Bon Jovi, "The Circle"

79 Billboard Rating

Bon Jovi had great crossover success after putting a little bit of country into its rock'n'roll with the 2007 "Lost Highway." But the New Jersey group gets back to the business of rocking on its 11th studio album, "The Circle." The band hits a classic Bon Jovi stride out of the gate with the first single, "We Weren't Born to Follow." The song is a common-man anthem that announces, "This ain't about giving up or giving in," drawing its buoyant chorus straight out of its 1988 song "Born to Be My Baby." Also in that mold are tracks like "Work for the Working Man," "Thorn in My Pride" and "Broken Promiseland." Meanwhile, U2's trademark ambient dynamics can be found on "Love's the Only Rule," "Happy Now" and "Learn to Love." Bon Jovi gets political on "Bullet," while "When We Were Beautiful" is wistfully nostalgic, right down to the sha-la-la backing vocals, with its own brief social commentary about living on a continuing prayer. The country-friendly elements are still there-the fiddle and steel on "Live Before You Die," for example-but "The Circle" rides closer to the New Jersey turnpike than the band's "Highway" run.-Gary Graff

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