Back in 2013, Richie Sambora met Orianthi and sparks flew, apparently. The two are an item and now they are putting out music for the masses and it is about time. I love Richie’s vocals and his bluesy, rock style plus he can play the guitar (have you heard of Bon Jovi?). Orianthi is also one helluva a guitar player herself and she can sing with the best of them. She has played for Michael Jackson and for Alice Cooper as well as her own solo work. The two together, I was expecting a bluesy rock album with some amazing guitar work. Did I get that…well…we will see.
After releasing two E.P.’s in 2017 and a couple singles including one double single, we finally get a full album called ‘Radio Free America’ from RSO (it’s there initials, get it!). Now here is the problem with that…the full album is all 13 songs previously released with those E.P.’s and singles and only 2 new songs. That is right, only 2 and one is a cover. So, if you bought the E.P.’s, you aren’t getting much more. And to make it worse, it is an album of 15 songs in length (over an hour and 7 minutes). That is pretty long for an album and you know there will be filler…and trust me there is filler. I heard they recorded 25 songs, I would like to know where those other 10 songs are.
I have reviewed all the E.P.’s and 2 of the singles previously, but we will compile them here again and make it a full length review adding in the singles I haven’t discussed prior. We might as well jump in and away we go…
With the opening and title track “Making History” Richie & Orianthi are doing what we wanted them to do. They are rocking out. The guitars on this one are exceptional with an almost Def Leppardesque sound from around the “Euphoria” era at times (maybe). The guitar solo is freaking sensational and it is all I ask from these two. Of course I have one minor negative on the song. The vocals are missing something whether it is the chemistry or the mix. Bob Rock is the producer and he does great work, but I am not a fan of them singing simultaneously. I prefer them to trade back and forth.
Now that isn’t my complaint for this song. The next song “We Are Magic” is one my favorite song the two of them have done together. It is a magical little song (pun intended). The two sound great and the song does lean more pop, but this one works. It is catchy and actually a pretty song. (Can a song be pretty??) I also love that Richie pulls out the Talk Box for a little bit to open the song.
The next song “Rise” is heavy on the guitar and sounds exactly like an Orianthi song. The two sing together and were definitely going for an aggressive rock anthem. The sound on the vocals is a little muddied, but still sounds good overall so I was a little disappointed on the production value. I feel like they are actually trying too hard on this one. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the song a lot.
“Take Me” is the bluesy track I was looking for just not very rocked out. Richie does the vocals on this and no Orianthi anywhere except instrumentally. Some acoustic guitar and nice bass and drum groove. Richie sounds great and this is what I would expect from him based on his solo work. Great song!
“Masterpiece” is a ballad with piano accompaniment and a what sounds like a drum machine (I hate drum machines on so called rock albums). On this one they share singing duties again, but take turns rather than singing at the same time. The song is one of those that you can see the beauty behind it, but they don’t quite capture that magic they were going for. They both do sound better on this one vocally and I do like it, but I feel it could have been so much more.
We then go into an acoustic ballad called “Walk With Me”. The only complaint is the hillbilly foot stomping and clapping that comes into the middle of the song. Cut that out and I would have really liked this song a lot more.
“I Don’t Have To Need You Now” is up next and features Richie on vocals. I am a bigger Richie fan than Orianthi (although she is awesome) so I would like more Richie on the albums. This gives me just that. It is classic Richie. He sounds amazing and you remember what is missing in Bon Jovi today…those awesome backing vocals of Richie. This is a great rocker and in the same vein as his Bon Jovi work and some of his solo pieces. It is great to add to my Richie collection.
“Truth” has more piano and another love song with a slowed tempo. Orianthi and Richie do sing in unison but Orianthi is more prevalent. Richie’s accompaniment is relegated to a backing vocals mostly used to add texture which he did so well on Bon Jovi.
