Billboard -- Bon Jovi's upcoming "What About Now?" will mark a musical "evolution" for the band, but not to the point that might be off-putting to group's worldwide legion of fans. Guitarist Richie Sambora tells Billboard that "Jon (Bon Jovi) and I, when we get together it sounds like Bon Jovi. It sounds like us. That's basically the way it is and what comes out comes out." But for "What About Now?," due out this spring, he says the band and co-producer John Shanks focused on dynamics, and "just basically pushing the production a bit more or lessening the production so you're a bit more naked. It goes both ways on this particular record. We've stripped it down, taken some away and added some different elements." Meanwhile, Sambora says the album's first single, "Because We Can," which drops January 7, is indicative of the album's upbeat tone to the album. "The lyrics are very positive -- obviously 'Because We Can,' 'What About Now?,' it's all empowering and that's what we were trying to get to. We were trying to get some positive lyrics. That's kind of where we landed."
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Bon Jovi kicks off a world tour on Feb. 9 in Uncasville, Conn., with dates booked into late July that include two South African dates in May, a headlining slot June 16 at England's Isle of Wight Festival and a two-night home state run at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Sambora is also still pushing his third solo album, "Aftermath of the Lowdown," which came out in September. He's played a few shows in support of it, and he's using a new version of the track "I'll Always Walk With You," featuring Alicia Keys on piano, to raise money for the American Red Cross' superstorm Sandy relief efforts on the East Coast. The song can be downloaded at www.richiesambora.com or www.redcross.org. Sambora -- whose mother is living with him in Los Angeles while her home in Point Pleasant, N.J., is being repaired -- says he wrote the song for his daughter, but it took on new meaning after the catastrophe. "The lyrics seemed very appropros to me and the state of New Jersey, like, 'I will always walk besides you. I'm gonna come and help' kind of thing," he explains. "It just said the things I wanted to say about the state of New Jersey all of a sudden. The lyrics kind of transformed." Keys' involvement, meanwhile, was an outgrowth of Sambora playing on sessions for her new album, "Girl On Fire." "I was recording ('Aftermath of the Lowdown') in New York, at Alicia's studio," Sambora says. "She came down to my studio one day and said, 'Would you do me the honor of playing on my album.' Of course, I was like, 'Of course, my dear.' I'm a big fan of hers, number one, and we're friends and she's a wonderful human being. She said, 'Yeah, I'll play on a track for you, too,' so she ended up playing on this track. It didn't appear on my records... She didn't get it done in time to appear on my solo album, but I'm gonna stripe it on there now, that's for sure."