In some of the interviews promoting this album, Tom Keifer was asked why no new music is released by his old band Cinderella and if there will be any more tours from that outfit. Apparently, Cinderella are a band of destructivity and it’s hard to keep that band together which means that Cinderella are no more. As a big Cinderella fan, I was very disappointed to hear that. On the other hand, there are new music from Cinderella guitarist/vocalist/main song writer Tom Keifer out and since he more or less was Cinderella, I find it really hard to complain. I consider myself lucky to have seen Cinderella live twice on their reunion tours and even though I think they were splendid, I also saw the Tom Keifer Band live and that unit was easily as brilliant, in fact even better – and they did play a whole lot of Cinderella tunes. With no more Cinderella in the way, Keifer can completely focus on his own band.
When Keifer released his debut solo album The Way Life Goes back in 2013, my first thought was that he could just as well has made a Cinderella record out of that one as musically, it really wasn’t a huge difference between that record and Cinderella but now it stands clear why he didn’t. Also, since Keifer did most of everything in Cinderella, he of any musician out there had earned the right to gather a bunch of musicians and call the project Cinderella without the others, like so many other guys from the 80’s have done – and still do. But kudos to Keifer for putting Cinderella to rest and moving forward with his own thing. The Way Life Goes was a brilliant record – easily as good as anything he put out with Cinderella and as a big fan, when he now returns with a new effort six years later, my expectations are sky-rocketing out into the stratosphere.
Keifer & co. open the album in a heavy mood with the rough and darker edged “Touching The Divine”. Cinderella fans won’t be disappointed as the tune brings on a heavier styled mix of the Long Cold Winter (1988) and Heartbreak Station (1990) albums, style-wise. It’s a rootsy tune that begins with some raunchy slide guitar and then goes into a raw and bluesy direction with some gospel-tinged female backing vocals courtesy of Savannah Keifer and Kendra Chantelle. With a meaty, thunderous rhythm and a refrain that goes for the throat, the tune really sets the tone for the rest of the album. And I’m as far from disappointed I can possibly get. Awesome. The leading single “The Death Of Me” that preceded the album is another punchy and heavy rocker with a raw and stripped guitar sound. It’s a darker edged rocker with a slight nod towards “Night Songs” in the verses but more hard-edged and the refrain strikes hard without any typical single-catchiness over it. A fantastic song that totally floored me the first time I heard it.
It’s ballad-time already by the third song. “Waiting On The Demons” is an acoustic guitar laden, Classic Rock ballad that lands somewhere between early 70’s Rolling Stones and Cinderella’s Heartbreak Station album, stripped and earthy with a soulful blues-rock feel. Where the verses are laid-back and mellow, the refrain is filled with melodic glue that makes it stick right away. Fantastic. “Hype” is slow-paced, heavy and robust – it even glances towards Metal here and there – with an aggressive outlook and a middle-finger attitude. However, Keifer never forget that a memorable melody means everything and this song has lots of that – and a refrain made for a crowd to shout back at him/them. Great. The aggression and heaviness continues with “Untitled” that holds some fat, bluesy riffing with a crispy and edgy guitar sound complete with a thundering rhythm section. It’s slower in pace but still with a juicy groove and yet another punchy refrain. Very good.
“Rise”, the album’s title-track and latest single is another ballad. This one comes with a heavier arrangement, a darker twist and it’s both raw, earthy and pretty rough, built on a solid, steady ground. Slightly orchestrated with acoustic and electric guitars, a piano and B3 organ, a slide solo and huge background vocals with a Gospel touch, the song is emotional and soulful and on as the icing on the cake, we get an epic chorus that makes all the hairs on my body stand up. This is awesome. Early Cinderella comes to mind when the fat-grooved, big-riffing and straight-forward “All Amped Up” joins in. With a bluesy Hard Rock swagger, touches of both AC/DC and Rolling Stones, this rough n’ ready grinder will be perfect for the stage. Great stuff. That sound continues with the beefy and punchy “Breaking Down”. A Hard Rock belter with a bluesy touch, the tune grooves like there’s no tomorrow. Add an amazingly catchy and sing-along-friendly refrain and Tom has a winner on his hands. I could see this becoming a future single. Awesome!
With a big 70’s feel, the slow and bluesy ballad “Taste For The Pain” sends across some melancholy and holds a sullen and saddening vibe, stripped and laid-back. Fact is, the tune comes across as some kind of dirge, filled with darkness but also with lots of emotion and honesty. With a phenomenal main-melody and memorable arrangements all through, the tune really gets under my skin. Amazingly gorgeous! “Life Was Here” is a crispy and raunchy rocker that brings on more Stones vibes but also twists of The Beatles are thrown in. It’s a plain, punchy and straight-ahead rocker with a huge live-feel. Damn good one. Closing track “You Believe In Me” is a stripped, all acoustic guitar and vocals track that takes place in the singer-songwriter department. It’s tender, raw and fragile, very heartfelt and organic. Artists such as Steve Earle and Johnny Cash comes to mind without taking over but it’s also easy recognize Keifer’s melodies all over. A beautiful and loving track – and let’s not forget, amazingly good.
Just like his debut solo album, this one could easily have passed as a (heavier kind of) Cinderella release if Keifer had wanted. But it’s also a too personal record for him not to release it under his own name. Compared to the debut, this one is more edgy, down-to-earth and rough. Also, where the debut had those big Aerosmith-like ballads, the ballads on this album are rawer and more intense and as a whole, this album is the heaviest record Keifer has released so far. As for the quality of the songs, it’s sky-high. It might not be as direct as its predecessor and it might need a couple of spins, but when it sticks, man it sticks hard. The band might have Keifer’s name but it’s trivial as this really is a band – and that you can hear right off the bat. Long story short – Keifer’s new album has floored me completely and I can’t find anything even remotely close to bad here – the worst song is still damn good. Whatever you do – do not miss out on this one!
More Tom Keifer reviews:
1. Touching The Divine
2. The Death Of Me
3. Waiting On The Demons
7. All Amped Up
8. Breaking Down
9. Taste For The Pain
10. Life Was Here
11. You Believe In Me