CINDERELLA – Long Cold Winter (1988 Polygram Records)
I remember how excited I was upon hearing the first single, “Gypsy Road”, in the summer of ’88. Cinderella had managed a bluesier, more “authentic” hard rock sound for their critical second LP. Night Songs was OK, but Long Cold Winter was better in every way. The cheese factor had been replaced by pedal steel guitars, pianos, and Hammond B3 organs.
Drummer Fred Coury was touring with Guns N’ Roses (Steven Adler had broken his hand punching a wall) during much of the making of Long Cold Winter. It’s not clear how much of Long Cold Winter he played on, as the band pulled in two incredible session drummers for the project: Denny Carmassi (of Heart and later Coverdale – Page), and the late great Cozy Powell!
From the bluesy opening of “Bad Seamstress Blues”, it was clear that the AC/DC clone Cinderella that featured Bon Jovi cameos in its videos had evolved. Two incredible, throat wrenching rockers follow this: “Fallin’ Apart at the Seams” and “Gypsy Road”. Both songs easily stand up today as forgotten classics of the “hair metal” era. But truthfully, Cinderella only made one “hair metal” album. Long Cold Winter doesn’t really fit in with that scene, and their next album Heartbreak Station would leave it behind completely.
“Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)”, the epic power ballad, is more Aerosmith than Poison, and still features a great guitar solo straight out of the Iommi blues notebook. I’m not too keen on “The Last Mile”, a straightforward rocker, but it was still chosen as a single from this album. Much better is the side-closing “Second Wind”, amped up and stuttering.
Side two opened with Cinderella’s “serious” blues, the title track. It’s a bit too contrived for me, it has a vibe of, “Hey, let’s write our ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’!”. Lots of repeated “baby baby baby” Plant-isms. At the time it was released, this song was seen as a serious departure for the band, but in hindsight it’s really just a first step into a larger world. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the rare occasions that Black Sabbath has attempted a slow blues (I’m thinking “Feels Good To Me”, also featuring Cozy Powell) mixed with Zeppelin.
“If You Don’t Like It” is another standard rocker, nothing special, but this is followed by no less than three great songs in a row. First is the single “Coming Home”, not really a ballad, but a hybrid. This was one of the most immediate songs that I fell for when I picked up the album. You can tell that Cinderella wrote a lot of this album on the road, by the lyrics. “Coming Home” is one such road song.
“Fire and Ice” is heavy, sort of a revisited “Second Wind”, another standout! Then the album closes with the slide-laden “Take Me Back”, which strikes me as another road song. Just as good as “Coming Home”, but heavier, it was a great album closer. Personally if this album had spawned a fifth single, “Take Me Back” would have been my pick, hands down. And I think this album could have justified five singles.
The band evolved further with album #3 (which featured strings by John Paul Jones!), but I think Long Cold Winter strikes the perfect balance between screeching rock and bitter blues. From the classy album cover on down to the perfect production, I don’t think they’ve ever made a better album.