Ron Keel built a name for himself in his first heavy metal band Steeler which also included an unknown guitarist named Yngwie Malmsteen. After the demise of Steeler vocalist Ron Keel drafted guitarists Marc Ferrari and Bryan Jay, bassist Kenny Chaisson, and drummer Dwain Miller to form Keel. The band's first album, Lay Down the Law, was released by Shrapnel Records and attracted the attention of Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, who was at the time investing a lot of time and energy into new, young metal bands. He helped the band get a contract with MCA and in turn the band released a few minor hits and helped to build the ever growing popularity of hair metal on MTV in the 80's. After a brief reunion for 1998's Back in Action, singer Ron Keel reinvented himself as a country singer, going under the moniker Ronnie Lee Keel.

Lay Down the Law Keel - Lay Down the Law (Shrapnel Records) 1984

1. Thunder and Lightning (3:32)
2. Lay Down the Law (3:46)
3. Speed Demon (3:37)
4. Princess of Illusion (4:02)
5. Born Ready (3:07)
6. Metal Generation (2:59)
7. Till Hell Freezes Over (4:25)
8. Tonight You're Mine (2:59)
9. Let's Spend the Night Together (5:07)

Heavy Metal favorites Steeler, who were fronted by Ron Keel, broke up after guitar shredder and legendary egomaniac Yngwie Malmsteen left to form Alcatrazz. As such, frontman Ron Keel assembled his own band, KEEL, and put together a line-up of accomplished musicians that included guitarists Marc Ferrari and Bryan Jay, drummer Bobby Marks and bassist Kenny Chaisson. This was the line-up that recorded the band's debut album, "Lay Down the Law", for Shrapnel Records. Pre-dating much of the hair metal that came out of California in the 80's, "Lay Down the Law" wasn't glam rock, or sleazy heavy metal. Rather, it was just pure, traditional American heavy metal. The band had a lot of 70's influences, though their sound is clearly that of the 80's. The title track is easily one of the bands finest, while "Speed Demon" is pure U.S. speed metal. This track in particular hold to a similar sound as Ron's former band Steeler. Likewise, "Metal Generation" and "Tonight You're Mind" sound like they could have been recorded for a sophomore Steeler album. (On a side note, I find it amusing that many metal fans today wouldn't even consider this metal but "just hard rock". I obviously disagree. ) "Til Hell Freezes Over" shows a more melodic side to the band. Likewise, "Princess of Illusion" is a haunting and dark, acoustic based ballad. Ron switches vocal techniques on this song, singing in a lower, baritone style. Personally I think his higher, screaming vocals are better. The album finishes off with "Let's Spend the Night Together", a Rolling Stones cover that the band makes sound like their own original number.

"Lay Down the Law" has never had an official CD release and has been previously only been released on cassette tape and vinyl. In 2008, an official digi version of the CD was finally released. Unfortunately no booklet was included, though there is a biography in the foldout digi, as well as the original cover art and liner notes.

Right To Rock Keel - The Right to Rock (Metal Mayhem) 1985

1. The Right To Rock (3:35)
2. Back To the City (3:47)
3. Let's Spend the Night Together (3:41)
4. Easier Said Than Done (3:25)
5. So Many Girls, So Little Time (3:15)
6. Electric Love (4:05)
7. Speed Demon (3:39)
8. Get Down (5:02)
9. You're the Victim (I'm the Crime) (2:57)
BONUS TRACK
10. Easier Said Than Done [remix] (3:17)

Keel promo
Keel 8x10 promo photo

Coming off a fairly successful debut and an explosive album with Yngwie Malmsteen and Steeler, Ron Keel and his spandex clad band release their sophomore album. Keel are often lumped into the glam category, but frankly, "The Right to Rock" is pure American heavy metal. The album was produced by Gene Simmons of Kiss who manages to give the band a raw, toothy sound. Of course Gene was at the time on the lookout for the next Van Halen, which Keel would never become. However, the band possesses an ego and attitude that is felt in the music, especially veteran vocalist Ron Keel. Ron's vocals have that same desperate sound that made Kevin DuBrow such an entertaining frontman. As well, Guitarists Bryan Jay and Marc Ferrari are accomplished players, even if the riffs here are pretty simple. For the most part the songs are pretty memorable and anthemic. The title track, "Easier Said Than Done", "So Many Girls..." all have that sing-along quality to the choruses that made 80's metal so endearing. "Speed Demon" is an uptempo track that recalls the classic Steeler material, complete with a smokin' guitar lead. The only song that I don't think works all that well is the cover of the Rolling Stones "Let's Spend the Night Together". The song sort of breaks up the momentum of the album in my opinion. Of course the lyrics were dumb and cheesy. It was the 80's! It wasn't all about anger and hate, it was about having a good time and enjoying life. As such, a big of hunk of cheddar is enjoyable every now and then.

