Rumble by Tommy Conwell and Young Rumblers

Rumble by Tommy Conwell and Young Rumblers

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Rumble by Tommy Conwell and Young RumblersTommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, a popular Philadelphia area “bar band”, caught the attention of Columbia Records when their 1986 independently released album, Walking on the Water, sold very well regionally. The band, which started as a three piece with band leader Tommy Conwell on lead guitars and vocals, Paul Slivka on bass and Jimmy Hannum on drums, was known for their high energy live performances. Aside from being an accomplished guitarist, Conwell was keenly tuned into his audience and gave them his all at every show by jumping off the stage into the audience and playing guitar while strolling along the top of the bar. When their first major label record, Rumble, was released in 1988, it did a fair job of capturing a bit of this live energy in the recording.

Rumble was produced by Rick Chertoff who had recent successes producing Cyndi Lauper’s multi-platinum debut album, She’s So Unusual and The Hooters’ first two successful major label releases, Nervous Night and One Way Home. He was charged with the task of making a polished, ready for mainstream radio, recording of an unpolished rock and roll band. This was quite a task when a major part of the band’s charm and appeal was the grit of their live energy.

By the time recording started, the band had grown from a simple rockabilly type three piece (albeit more “rock” than “billy”) to a full fledged rock and roll line up of five with the addition of Rob Miller on keyboards and Chris Day on guitar.

 


Rumble by Tommy Conwell and Young Rumblers
Released: July 10, 1988 (Columbia)
Produced by: Rick Chertoff
Side One Side Two
I’m Not Your Man
Half a Heart
If We Never Meet Again
Love’s On Fire
Workout
I Wanna Make You Happy
Everything They Say Is True
Gonna Breakdown
Tell Me What You Want Me To Be
Walkin’ On the Water
Group Musicians
Tommy Conwell – Lead Vocals, Lead Guitars
Chris Day – Guitars
Rob Miller – Keyboards
Paul Slivka – Bass
Jimmy Hannum – Drums

 

The songs on this album are straight up rock and roll with simple themes of youthful rebellion, friendship and love set to bluesy, rock and roll guitars and rhythms. Nothing about this album is really that new or innovative, it is just good old fashioned rock and roll done well by outstanding musicians with great work ethics and riveting stage presence.

The opener, “I’m Not Your Man” dives right in, featuring a bawdy, bad boy rant from Conwell preceded by a bluesy guitar riff. Conwell’s guitar is clear and sharp and shines on this song. This was the most successful single on the album rising to #1 on the Mainstream Rock tracks chart. The other popular song from the album is “If We Never Meet Again”, which has a catchy chorus hook and a very cool, twangy guitar interlude, which highlights Conwell’s versatility on guitar.

“Half a Heart” features Miller’s  keyboards against a steady bass backbeat by the adept rhythm section of Slivka and Hannum. It is easily the most pop oriented tune of the whole album. “Love’s on Fire” continues the energy with driving guitars leading into the boogie beat, keyboard laden, aptly named “Workout”.
 

 
The second side includes “Everything They Say Is True”, which has a heavy keyboard riff, and “Breakdown”, probably the best overall song on the album both musically and lyrically. Its softly strummed intro gradually “breaks down” into a hard rocking ode to redemption that includes some fantastic guitar and earnest vocals from Conwell.  George Thorogood is channeled through Conwell’s gruff and gritty vocals in “Tell Me What You Want Me to Be”. “Walkin On Water” is a rollicking tune that closes the album with a life is just a party vibe.

The Young Rumblers would go on to record two more albums for Columbia. Guitar Trouble, recorded with help from Bruce Hornsby, was released in 1989 to modest success and the final album was passed on by Columbia. Rumble would be the pinnacle of commercial success for this Philadelphia Rock and Roll band.

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1988 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1988 albums.

 

Out Of Body by The Hooters

Out of Body by The Hooters

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Out Of Body by The HootersOut of Body was the fifth studio album by The Hooters, released in 1993, and would be the last before the band’s decade and a half hiatus from recording. As with all previous Hooters albums, the album of all original material was mainly composed by the team of guitarist/vocalist Eric Bazilian and keyboardist/vocalist Rob Hyman, who founded the group in the Philadelphia in 1980. However, Out of Body did mark a series of firsts for the band.  It was their first album for MCA Records and the first to employ Joe Hardy to co-produce along with Bazilian and Hyman. This was also the first album since the band had expanded to become a six-piece after the addition of vocalist, violinist, and multi-instrumentalist Mindy Jostyn, who started performing with the Hooters in 1991 and became a permanent member of the band in early 1992.

