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The Way Life Goes

Merovee (2013)
Rating: 8/10

Hands up, who remembers Cinderella? One of glam metal’s unsung greats, the hair metal gods were not smiling on these guys from Philadelphia despite several solid albums.

Vocalist Tom Keifer had one of metal’s most distinctive voices – a throaty rasp that could strip wallpaper – and yet despite the potential, this incredible talent was seemingly cut short in the mid-90s when he lost his voice due to the appearance of nodules on the vocal cords, resulting in paralysis of the left cord.

However, through sheer determination and strength Tom Keifer is back – long overdue – with his much talked about solo album for which ideas had originally been sewn after the Cinderella dissolution of 1995. And so, was the album worth the wait? Of course it bloody is, it’s Tom Keifer after all!

The Way Life Goes is far from being the sleazy rock album some may have been expecting, and of the 14 cuts on offer only a handful hint at the past hair metal glories.

Opener ‘Solid Ground’ is the one track that reeks of that Cinderella twang, from the swaggering guitars and the percussive stomp to Keifer’s dry yelps. It’s a cracker of a song that takes me back to my youth when I purchased Cinderella’s classic opus Long Cold Winter (1988). ‘Solid Ground’ boasts an infectious jig and guitar riff leading us to a soulful, bluesy shake ’n’ roll chorus that brings to mind Cinderella’s ‘The Last Mile’ from the said album.

But what of Keifer’s vocals I hear you ask? Well, he’s far from the glass-shattering heights of his early-90s yelps, but he can still shred, although thankfully he allows himself a rest on the breezy ‘A Different Light’, which boasts a wistfully melodic chorus and is caressed by Greg Morrow’s backbone beat.

Elsewhere, we’re treated to the hard-edged rocker ‘It’s Not Enough’, the harmonica-laced ‘Cold Day In Hell’, with its Rolling Stones-styled groove, and the driving ‘Fool’s Paradise’ with its soaring chorus.

For me though the album really shines with its more reflective moments. ‘Thick and Thin’ is a majestic ballad blessed with Tony Harrell’s sweeping piano as Keifer croons “I’ll dry your tears why you are crying”, while ‘Ask Me Yesterday’ is an acoustic charmer where Keifer’s voice is more Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones), rather than glam rocker.

Tom Keifer clearly has a lot of catching up to do and pivotal track ‘The Flower Song’, with its summery shuffle, shows a man on top form as the organ drifts through the melody. “Of all the pretty flowers I picked you”, Keifer rasps over a southern rock twang.

However, if you want real rock ’n’ roll swagger then the screaming ‘Mood Elevator’ might be right up your street. It’s the album’s feistiest number, boasting a gutsy vocal and lively guitar rumble. Mind you, it walks hand in hand with the darker edged ‘Welcome To My Mind’ which exudes an air of angst over a moody melody.

Tom Keifer’s debut solo opus is an impressive piece of work that is multi-layered and jam-packed full of emotion with not a duff tune to be found. Proof also that those early Cinderella records weren’t just a fluke, and further evidence that this guy is clearly a wonderful talent when it comes to writing rock ’n’ roll songs.

The Way Life Goes is Tom Keifer bearing his soul, effortlessly combining shimmer, shake and heartbreak, and I can’t wait for the next instalment. The train keeps a rollin’…

Neil Arnold

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