CD Review: Keel – The Right To Rock (25th Anniversary)

KeelKeel may not have achieved the same success as their contemporaries, but for a brief moment in time they stood as a benchmark for what rock could really be. Originally released on March 26th, 1985, The Right To Rock brought the boys of Keel to the forefront of metal. In fact, in Metal Edge Magazine’s 2nd annual readers’ poll they were given the distinction of Best Band of the Year, ahead of such bands as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. And 25 years later there is no mistaking why the album created such a stir.

Opening with the title track and Keel’s best-known creation, The Right to Rock is anthem metal that has most definitely stood the test of time. Ron Keel gets right to it with his trademark guttural scream that would make The Beastie Boys, “Fight for Your Right ” go scampering into the woods to quietly die. Though, in The Beastie’s defense, Keel does explain in his opening lyric, “All my life I’ve been fighting” and from start to finish there is no doubt that Ron Keel has had to fight to get where he is and he’s taking no prisoners. But while Keel’s vocals are indeed infectious, it is Marc Ferrari’s lead guitar that really holds this album together and keeps you wanting more. In fact, while listening you may not be able to accept that his solos weren’t laid down more recently than 1985.

On, “So Many Girls, So Little Time” Keel laments just that, but it’s Ferrari’s response to the refrain that really conveys just how terrible the pitfalls of fame and talent can be. Together Ferrari and Keel are the Richards and Jagger of their genre, illustrated best in their cover of The Stones, “Let’s Spend the Night Together”. What could have been a bad choice in covers becomes one of the standout tracks on an album full of gems.

There are a few throw away tunes here, most notably, “Get Down” which falters only because of its length and lack of the band’s regular formula full of proper amounts of charge and gusto. For the 25th anniversary reissue, Keel went back to the studio to remix, “Easier Said Than Done” and re-record, “The Right to Rock”, presumably to tempt the die hard fans into buying this already very good work of metal. For us casual listeners I would recommend sticking with the tried and true versions as the two bonus tracks are regrettable at best. The new version of the title track comes off a little subdued here, a bit over produced and measured. On “Easier Said Than Done”, Keel sings, “Ain’t got no second chances”… well, apparently he was wrong.

I recommend that Keel stick to something new (like the new CD, Streets Of Rock N Roll) and leave the past alone. There is no need to fix what isn’t broken.