Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kelly Keeling ~ Giving Sight To The Eye

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: hard rock, pop rock
Label: Mascot Records
Year: 2005
Home: Louisiana

Members: Kelly Keeling ~ vocals/guitar/bass/keyboards/flute

Guests: Carmine Appice ~ drums/b. vocals
Vinnie Appice, John Perrine, Shane Gaalaas, Richard Mann ~ drums
Tony Franklin ~ bass
Roger Daltrey, Don Dokken ~ b. vocals
Kerry Livgren, Wayne Hammerly, Pat Regan ~ keyboards
John Norum, Danny Johnson, Wayne Findlay, Drake Bell, Danny Johnson ~ guitar
Bernie Smith ~ trombone
Denny Laine ~ rhythm guitar/b. vocals


You may not be familiar with AOR/hard rock singer/songwriter & multi-instrumentalist KK, though his career has included frontman or session guest with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Alice Cooper, Dokken, John Norum's Blue Murder, all three Carmine Appice's Guitar Zeus albums, O'2L with Megadeth's Al Pitrelli, Erik Norlander, Lana Lane, Paris Keeling, George Lynch, Michael Schenker Group, Baton Rouge & King Kobra with the array of superstar musicians gracing these projects being a mind-numbingly impressive list. Some of these all star players of the past were called in to add some salt & pepper to KK's his first & so far only solo album, the Who-esque titled Giving Sight To The Eye, including mixing by Yes's Billy Sherwood & work at prog-keyboardist Erik Norlander's studio. It all adds up to quite an impressive resume for a guy you may not be familiar with even if Baton Rouge graced MTV so long ago. Which obviously begs the question ... should you make the effort to dig into the under-rated world of KK? Absolutely! Giving Sight To The Eye might be the best starting point for his career as KK pulls out all the different aspects of his varied efforts for examination & revisiting including varied musical & vocal styles. But, first the problems with this revisit. No, it's not top-heavy with guest stars, which is often the problem with solo albums, as none of them dominate the songs but instead become another dash of pepper in the salad. Some might even feel that the guests have been under-utilized being relegated to just another layer in the mix. Certainly one doesn't want to hear The Who's Roger Daltrey as a backing vocalist but considering how much KK feels & sings like him on so many tracks its enjoyable hearing him honoring his student by not dominating. No, the main problem is that the album, both with a wide & small critical lense, feels more like a compilation, such as a greates hits collection, than a cohesive whole. Like the linear notes that look like a scrapbook the album feels much the same. Considering many songs were written during KK's previous efforts in some ways it might actually be a greatest hits collection. While, on the other hand, that there's no dominant feeling allows KK to stretch himself far beyond what he could ever do with any band proving his worth not just as a singer-songwriter but also as a pianist & a really great & adventuresome guitarist. Thus comes one of the important things a band does - it allows one's individual quirks & excesses to be tempered by one's bandmates or one's limitations to not be a hurdle. For example, Jimmy Page is a great guitarist but it's the arranging skills of bassist John Paul Jones that focused Page's meanderings in Led Zeppelin ... the lack of focus being a noticeable problem Page & Robert Plant's Walking Into Clarksdale plus Page's own generally weak solo output. KK stretches himself but Giving Sight To The Eye needs a producer to reign in & focus. Not just do the tracks feel disjointed from each other, jumping between differing styles & moods with little obvious flow, but the individual arrangements themselves could do with a bit of 'less is more' philosophy as many of them suffer from internal disjunction. KK is trying to throw out every Trump card he has. He wants to prove himself, it's obvious, but is so intent on it that he overworks when he should step back & the output fails when it should succeed. Opener "Rising Of The Snake" is the best example of this problem as KK takes all the guitar duties & puts in a flight of fancy that would make Yngmie freakout ... but there are so many overdubs, particularly within the solo, that it sounds like a tribe of guitarists in a guitar battle trading licks. It ends up sounding more like a Jeff Beck in a crazy nose dive ... if not a Spinal Tap moment ... taking a great riff & song in too many places instead of letting the riff sink in first & then accentuating it versus riding over it & loosing the feeling. This is a common problem with many songs. At first listen one just hears an onslaught of powerful music ... but without an identity to remember. Later listens actually bring out how great so many of the songs are. KK has a strong classic rock approach & shines as he pulls out some prog & hard rock & lots of ballads. As a songwriter he suffers from vagueness & abstract ideas not always easy to decipher, somewhat typical of rock music, but his arrangements make up for the vagueness. But, then, as one begins to feel just how great the songs groove one also feels how cluttered & lost in the shuffle the groove is. A refrain on some of the instrumentation would make this nothing less than a collection of potential AOR radio singles yearning to be heard. But, it should be noted that the cluttering isn't necessarily a detriment in the long run as it forces one to want to go back & relisten & relisten ... demonstrating how one should never judge an album on a single listen. It also makes one want to see KK do an album with less ornamentation & instrumentation, such as just him & a piano or small band like his live work with Paris Keeling that dots youtube. This theoretical future release with Giving Sight To The Eye would make perfect bookends to the KK experience truly showing all of his potential & creativity. "Parasite" has the crawl of later day Steve Morse Deep Purple, making up where "Rising Of The Snake" flies wrong, while there's the funky organ of "Broken", some modest prog-rock with "Ground Zero" & unexpected country on the too brief closer "Jesse". To truly hear how great these songs are it might take listening of others covering KK's songs. The quasi-ballad "Perfect Day" is one example where it's strengths are in full blossom & one is singing along in a newly recorded & released version featuring former KK bandmates legendary drummer Carmine Appice & former Firm bassist Tony Franklin from the forthcoming KK tribute album Tune In To Mind Radio. Considering KK has spent his career along the sides of others it's almost ironic that his songs might be best handled by others. This doesn't mean one shouldn't check out Giving Sight To The Eye ... much to the contrary, as no matter how others handle a song only the songwriter can give it the true personal touch. KK is just trying to hard when he doesn't have to & needs to let the music bubble to a boil without helping it at every step. Listening to this collection one knows that the music can & will. I almost feel sad writing something bad about the album as after numerous listens I can clearly hear its potential. But, it should be mentioned that not all the blame for its faults should be laid at KK's door. His original mixes were not liked by the label so the album was remixed by an outsider before pressing. A good mix would certainly be a step towards cleaning up a lot of the internal disjunction as it would turn the parts that dominate into parts that mearly accentuate. In the meantime Giving Sight To The Eye should inspire one to hunt up KK's under-rated music.

(featured on the World Of Trans-Siberian Orchestra podcast: episode 71 "Vocalist Spotligh: Kelly Keeling," March 2012, click here to listen)


2 comments:

  1. I had such a small budget I was not able to work or pay a band which is why I used older material--and it is a sort of best of--compilation--Also the overdub sounds ideas of solos is due to the mixer in Holland comping the solos--and cutting and pasting--there were solos that went all the way through on Rising Of The Snake--I believe Is My Mix and the best mix on the album besides Perfect Day which was mixed by Pat Regan...It was tough to complete having just signed on with new management and had demands and distractions there-I'm doing another one now and it sounds like the same artist-0-I was green and had goals of One day Redoing Ground Zero with KErry Livgeren and I did it..on many levels it was a personal goal to do what I achived here..i wasn't looking for national acclaim..it was something I wanted to do for me..kelly keeling

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    1. Hey Mind Radio. Might want to check out this new review I did of the new Kelly Keeling tribute album ... I HOPE YOU like it or appreciate what I have to say about KK. http://romanmidnightmusic.blogspot.com/2013/02/tune-in-to-mind-radio-tribute-to-multi.html

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