The most surprising new release of 2019, to this listener anyway, has been the new Tom Keifer album. It’s been a long time since I’ve given the Cinderella frontman any eartime, and I didn’t know what to expect from him in 2019. What I got was “Holy Shitballs, this fucking rocks!” Rise is earthy, bluesy but also with the rock side of Cinderella bursting at the seams. It almost sounds like a direct continuation of the final Cinderella album Still Climbing.
Wicked slide guitar opens “Touching the Divine”, one of the songs that will directly appeal to fans of Keifer’s old band. Backed by soulful backing singers, Keifer still reaches for the screamin’ vocals for a good mix of new and old. Words like “greasy”, “rootsy”, and “heavy” all come to mind. Even the softer songs have a weight and gravitas that old Cinderella didn’t always have. Take “Waiting on the Demons” for example. It’s soft, southern and Band-like. But it is its own kind of heavy.
The album doesn’t need to be dissected track by track here, but some songs need to be addressed. The title track “RISE” (all caps!) is stunningly soulful and epic, and many fans have really connected with the slower, marauding “Untitled”. Whatever songs grab your fancy, you’ll hear something that you like. Whether it’s a Crowes-like blues, rockers akin to Cinderella, or something new, Tom Keifer’s got a variety of great tunes here. Not good, but great. Nothing to skip. Just 11 songs that will grow on you and then fade as others steal their sunshine. And the guitar playing? Keifer and Tony Higbee lay down some serious, grinding six-string hooks. It’s guitar nirvana for fans of this kind of rock. Acoustic, electric, slide — doesn’t matter. It’s all good.
My personal favourite? “All Amped Up”, the riffiest song of the batch.
Keifer has assembled a stunning band here, a seven-piece including his wife Savannah on vocals and piano. He took a left turn away from the 80s and into something more real. It paid off. This is a contender for the annual Top 5 list, easily.