Thursday, May 23, 2013

TOM KEIFER "The Way Life Goes"

(c) 2013 Merovee Records

  1. Solid Ground
  2. A Different Light
  3. It's Not Enough
  4. Cold Day In Hell
  5. Thick And Thin
  6. Ask Me Yesterday
  7. Fool's Paradise
  8. The Flower Song
  9. Mood Elevator
  10. Welcome To My Mind
  11. You Showed Me
  12. Ain't That A Bitch
  13. The Way Life Goes
  14. Babylon
Tom Keifer--Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Michael Rhodes--Bass
Tony Harrell--Piano, B3, Wurlitzer, Clavinet
Greg Morrow--Drums, Percussion

Additional Musicians

Jeff LaBar--Guitar (Track 9)
Pat Buchanan--Guitar, Harmonica (Tracks 4, 6, 8, 11, 13)
Gary Burnette--Guitar (Track 11)
Ron Wallace--Acoustic Guitar (Track 6)
Jim Horne--Saxaphone (Track 4)
Crystal Taliaferro, Etta Britt, Savannah Keifer, Vichy Carraco, Chuch Turner--Various Backing Vocals

Cinderella fans are suckers for abuse.  Seriously.  How many years have we been teased, taunted, and tormented about a new Cinderella record, and we keep hanging around with bated breath, waiting and waiting and waiting?  Give up?  Consider this...Still Climbing came out in 1994!!!  That's nearly 20 years, folks!  Sure, we've been given umpteen best of's, live albums, rehashed live albums, extended cuts, blah blah blah, but never new music.  And, yes, we know about the contract fight between the band and their label, but COME ON...20 years?

The wait is over.  Sort of.

Cinderella lead yowler, Tom Keifer, has finally unleashed his solo record on the Cinderella faithful (I say finally because he reportedly started writing for this record in 1997!), and at 14 tracks there is a lot to consider here.  Not surprisingly there are a number of tracks that sound a lot like where I think Cinderella would be now had they continued down the path of Long Cold Winter and Heartbreak Station.  Keifer's raspy, bluesy moan is right at home on these types of tracks, which include album opener, "Solid Ground", "Babylon", "Mood Elevator" (which features fellow Cinderella alum Jeff LaBar on guitar), which is the album's heaviest track, and the Aerosmith-esque "The Way Life Goes".  (Speaking of the Boston band, "You Showed Me", which is actually a quasi-ballad, also has a certain Get A Grip era quality to it and is the best slower moment of the record.)  The best track on the disc for my money, is "Cold Day In Hell", which sounds like it was likely written in the Still Climbing sessions and is a prime example of the power of Keifer's writing with a killer chorus and a strong hook.  "It's Not Enough" has a bit of that Heartbreak Station feel to it as well, and "Fool's Paradise", which doesn't rock nearly as hard as most of the previously mentioned tracks, still finds Keifer mining more mid-tempo, blues-based Cinderella territory to great effect.  "Welcome To My Mind" is as close to straight up electric blues as the project comes and the effects used on Keifer's voice give  the track a bit of an eerie feel during the verse portions of the track, and not surprisingly, Keifer pulls off this particular song with seemingly little effort, although I suspect he put a LOT of effort into the tasty little guitar solo that pops up at about the 2:18 mark of the song.

But then there are the non-Cinderella moments to consider.

At times, this record sounds like the songs could have been written for Bryan Adams, such as with the piano-driven "Thick And Thin" which echoes "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)" in places.  At others, specifically on "Ain't That A Bitch", you expect to hear Tom Petty's voice leap off the record rather than Tom Keifer.  Rod Stewart seems to be the intended target of a track like "The Flower Song", while in other places, such as "Ask Me Yesterday", the influence of Keifer's adopted hometown of Nashville seems to seep into the songwriting.  While none of these are horrible songs, they don't really serve to advance the music forward, either.  With all of these various styles mixed in, the record comes across as a bit unbalanced at times.  I applaud Keifer's exploration of various tempos and styles, but at 14 tracks, perhaps the album is a bit bloated and may have been better served if a couple of tracks ("Flower..." and "Yesterday..." come instantly to mind) had been left on the cutting room floor.    

Keifer's voice is strong throughout and doesn't show any remnants of the vocal problems he has struggled with over the past several years.  His guitar playing is also top-notch, which I found to be interesting, as I never considered him to be more than a contributor to the Cinderella song, at best, as LaBar more than capably handled lead duties for the band.  Now I find myself wondering just how much Keifer played on some of those albums.  The rest of the "band" is tight and competent, if unspectacular.  I wonder how much Cinderella material the band tackles live, and how well these guys pull it off.

Generally solid, and at times excellent, The Way Life Goes is ALMOST worth the 20 year wait for new Cinderella-related material.  As it stands, it will likely make our year-end Best Of... list, but probably won't sit at the top.

Rating:  Crankable, but bloated.  Turn the knob up to 7.5 here, but if you make your own mix, judiciously lopping off a couple of tracks, you could probably squeeze an 8 out of it.

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