Following the band’s previous album, Zig Zag in 1989, the Hooters participated in Roger Waters’ The Wall, Live in Berlin, performing the song “Mother” with Sinead O’Conner and members of the classic group The Band. As the new decade dawned, the band’s popularity in Europe continued to grow as it inversely subsided in the US, something that would be reflected in the sales figures for Out of Body.

Recorded in Memphis, Hardy and the band took a much different approach to the recording process than on any previous band efforts, as Hardy took tracks directly from demos without much rehearsing and reworking. This resulted in a rapid recording process and final production which is sonically pleasing but a bit confused at times. Still, the band showcases their multi-faceted influences and every song contains unique blends of traditional instrumentation with modern rock and pop.


Out of Body by The Hooters
Released: May 11, 1993 (MCA)
Produced by: Joe Hardy, Eric Bazilian, & Rob Hyman
Recorded: 1993
Track Listing Band Musicians
Twenty-Five Hours a Day
Boys Will Be Boys
Shadow of Jesus
Great Big American Car
Private Emotion
Driftin’ Away
Dancing On the Edge
All Around the Place
One Too Many Nights
Nobody But You
Eric Bazilian – Guitars, Mandolin, Saxophone, Sitar, Vocals, Piano, Harmonica
Rob Hyman – Piano, Keyboards, Accordion, Hooter, Vocals
John Lilley – Guitars, Vocals
Mindy Jostlyn – Violin, Harmonica, Vocals
Fran Smith Jr. – Bass, Vocals
David Uosikkinen – Drums, Percussion
 
Out of Body by The Hooters
 

Some of the defining elements of Out of Body is the cross influences with other top-notch pop stars. “Boys Will Be Boys” was co-written by Cyndi Lauper who also provided some vocals, returning the favor a decade after Bazilian and Hyman contributed to her debut album She’s So Unusual and her hit, “Time after Time”. “Dancing On the Edge” was co-written by famed lyricist John Bettis and also has a bit of Celtic influence, which is well camouflaged here by a strong rock arrangement and percussive effects. “Private Emotion” would become the biggest “hit” on the album when it was later redone by Ricky Martin. The original version here is the heart of the album, led by mandolin throughout and very melodic vocals by Bazilian, accented by interesting, minimalist guitar lead and fretless bass.

The Hooters, 1993

The opener “Twenty-Five Hours a Day” gives the album its name in the very first verse and is sonically diverse with a mandolin intro, funky electric during the chorus, some synth effects, and an interesting lead section which blends violin, accordion, and the “hooter”. The song is fast paced like an Irish jig, getting off to a running start and the pace never slowing until the final notes.  Jostyn makes an immediate mark in her debut with the band as her violin and vocals add the perfect accent to blend with the folk rock funk of the rest of the group.

On the opposite end, the closer “Nobody But You” is an unusual yet compelling song. It is a love song, albeit a bit twisted with a back beat and sound that could be a hybrid of The Wallflowers and Tom Petty and quirky lyrics which make one wonder if this is a song of love or an unhealthy obsession –

“well I’m lying in your flower bed, I’m drunk on your perfume Just waiting for the seeds I planted once to come in bloom / You ravage me, you savage me and you know I love it too…”

Some other fine tracks on the album include “Shadow of Jesus”, which has good ambience in the spirit of “All You Zombies”, with great funky bass by Fran Smith Jr. and harmonica by Jostlyn along with with strings and a dramatic presentation and lyrics. “Great Big American Car” brings the band right back to the eighties sound with a lyrical nod to psychedelia and nostalgic times past. “One Too Many Nights” is highlighted by a great organ lead by Hyman and more mandolins by Bazilian, while “All Around the Place” is just that, as the aptly titled song moves from a heavy percussive dance beat by David Uosikkinen to mandolin to country chant feel with strings and accordion. Later some funky guitars and “The Memphis Horns” join in, giving the song’s climax an “All You Need is Love” feel.

The Hooters followed Out of Body with a live album the following year before the band would enter an extended hiatus period which would last nearly a decade of no touring or any activity. In 1995, Bazilian and Hyman worked on the debut album by Joan Osbourne called Relish, which produced the worldwide hit “One Of Us”, which was originally intended for an upcoming Hooters album.

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1993 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1993 albums.

