Once Upon A... (Island/Mercury Records ’97) Rating: A-

Cinderella was one of the best bands grouped within the so-called "hair band" genre that ruled the airwaves in the late '80s, since they had a distinctive singer in raspy-voiced Tom Keifer (also the primary guitarist and songwriter) and strove to develop beyond generic cheese metal basics, incurring a heavy debt to The Rolling Stones on later albums like Heartbreak Station (1990). Though this in turn was hardly original, bands who embraced the Stones instead of Motley Crue/Bon Jovi in the late-'80s/early-'90s were something of a breath of fresh air. This well-chosen, chronologically sequenced collection includes strong hard rockers such as “Shake Me” (the first time I heard it I could’ve sworn that it was a great new AC/DC song), “Somebody Save Me,” “Gypsy Road,” and “The Last Mile” alongside overly obvious but extremely well-done power ballads like “Nobody’s Fool,” “Don’t Know What You Got (‘Till Its Gone),” and “Coming Home” (all of the aforementioned tracks were culled from their popular Aerosmith/AC/DC-influenced first two albums, 1986's Night Songs and 1988's Long Cold Winter). The latter half of the compilation is devoted to Stones-y tracks such as the rollicking gospel rocker “Shelter Me” and the melancholic ballad “Heartbreak Station,” and as an added bonus for diehard fans (are there any of you still out there?) the band briefly samples their neglected 1994 album Still Climbing (the band got swept away in the "great hair band purge" of '91-'93 but it was partially of their own doing due to their poufy "hair band" image) and includes the previously unreleased “War Stories” and a cover of Janis Joplin's "Move Over." It's a sad commentary that I'm actually surprised when a record company does right by their showcased artist, but this 15-track, 67-minute collection paints a bright portrait of a good hard rock band by gathering all their biggest (and in many cases, best) songs together in one convenient place.

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