Reviews

E-MAIL FROM NIALL TONER (RTE) MARCH 2019

Tommy Keyes may well have been around the music scene for a while but for me he is a “new discovery”. Well-crafted, interesting original songs, inspired by life, love and living.

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SONGS IN THE KEY OF REAL LIFE – REVIEW BY JACKIE HAYDEN (HOT PRESS) DECEMBER 2018

Musicians of the calibre of saxist Richie Buckley, guitarist Dick Farrelly and bassist Dave Fleming do not lend their talents for any old recording session, so when you spot their names (among others) on the credits on Tommy Keyes latest opus, you know something must be happening. Of course Keyes himself is no slouch, and with this, his fourth album, you encounter an artist growing in confidence and maturity, and as ready as ever to tackle the big issues that beset life in the slow lane.

Buckley stamps his mark immediately on the title track, as Keyes covers the subject of infidelity, his own throaty vocal and neat keyboards keeping it lit all the way. The slow-burning piano-led ‘Brimful In My Soul’ treats of the reality of the struggling musician who stays true to his art, and ‘Something’s Broken’ looks at depression, poverty and gambling, while maintaining a sense of optimism. The timely ‘Christmas Eve in Dublin’ paints a graphic portrait of decay and hopelessness, while ‘Drunk Lullabye’ brings on some atmospheric strings for a song about drink and crime and the inevitable loneliness their partnership bring, and those eloquent strings are reprised for ‘Land’s End’.

But this album is no musical version of a Joe Duffy Show, and Keyes has room in his kitbag for the less grim. ‘By My Side’ has an appealing Gospel feel, ‘Superman’ is classy mid-paced pop and the Beatlesesque ‘Just A Simple Love Song’ marries a pleasant world-weariness to a cheery feel likely to prompt repeat plays.

The album is brimful of catchy hooks, the musically-sensitive Keyes is admirably-served by his hand-picked band, and the vocal support from Ellen O’Mahony and others is top-notch. With Temptation Once Again Keyes shows that celebrating life while also facing the downsides of human nature are not mutually exclusive. (7.5/10)

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EVENING HERALD REVIEW OF “TEMPTATION ONCE AGAIN” BY EAMON CARR DECEMBER 2018

Team Dublin’s finest, Richie Buckley, Dave Fleming, Dick Farrelly, with a man who exudes a classic Seventies songwriting style and you get a sophisticated set that, as US radio bosses say, “Suits all day parts”.

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FACEBOOK REVIEW OF “TEMPTATION ONCE AGAIN” BY PAUL EGAN (LIFFEY LIGHT ORCHESTRA) DECEMBER 2018

As we prepare to purchase our Christmas presents, can I urge you to include Tommy Keyes’ new album Temptation Once Again on your shopping lists. I’m biased naturally (Tommy was one of the Liffey Light Orchestra’s keyboard players and was the first musician I knew who had a real synthesizer!) but Tommy’s latest collection is a beautifully put together songbook of new original material composed, sung and produced by him.
You’ll hear influences of Billy Joel (Snakes and Ladders), ELO (Valentine) (my favourites) and Tom Waits (By My Side, Every Day I Fall in Love Again). Listen to the final track – Land’s End with its gorgeous string arrangements.
Tommy has been on the road performing for the past two years, following the release of his triple album set and this new album has a terrific live feel, reflecting that time on the road.
It’s available on iTunes, Amazon etc. but the CD album gives you a stunning package (with artwork by LLO’s Ken Drakeford) with a integrated booklet with full lyrics, playing credits and photos.