One Way Home by The Hooters

One Way Home by The Hooters

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One Way Home by The HootersAfter two years of extensive touring in support of their first major label success, Nervous Night, the Philadelphia based group The Hooters returned to the studio to record One Way Home. Like their breakthrough predecessor, this album was co-produced by Rick Chertoff, a former executive at Columbia Records, along with the band’s primary songwriters Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman. Unlike its predecessor, One Way Home was heavily folk and Americana influenced and a testament to the Hooters desire to put the music first as well as experiment with the new influences and instruments they discovered during their extensive touring.

Although there are some similarities in songwriting and instrumentation, One Way Home is a clear step forward from Nervous Night in terms of production. That 1985 is heavy with slick, pop, eighties style production while this 1987 album, although still clearly catchy pop, is closer to the Hooters’ signature rootsy mixed sound.

Along with Bazilian and Hyman, the band consisted of rhythm guitarist John Lilly, bassist Andy King, and drummer Dave Uosikkinen, who had been with the band since its inception in 1980. Uosikkinen’s distinctive drumming is the backbone of The Hooters sound as he hits those drums hard and with an intensity that keeps the sound loud and right up front.
 


One Way Home by The Hooters
Released: July, 1987 (Columbia)
Produced by: Rick Chertoff, Eric Bazilian, & Rob Hyman
Recorded: Various Locations, 1986-1987
Side One Side Two
Satellite
Karla With a ‘K’
Johnny B
Graveyard Waltz
Fightin’ On the Same Side
One Way Home
Washington’s Day
Hard Rockin Summer
Engine 999
Band Musicians
Eric Bazilian – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Mandolin, Saxophone, Harmonica
Rob Hyman – Lead vocals, Keyboards, Accordion, Melodica
John Lilly – Guitars
Andy King – Bass
David Uosikkinen – Drums

 
The album begins with “Satellite”, an example of the Hooters ability to artfully blend modern synth sounds with traditional instruments. The song was inspired by a televangelist broadcasting his message and includes some space aged synthesizer sounds. “Karla with a K” takes this one step further by making a accordion sound really hip and fresh. The song, named after a hurricane, was inspired by a street performer the band met in Louisiana.

The band also included an updated version of “Fightin’ On the Same Side” from their independent album, Amore – still upbeat but with a slower tempo and the awesome addition of accordion. “Johnny B” is a haunting song about fighting addiction with an outstanding guitar solo and harmonica accents. This song remains very popular to this day with the band’s German fans. “Hard Rockin’ Summer” was inspired by a group of “heavy metal” kids who would hang out outside the band’s rehearsal space. The title song, “One Way Home” is perhaps the best on the album. It has a heavy reggae beat, similar to the Nervous Night version of “All You Zombies”. The lyrics are dark and spiritually cryptic similar to Zombies as well.

“Washington’s Day” is akin to a campfire sing a long and is rumored to be Bob Dylan’s favorite Hooters Song. It has a hook that can get a crowd swaying in unison. “Graveyard Waltz” has the same eerie feeling as that on the earlier “Where Do the Children Go?”, as both songs deal with death, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

Although One Way Home did not enjoy the mass commercial appeal of its predecessor, it did open up the European market for the band due to the popularity of “Satellite” across the Atlantic. In fact, after the band performed the song on Britain’s Top Of the Pops in December 1987, they were privileged to meet their idol Paul McCartney. A month earlier, on Thanksgiving night 1987, The Hooters headlined a show at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, which was broadcast live on MTV and Westwood One radio network simultaneously, perhaps the absolute pinnacle of their American success. Through the late 1980s and into the 1990s, the fan base for the band shifted even larger in Europe, especially in Sweden and Germany, while it declined in America.

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1987 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1987 albums

 

Diamonds In the Coal by The Badlees

Diamonds In the Coal
by The Badlees

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Diamonds In the Coal by The Badlees At a time when many in the rock world were in the process of re-imaging from the slick 80’s hair band to the grungy 90s alternative, a young Pennsylvania band called The Badlees was forging their own path with a sound called “roots rock” with their first full length album, Diamonds In the Coal. The band, which had been steadily gaining popularity since the release of their initial EP It Ain’t For You in late 1990, had solidified their lineup with the addition of Paul Smith in 1991. With Smith’s addition, the Badlees had the core quintet in place that would drive them through their most productive years. The result is a well-crafted, entertaining, and thoughtful album with fine and exquisite details.

The album was co-produced by guitarist Bret Alexander and contains all original compositions which were mainly written by Alexander with about half being co-penned by band associate Mike Naydock. The songs are augmented by a structure of electric and acoustic guitars, solid rhythms, judicious use of ethic instruments, layered vocals, and thoughtful lyrics.

