In December of 1988 I was in Belfast, Northern Ireland…again. Away from my friends, and my girlfriend…again. These trips always seemed to come at the worst times. Hey, I’ll never begrudge being able to fly free whenever I wanted (thank you, Dad. R.I.P.), but still for a teenager like me, I didn’t realize just how good I had it. As far as KEEL goes, the only thing I knew about them was that I had a 33” single of “Somebody’s Waiting” from their self-titled fourth album. And that was thrown in with my purchase at one of the record stores back in the day. So they were pretty much filed away.
Fast forward to Christmas Eve 1988. Me, and all my cousins are doing the gift exchange thing at my Uncle George and Aunt Nora’s (R.I.P. to both of you) house in Belfast, right? My younger cousin Lee hands me a gift-wrapped tape, and it’s KEEL’S latest record. I couldn’t wait to get upstairs into my own room and blast this bitch in my (at the time) state-of-the-art Walkman. Right away “United Nations” spoke to me, and I knew this band was for real. “Somebody’s Waiting” is one I gave another shot and it definitely grew on me. But the real magic on this tape came in “Cherry Lane” and “Calm Before the Storm.” Hold on, I’ll explain…
See, “Cherry Lane” has the kind of hook that I still find myself singing out of nowhere, and “Calm Before the Storm”…..well, that’s just one of my favorite love songs since the first time I heard it in cousin Renee’s car on one of our many shopping trips to town. When I was 15, I saw myself as a romantic. At 25, I was more of a lothario. But even now at 45, this is a song that still hits me where it hurts, and I am immediately transported to Uncle George and Aunt Nora’s house. “King of the Rock” is straight-ahead kickassery, while “It’s a Jungle Out There” opens things up and explores something new.
“I Said the Wrong Thing to the Right Girl” is one of this record’s best cuts, and it once again features a chorus I still find myself singing 31 years later. “Don’t Say You Love Me” features vocalist Ron Keel having fun on the verses before bearing down on the choruses, while “If Love Is a Crime (I Wanna Be Convicted)” is the quintessential 80’s kickass rocker. If you don’t wanna get in your Camaro and blast this bitch then I feel sorry for you! “4th of July” is a cool closer because not only does it take off with killer riffs, but it also has a nice big hook that I headbanged to my whole trip.
When all was said and done I had a great time hanging out with my family in Belfast, many of whom are no longer with us. But I also got to make out with a couple of foine Irish lasses on that trip. And while I was busy playing pool and kissing girls, KEEL’S self-titled cassette was always in my Walkman. But aside from that, this record will always represent a time in my life when I didn’t have a care in the world and got to fly halfway across the globe to see my family.whenever I wanted. Still, “Calm Before the Storm” is a masterpiece. So, for all of the above reasons, and the memories I take to the grave, this will forever be in Classic Albums ~dc