Much like 1986's Songs From the Film
, Geffen seemed bent on making Keene
's music bigger than life with Based on Happy Times
, but this time the overall production sounds less forced and truer to capturing the purity and aggressiveness of Keene
's live sound. Recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis with Joe Hardy
and John Hampton
at the helm, Based on Happy Times
brought together the best elements of Keene
's previous work, including excellently crafted pop songs, delicious guitar figures, and tight ensemble playing. Among the collection's strongest cuts: the sadly beautiful "This Could Be Fiction," which fades with a lovely string passage; the powerful "When Our Vows Break"; and the haunting album closer "A Way Out," featuring R.E.M.
's Peter Buck
on mandolin. And as usual, Keene
can pick interesting cover tunes, this time around doing a quirky and fun take on a Beach Boys obscurity, "Our Car Club," which also includes a guitar cameo by Buck
. Perhaps if this superb record had been given the promotion it deserved, Tommy Keene
would have the name recognition of the aforementioned artists.