RON KEEL BAND
FIGHT LIKE A BAND
Released on February 23, 2019 (EMP Label Group)
If we’re not going to get a new Keel studio album, we might as well get a Ron Keel Band record. It’s the next best thing and possibly almost the same thing. Indeed, Keel‘s last studio album Streets of Rock & Roll dates back to 2010 and Larger Than Life, the one before, dates back to 1989 and half of the tracks on that one are live recordings. I don’t count Keel‘s 1998 album Keel VI: Back In Action as a proper studio record since it contained rare and unreleased tracks from the band’s previous studio sessions plus one cover song. Quite simply, although I loved Keel back in the day and especially the records The Right To Rock (1985), The Final Frontier (1986) and Keel (1987), it’s been a long time between albums ever since. All this to say, I was excited to see the Ron Keel Band release their debut album Fight Like A Band and hoping that it would really be a Keel record in disguise!
The verdict? Yes and no. There are definitely some Keel sounding tracks on Fight Like A Band and you still have Ron Keel‘s trademark and distinctive vocal delivery as well as his songwriting. However, there are also quite a bit of country sounding tracks and one in particular that sounds like Bon Jovi (hence the term Ron Jovi). I must confess that as soon as my purchased CD arrived in the mail and I finally saw the song list, I fast forwarded to the remakes of the Keel tracks at the end of the album.
Two things struck me as I listened to the sampling of Keel tracks — the “Because The Night” and “Somebody’s Waiting” medley, the ballad “Tears of Fire” and the ultimate Keel anthem “The Right To Rock.” The first thing was that those are great songs and they reminded me how much I loved Keel back in the day and really how I put them on par (at the time) with all of the other bands out there in the late ’80s. The second thing that struck me was that Ron Keel still has a good voice but has lost his power and range to some extent. It surely hit home when I heard Ron Keel‘s subdued and more baritone delivery of the opening classic scream on “The Right To Rock.” I am not sure why the Ron Keel Band decided to include those four re-recorded Keel tracks on their debut album as it’s tough enough selling new music to the public, it’s even harder when the public can literally compare the new material to some of the best (re-recorded) songs that Ron Keel‘s previous band had come up with.
That being said, I enjoy most of the Ron Keel Band‘s debut album. There’s a lot to like on this record starting with the opening track “Road Ready” which starts with a really nice keyboard intro before the song launches into familiar Keel like material. It’s definitely one of the best tracks on the album. “Fight Like A Band” is a decent song but lacks a bit of punch and could have been played at a slightly faster pace. Nevertheless, the track has some nice melodies to it. I am not going to go track by track for this record but will mention the best and worse songs on the album. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. There’s a reason that Ron Keel uses the “Metal Cowboy” moniker and has the words tattooed on his arms. He plays metal and country rock, and that combo can be heard on quite a few tracks on Fight Like A Band. Sometimes, the songs turn out pretty good such as “Long Way Home” and “Fire Rain”, and sometimes, the tracks fall a bit flat such as “Good Songs Bad Times” and the very Bon Jovi country phase sounding “Just A Cowboy.” Those last two tracks are just too country for my liking and I have a hard time getting through them even if there are some good melodies to them.
Getting back to the great songs on Fight Like A Band, “Girls Like Me” seems to be the Ron Keel Band‘s answer to Cinderella‘s “Shelter Me.” It’s a peppy upbeat number with lots of keyboards and tons of background vocals from (it appears) the band members’ various significant others. One song that I absolutely love is “Old School.” The track has a real story telling feel to it, an engaging chorus and some nice melodies to it. Perhaps the most surprising song was “Hey Man” which closes off the record after the four re-recorded Keel songs. I would have thought that it would have been very difficult to follow up “The Right To Rock” but the slower paced “Hey Man” works really well and has a Bon Jovi “Wanted Dead Or Alive” feel to it. I’d love to see the Ron Keel Band release a video for any of the three aforementioned tracks, which I consider to be the best ones on Fight Like A Band.
Overall, the Ron Keel Band deliver a strong debut album. Although Ron Keel‘s voice might have changed over the years and he’s not able to hit the same notes as he did during The Right To Rock, he sounds great on the Ron Keel Band material because he kept his vocals within the range that he’s good at now. If you like the slower paced Keel material with some country music thrown in the mix, odds are that you’ll really enjoy the Ron Keel Band‘s debut album.
01. Road Ready
02. Fight Like A Band
03. Rock N Roll Guitar
04. Long Way Down
05. Hearts Gone Wild
06. Good Songs Bad Times
07. Girls Like Me
08. Fire In The Rain
09. Just A Cowboy
10. Old School
11. Because The Night / Somebody’s Waiting (Keel medley)
12. Tears of Fire
13. The Right To Rock
14. Hey Man
Ron Keel – voice, electric and acoustic guitars
Dave “DC” Cothern – lead guitar, electric and acoustic guitars, vocals
Geno “El Diablo” Arce – bass. vocals
Jeff “The Rev” Koller – drums, percussion, vocals
“Dakota” Scott Schmidt – keyboards, vocals
Steve “Doc” Purcell – lead and rhythm guitar (4, 9)
Mike Dresch – additional backing vocals, additional guitars
Brandon Beck – additional backing vocals
Bruce Sinkler – additional backing vocals
Rachel Claus – additional backing vocals (07)
Laurie Koller – additional backing vocals (07)
Karie Arce – additional backing vocals (07)
Renee Keel – additional backing vocals (07)
Jennifer Vince – additional backing vocals (07)
Eli Dykstra – end solo (03)
Executive producers: Thom Hazaert and David Ellefson
Produced by Mike Dresch and Ron Keel
Recorded and mixed by Mike Dresch
Mastered by Rich Renken
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, May 2019
Ron Keel Band‘s “Fight Like A Band” video:
The debut single/video/title track from FIGHT LIKE A BAND – after 13K views the first week on social media, now available to view on YouTube – http://ronkeelband.com
Ron Keel Band‘s “Road Ready” lyric video:
From the FIGHT LIKE A BAND album, released March 1 2019