Sunday, May 12, 2013

RECORD REVIEW: Tom Keifer "The Way Life Goes"

Tom Keifer
The Way Life Goes
(Merovee Records)

Tom Keifer is a true 
blue rock and roll 
treasure. And in 2013 
he exemplifies the 
axiom, "better to get
it right, than get it fast."

I still remember the Vicks Formula 44 commercial from years ago. An incredibly handsome actor looks into the camera and confesses, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV." An iconic line indeed. Tom Keifer could make a similar statement — "I'm not a hair band guy, but I played one on MTV."

The Pennsylvania-born singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist achieved worldwide, chart-busting success during the late '80s and early '90s as the frontman for the band Cinderella. Despite possessing the DNA of such hard-driving heavyweights as AC/DC, Nazareth and Aerosmith, Cinderella's platinum-selling 1986 debut, Night Songs, cemented the band's reputation as THE preeminent up-and-coming hair band. However, with the release of their distinctly more blues-based 1988 sophomore effort, Long Cold Winter, Cinderella seemed already to be distancing themselves from the rest of the arena rock pack. And by the time their third record, Heartbreak Station, hit Billboard's Top 20 in 1990, it had become abundantly clear that Tom Keifer's songs actually were more akin to Steve Earl's than to David Lee Roth's. An unfortunate example of guilt by association, Cinderella's fourth (and so far, final) record, Still Climbing, went relatively unnoticed as the band became caught in the crossfire of the infamous '80s rock extermination of the early '90s.

After a brief time-out, the band regrouped. And in the ensuing years, Cinderella has continued to enjoy enormous success — consistently selling out 10-20,000 seat venues as a must-see live act. However, seemingly boasting a "We will sell no wine before its time" mantra, Tom Keifer has bided his time in terms of releasing any new music since his MTV glory days. But in 2013, it appears that the time finally has arrived!

Produced by Keifer, along with his wife Savannah and veteran producer / engineer Chuck Turner, The Way Life Goes is gritty, organic and funky, and serves as a vivid portrait of an artist whose songwriting has matured over the last two decades while maintaining his signature style.

The record kicks off strong with "Solid Ground" — a soulful, gospel-flavored gem. With stellar back-up vocal performances from Etta Britt and Crystal Taliefero and the closing lyrics — I need some shelter. I need some shelter, it harkens back to Keifer's illustrious past.

"A Different Light" comes frighteningly close to crossing over into the spiritual realm — All God's children need a helping hand.  But you got to see before you understand. However, any perceived faith message is bathed in enough black lit ambiguity that you won't likely get any on ya. But it's one of the record's best.

"It's Not Enough" is also an infectious highlight.  It's clearly a down and dirty drug song (I think)  — I'm a burning Cadillac with a monkey in the back. Gotta feed him. It's not enough.  However, I'm uncertain as to which side of the issue it's taking.

Nobody captures honest emotion and bottles pure passion in a love song quite like Tom Keifer. Hence, "Thick and Thin" shines brightly — Be the truth in a world that's lying. Give up my last breath if you were dying. I'll stand by you. Thick and thin. As if it were a lost track from Still Climbing, this one is classic Keifer all the way.

In a similar, yet simpler vein, "Ask Me Yesterday" (co-written with Savannah Keifer and Jim Peterik) may be his best, most heartfelt tune ever. That's a huge statement to make, given Keifer's impeccable body of work. However, I stand by my words.

Featuring a special guest appearance by Jeff LaBar, "Mood Elevator" reads like a page torn straight from the Night Songs playbook and seems to point to what a new millennium Cinderella record might sound like...

I said, "Doctor — It's been raining and a pouring."
Wrote a prescription — said "Call me in the morning."
See what you're missing is just a shot of serotonin.
So good for fixin' anything that you got broken.
(From "Mood Elevator")

"Welcome to my Mind" is bluesy, dark and edgy.  If MTV was still around, this clip could be epic...

Sirens are whining — Monkeys are flying.
Walls are all closing in my mind.
Mirrors are screaming — Walk on the ceiling.
Oh what a feeling in my mind.
(From "Welcome to my Mind")

Another well-crafted Keifer ballad, "You Showed Me," possesses a little country twang and is one of several tracks on the record that tastes a bit like Sticky Fingers. Darn good stuff, man.

To make an authentic roots record, you need all of the essential ingredients. For starters, The Way Life Goes was recorded at various studios throughout Nashville. Keifer  provides all lead vocals as well as guitars and keyboards. He's also assembled an all-star cast of musicians: Greg Morrow (Dixie Chicks, Steve Earl) / drums, Michael Rhodes (Faith Hill, Reba McEntire) / bass, Tony Harrell / piano and organ, and Pat Buchanan (No, not that Pat Buchanan) / harmonica, guitars. The end result is a splendid, cohesive and well-produced record that absolutely was worth the wait.

-Christopher Long
(May 2013)

Don't miss this gem:



C'MON! -


  1. This album is top shelf material. Has some bite, and goes down smooth. If you like the catchy stuff from Cinderella and the 70's sound of the Rolling Stones, then this is the album for you.

  2. It's excellent. I won't say "masterpiece" because I hope Tom will give us some more. I was a huge Cinderella fan, but I have to say that I love the echoes of vintage Rod Stewart that I hear in Tom's new record! Just great.

    1. "Echoes of vintage Rod" -- I love that! I too am a HUGE Cinderella fan and also look forward to more stuff from them as well as more from Tom solo. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Just got it today excellent cd well written and produced worth every penny

    1. I'm with ya, Jay! Good hearing from you. Don't be a stranger.