Written by Samuel Barker
May 25, 2013 at 12:01 AM
ImageIt’s better to be late to the party than to not attend at all, right?

Well, Tom Keifer’s long-anticipated solo album (which is really an understatement), The Way Life Goes, hit the shelves about a month ago. This reviewer somehow missed the train on this one, but I guess I can say I caught it at the next stop.

The Way Life Goes has been “in production” since Cinderella initially broke up in 1995. It was supposed to be a country album, being recorded in Nashville, then, Cinderella regrouped and the album was put on the back burner again. Fans went as far as to post petitions online begging for Keifer to release the album.

So, there were definitely some devoted ears awaiting this release, especially since the regrouped Cinderella has yet to the release any new material. People were ready for something new from Keifer and, finally, he delivered with The Way Life Goes.

With lead single/opening track, Solid Ground, the words “influenced by The Rolling Stones” were thrown around in the press release and in various articles, which initially bummed me out. When people make that comparison, it is a let-down nine times out of ten. Instead, Solid Ground was a homage to the music that shaped Keifer as a musician. The reason he rocks a Telecaster or Les Paul instead of a pointy Jackson or Kramer or you see him break out a lap steel at live shows.

The riffs were tight and the “bat out of hell” scream Cinderella fans had come to love for close to 30 years blew through the speakers. Complete with gospel-influenced backup singers and bluesy, finger-picked riffs, Solid Ground created an anthemic album opener that sticks in your mind.

The Different Light changes things up with a cleaner, poppier sound. It’s a good rest for the listener and a great display of Keifer’s range as a vocalist. The fact that he nearly lost his ability to sing due to a paralyzed vocal cord is pretty amazing when you hear how smooth his vocals are on this track. A times it lost me with the pure pop sweetness of the track, but the lyrics are about as sincere and thoughtful as they get on this album.

It’s Not Enough brings back the excellent backing vocalists that were used in Solid Ground and returns the album to a rocking pace. As does, Cold Day in Hell, which kicks off with some harmonica riffing, just another instrument Keifer pulls out of his arsenal. These tracks are a nice 1-2 punch to get the blood flowing and the listener connected to the album. These tunes were where I knew I hearing a good album.

One thing the initial tracks show is that Keifer did not really stick to the “country” tag the album started under. The album bounces back and forth from acoustic ballad with pop sensibility to Stone-esque rock n’ roll goodness, which provides the pace changes to keep the album interesting from start to finish.

Thick and Thin is instantly reminiscent of Cinderella’s Don’t Know What You Got (Until It’s Gone). The piano intro gives way to a solid power ballad that would make anyone want to air guitar along then pull their lady close. Radio would have eaten this song up during Cinderella’s heyday.

Ask Me Yesterday continued the ballad portion of the album until Fool’s Paradise brought back the rock n’ roll riffs with a more updated sound. Keifer knows how to write solid rock riffs that bring a groove and provide the bluesy overtones his vocals demand from a song.

The Flower Song is a nice acoustic ballad that comes from the vein of Keifer’s songs like Coming Home. The slide guitar definitely adds a nice touch to the song and pulls it closest to the “country” rumor that circulated for years on this album. However, it never comes too close to anything you’d tag as country.

Probably the track I’ve enjoyed the most on this album is Mood Elevator. On this track, Keifer unleashes the guitars and creates a wall of sound with strong vocals, tight riffs and blaring leads. It sounded like a day when Keifer and the guest guitarists just saw what they could layer together to create a huge rock sound. Not sure if that’s how it went down, but that’s how it sounded.

The unadulterated rock bleeds directly into similarly themed Welcome to My Mind. Vocal effects and horns are the highlight of this track. The sound captures the paranoia of the protagonist through hectic guitar solos and manic horns.

You Showed Me is another “Power Ballad of the Year” candidate. Along with Thick and Thin, these two illustrate the double-threat Keifer has always been. The hard edge for the rock and the sensitivity to create songs which tug at the heart-strings.

The Stones influences return on Ain’t That a Bitch. Some funky guitar changes the pace and the B-3 organ creates a nice atmosphere, but the rock song at the core keeps the album’s cohesion strong. The background vocals paired with Keifer definitely make this one of my favorites on the album.

Ain’t That The Way Life Goes keeps with the solid background vocals, but ups the ante with huge instrumentation. Just like the opener, it brings a very anthemic sound to the track. Instantly the vision of singing along with Keifer at the show pops into your head. What I would call a “Nobody’s Fool” moment, if not in sound, in the unison of artist and audience.

The album closes with Babylon Baby. I would believe this song was leftover from the Heartbreak Station sessions. It has a sound very reminiscent of classic Cinderella. This tune was a great way to close the album, a throwback to the sound of yesterday.

For having many differing sounds on this album, there is definitely a bluesy-rock core to almost every song which helps create a piece that fits together despite the genre shifts that occur. For an album that has been in active production since 2005, it is a great journey with Keifer through his songwriting for nearly 7 years.

Hopefully the success this album should find will lead to a new release from Cinderella. Until that happens, this is a more than worthy way to get your fix of tunes from Tom Keifer. Pick this up and rock out!