This song features Orianthi on vocals and is called “Together on the Outside”. The only weird part of this song is the opening line that maybe Richie does in some Alice Cooper voice that makes absolutely zero sense. If you pull that out, the song is exceptional (can someone actually remove that from the song for me…please). It is definitely filled with everything you expect from an Orianthi song and some damn fine guitar work with that blazing solo. It is freakin’ awesome.
“Good Times” is probably the worst song on the album (not really there is one worse). It is a complete mess. I am not sure how to describe it. It is pop with a country twang and it makes me sick to hear these two talents do something like this. Another one where I feel they are trying too hard to be something they are not. What I thought might be Richie doing a little rap with some effects on his voice was actually K-OS, a rapper from Canada. I think I liked it better thinking it was Richie.
Hopefully, the next song “Forever All The Way” will find some redemption. This is another ballad with Richie handling the vocals and Orianthi supplying some background vocals. I will give them this one mainly for its simplicity. Richie sounds great and the guitar playing is simple and elegant which is as it should be as these two are great guitar players. It is a little blah at times and I am torn on whether to keep it or not.
Now, I have to admit, I have been waiting for a great cover of the Sonny & Cher classic song, “I Got You Babe”. Sadly, this isn’t it. In fact, no one is actually waiting for a cover of “I Got You Babe”. I am sorry to admit this is dreadful. Is that harsh? I am sorry, but it is. I give them credit for trying a few things different with it. They definitely bring into the modern era for sound and they try to rock it out. It doesn’t work. It was a cheesy song before and it is still a cheesy song now. This might be the worst song on the album.
We now get to the songs I haven’t reviewed prior. The first one is “One Night of Peace” (Modern Mix). The song was written by Sambora a long time ago and it stems from a friend of his that was deploying combat. The song is about peace and at least having that one night of peace on Christmas (that is what I am assuming). It is a touching, heartfelt song, but OMG it is too cheesy. Maybe I am too cynical now in this cruel world, but I am tired of “Peace” songs as it will never happen and we have been there and done that. It might be a beautiful song, but I can’t take it.
“Blues Won’t Leave Me Alone” is Orianthi’s attempt at a Blues song. She actually does a fine job, but there is a little problem. Her voice is so pretty and sweet that it is lacking the grit that highlights a blues song. It is missing that life experience sound in her vocals. Outside of that, it is a decent song and out of the three I hadn’t heard before, it is my favorite. The blues guitar on it is Richie at his finest and is what puts the song over the top to make it a keeper.
And we finally get to the last song “Hellbound Train”, a Savoy Brown cover. The song meanders along for almost 9 minutes which is about 9 minutes too long. I know the original is that long, but the original is great. I think the length of this album and the weak second half tire you out by the time you get to this song. At least that is my excuse.
- Making History – Keeper
- We Are Magic – Keeper
- Rise – Keeper
- Take Me – Keeper
- Masterpiece – Keeper (1/2 point)
- Walk With Me – Keeper
- I Don’t Wanna Have To Need You – Keeper
- Truth – Keeper
- Together On the Outside – Keeper
- Good Times – Delete
- Forever All the Way – Keeper (1/2 point)
- I Got You Babe – Delete
- One Night of Peace (Modern Mix) – Delete
- Blues Won’t Leave Me Alone – Keeper
- Hellbound Train – Delete
I liked 10 out of the 15 tracks which gives me a track score of 67% which is a passing grade. Now I did cheat and only give 1/2 credit to 2 songs because I was torn on whether to keep them or not. I like them, but there are things wrong them. Overall content wise, it is an okay album. I would go with a 2.9 out of 5.0 Stars. I find the overall album kinda lacking and didn’t meet my expectations which were probably set to high. So let the Richie Sambora fans start the bashing, but that is only my opinion and we can like different things. Now, if I am out at a store and see this, I will buy it as I do support Richie and I did keep a lot of songs. If the album was shorter with only the songs I chose, it would be a pretty darn good album. I also would have liked more songs I didn’t already have which is another reason for a lower score.