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FACEBOOK REVIEW OF “TEMPTATION ONCE AGAIN” BY PAUL O’TOOLE NOVEMBER 2018

If you’re planning to buy an album, Tommy Keyes new album ‘Temptation Once Again’ has to be the one.. A musical feast of 15 tracks with sublime multi-dimensional sounds created with top musicians – some of the best musicians Ireland has to offer, Tommy Keyes has created another work of art. His heart stopping lyrics conveying his emotional environment so explicitly and beautifully among a myriad of life’s themes are supported with a sensational (almost visible in the mind) audio landscape as a backdrop.
From humourous title track ‘Temptation Once Again’, to the stark and hard, heart-splitting strains of ‘Valentine’, to the folly of ‘By My Side’ and the mysterious ‘Lands End’ …This album has it all, says it all – and covers ground, a lot of ground – and also covers musical ground never before traveled. The rich sonic landscape stretches far and wide. With varied musical influences, impossible to exclude a nod from Tom Waits to Gilbert O’Sullivan. And warm sounds from latin – dance to the cold drama of The Beatles ‘Eleanor Rigby’, this album is a must.
This album is a journey, as the best albums always are. From the bar-fly to the busker, the barman to the sacred performer, the lovers to the bitter loss.. and the finale..’Lands End’. A masterpiece.
If you are someone who likes to go on musical journeys that will take you to places you’ve neglected to visit, or if you prefer to be taken to places you’ve never been before, then ‘Temptation’ is your ticket. Beware though…you may never want to come back.

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HOT PRESS REVIEW OF “AN IRISH LIFE” APRIL 2017

SONG-CYCLE LIFTS THE LID ON IRELAND’S ROCK PAST
Tommy Keyes earned his place in Irish rock history as keyboardist and main songsmith with the late seventies rock outfit Sidewinder, and on An Irish Life he re-works some of the material and experiences from that era. So just as there’s a lived-in quality to Keyes’ voice there’s an appealing sense of reality about songs that, taken collectively, serve as a virtual narrative for the growing pains of the modern Irish rock scene.
Aided and abetted by such seasoned musicians as Richie Buckley (sax) and Dick Farrelly (guitars), An Irish Life delivers exactly that, tales of the trials and tribulations of life in Ireland, with lyrics that refreshingly confront reality rather than offering escape from it. The opener ‘I Was There’ sets the scene, name-checking Morans, McGonagles and other long-gone yet legendary venues, as well as such local heroes as Stagalee, the Bogey Boys and Rocky De Valera. In ‘Happy Days’ Keyes dreams of cowboys and football heroism, and football shows up again, alongside music, Radio Luxembourg and the cinema, in ‘Landscape Park’. Hot Press earns a mention in the sprightly ‘Smalltown Superstars’ in which Keyes depicts the innocent optimism of the young muso.
‘Long Distance Call’ and ‘Dust In My Eye’ remind us that emigration has been a permanent blight, while the relentlessness of work pressures inhabit and disturb ‘Sleep She Said’. Love gets a look-in too in ‘Slowdown World’, and family and local football filter into in ‘Richmond Nights’. And it’s all underpinned by Keyes’ deft keyboards and confident soft-rock arrangements.
An Irish Life is part of Keyes monumental triple-CD box set, but all are also available separately. This song-cycle lovingly explores the underbelly of Irish rock, a territory all too often ignored in our adulation of bigger names. So Keyes is to be congratulated for focusing our attention on an era that laid such firm foundations for our later successes. (8/10)

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BLOG DE LOS MUERTOS REVIEW OF “AN IRISH LIFE” DECEMBER 2016

Certain music suits certain times of the year and I’d like to offer up Tommy Keyes’ evocative and enduring album ‘An Irish life’ as an antidote, or let’s say, an alternative, to Christmas FM, as it’s just such a perfect collection for this time of year – and the best albums tell you straight from the title what you can expect – An Irish Life has such a strong sense of family emanating from it, dripping in nostalgia and wonderful warmth, of a life lived, loved and now shared through music – there’s no doubt that people will feel an affinity and connection with this and will feel they can relate to it, especially at this time of year…

The album has also cemented the idea of how worthwhile it is to invest in proper packaging and graphic design for your work – opening up with a full lyrics booklet, soft hues of green and attention to detail that brings you into the music in a fuller way –the sleeve literally resonates with what you’ll find in the music within – plus an apt quote from Shaw at the start which lets us know that Tommy’s been around life’s block a bit but that he’s back with a life lived and ready to share what he’s learned along the way.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old – we grow old because we stop playing.” G.B.Shaw.

