Released: 2010, Frontiers Records
It’s been 12 long years for this Keel fan. 1998’s Back In Action was great after a 12 year wait since the self-titled in 1987. Guys, one album every dozen years is not acceptable. However, you take what you can get, and I thought it was unlikely fans would ever see a new studio project from Keel after Ron Keel changed his name to Ronnie Lee Keel and started flirting with a career in country music. Painful to say the least. Was it worth the wait? Yes and no…mostly yes.
THE STREETS OF ROCK & ROLL is a solid kick-ass, melodic Hard Rock/Heavy Metal album. Everything is in place, that should be in place, good songs, catchy choruses, simple yet effective arrangements all driven by crunchy guitars, and Marc Ferrari’s fiery soloing. Ron is in fine form, I’m surprised how good his voice still is.
I do have some very minor nagging thoughts. The opening track is excellent with a huge sing-along chorus and heartfelt lyrics, but it is a poor choice for the opener track. The band should have opened with a fast, heavier, anthemic song instead of the semi-autobiographical, almost…power ballad. Great song and I understand why they sequenced it first due to the lyrical content but they should have kicked down the doors for the first three cuts.
The next minor problem, if you could even call it that, is Ron’s delivery. His voice is awesome but he sounds restrained on many of the tracks. He can still sing…that’s not the problem. Let’s face it, a band of this caliber and stature is not as likely to recruit a whole legion of new, young fans in today’s increasingly heavy and competitive metal market. Any new fans are likely to be curiosity seekers, drawn in by the stories of Keel’s legendary past. The rest of the fans, like myself, are just life-long fans. So, my point is, this late in your career, when you have nothing to loose, why not pull out all the stops? I would hate to think that some new fan hearing the band for the first time, might stop and think, “Wow, this is the legendary Keel I’ve heard so much about? What’s the big deal?”
Paul Shortino, another veteran vocalist of the metal wars, acted as the producer of Ron's vocal tracks. I love Paul’s voice as well but as a fairly restrained singer himself, he didn’t capture Keel’s potential. Shortino could have, should have pushed Ron to the soaring heights of his former glory. One of the main attractions of Keel back in the 80’s was Ron's intense, constant over-the-top vocal delivery. He had so much power and emotion…he sang his heart out and I just don’t feel that vibe was captured on this record. I agree that was a long time ago but I feel the band could have delivered that kind of energy again, they are certainly technically capable. They just needed someone to bring it out of them in the studio.
I think the band could have delivered just a little more. The album title is a bit dull, the album art is a bit lackluster…this would have been the perfect opportunity to bring back the rocket-guitar emblem on the front cover. Label-mates Wig Wam have some sort of rocket-guitar-car on the cover of their new album, why not Keel? The band had the opportunity to really kick some ass and perhaps missed out on some of the finer details.
One area they did excel is superior song-writing, which is what it all comes down to, the most important component. Every song is a winner, catchy as hell, easily hummable and quick to attach itself to your memory. There is a nice combination of acoustic and electric inter-play and the ballads are fantastic, each easily a hit, if the current commercial-radio environment was conducive to rock and roll, which it’s not, obviously. As mentioned earlier, it’s got it all, big choruses with gang vocals, lots of guitar and the signature Keel sound is fully intact.
This album is a winner, mandatory for a Keel fan, a great introduction to the band for newer fans and easily one of the band's best. It’s not as polished as the last couple and I expect it to have heavy rotation as the summer draws closer. I hope we don’t have to wait another 12 years until the next one!
Edited note: My apologies to the band and fans, the band DID re-establish the classic rocket-guitar emblem on the artwork. An excellent choice. Please disregard my earlier comments about the front cover. This edit was added with the intention of transparency and honesty...instead of just editing the review and not admitting my mistake! Again, my apologies to the band, label and fans.