Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Tom Keifer Band - Rise (2019)



Country: USA
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 13 Sep 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | Twitter | Wikipedia | YouTube

It may not be trendy to admit it, but I didn't dislike the hair metal era, as cheesy as it got, and there were some seriously good bands hiding behind all the make-up and spandex. One of my favourites was Cinderella, who were a lot deeper than their airplay suggested. Whether they ever actually split up or just stopped doing anything for long periods of time, such as when lead vocalist Tom Keifer suffered paralysis of the left vocal cord, is debatable, but they haven't released a studio album since 1994's Still Climbing.

Certainly, Keifer has continued on as a solo artist, releasing a solo album, The Way Life Goes, in 2013 to consistent acclaim and adding this second last September, credited not to Tom Keifer but to the Tom Keifer Band. I planned to review it during Name November but I ran out of slots on the calendar and left it until now. Looking back, it's far better and far more consistent than the Neil Young album, so it's a good choice for a final January catch-up.

Cinderella were always more overtly rooted in the blues than many other hair metal bands and that's apparent here, but Keifer draws from wider sources to vary this eleven tracker, perhaps because it clearly draws from the Rolling Stones a great deal, Keifer really trying to emulate Mick Jagger on Waiting for the Demons and especially Taste for the Pain, quieter rock songs with a Stones vibe to them.

On the stormer of an opening track, Touching the Divine, Keifer sounds a lot more like Brian Johnson, that memorable scream as in your face as ever. The band don't sound like AC/DC much but there is a strong similarity in how the finalés to many songs here layer, with lead and backing vocals duelling with a guitar solo and everyone involved bringing added emphasis to what they do. Check out the end of Untitled to see what I mean, then go back to For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).

While the first couple of tracks are up front rockers, just as metal as they are rock, Waiting on the Demons shows that Keifer is going to play with the boundaries of the genre. It emulates the Stones approach to balladry with an emotional, swaggering lead vocal over acoustic guitar. The slide solo guitar in the middle is a delight. It's also telling that the album wraps with what can only be described as country rock in You Believe in Me. Hey, the band is listed as being based in Nashville.

Perhaps the oddest track here is Untitled, because it somehow features both an eastern and a southern vibe to it, like an Egyptian band resident in the blues bars of Alabama. The slide guitar shines again too and I should add a note that I'm not sure who to credit for a lot of what goes on here. Is that Keifer himself, given that he's certainly playing guitar as well as singing on this album, or is it Tony Higbee? I have no idea.

Similarly, whose is that soulful backing vocal that really elevates the end of the stellar title track and pops out to be noticed at odd points in Touching the Divine, among others? Is that Keifer's wife, Savannah, credited on vocals, percussion and piano, or is it Kendra Chantelle, on vocals and percussion? I have no idea here either, but whoever it is sounds rather like Joss Stone, which isn't a bad thing at all.

As is entirely appropriate for someone who didn't just front Cinderella but wrote most of their songs, this is both an immediate album, full of strong riffs and stronger hooks, and a deep one, worthy of exploring over multiple listens. I thought about giving it a solid 7/10 for now with the knowledge that I might need to up it to an 8/10 after a few more listens, but I kept it playing while I pondered on that and decided to go straight to an 8/10. I think Keifer is getting better than ever.

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