Kelly Keeling's been around the block, more than a few times. Rising to somewhat obscure notoriety in Louisiana band Baton Rouge in the early Nineties, Keeling has been the journeyman vocalist for better than 25 years. He's appeared with Michael Schenker, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, John Norum, King Kobra. and recently with Heaven and Earth, to name a few gigs. Frankly, excepting that latter participation with which he is no longer associated with, Kelly has been under my radar.
But he arrives with his third solo album, Mind Radio, prepared for Frontiers Records. The album is largely a collaboration with Italian songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Alessandro Del Vecchio, which basically defines how the album will sound. Del Vecchio is Frontiers' go-to producer when they want create a solo album for a singer. While his background is AOR melodic rock, most anything he writes and produces has a definite European melodic rock slant. Combine these things and you get the Del Vecchio sound. Most everything thing he writes, arranges, and produces sounds the same. You could take the songs, the music, from this album, pull out Keeling, and drop in any singer you wish. Excepting the vocals, it's almost a cookie-cutter, widget stamping, production where one size fits all. Yet, despite all this, Del Vecchio is very good at what he does, so in the case of Keeling and Mind Radio, you still get some first class tunes. And I'd like to believe Del Vecchio wrote these songs with Keeling in mind. Or perhaps, Keeling himself assisted in the songwriting, which could swerve the Frontiers-Del Vecchio sound towards his style. Either is an unknown.
But I've said little about Keeling at this point. His voice is melodic, with a bit of a rasp, some slight roughness, but also informed by a passionate blues feel. Whether he's rocking out or singing something more soothing like Love Will Tear Us Apart, you feel the soul in his voice and the breadth of his range. And this is where Keeling is at his best. While most everything rocks hard, there are tunes that sway between heaviness and lighter moderation allowing Keeling to display his passion and range. These Include Frozen In Time, Sunshine Over Me, and Still Need You In My Arms, by example. A few final words. Under Del Vecchio's command the production is, as usual, flawless, crisp and vital, and the associated studios musicians deliver the talent. I only wonder what this album would have sounded like with Keeling at the helm, a producer himself, with American musicians in an American studio. Perhaps different, perhaps not. That's where Del Vecchio is the master ubiquitous chameleon of melodic hard rock.
Kelly Keeling brings his third solo album, Mind Radio, in collaboration with Italian songwriter and producer Alessandro Del Vecchio, which means you know what you're going to get: straight-forward and well-crafted, if not uniquely predictable, AOR melodic hard rock.
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