Sound — 7
And Loverboy is back in 1983's "Keep It Up"... I don't know why, but I always get a feeling that this album was created just as things were really getting difficult for them in the biz. It seems rather underrated and is one of my favorites.
Lineup is still the same...
Mike Reno - Still handling the microphone, still sounds great, as always.
Paul Dean - our Odyssey/Dean Machine armed lead guitarist and backing vocalist with a penchant for replacing preamps with chorus/echo units and Hiwatts, and hollow necks. And man oh man, Paul Dean's signature hollow necked guitars and Hiwatts are all over this album, albeit a bit buried under the keyboards at times.
Scott Smith - resident raconteur (R.I.P. 2000) & Warwick wielding bassman.
Doug Johnson - keyboards, saxophone (though not on this album), he also breaks out on a CMI Fairlight and a Vocoder quite a bit on this album, two of the most quintessential '80s synthesizer tools for that "'80s" sound.
Matt Frenette - the frenetic drummer, aggressive as ever. Always liked this guy's drum sound.
Overall, this album has some of my favorite songs, but does suffer some small drawbacks.
First and foremost is Paul Dean getting drowned out in a sea of CMI, Vocoders, and synthesizers in general. This is possibly the lowest mixed Paul ever was on a Loverboy record. I think tracks like "One-Sided Love Affair" and "Chance of a Lifetime" could have used a bit more guitar on them. Another gripe is this seems mixed at a bit lower volume, what I call the "1984 slump" where it seems almost all albums from 1983-1984 ("Midnight Madness" by Night Ranger is another one) suffer from a lack of dynamics and a sufficient enough lack of volume to be noticeable over previous efforts and especially those that come after. Otherwise though, I love the sound of the album and give it a solid 7.5 if I could, but I'll just drop it to 7.
Lyrics — 8
Again, Loverboy is not exactly the kind of band that sings about "plastic hearts melting under a candy sun" or "the deep dark of my squidlike apathy" kind of lyrics - their lyrics are more like "Boy meets girl, boy sleeps with girl, girl breaks boy's heart, boy goes on a party rampage." To the bespectacled Supro wielding indie guy they seem kind of stupid and art-less, but to those of us who can drop pretentiousness and actually have FUN with our music, Loverboy is actually a damn good band.
01. "Hot Girls in Love" - this was the last hit single they made, basically a pile of automotive double entandres strung together. This was the last super-big hit they had.
02. "Strike Zone" - this is Loverboy's take on thermo global nuclear war. Paul Dean came up with it after visiting a nuke test site somewhere in the USA. It's actually one of the more artful tunes they did, discussing multiple elements of the issue.
03. "It's Never Easy" - it's never easy when you fall out of love with someone. Simple as that. This is the "big ballad" on this album, sounds like a high school prom slow-dance song attempt, not too bad, but total cliché '80s.
04. "Chance of a Lifetime" - back to Loverboy as usual, basically put, boy meets girl, says I take you, you take me, because it's a chance of a lifetime. Nuff' said. The guitar riff on this is possibly one of the most difficult things Paul Dean ever came up with as it changes around in a very odd way that takes some major attention to cover.
05. "Queen of the Broken Hearts" - this was the other, and seldom seen, music video from this album. Basically about a bad girl. This is also the video where some (un)lucky MTV contest winner was screwed over by the video's producer (the band had nothing to do with it).
06. "Prime of Your Life" - youth is wasted on the young, or "you are young, enjoy it while you can." This has one of my favorite guitar sounds, Paul Dean brings back that crazy Marshall with the Roland Chorus/Echo for a preamp on this one and it sounds just killer.
07. "Passion Pit" - possibly the WORST Loverboy song ever. It's basically "Chance of a Lifetime" at an orgy, and sounds like a lazy attempt to make another quasi-disco-esque thing like "Turn Me Loose" or "Prissy Prissy," however, it should never even be in the same sentence with those too songs. The riff is a recycle from "Lucky Ones" from the previous album, and the lyrics are almost "I don't want to eat cookie, I just want to take a dookie" level. This one always gets the skip button.
08. "One-Sided Love Affair" - about exactly as it sounds, he loves her, she hates/is indifferent towards him. This is one of the most dramatic tracks, particularly Dean's guitar solo on this one, which he kicks in some sort of ever-expanding delay that increases the climax and drama of the song, then one last giant chorus ending with a big bang with lots of toms and a giant Dsus2 chord.
09. "Meltdown" - more nuclear references, but this time it's figurative for a failing relationship. Lots of wah wah pedal, and almost as dramatic and epic as the previous track. Another one of my favorites ("OSLA" is my favorite).
This album is far more technical and difficult than it sounds, it's almost like a Cars album, and that's saying something. The Cars are hard to replicate, so is "Keep It Up" by Loverboy. And one of the hardest parts to this record? Mike Reno's singing.
On this album, Reno has to push his voice REALLY hard, especially on "Prime of your Life" which, after having done vox on Loverboy tracks before myself, that song is hard as HECK to do, it's in Dio's range and territory, and somehow Reno hit that sweet spot between singing and screaming that only some skilled metal vocalists can pull off with ease (like Dio).
Overall Impression — 9
Keep It Up is 1983 bottled into a bottle and served up cold. It has the "space instrument" synths, raspy vocal guitar, technical solos, dynamics, and so fourth. I give it a 9 because it's a case where the whole is better than the individual parts.
The best songs on the album to me are "Strike Zone," "Chance of a Lifetime," "Prime of Your Life," "Meltdown," and I would mention "Hot Girls in Love" and "Queen of the Broken Hearts" though I'm a tad burned out on those two. The only things I hate about this album is that Paul Dean's guitar could stand to be higher up in the mix in some places, Dean's working with some rather unconventional keys for guitar and doing some really neat and at-times more-difficult-than-it-looks-or-sounds stuff, that and that god awful song "Passion Pit."
I have it on digital, vinyl, tape, and CD, no chance I'll ever part from it. Again, this is a good album to pick up, and it's also a case where the album tracks are better than that which is represented on the radio and in what passes for MTV these days.