Monday, August 5, 2013

Rumble: A Rock-Solid Debut | Makings of a 'Rumble'

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9] 

Articles: "A Rock-Solid Debut" and "Makings of a 'Rumble,' the first of a 2-part interview with Tommy Conwell.

Review: A Rock-Solid Debut
By Jay Friel
Entertainment Editor

News of Delaware County, Wednesday, August 10, 1988

It was a long time coming, but “Rumble” was well worth the wait. 

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers’ first effort for Columbia Records is an unpretentious 10-song package that effectively captures the straight-ahead, bare-bones music that made this band a local favorite. 

Kudos to producer Rick Chertoff, whose credits include the Hooters’ “Nervous Night” and “One Way Home,” and Cyndi Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual,” with keeping things simple – no effects or filler – and letting the Rumblers do what they do best – play honest, emotional, raw rock. 

The record also highlights Conwell’s collaborative songwriting abilities and ever-improving singing voice, as well as adds to the solid reputation of a fine rhythm section – bassist Paul Slivka and particularly drummer Jim Hannum, whose powerful poundings drive all the Rumblers’ numbers. 

Guitarist Chris Day and keyboardist Rob Miller (formerly of Robert Hazard and the Heroes and the Hooters) add new touches throughout the record, and contribute consistently fine backing harmonies. 

And of course, the one element never questioned with this band – Conwell’s hot guitar – remains the focal point. 

The album contains an even balance of new and old songs (five each), as well as a good mix of the usual raucous Rumblers rockers with a couple slower, almost ballad-like tracks. 

 A juiced-up version of “I’m Not Your Man,” the album’s first single, leads off the record with a gruff rap by Conwell before jumping into trademark crunchy guitar and rough vocals. 

This version of the song has been significantly beefed-up from the version that appeared on 1986’s independently-released “Walkin’ On the Water.” This is the opposite of a trend that had appeared to take hold of other local bands after signing with big record companies. The new version sharpens the edge instead of deteriorating into tamed pop. 

Other tracks from the first album, “Love’s On Fire,” “Everything They Say Is True” and “Walkin’ on the Water” aren’t changed as much, but do contain alterations, such as more prominent keyboards on the latter two, but the total elimination of the piano intro in the former. 

The LP’s second track, “Half a Heart,” sounds like a Hooters song – and there’s a good reason. The punchy keyboard-and-rhythm guitar beat comes from the collective mind of Hooters’ Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian, who wrote the song with Conwell and Chertoff. Unfortunately all the minds didn’t help, and this is probably the album’s weakest effort. 

The album’s tastiest tracks are the Sly Stone-inspired “I Wanna Make You Happy,” from funk songwriter/producer Kae Williams, and an older tune – a particular favorite over the years in the clubs – “Workout.” 

The album’s most beautiful cut, “If We Never Meet Again,” demonstrates clearly that Conwell can sing a slow song, as well as belt out his more traditional blues-rockers. This track also offers acoustic rhythm and slide guitars, a new touch for the band on vinyl. 

Jules Shear wrote this hook-filled track (as well as co-writing “Tell Me What You Want Me To Be” with Conwell), and his lyrics are evident. 

If we never meet again / If goodbyes remain unspoken / I won’t glorify our past / but our bond remains unbroken. 

 The gospel-influenced “Gonna Breakdown” was written by the team of Conwell and Philadelphia-based songwriter Marcy Rauer (they also collaborated on “I’m Not Your Man”). This track starts slow but progresses into some of the nastiest guitar licks on the album, as well as some soulful to-the-limit vocals by Conwell. 

 “Tell Me What You Want Me To Be” contains a strong country flavor and that Bo Diddley beat that this band performs so well. 

 A chuckle from Conwell at the conclusion of “Walkin’ On the Water” appropriately closes the album. 

All in all, Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers have scored with a rock-solid debut album that contains some sparkling moments. 

The foundation has been effectively laid for a band with a bright future. 


Makings of a ‘Rumble’  

Tommy Conwell comments on the recording of the Young Rumblers’ first national album

First of 2 parts

By Jay Friel
Entertainment Editor 

“Rumble,” Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers’ aptly-titled debut album for Columbia Records hit the record stores yesterday. 

The album, and the band, have been the objects of a recent media blitz, both locally and nationally. At last count, “I’m Not Your Man,” the LP’s first single, was receiving airplay on almost 150 radio stations across the country. 

This is all pretty heady stuff for a group of young guys who have been striving for this day for years. But is it what they expected? And how do they feel looking back over the long recording process? 

Look no further than their leader – Tommy Conwell. 

 “It was high pressure and hard work,” Conwell says in the Ardmore offices of Cornerstone Management. Although totally at ease, he thinks carefully before speaking, choosing his words cautiously. 

 “And it was a long time happening. It was a series of goals, the first of which was writing the songs. And the second of which was recording them, with a lot of smaller goals involved in the recording process. It was an eight-month process of intensive work and pressure. 

“There’s a lot at stake. There are a lot of people involved, some I know and love, and other people who I have no idea who they are who have a lot invested in the project. And that all adds to the pressure.” 

Conwell, like Columbia and Cornerstone artists the Hooters, seems to thrive on pressure, much like a great athlete. 

 “But you know, pressure’s not a bad thing,” Conwell continues, “because that’s what makes you get better. Without pressure, there’s a lot less growth.
 “Ultimately what I had to do then and have to continue to do is forget about it. I have no control over that. I cannot control anything but myself. So today, for this one day, I’m going to try and do my work. I’m going to write, and I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do one day at a time, and have faith that what has to get done will get done. And it does. 

Conwell and the Rumblers perform and carry themselves with a great deal of confidence. But Conwell confided that there are always doubts in the back of one’s mind when taking on such an immense project as the recording of a national album. 

“I had to get comfortable with the fact that the record was only going to be us,” he explained in all honesty. “We were going into a great studio, had a great producer (Rick Chertoff), and were recording a national album.” 

“Somewhere in my head I was expecting it to sound like someone else, like I sound in my dreams,” he laughs. “And in reality it doesn’t sound like I sound in my dreams, it sounds like I sound in real life. And that’s good enough I now realize, and that’s all you can ask for and all you would expect. 

“Something else that hit me along the line was that I could do it. That was another great realization. That was another thing I wasn’t really sure of. I guess somewhere I was sure, but somewhere I wasn’t. 

 Just the realization that, ‘My God we’ve been working on this for six month.’ I was writing for four months and we were recording for two. And we’re doing it. We’re making a record that we’re going to be proud of.’ 

And the band is proud of the record. Producer Chertoff, whose credits include the Hooters’ two Columbia albums as well as records by Cyndi Lauper and Patty Smyth, has captured the honest, raw sound of the band. 

“I think it sounds a lot more like the Rumblers than the last record did (1986’s independently-released “Walkin’ On the Water),” Conwell says, the words flowing much more freely now. 

“And I like the last record. I just think it really sounds like us. It crossed my mind that maybe when we got in the studio it might stop sounding like us. Rick (Chertoff) might encourage me to do things I don’t normally do. But none of that happened. It’s just us doing our thing. And I’m comfortable with that: A. because I know it’s honest and B. because, hey, I’m glad that our producer and myself have enough confidence in us to put it out just like it is.

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