There are few things easier than to live badly and die well…”

This quote by Oscar Wilde was placed inner sleeve of Diamonds In the Coal, in an obvious play on the band’s name. Further, each song on the lyrics page contained its own special quote from philosophers and artists ranging from Aristotle to Andy Warhol, some of the extra attention to detail the band put into the atmosphere of the album. Topping it off were the authentic pictures that were used for the cover of early 20th century coal miners that drummer Ron Simasek found at a local Historical Society.

 


Diamonds In the Coal by The Badlees
Released: January 14, 1992 (Rite-Off)
Produced by: Bret Alexander & the Badlees
Recorded: Waterfront Recording, Hoboken, NJ / Susquehanna Sound, Northumberland, PA, 1991
Track Listing Band Musicians
Like a Rembrandt
Back Where We Came From
Just One Moment
The Real Thing
Heaven On Earth
Interlude / Badlee Rap
The Next Big Thing
Dirty Neon Times
Spending My Inheritance
Sister Shirley
Mystery Girl
Road to Paradise
Diamonds In the Coal
Pete Palladino – Lead Vocals
Bret Alexander – Guitars, Mandolin, Harmonica, Vocals
Jeff Feltenberger – Guitars, Vocals
Paul Smith – Bass, Vocals
Ron Simasek– Drums & Percussion
 

Diamonds In the Coal by The Badlees

 

Thematically, Diamonds In the Coal is nearly sliced in half by the light intermission of “Interlude/Badlee Rap”, with the rap itself performed by Loose Bruce above some slight guitar and harmonica. Songs previous to this on the album are mainly pop-oriented, with basic structure and strong hooks. This all starts with the opener “Like a Rembrandt”, of which Alexander sets the scene as “a bunch of young kids partying out by an old coal breaker and realizing full well that this may be the greatest summer of their lives”.

“Back Where We Came From” (commonly referred to as “The Na Na Song”) follows with a strong delivery by lead vocalist Pete Palladino. This acoustic-driven tune with electric overtones, was the first single from the album and the first to receive significant airplay. It also shows that the Badlees had perfected a song template that the much more heralded Hootie and the Blowfish would replicate years later. Despite the Bon Jovi-ish hook at the onset, “Heaven On Earth” is still a song with good instrumentation lead by a solid, strummed acoustic while the lighter sound of “The Real Thing” contains serene and solid guitar riffs by Alexander with just a touch of the instrument which would become more predominant in the band, the mandolin. “Just One Moment” is another pop-oriented track with a bouncy and choppy riff, good vocals, and strong back beat by Simasek.

The Badlees

The second “half” of the album contains songs that explore deeper subject matter and richer musical structure. Guitarist Jeff Feltenberger provides good vocal interplay with Palladino during “The Next Big Thing”, while upbeat power-pop anthem “Dirty Neon Times” provides more fantastic vocal harmonies by Feltenberger in a pleasant, acoustic driven song.

Alexander’s “Spending My Inheritance” is a well composed, sort of “people’s anthem” tune with some harmonica intertwined with fiddle by guest performer David Rose. “Sister Shirley” is perhaps the most unique song on the album. It includes a picturesque lyrical narrative by Naydock and some sweet, jazzy guitar by Alexander – a rewarding listen, which shows the band’s musical and compositional range. Feltenberger wrote “Road to Paradise”, in an odd time, with steady acoustic strumming against slightly spastic drums all topped by intricate, three-part vocal patterns.

The closing title song is the true masterpiece of Diamonds In the Coal. Here, the listener is brought into the dark, forgotten patch towns of Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Region. The imagery in this song’s lyric is so vivid that you can almost feel the coal dust flying, while the music sets the perfect scene with a methodic, marching rhythm below and some authentic, ethnic instrumentation up above. This song showed the true promise of the band in 1992 and would be the primer for their breakthrough album River Songs three years later.

Recently, Bret Alexander looked back with great fondness on the creation of this album, saying he had a tremendous amount of fun and creative fulfillment writing the songs and producing Diamonds In the Coal. Although he does lament that he doesn’t feel that the overall “sound” of the album has held up sonically through the years. There is a definite early-nineties, polished-up quality with the drum sound snare-centric, the rhythms contain little variation, and the well-compressed vocals always seeming to hang at eye-level. But still, after 20 years, a deeper listener will definitely appreciate the quality of the songs and recognize the watershed of creative music “springs” that began their flow with Diamonds.

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1992 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1992 albums.