"The Right To Rock" was originally released in 1985 on A&M Records on vinyl and cassette tape. The only official CD pressing that existed was a very limited edition Japanese pressing. The CD was finally re-released on Metal Mayhem in 2000 with a newly mixed version of "Easier Said than Done". Personally, I don't think this version really adds anything to the original and was just an attempt to make is look like a bonus track was added. The four page insert includes new liner notes from Ron Keel. (thanks Vexer6)

Keel Keel (MCA) 1987

1. "United Nations" (3:58)
2. "Somebody's Waiting" (3:10)
3. "Cherry Lane" (3:10)
4. "Calm Before the Storm" (4:30)
5. "King of the Rock" (3:20)
6. "It's A Jungle Out There" (3:55)
7. "I Said the Wrong Thing To the Right Girl" (4:10)
8. "Don't Say You Love Me" (3:25)
9. "If Love Is A Crime (I Wanna Be Convicted)" (3:20)
10. "4th of July" (3:45)

Ex-Steeler vocalist leads his new band down a more commercial metal avenue than the rabid heavy metal of his former band. Back in the day I shrugged this guy off as a sellout and poser. Of course, it is quite obvious that Keel wanted to break into the mainstream with this Dokken-esque hair metal. Years later, however, I really don't care what Keel's motivation was in making this disc. The point is, this is a good album. The musicianship is tight, the songwriting is captivating and Keel's vocals are velvety smooth. One thing that can be said of hair metal is that the artists generally were excellent musicians and knew how to play their instruments. That is not something that can be said of popular music in the first few years of the new millennium since guitar solos, skill, and musicianship has become unpopular. Musically, the Dokken comparison is pretty accurate. Despite the fact that this disc is self titled, Keel was the band's fourth release.

Larger than Live Keel - Larger Than Live (D-Rock) 1989

Large (All New)
1. Evil, Wicked, Mean & Nasty (4:23)
2. Riding High (3:25)
3. Die Fighting (4:43)
4. Dreams Are Not Enough (4:16)
5. So Many Good Ways to Be Bad (4:08)
6. Fool for a Pretty Face (4:18)
Live
7. Hard as Hell (4:07)
8. Rock and Roll Animal (6:16)
9. Private Lies (4:37)
10. Rock 'n Roll Outlaw (4:13)
11. The Right to Rock (6:05)
12. Cold Day in Hell (5:15)

"Larger Than Live" was Keel's fifth album and their last gasp at life after a five years together with little fan fare. This '89 release contains six new studio recordings, including a cover of Humble Pie's "Fool for a Pretty Face". Also on the album were six live tracks which includes the Steeler track "Cold Day in Hell", a killer track from the short daze of Keel and Malmsteen. The live tracks were recorded live at The Roxy in West Hollywood, CA in March 1989. "Larger than Live" is the only album to feature keyboardist Scott Warren and guitarist Tony Palamucci, who had replaced exiting guitarist Marc Ferrari. Apparently guitarist Bryan Jay is absent from the studio tracks, though he is heard on the live tracks. 

The studio tracks are exactly what anyone might expect from Keel. The first two tracks are straight-forward LA heavy metal with solid hooks, while "Die Fighting" is a little slower with a big, shout-along chorus. Because of a slightly rawer production the first two tracks come off a bit heavier than anything Keel had done in a while. As might be expected, the lyrics are a bit cliché, but this is rock and roll, not rocket science, so the good-time lyrics are quite enjoyable nonetheless. Of course there is the obligatory ballad in "Dreams Are Not Enough". This is probably the worst track of the six new songs. The studio side of this release ends with a cool cover of Humble Pie's "Fool for a Pretty Face".

On the live side we get new songs called "Hard As Hell" and "Private Lies", the aforementioned Steeler song and three older songs with "ROCK" in the title. Of the two new songs, "Hard As Hell" is an upbeat heavy metal anthem that could have been recorded for "Lay Down the Law". The lryics are corny falling right in line with Kiss' equally cheesy "(You Make Me) Rock Hard". "Private Lies" is a mid-paced glam rocker with some nice guitar worked peppered throughout the song. 

Following this release the band disbanded for several years. 

