Monday, September 16, 2013

Tom Keifer - The Way Life Goes [album review]

Released in April

Cinderella frontman Tom Keifer releases his first album of new music in nearly two decades with his debut solo effort, The Way Life Goes. Cinderella, one of the better outfits from the 80s hard rock scene, still tours, but has frustratingly failed to put out a single collection of new music since 1994's Still Climbing, which sunk without much of a trace in the midst of the shift in popularity from melodic heavy rock to grunge. While his style of music may have fallen out of favour, the biggest reason for Keifer's lack of musical production was due to ongoing vocal chord paralysis issues, which has resulted in six surgeries over the years. The Way Life Goes displays no signs of Keifer's health problems, though, with his vocals still sounding as raw and instantly recognizable as ever. The Way Life Goes was released on the independent Merovee Records, a subsidiary of David Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, explaining the rather surprising musical appearance of Keifer back in June on Letterman's show to promote the album.

The album adheres to the sound one expects from Keifer: hard rock with strong soul, country, and blues elements, with nods to the work of early Rod Stewart ("Ask Me Yesterday" and "The Flower Song"), Aerosmith (late 80s/early 90s Aerosmith on the paint-by-numbers power ballads "Thick And Thin" and "You Showed Me", and the earlier days of that band on the much better title track, "It's Not Enough", and "Welcome To My Mind"), and The Rolling Stones ("Cold Day In Hell" and the excellent "Babylon", featuring Stones sax man Bobby Keys...Cinderella are responsible, after all, for recording one of the best Stones-like tracks ever with 1990's "Shelter Me"). Keifer finds more of his own voice on the multiple-key-changes charmer "In A Different Light", as well as on album highlights "Mood Elevator" and "Solid Ground", which recall Cinderella's harder rocking material.

The Way Life Goes is a cut above that "shadow of their former selves" quality that afflicts the vast majority of the post-mid 90s work of acts from the 80s hard rock scene. However, for an album with such a lengthy gestation period (it's been in the works since the 90s and recording began on it a decade ago), Keifer's latest ultimately left this listener a little underwhelmed.

Rating: C+

Apropos of nothing...I recently recounted to someone a story involving Keifer that remains one of the stranger things I've seen at the many concerts I've attended in my life and figured I'd share it here. Somewhere around a decade ago, I was at a summer show at Toronto's Molson Amphitheatre featuring a few 80s hard rock bands, including Cinderella. As the group played their huge power ballad "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)", some jackass in the first few rows of the audience tossed a full (and expensive) beer onstage and doused Keifer, who was playing and singing at a piano at the front of the stage. Obviously startled, Keifer kept his composure and continued playing without missing a sung word, waiting until the guitar solo to rise from his piano bench and call out the culprit, who had immediately been pointed out to the singer and security by irate fans in the same section. Instant frontier justice was then satisfyingly exacted, as the idiot was peppered with punches to the head from a number of fans as he was dragged out by security guards, all while Cinderella continued playing. That incident represents the single best moment of "grace under pressure" by a performing musician that I've ever witnessed.