Article by, Greg DiPasquale
AC/DC gone country? Country gone AC/DC? What the fuck is this album? Oh I know, IT’S FUCKING ROCK N’ ROLL! You may laugh, but this shit is no joke, it’s a tower of fire waiting to eat you alive. Ladies and gentlemen, this is my non guilty pleasure, Heartbreak Station, by Cinderella.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way. This ain’t metal, so calling it “hair metal” is inaccurate. Having long and/or an abundance of hair doesn’t automatically make something metal, or even rock for that matter. Second of all, for the sake of conversation, compared to a lot of garbage of the time that’s commonly labeled “hair metal”, this album shits all over their boots and pisses in their faces. The lack of quality that bands like Trixter, Britney Fox, L.A. Guns, and Danger Fucking Danger hilariously displayed for millions that didn’t know better yet, is even more glaring when compared against an album like Heartbreak Station.
The biggest reason for the variance of quality between the aforementioned hacks & Cinderella is pure and simple, Tom Kiefer. The first two Cinderella albums (Night Songs, & Long Cold Winter) are OK and fairly emblematic of the times, but to me they’re merely hints of what Kiefer was working towards with album # 3. Ten of the album’s eleven songs were penned solely by him with absolutely no concern for “formula”. Country, blues, rock, and even reggae all show up to the party at some point, and they all came loaded. I really don’t even like country or reggae music, but for some reason the way Kiefer wove it all together as some sort of demented tapestry just works tremendously. Throw his unique, dual nature clean/harsh vocals on top of it, and et voila, you have Cinderella’s tour de force. As a result of the creative writing, there isn’t a throwaway track in the bunch. From the Stones boogie of “Shelter Me”, the troubadour swagger of “Dead Man’s Road” & the pickup truck/tractor vibe of “One For Rock N Roll”, to the Neil Young sounding “Winds Of Change”, the AC/DC burner “The More Things Change”, and finally the epic monster ballad title track, this record takes you in the basement, throws a girl, a beer, and a bong in your lap and leaves the rest up to you to figure out.
If you can get passed the image (which if you can’t, the real poser is you) you’re in for a real quality display of true rock n’ roll. There’s simply too much meat on the composition bone of this album to deny it. Consequently, the band’s refusal to bow to label pressure to make the same, cliche, formulaic “hair metal” album, assured that Heartbreak Station was the start of the band’s decline. While making a true artistic statement and stand, the bottom line of the music business perceived this platinum selling album as a commercial disappointment. Couple the failure to match both chart and sales successes of their prior two albums, and the tidal wave of grunge that was about to hammer them, they were primed and ready for the beating of a lifetime, and they got it. Lumped in with all the shit of the times, the band quietly continued until the mid 90’s without much fanfare, before breaking up until the 21st century revival hit. These guys, much like Tesla, deserved a much better fate, and association hurt them more than the band themselves did. I had, and continue to have, none of that nonsense though. I’m not the only dude from the heavy music scene that feels this way. Oh yes, there are others, and we aren’t going to stay quiet anymore!!!
Sam Awry, formerly of NYC death metal merchants, Mutant Supremacy, is a self proclaimed “defender of all Cinderella albums up until 1995”. In fact, the first time we met in 2011, we had what I feel HAS to be the longest Cinderella discussion in the history of death metal shows. About the Heartbreak Station era, he had this to say: “Little Richard’s appearance in the video for “Shelter Me” alone is worth the price of admission. It definitely deserved to chart higher though, especially when you consider the bullshit that was being pawned off as rock n’ roll at that time like Winger and Pretty Boy Floyd.” Amen. Also willing to jump on the last train is Jon Krol, extreme metal aficionado and guitarist for Buffalo’s own rock powerhouse, Governess. “They were one of the few glam bands that actually knew how to write a proper pop hook. Tom Kiefer’s howl fell somewhere between early Steven Tyler, Axl Rose, and Steve Whiteman of Kix. They never sacrificed a song for the sake of shred, which many glamours were guilty of. Their music was a perfect mix of pop sheen and classic Creedence grit.” Double amen.
So there you have it, the bottom line, the brutal truth, and no fucking shame whatsoever. This album is a testament to creative independence, a middle finger to artistic stagnation, and most importantly, it rules! If you know what’s good for ya, you’ll give it a once or twice over. “Don’t worry about the things you haven’t done, as long as you’ve got rock n’ roll, you’re forever young.” Sometimes, being right on is really that simple and easy. All aboard?!