REVIEW: Keel – The Right to Rock (1985)

IMG_20150613_084127KEEL – The Right to Rock (1985 A&M)

From the Gene Simmons Song Factory, heeeeere’s Keel!

Like many Gene Simmons productions, Keel’s The Right to Rock bears his name on a few writing credits.  The rest of the songs are basically reworkings of tracks from Keel’s first album Lay Down the Law.  That album, like Ron Keel’s debut with Steeler (featuring one Yngwie J. Malmsteen) were on Shrapnel.  For the A&M Records debut, they pulled out the big guns.  They got Gene Simmons in all his wig-ness, and put out a very corny but tremendously fun music video.

It is “America 1989”, and rock and roll is outlawed. “Those who are apprehended suffer severe consequences.”  Can our young teenage Keel lookalike get away from the rock police?  Quiet Riot did something similar with their “The Wild and the Young” video a year later. It’s corny fun.

The song too is corny fun. I guess it’s a classic now. It has that stock heavy metal riff that you need: something Motley Crue or the Scorpions would be comfortable with. It has that rebellious rock theme that was so prominent in the 80’s. It has a shoutalong chorus. “You got it! The Right to Rock!” Hey, I grew up in a Catholic school. I know what this is about. “Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life!” I had a teacher call me out on the first day of school for wearing a Judas Priest T-shirt. I could relate to this song in a big way when I was 13.

It should be noted that Gene Simmons, as a producer, is not known for his sonics. The Right to Rock sounds pretty good for the period, but the drums ring shallow and weak. There’s not much presence for the bass guitar, and the backing vocals are the typical rock mush. That’s what you get with Gene behind the console.

“Back to the City” has a good Priest-like chug to it. I think Keel were going for something middle of the road with their music, like Priest-meets-Scorps-meets-Crue-meets-Kiss. If so, this hit the mark. Ron’s vocals are overwrought but that’s his style. If you don’t like that kind of vocal, you won’t like Keel.

Kinda stinky is “Let’s Spend the Night Together”. You know, I still gotta give the guys credit. They have made this into a pretty fine pop metal song. If you didn’t know the song, you’d assume it’s an original, in the pop metal genre. So from that perspective, I think it’s kinda cool. Stinky and cool — like good gorgonzola.

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“Easier Said Than Done” was written by Simmons/Weissman, the same team responsible for much of the Animalize album. The lyrics even reference “Russian Roulette”, a song title Gene had been toying with for years. (A song called “Russian Roulette” was finally release on Sonic Boom.) So, guess who “Easier Said Than Done” sounds like? That’s right — it is a dead ringer for Simmons-style Kiss. And it’s actually a pretty good song. The problem is Ron’s Gene impression. I can’t help but chuckle at his dead-on Gene vocals. I dare you to refrain from a giggle yourself. Same deal with “So Many Girls, So Little Time”. Kiss fans will recognize that’s a line recycled from the Kiss song “Burn Bitch Burn”.

Onto side two, “Electric Love” is a Keel original, but you immediately notice that the song isn’t as immediate as the two previous Simmons tunes. “Speed Demon”, another original, sounds exactly as the title implies. Quality-wise, it’s only at “Priest outtake” level (Defenders of the Faith era). Then it’s back to Simmons outtakes, with “Get Down”, the weakest of the Simmons songs by a long shot. “You’re the Victim (I’m the Crime)” is a Gene-like title, but this too is a Keel tune. It’s in the same vein as “Speed Demon”, and the same level of quality.

It’s fun to revisit The Right To Rock periodically…but sparingly.

3/5 stars

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50 comments

        1. Yes they were. Originally the picture was for a cancelled album of cover songs. Also included was Shot Down in Flames, Burning for You, Fuel,Light my Fire, Comin’under Fire, The Heat is On, Smoke on the Water, Ring of Fire, and That Smell.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Brilliant. I was wanting a name for my imaginary Prog-Metal band and, inspired by one of Geoff’s posts, came up with ‘Pool Noodle Parabola’. And now, thanks to you, I have the title of our imaginary debut album – ‘Exemplary Width’.

      Liked by 4 people

        1. I still don’t have that one. I guess I should have it. I never liked Wendy O Williams at all, but the fact that it really IS a Kiss album, as you said, means I should get it somehow.

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        2. It’s worth getting cheap, even just as a bit of KISStory. Definitely 80s KISS in style but sounds more like a good demo really. Wendy’s voice is the make-or-break element. A marmite voice if ever there was one. I like her though so it’s fine by me!

          Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha those are awesome. How about:

        I’m Dokken, yes indeed, I’m talkin’ about you and me…

        I’m Dokken in the rain,

        Remember (Dokken In The Sand)

        Don’t Start Me Dokken

        Dokken In Memphis

        Dokken on Sunshine

        Dokken in My Sleep

        Dokken On The Moon

        Dokken The Dog

        Dokken Around The Christmas Tree

        We could do this all day!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Chainsaw time. This is the most overrated band ever and Ron Keel is the worst singer in metal. This album is a stinker although the follow-up, The Final Frontier, did have a couple of good songs on it. Marc Ferrari is a good guitar player as well.
    How did they ever get signed??

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