Back in Action Keel - VI: Back in Action (DeRock) 1998

1.      Back In Action (3:00)
2.      Reason To Rock (3:13)
3.      United Nations (4:11)
4.      Friday Every Night (3:27)
5.      Reach Out And Rock Somebody (3:16)
6.      Hold Your Head Up (3:11)
7.      Proud To Be Loud (3:36)
8.      Answers In Your Eyes (4:17)
9.      Lay Down The Law '84 (3:56)
10.     Speed Demon '84 (4:10)

"Back in Action" is the 1998 reunion album from Keel, their first to feature the classic lineup since their self-titled 1987 album. The line-up was: Ron Keel: vocals, guitar, keyboards, Bryan Jay: lead guitar, vocals, Mark Ferrari: lead guitar, vocals, Kenny Chaisson: bass, vocals and Dwain Miller: drums, vocals.

The album is an odds and sods release as it features rare, unreleased tracks from the band's previous studio sessions, plus a cover of the Argent song "Hold Your Head Up." The cover, while well done, is probably the least interesting track on the album. One of the most interesting of the bunch is "Proud To Be Loud", a song also recorded by Pantera on their "Power Metal" album. The song was originally written during the 1987 session in 1987 and recorded by Keel, but didn't make the cut by then producer Michael Wagener. The song was penned by guitarist Mark Ferrari would eventually produce Pantera's "Power Metal" album in 1988. The song is classic Keel and is pure LA heavy metal. It's a shame that the song didn't make the cut back when it counted.  "Reach Out and Rock Somebody" is a heavy rocker with a big, meaty hook. "Speed Demon '84" is a speedy heavy metal romp in the vein of Ron Keel's former band Steeler. The song also appears on "Lay Down the Law" (1984) and "The Right To Rock" (1985). "Lay Down The Law '84" is apparently a demo version of the popular Keel song, or perhaps the same version that appeared on the 1984 album of the same name.

Though some may accuse Keel of having jumped on the reunion bandwagon, there really wasn't much of a bandwagon for this style of music in 1998. Regardless of the year it was released, the music rocks like it was 1988 with nary a hint of popular trends.

Streets... Keel - Streets Of Rock and Roll  (Frontiers Records) 2010

1.      Streets of Rock & Roll (4:47)
2.      Hit the Ground Running (3:51)
3.      Come Hell Or High Water (4:00)
4.      Push & Pull (4:58)
5.      Does Anybody Believe (4:32)
6.      No More Lonely Nights (4:19)
7.      The Devil May Care (4:23)
8.      Looking for a Good Time (3:26)
9.      Gimme That (3:31)
10.     Hold Steady (3:55)
11.     Live (4:46)
12.     Brothers in Blood (3:52)

On November 2008, Keel reunited to celebrate the band's 25th anniversary and performed a show in Hollywood, CA. The core of the band, Ron Keel, Marc Farrari and Brian Jay were back, as well as "The Right to Rock"-era drummer Dwayne miller.  Original bassist Kenny Chaisson was replaced by new bassist Geno Arce. A little over a year later the band's first reunion studio album was released titled "Streets of Rock and Roll".

For the most part, Keel stayed true to the roots and have delivered an album that is not a blatant attempt at something more modern. There are no down-tuned guitars or ill-fated attempts at nu-metal, modern rock or country. (After all, Ronnie Lee Keel also tried his hand at country music.) Rather the music on "Streets" is melodic, feel-good, hard, rock and roll. Just about every song has a nice hook, big chorus and sing-along, feel-good lyrics. The guitar tandem of Marc Farrari and Brian Jay are still in place, both cranking out some ferocious guitar leads. I've long been of the opinion that both these guys are two of the most underrated players to come out of that L.A. scene in the 80's. Even the ballad, "Does Anybody Believe" is a fun, feel-good song. Quite frankly, the entire disc is an enjoyable listen. However, it's also mostly mellow and safe. Songs like "Hit the Ground Running" and "Live" are feel-good rock and roll and are not far off from something Journey might record. "I wanna live, I wanna rock! Wanna chase my dreams and never stop." I suppose this can be chalked up to maturity. After all, Keel aren't exactly the same young L.A. guns that they were in the 80's and neither is their fan base. Still, I would have preferred a few more aggressive, harder edged tunes like the upbeat "Come Hell or High Waters." This song probably comes the closest to the heavy metal classics like "Speed Demon". Despite my preference for something edgier, I still quite enjoyed this album. It's a solid reunion album from Keel.

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