Monday, 8 July 2013

Tom Keifer's 'The Way Life Goes' - Album Review

Tom Keifer, known to many as the frontman of glam/hard rock band Cinderella, has had a difficult career. From the highs of world tours and platinum-selling albums to the lows of a variety of health and vocal problems, he has faced it all. The Way Life Goes is his first ever solo album, and his first album of material since Cinderella's fourth (and currently last) studio album Still Climbing which was released in 1994. Nineteen years is a long time without releasing anything, but various sources seem to indicate that Keifer has been working on this album for quite a few years now. I am glad that he finally finished it though, as it is a solid rock album with plenty of variety. While there are obvious nods to Cinderella's sound over the years, comparisons could also be drawn to bands like The Rolling Stones, The Faces and The Quireboys as the album has a strong blues rock feel with a few acoustic-led numbers to offer a change of pace. Alongside Keifer, who handles the lead vocals, the majority of the guitars and some of the keyboards, the band for the album consists of: bassist Michael Rhodes; keyboardist Tony Harrell; and drummer Greg Morrow who all put in good shifts here and compliment Keifer's songwriting and style.

The album gets off to a strong start with second single Solid Ground, which is a rocking little song very reminisent of Cinderella's past work. Based around a great blues-style riff, the song grooves along at a nice pace with some slide guitar occasionally adding colour and a distinctly 'southern' feel. This is also aided by some slighty gospel-esque backing vocals by Etta Britt and Crystal Taliaferro. A Different Light follows and this is a much gentler, more heartfelt quasi-ballad that shows another side to Keifer's voice. Despite all the problems with his voice he has had over the years, he sounds great throughout this album and I am glad he has persevered through all the trouble and finished off this great album. A simple string arrangement really helps to elevate the song towards the end. The next highlight is the rocker Cold Day in Hell and this is the first of a few songs on the album co-written with former Survivor keyboardist Jim Peterik. The addition of some harmonica over the song's main riff, played by Pat Buchanan, adds an extra dimension to the song - as does some well-places saxaphone from Jim Horne. The chorus on this song is what makes it stand out. It is catchy and melodic, which is unsurprising with Peterik collaborating. Ask Me Yesterday is the next song worthy of note. It is a great slow, acoustic-led song which is similar in style to Cinderella's Heartbreak Station. I really like the lyrics on this song and again it has a really great chorus. Despite a reasonably large arrangement, it is one of the those songs that would clearly work totally stripped down acoustically - a quality I always like. First single The Flower Song, another of the co-writes with Peterik, has a definate Quireboys vibe. Washings of delicate organ help to flesh out the song and the slide guitar creates a very bluesy feel. It is full of melody and would probably get a decent amount of radio play with the right form of promotion.

Mood Elevator follows and this gets back to the rock. Cinderella guitarist Jeff LaBar lends a hand here with some extra riffing to create one of the most rocking songs on the album. The guitars sound nice and raw here and that sort of production helps bring out the best in the song. After a couple of more average tracks, we get to Ain't That a Bitch. The keyboards are big here and help drive the song along in a way in which Jon Lord would be proud. I really like the guitar solo in this song too. It has an odd sound and it not all that long but it just works so well. The album's title track follows with it's story-telling lyrics, big guitar sound and pounding drums. Again, it has the gospel-esque backing vocals which just work so well on this album. Things come to an end with the final song on the album Babylon. For what it is worth, I feel that this is the best song on the album - I love it! It really rocks and the chorus is very catchy. It is a great way to end a good album, and some more well places saxphone from Bobby Keys always helps! Overall, this album is very enjoyable and should satisfy all those people who are still hoping for another Cinderella album. This is the closest thing you are probably going to get for it for a long time (prehaps ever) but it stands on it's own too because of the variety you might not find otherwise. I think Keifer and his wife/songwriting partner Savannah should be congratulated on creating such a dynamic, rocking and heartfelt album after all this time.

The album was released on 29th April 2013 via Merovee Records. Below is his promotional video for Solid Ground.

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