Frontiers Records [Release Date 03.07.15]
After his shambolic display spoiled Baton Rouge’s long awaited Firefest appearance a couple of years back, I did wonder whether we would hear again from Kelly Keeling, but the respected singer whose husky, bluesy tones have graced a range of projects over the years is back with his first solo album in over a decade.
This is a strange one, pairing him with Frontiers’ all-Italian in-house musicians, led by keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio and guitarist Mario Percudani. The music is typically melodic with clean guitar solos and keyboards to the fore, and occasionally they go off mid-song into almost a Kansas or Seventh Key direction with some quite progressive sounds. However despite trying his best, Kelly’s sandpaper vocal style is completely unsuited to the musical backing, which lacks a bottom end and is spoiled by a singularly feeble drum sound.
It comes over as a very contrived and inauthentic studio project. Recording vocals and music on different continents is not unusual these days in such a scenario but on this occasion it is almost as if the two have been wrongly matched together. Only on ‘Sunshine Over Me’ and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, both with a Joe Lynn Turner feel, does the combination really gel.
Yet among these disappointments are three excellent songs in ‘Written In Fire’, ‘Monkey House’ and ‘Who Do You Run To’. Co-written with Baton Rouge colleagues Jack Ponti and Lance Bulen, they sound like prime time Baton Rouge, very possibly being unreleased songs lying in the vaults and sonically very different from the rest of the album.
As with Ponti’s trademark work the production is meatier, the choruses more convincing and the big, rhythmic sound better suited to his voice. But it is a moot point whether they rescue the album or merely highlight that the rest of it does not work. **3/4
Review by Andy Nathan
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