(c) 2022 RFK Media
- The Right To Rock
- Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
- Tears Of Fire
- Medley: Because The Night/Somebody's Waiting
- Calm Before The Storm (Live in Australia)
Ron Keel--Lead Vocals, Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Piano on 5
Dave "DC" Cothern--Lead Guitar, Vocals
"Dakota" Scott Schmitt--Keyboards, Vocals
Geno Arce--Bass, Vocals
Jeff "The Rev" Koller--Drums, Vocals
Ron Keel is a force, pure and simple. Honestly, he comes across as tireless and relentless, whether watching him perform, meeting him in person, talking to him on the phone, hearing his radio show/podcast, or even reading interviews (such as the one we did a few years back HERE). As such, he and his Ron Keel Band continue to crank out new music on a far more regular basis than many still-active bands of the 1980s/90s, and seemingly have some sort of show popping up at any given time.
For those maybe not 100% familiar, the Ron Keel Band is NOT the band KEEL. The Ron Keel Band (RKB) is a band that Ron assembled several years ago to do side-project work with, including his more country rock and southern rock material, although they still perform plenty of KEEL and Steeler classics in the live setting. To that end, the Ron Keel Band decided to release this little EP with the RKB doing exclusively KEEL classics. Originally released as an autographed EP only to Ron's Patreon subscribers, the EP is now available in numerous locations (including Amazon) in a non-autographed format, although I am sure Ron would be willing to sign it at a live show!
The EP kicks off with one of KEEL's all-time classics, and the song that drew me, and so many others, to the band back in the 1980s: "The Right To Rock". While it is apparent Ron's voice has lost some of the high end on his screams, he has not lost any of the power or energy, and he attacks this classic with all the gusto you would expect on this fist-pumping anthem. The band, which has remained solidly consistent for several years, is a big part of the sound here, or course, and they do not disappoint. Cothern is an extremely good guitar player, as evidenced on his work on all of the RKB releases up to this point, and Koller is outstanding on the drums here. Equally important is the backing vocal work from Arce, Koller, Cothern, and Schmitt, which really work to support Ron's slightly lower register on these KEEL Klassiks.
Not really a ballad, but not a full-on rocker, the huge-sounding anthem, "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" from 1986's The Final Frontier album should have been a monster hit back in the day, and it is given excellent treatment here from the RKB, and sounds very close to the original, musically. Again, Ron's range is a bit lower than on the original, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't actually prefer how he sounds on this updated version. The deeper, raspier, grittier sound suits the song...and the man...well, and once again, Cothern proves himself a first-rate axe slinger on the solo work here.
Speaking of KEEL ballads, "Tears Of Fire", also from The Final Frontier is given another breath of life here, and is handled admirably. It is here that Ron's lower register is probably the most noticeable, but no damage is done to this lighter-inducing track.
For my money, the band saves the best of the re-recorded material for last, with a medley of "Because The Night" and "Somebody's Waiting" absolutely powering their way down the homestretch of this EP. "Because The Night", which has been covered by numerous acts through the years, was always at its best in the KEEL setlist, in my opinion, and the RKB does a great job of retaining that punch and power that always drew me to the song. Once again, Ron's voice still dominates this track, but it is on the second half of this medley that Ron and the boys really shine. Long one of my favorite songs by KEEL, "Somebody's Waiting" is absolutely spot-on stellar here. While I would obviously love to hear full versions of both songs, cutting out the multiple chorus repeats at the end of "Because The Night" really condenses the track, and after just 4:20 of total playing time, two more must-hear KEEL tracks are given a chance to shine, hopefully enticing interested RKB fans to seek out the classic originals.
The last song here is a live version of "Calm Before The Storm" that was recorded down under in Australia. If I'm being 100% honest, which I always strive to be, I wish they would have left this track off. The recording is really not that good (it sounds like it was possibly recorded from the crowd or maybe taken from a video recording), and the track is really muffled. It's too bad, because this is a song that seems to draw a strong reaction whenever it is played live. Ron plays the piano on this track, and proves himself to be a solid player, and his vocals are really strong. I wonder if this was a solo performance, because there are no backing vocals or other instruments used here. Regardless, the crowd is definitely appreciative of the effort, and I really wish we could have been treated to a better recording. Nonetheless, fans are given access to a nice live rarity here to round out this EP.
Clocking in at just over 20 minutes, this EP is short, but packs a lot of wallop into a little bit of run time. The packaging, as one might expect on a give-away item (remember, this was originally GIVEN to Ron's Patreon subscribers), is uber-simplistic, as it is simply a cardboard slipcase with the above picture on the front and the track listing, performance and production credits, and some contact information on the back.
Overall, the RKB does themselves...and these songs...proud, and should prove to anyone who may have doubts that they can more than handle Ron's older material when mixing it up with more current material from the Ron Keel Band, such as the band's excellent 2019 album, Fight Like a Band.
Rating: Crank this impressive EP to a solid 7.5, with only the lower-quality recording of the live song, and the brevity of the EP holding it back from a bit higher rating.