Plus it’s hard to argue with a guy who can say, in the most off-hand and cool way, that he had U2 supporting him in McGonagles back in the 70s (though I would like to talk to any descendants of the flies on the wall there to verify that story…) But also the great thing about coming from that era of music is the ability to call upon saxophone and French horn and flute players to back up your music – the record, and yeah I like to call it that, just unfolds with a great retro vibe like what the Boomtown Rats captured so vividly but there’s also shades of a more modern Irish rock band, reminiscent of legendary band A House. The music is literally talking to you.

And this Storytelling element to what Tommy is doing is very strong – I wasn’t surprised to learn he was an alumni of the Bel Canto School of singing where singing is only ever seen as just that – telling a story. And this brings a realness and an authenticity and emotion to what he is doing – he doesn’t try to impress us with his voice but yet we are moved by what he is doing with it.

This album is about an Irish Life – his Irish life – and this personal aspect seeps through everything – indeed for songwriters who wonder about how autobiographical they should make their work, I would highly recommend listening to this. Plus this is a proper album – 15 tracks (actually the only criticism I would have would be that arguably there’s a song or two too much, but it’s hardly a criticism that someone is over generous) but it definitely leaves the Eps in the shade – like being served a full steak dinner rather than the quick take out. And, as I can attest to, it’s not easy returning to the scene after a gap – the fact that he does it with such grace, charm and with something of real substance to share, speaks for itself.

To the songs themselves, from the happier ones like I was there and Happy Days to the sadder ones later on – the album is laid out like his life – he’s literally musically mapping out his life in song and in sequence – this is where those random song selection devices need to be re-programmed – you really miss out when you don’t listen in the order that you’re supposed to listen – but this is crammed with gems , from the soundtrack to a life vividly conjured.

It’s ironic really that this collection is being reviewed in the Blog of the Dead as this is such an album of Life – death really doesn’t enter it at all. On the sleeve, the tracks are laid out as going from Spring to Summer to Autumn (Let’s say the Fall for the American listeners who will take to this in droves if we can get it to their ears..) to Winter – but this is an album that spans a life, not a year, kicking off with a nostalgic affectionate nod to those gigging joints of the past with I was There, to his happy childhood in Happy Days and Landscape Park (One for the Southsiders that one! His answer to Bono’s Cedarwood Road!), to his early gigging days in Smalltown Superstars, to his growing up and emigrating, the gorgeous In Dublin and the emotional and stark Long Distance Call which will strike a chord with this country of emigrants. From his return home to a life of work, deadlines and targets, captured perfectly in Sleep She Said; and this is where the album changes – when his children come into the world, starting with the beautiful touching ballad to his daughter Slowdown World and then to his other daughter with Bloom – Tommy is definitely at his best when it comes to these piano ballads – stunning stuff that will make you want to take up the keys yourself – not too late to say that Tommy’s artist surname suits him down to the ground…there’s also a fun stop off for the football fan in him with Richmond Nights – but it’s when he gets to the songs Souvenirs and Dust in My Eye about his own children now growing up and emigrating themselves, that this album comes full circle to reveal its heart – it’s a work of love really and a delight that he’s sharing it.

But anyone who has ever had to drop a child (okay, an adult child but to a parent they’ll always be just kids) off at an airport unsure if or when they are ever returning home has got to listen to Dust in my Eye. The last few tracks make the circle complete – wasn’t a surprise to find a Christmas song here, Shooting Stars nor indeed a New Year’s Eve Song to finish it off, with that joy of having your children returning to be with you for the Holiday Season – and though I know, for some people, this can be a tough time of year especially where there’s been tragedy etc, I cannot recommend enough that this album gets played at this time as it will definitely make you feel better – guaranteed!

Word from the album sleeve and Tommy himself to finish it off:

“These songs are the soundtrack to his reflections, from the exuberance of childhood, through the realism of maturity, to the sentimentality of later years.”

“My story is not an autobiography, but it’s all drawn from my experience or from my imagined version of the experiences of my compatriots. It may be an amalgam, but it is still a reflection of an Irish Life. It is dedicated with love to all my family.”