Tommy Keene – Tommy Keene You Hear Me (CD review)

Tommy Keene – Tommy Keene You Hear Me – A Retrospective 1983-2009 (Second Motion) – CD review –

Whether it’s bad luck, improper promotion or an ill-fated choice of producers, Tommy Keene should have been huge.  Tommy Keene You Hear Me (an obvious reference to one of his influences, the Who), is the first collection to span his entire career, and it goes a long way toward presenting a case of what should have been.

So much of what Keene has written over the years seems primed for radio: catchy hooks, jangly chords and memorable choruses, and this collection is full of ‘em, from start to finish.  In fact, you’d be hard pressed to name another artist that has been this consistent for last 26 years.  The set is sequenced chronologically, and begins with five cuts from EPs he recorded for the North Carolina Dolphin label; tracks that garnered high praise from the likes of Rolling Stone at the time.  The remaining songs on disc one are taken from Tommy’s tenuous stint with Geffen records, who essentially dropped the ball on turning Keene into a rock star.  “Call on Me” and “Run Now” are incredibly powerful singles, while “My Mother Looked Like Marilyn Monroe” gets the vote for strangest song title.

Disc two follows Keene as he goes from major-label should-have-been back to his indie roots, taking samples of his Matador, SpinArt, and Eleven Thirty releases.  Even though he was recording for smaller labels, the quality of songs never wavered.  A good example of his latter day sound is “Good Thing Going,” from Ten Years After.  Even if you already own everything Keene has recorded, there’s still several juicy nuggets, including the original Don Dixon-version of “Gold Town” before Geoff Emerick ruined it, an alternate version of “Black and White New York,” and an unreleased cover of 20/20’s “Leaving Your World Behind.”  Even though you may have never heard of this guy, this is not niche music – it’s straight ahead rock n’ roll, and definitely worth a listen. –Tony Peters