KEEL – The Right to Rock (1985, 2000 Metal Mayhem Music/bonus track)
From the Gene Simmons Song Factory, heeeeere’s Keel!
Let’s talk about the bonus track first. Anybody could tell you that “Easier Said Than Done” was a Simmons song, just from one listen. Surely enough, scan the liner notes, and it’s Gene and Mitch Weissman, whom fans know from 1984’s Animalize album. Like many Gene Simmons productions, The Right to Rock bears his name on a few writing credits. “Easier Said Than Done” is right down mid-80s Kiss alley. What about the remix? Structurally, it is unchanged. The drums sound different, and on a whole the track sounds a little brighter.
That’s it for extras. The booket is only a single fold-out, with no lyrics. It has a note from Ron Keel, indicating that this is the first CD issue of the album outside Japan.
(The rest of this review was previously published in 2015)
The rest of the non-Simmons 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 shout-along 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.
“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 released 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.