[Thanks to Bill Sammons for the article.]
‘Rumble’ Well Worth Wait
by Jay Friel, Main Line Times
It was a long time coming, but Rumble was well worth the wait.
Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers’ first effort on 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 rf filler—and letting the Rumblers do what they 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 of a couple of 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.
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 but the total eliminations of 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.
The gospel-influenced Gonna Breakdown, was written by the team of Conwell and Philadelphia-based songwriter Marcy Rauer. 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.