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Still Climbing

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★★★★½
(24 Reviews)

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  • Your record company (and you too) are disappointed with your last album’s sales. Your mother dies of cancer. You’re a singer and have throat surgery. This is just the most basic summary of what the situation was like for Cinderella’s singer, songwriter, and lead guitar player Tom Keifer as the band tried to put this album together. They were some of the factors at work.What comes out of this is an album with a decidedly dark and agressive aspect. Mercury tried to hype it as a return to the old Cinderella “attitude”. Clearly they pushed for a record closer to “Night Songs” and “Long Cold Winter” feeling it would be more commercially viable. What they got though was a record that is almost sinister at times. This vibe is achieved largely through the first three songs. “Bad Attitude Shuffle” is just a great kiss off song, and uses the f-bomb for the first time on a Cinderella record. “Take Is Cheap” and “All Comes Down” follow in a moody, (…angry) vein. What follows is “Hard To Find The Words” which is Tom’s song for his recently departed mother. “Blood From A Stone” is another song which talks about futility and being in tough times and is another raised middle finger to the world. This is not late 80’s party music. It’s hard rock but it’s dark without quite being metal. The sound is different too. There is quite literally a wall of guitars on each track. The pianos and horns are still there but it seems as if Cinderella were told to up the guitar quotient. It’s as if Phil Spector had produced in a way. There are weaving lead guitars throughout most of the album which also contribute to a feeling of oppresiveness and confusion. The angst Tom Keifer must be feeling is almost there for you to touch.That is not to say though that the entire album is dark. “Still Climbing” is an excellent track that while sonically similar to the album’s first half manages to be a self-affirming song about keepig going in the toughest times. “Freewheelin’” is a Cinderella song from before they were ever signed and “Easy Come Easy Go” could gave been off of the band’s “Long Cold Winter” album. They’re both more positive rockers that sandwich “Through The Rain” which is a more uplifting ballad. It touches a similar point as “Still Climbing”. “The Road’s Still Long” concludes the album proper and is a song about dealing with life and thinking you know what it’s all about. Obviously this was partly inspired by Tom’s mother’s death as well. It was written with help from Andy Johns who was supposed to produce the album. Finally it comes to a close with “Hot & Bothered” from the Wayne’s World soundtrack. This was recorded a few years before and is probably the closest hint at what Cinderella’s fourth release would have been if not for Tom’s throat problems and the loss of his mother. As such though “Hot & Bothered” sounds completely out of place.Overall it’s a fine album but for Cinderella fans such as myself it’s a tough listen. Tom’s voice is noticably different as he was still recovering from throat problems, there is the prevailing darkness of the album’s first half, and the sound itself is a lot more busy and less streamlined than the band’s earlier efforts. It doesn’t make it any worse of an album, but it sure is different.At the time I didn’t know of Tom’s throat problems, and I figured out the death of his mother from “Hard To Find The Words”. It was a VERY powerful first listening, but also shocking as aurally it’s quite different from the band’s first three albums. It doesn’t fit their musical progression. I believe that commercial pressures and Tom’s personal problems explain this. As such it is Cinderella’s most intimate records in some ways as you can really tell what’s going on with the band.Ultimately I think the record has so much truth and heart, and rocks so hard, that it is must hear for people who enjoyed Cinderella’s chart topping days or like hard rock in general. There are lessons to be learned here.

    Posted on November 22, 2009