Philly’s Cinderella finds a bluesier vibe on Heartbreak Station

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MARCH 28, 1991

By Steve Newton

Mandolin, Jew’s harp, pedal steel guitar—those aren’t the kind of instruments you normally find in a hard-rock band’s arsenal. But you’ll find those and plenty more being utilized to great effect on the latest Cinderella album, because the band with the cutesy name has come a long way since it debuted as an image-heavy, glam-oriented act in ’86.

With its second album, 1988’s Long Cold Winter, the Philadelphia foursome quickly overcame the metal posturings of tunes like “Nobody’s Fool” and delivered a rugged, blues-based batch of tunes like “Gypsy Road” and “Falling Apart at the Seams”. Now the band has gone one better with the new Heartbreak Station, a meat ’n’ potatoes outing that mixes the raggedy R&B of Aerosmith with an AC/DC-like grind.

In other words, ya gotta like it.

“That’s kind of the sound that we’ve been striving for,” says lead vocalist Tom Keifer, who brings his band to the Pacific Coliseum next Saturday (April 7). “With each album we’re getting more and more into the bluesy thing. Plus we approached the production of the album more from instruments this time than effects and processing. The songs all had a certain feel to them, and it was obvious what kinda instruments would work with them.”

Keifer himself handles 6- and 12-string guitars, dobro, mandocello, lap steel, and piano on the latest release, and he makes good bluesy use of a National steel guitar during Heartbreak Station’s first video/single “Shelter Me”. But he didn’t pick up that down-home Delta style anywhere around his home town.

“You can’t really go see live blues in Philadelphia,” says Keifer, “so my roots for blues came from bands like Zeppelin and the Stones and Bad Company—that’s what I listened to as a kid. Then when I got a bit older and started playin’ guitar I listened to stuff like B.B. King and Muddy Waters.”

While Philly might not be much of a blues Mecca, Keifer claims that it wasn’t a great place to start up a hard-rock band, either. “To be honest, if you played in a hard-rock band, Philadelphia sucked. We didn’t even really play Philadelphia, you know, we played the surrounding areas in South Jersey and Northeast Philly. The clubs and radio stations weren’t very supportive of us in the beginning: it wasn’t their thing.

“But the fans are there for it,” he adds. “If a hard-rock band shows up in Philadelphia there’s 12,000, 15,000 people at the Spectrum cheering ’em on. I mean the first time we headlined the Spectrum we did 11,000 people.”

Judging from the progress made on its third album, Cinderella (gee, I hate that name) should be packing fans in for some time to come. A number of guest artists contributed to the current disc’s super sound, including former Uriah Heep keyboardist Ken Hensley, Andrew Love and Wayne Jackson (a.k.a. the Memphis Horns), and former Zep bassist John Paul Jones.

“We’re all big fans of John Paul Jones’s work, doing strings with Zeppelin and the Stones, so when we decided to have strings instead of synthesizers he was our first choice. It just so happened that when he heard the tunes he liked ’em, and wanted to do it. Lucky for us.”

With Heartbreak Station already joining the first two Cinderella albums in the platinum-plus zone, the band’s future is looking very rosy. Keifer and his mates got their first big push in the right direction when Jon Bon Jovi saw them perform in a Philly bar and reported his find to the powers that be at his record label, PolyGram. Not long after that Cinderella’s debut album was number three on the Billboard chart, and they were touring the world with the guy that helped them out.

Cinderella actually opened for Bon Jovi at B.C. Place during the latter’s New Jersey tour, and it was then that Keifer realized Canadian audiences were somewhat different than Yanks when it came to their aural appreciation of opening acts.

“I found that Canadians are a lot more conservative when you’re an opening act. When we were opening in the States we’d walk out on stage and the crowd was just wild, but in Canada they seemed more reserved. But when we came back as a headliner in Canada last year it was a completely different story. So I guess it’s like there’s only one band they wanna see when they come to the show.”

If Keifer’s assessment of Canuck audiences is true, it doesn’t bode well for Slaughter, the young band that’ll be warming things up for Cinderella here. But then they’ve already sold a million copies of their latest album, Stick It to Ya, so they probably aren’t too worried.

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