Ok, so the name is fairly ridiculous. So is the over-the-top visual apparatus. But if you manage to get past these things, the band actually rocks plenty hard.
Cinderella were one of the bands packaged under «hair metal» in the mid-1980’s. Although not as famous as Poison or Motley Crüe, the band enjoyed a stint of MTV airplay and a reasonably long career that was recently rehashed with a few reunion tours. «Night Songs» was the album that started it all.
The «Night Songs» tour marked the first stable line-up for Cinderella, comprised of founding members Tom Keifer (vocals/guitar) and Jeff LaBar (guitar) as well as Eric Brittingham (bass) and Fred Coury (drums), who does not yet appear on the album. The names are fittingly «artistic» and I have serious doubts as to whether they’re the musicians’ real names, but that’s beyond the point here. (By the way, the drummer on «Night Songs» had the equally plastic name Jody Cortez). The point is that the album serves up a refined mix of typical LA hard/glam rock with prominent blues influences and a few metal tinges. Most importantly, due to this personal sound, the band manage to avoid sounding as plastic as other outfits at the time (Poison, for example). As later albums would show, this was what the guys really wanted to do: mix blues and hard rock to create a distinctive sound.
The album kicks off with the title track, perhaps the best cut on offer here. It carries us through with a driving drum pattern and arpeggioed chords that help transport us to one of those long, deserted American highways, as Keifer sings of seeking thrills and being broke. This is followed by the first single, «Shake Me», perhaps the more typically glam-rock song in the whole 10 cuts (unsurprising, since it was a single) and the awesome power ballad «Nobody’s Fool». Other highlights include the ripping, roaring «Hell On Wheels» and the fittingly bluesy «In From The Outside», which features a cameo from band menthor Jon Bon Jovi himself. The rest of the songs help round up an overall solid package that should please any stadium-rock fan.
1 – Night Songs – The album starts with some fairly clichéd bell and wind sounds that evolve into a driving drum pattern. Then the lead guitar comes in with a minimalistic riff, and you know something very good is on the way. Albeit somewhat clichéd, the lyrics manage to achieve the desired effect of taking us to a long lonely highway somewhere in the USA. Overall a great song, that gets added points for not overusing the chorus (an easy pitfall in the genre.) Excellent start to the album. (5/5)
2 – Shake Me – Chosen as a first single, perhaps because it’s the most generic song on the album. It sounds as though Brian Johnson were singing in Bon Jovi, and it features some great riffing, but in the long run it gets somewhat tiredsome. Still a great glam/rock song, but – as is usual with singles – there’s better on this album. (4,5/5)
3 – Nobody’s Fool – A great power ballad that mixes acoustic and electric riffing to superb effect. Obviously, this is as plastic as glam-rock gets, but that doesn’t deride the fact that it’s a great song. However, just like «Shake Me», it gets wearisome very quickly, mostly due to the repetition of the chorus. (4/5)
4 – Nothin’ For Nothin’ – At first, this will sound like the best song on the album. At least it did to me. But the fact is, there’s better. This does, however, have a good boogie rhythm section and an attractive chorus, which makes it a more than valid track to keep this album moving along. (4,5/5)
5 – Once Around The Ride – I can’t seem to be able to like this track, for some reason. It’s a fairly uninspired blues-rock song that is partially redeemed by a good guitar solo, but that ultimately interrupts what was until now a very good string of songs. Perhaps they should have placed it further on in the album and it would sound better. (1,5/5)
6 – Hell On Wheels – A surprisingly metallic song for a galm/blues rock group. The intro riff – with its start/stop drums – is closer to Bullet or Judas Priest than to Poison, in fact reminding us a lot of «Breaking The Law». As soon as the voice comes in, we know it’s Cinderella, but this remains a pleasant surprise for more metalhead listeners. (5/5)
7 – Save Me – A somewhat generic song that is neither better nor worse than other offerings on this and other albums of the time. Pure filler, and easy to overlook, but it nonetheless sports a good chorus. (3/5)
8 – In From The Outside – Featuring some lead vocals from Mr. Jon Bon Jovi himself, this is a pleasantly blues-tinged track, and not at all what you might expect from a plastic glam-rock band. Jon’s and Tom’s voices create a pleasant contrast, the first warm and soothing, the other screechy and high-pitched, and this helps the originality of the song. The lyrics are also very good, and overall this is another good surprise. (4,5/5)
9 – Push Push – An irresistibly glammy song about – you guessed it – sex All the trademarks of glam are here: driving guitars, strong drums, solid bass and a cheeky set of lyrics. «She looked at me and said/I need a little push, push!» (4,5/5)
10 – Back Home Again – This is kind of like «Night songs part 2 » : if on the first track he was leaving, now he’s returning after a life on the road. This gives the album a nice «full-circle» feeling. Musically, it’s weaker than the title track, but not much weaker. It features a nice chorus and another pounding drum pattern. Good rounding-up to the album. (4/5)
All in all, a pretty good little hard rock album that often gets overlooked due to the band’s cheesy moniker. My advice : get past that and give it a go. It’ll be worth your while.