Tommy Keene is one of the greatest songwriters ever.
Tommy Keene is also one of the most underappreciated songwriters ever, in terms of commercial success. Keene’s work has been critically acclaimed since Places That Are Gone came out on Dolphin Records in 1984. The success of that six-song EP led to a deal with Geffen Records. The lucrative but short relationship lasted only two albums and found Keene recording his debut with famed Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick. During that time, Geffen backed Keene in an almost unprecedented manner. He was their golden boy – they made him the darling of MTV; put him on tour with the hitmakers of the day; and even secured him a cameo in an Anthony Michael Hall movie (“Out of Bounds”). Long story short – he was on his way.
And then, it ended all quite suddenly after the 1989 release of Based on Happy Times.
It would be five years before his fans would hear anything new from Keene. He emerged in 1994 with Driving Into the Sun on Alias Records and then moved on to Matador, where many fans still associate his name, though that relationship only lasted two albums and one EP. Keene has done some one-off releases with various labels, including Champaign-Urbana’s Parasol Records. And that’s not the only connection Kenne has had with the C-U scene. Alum John Richardson (The Martyrs) has been Kenne’s long time drummer. He’s worked with Adam Schmitt and once counted Jay Bennett as a band mate (the retrospective is tastefully dedicated to Bennett’s memory).
Tommy Keene You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009 (released on Second Motion Records) is the perfect primer for anyone interested in heartfelt, driving pop rock. With a deep discography, one would think it almost an impossible task to cultivate just the right tracks to fill out a 2-CD set. Rest assured, Second Motion has done just that, giving Kenne his due and the older tracks a second life with a younger music buying public. Even long time fans will find something of value here, even if it comes down to picking it up to complete a collection. A must listen.