Tommy Keene

Tommy Keene You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009

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Let's not beat around the bush -- you really should own some Tommy Keene albums, or at least one. If you're the average American music buyer, you don't, since the folks in marketing have dropped the ball on Keene so many times they must have been sent back to the minors by now. But if you care at all about great rock & roll, you ought to do yourself the favor of picking up some of Keene's music already. He's a brilliant songwriter, a fine singer, a killer guitarist, and a canny bandleader, and he's been making exceptional records longer than any of the Jonas Brothers have been alive -- it's hard to name a musician whose level of quality and musical accessibility (his work isn't weird, arty, or off-putting, it's great pop music played with a rocker's passion and force) is so out of proportion with their commercial success as Tommy Keene. So you should do yourself a solid and pick up some of his music already. But where to start? Well, Second Motion Records has released the unfortunately titled but musically rapturous Tommy Keene You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009, and this is as close to the perfect Tommy Keene collection as we're likely to get, at least at this point in his ongoing career. Beginning with material from the classic Places That Are Gone EP, Tommy Keene You Hear Me features a generous sampling from each of Keene's studio albums (including Songs from the Film and Based on Happy Times, his excellent and unfortunately out of print LPs for Geffen), highlights from the hard to find Run Now and Sleeping on a Roller Coaster EPs, and a couple of genuine rarities for good measure (an alternate version of "Gold Town" and an acoustic take of "Black and White New York"). While the production on the earlier stuff (featured on disc one) tends to be stronger, a spin through disc two confirms Keene didn't stop making first-rate music after returning to the indie ranks, and this music is gloriously startling in its consistent excellence; if this man is capable of making a bad record, he's left behind no evidence to back it up. Outside of the silly title, a better breakdown of what first appeared where in the liner notes would be appreciated, but that's the only genuine complaint that can be levied against this well-sequenced career anthology; you really need to buy a Tommy Keene album, and Tommy Keene You Hear Me is the ideal one to get first, and will give you a good idea where you want your collection to go after this.

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