Tom Keifer – The Way Life Goes – Album Review

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Tom Keifer Debut – “The Way Life Goes” – Releasing April 30th, 2013

“…just about the music.”

In a recent interview with Maine Music News, Tom Keifer had this to say about his soon-to-be-released solo debut, “The Way Life Goes” –

“It was a long time in the making, and it was made
purely for the love of making music. It was produced
independently of a label. I just didn’t want the pressure of
someone telling me when it was finished, or you are on this
budget, this time frame, and this deadline. I just wanted to make
a record that I really loved at the end of the day, and it was just
about the music.” – Tom Keifer

I’ll make a generalization here, no offense intended, but I’m betting that the average Keifer fan is of the age to understand his sentiment. Ever wondered what you would do if the pressure was off and the boss holding the purse strings and the time line was long gone? Keifer shows us what is possible when we focus on what is important to us. His experience and maturity create lyrics that fall into place like magic. His rhythms are refreshing while still conjuring the blues and rock and roll he was raised on. True to the album’s title, he weaves it all together through stories of crazy, reality, love, and kiss my ass – all the things that make up life and, inevitably, “The Way Life Goes.”

There isn’t a dull moment on Keifer’s solo debut. Never mimicking the successful sound of Cinderella, Keifer establishes his own style without abandoning what he does best. Clearly rock and roll, clearly using that signature growling vocal nature gave him, clearly this is Tom Keifer – not a blast from the past. Still, longstanding fans will be comfortable here, able to expand into the new offerings. While a decade seems a long time to wait, it was worth the time spent to get this right.

The Track By Track Run Down:

1 – “Solid Ground” flies out of this cd with raw rock and roll and an explosive signature Keifer scream that just makes me happy. This song declares “The Way Life Goes” is serious about making an impact on the current music scene and is receiving solid radio traction. Feeling like a battle cry for a generation tossed from the Cold War to 9/11 to The Crash, “Solid Ground” declares “I got to keep moving when the world starts to crumbling down. Got to keep moving, looking for solid ground…for what’s left of me.”

2 –While lighter musically, “In a Different Light” is serious in intention as it challenges our perception of reality and of other people’s stories without being sticky sweet. “There’s a fine line between fantasy and what comes true.” Let’s send this lyric sheet to our elected officials, our mainstream news, our churches, and, more importantly, crank it up in our living rooms and at our dining room tables.

3 – The song arrangement on “The Way Life Goes” seems to mimic the wild roller coaster ride we call “life.” That makes perfect sense and it works, keeping listeners on their toes with the variety and shifts in emotional intention and musical style. With that said, hands and feet inside the car, ladies and gentlemen, for the next song, “It’s Not Enough.” This song slides back and forth between guitar riff and slinky rhythm as it rips at our desire to always have something we think we want.

4 – “Cold Day in Hell” is exactly what you’d image. “I can’t believe it’s you standing here at my door, dressing like an angel, working it like a whore…” Yes, I had to rewind that the first time through to make sure I had it right. Full of harmonica, bluesy guitar, and smoky vocals, this song pulls at the Rolling Stones and rolls right over every piece of shit who has ever taken advantage and left without so much as a good bye. Keifer’s vocals growl, sigh, and slash on this number – incredible.

5 – Led with piano, “Thick and Thin” opens with “I’ll walk with you until our souls (soles?) ain’t got no skin.” That is devotion, people. All zombie jokes aside, this ballad should be a favorite in no time, taking its place beside so many other rock and roll love songs. Full of beautiful sentiment, “Thick and Thin” gets it right.

6 – Rich with acoustic country elements, “Ask Me Yesterday,” describes the hesitancy found in the wisdom of maturity, shadowing the steady progression from youthful certainty to growing a little bit older and not having a clue. “…back when I was young enough to know. That’s when I had the answers, that’s when I had a plan, that’s when I held tomorrow in the palm of my hand.” This love song is easy, flowing, and gets better and better with each listen.

7 – “Fool’s Paradise” shifts to a bit darker tone with a grinding rock and roll sound set to lyrics that illuminate the foolish aspects of life which we’ve come to see as normal.

8 – The first single released from “The Way Life Goes,” “The Flower Song” expands the album’s variety and reach. We all know that Keifer can rock and roll, but here he brings us saturated country. A love song able to take the listener along for a story, a Keifer specialty, the lyrics feel vintage, and the vocals are rich and full. This is another song that gets better with age.

9 – “Mood Elevator” is urgent, frenzied even, and full of classic Keifer vocals. “Take a ride on the mood elevator, pick yourself up off the floor, take a ride on the mood elevator, you’ll be back for more.” I think you can read between those lines, can’t you? Besides being all out rock, the lyrics are smart and sharp.

10 – Sticking with the theme of the chemically induced, “Welcome to My Mind” is a wild bag of tricks and effects that feel like a classic horror movie soundtrack. Verses follow the paranoid bread crumb trail from the devil in the toaster to Jesus in the backyard. This song is lively and fun – a new twist for your Halloween mix tape this year.

11 – “You Showed Me” speaks of gratitude. “It’s been a long time since I tasted life so sweetly … ‘til you showed me how to live again, helped me to catch my breath, saved me from a bitter end…” Stuffed full of imagery that transcends a traditional love song vibe, we are given a sense of both desolation and redemption.

12 – “Ain’t That a Bitch” is light on love and heavy on the kiss my ass. Starting off with a wailing guitar riff, this tune layers vocals, riffs, and an all over groove for a heavily textured sound. “I’ve been black, and I’ve been blue, and beaten down a time or two by you. Wounded by your jagged lips… But you can’t break a wild horse baby, you can ride it with your spurs digging in…ain’t that a bitch?” This makes me smile.

13 – Upbeat and fun, it is easy to get lost in the blues and vocal shifts on the album’s title track, “The Way Life Goes,” but the proof is in the lyrics. Dipped in irony, here we have the vignettes of life, the zigs when we thought it would zag. Keifer and his writing partners, if you haven’t guessed already, have soaked this album with well-designed images, turns of phrase, and fabulous use of language. Hats off to you all!

14 – “Babylon Life” wraps up the album in style with sleek rock and roll spiked with saxophone and a few special effects. This song steps across several style eras to end “The Way Life Goes” on a high note. Hit repeat, please. Let’s do it again.

I know that longtime Keifer fans are eagerly awaiting April 30th to get their hands and ears on his solo debut. This is a winner from end to end. I listen to a lot of new releases, and one thing kept coming back to me as I listened to Keifer’s “The Way Life Goes” – this is what radio used to be. If you were a kid when I was a kid, yes, in the 80s, I hope you had an FM station that played everything that was worth listening to. Way up in far Northern Maine, we had an FM rotation that was a well-rounded rock and roll education – music history, verses in social science, lessons in poetry, a view on the cultures of different peoples, and the science behind making the world groove. And it was always, as Keifer wishes, “just about the music.”

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