.
Not surprisingly, the mainstream music critics that validate artists in the public perception also grossly disregard his singing. Here again, he is nowhere near the Rolling Stone’s venerable list of Top 100 Singers either.
Granted, the list leans heavily to individual acts or bands with irrepressible lead singers; yet listen closely to any Bon Jovi song but especially to Livin’ On A Prayer, Wanted Dead or Alive, Gotta Have A Reason, or I’ll Be There For You and you’ll hear Sambora in full voice.
Big deal, you say: every band member sings backup.
Richie Sambora doesn’t just add voice to Jon Bon Jovi’s vocals. In many of the songs he is an entire octave above Bon Jovi’s vocal lead; hitting high notes with ease that Jon can’t, and always adding a sense of richness and depth that also allow him to employ a sensitive falsetto or lower range to ballads and rock anthems.
We’re not talking my personal preference here. Give a listen to “All About Loving You”, “Thank You For Loving Me”, “Never Say Goodbye”, or “Something To Believe In”.
If you can, get your hands on the single greatest Bon Jovi ballad never commercially released “If I Can’t Have Your Love”, and you will hear one of the greatest ballad vocals put to disc.
“Who doesn’t want my job?”, he says. “It’s so fulfilling to walk out onstage and be confident in my performance, knowing I am going to deliver my soul to those people. I am completely at home and at peace up there”.
For Richie Sambora, critical acclaim would be nice; everyone likes to be recognized as superb in their craft; but at the end of the day he can hang his bolero hat on the fact that he chased a dream all those years ago, caught it, and bottled it like lightning.
With or without the valid appreciation from music critics, he is in this game called the music industry because it’s in his blood, and he loves to make music with Bon Jovi, or alone, free to explore and express new technique and vent his unique rainbow of emotion and gift that special part of himself to fans worldwide.
Be sure to find and follow Glenn Osrin on twitter @wizardofosrin