"Trampling out the Vintage" (Casa Del Soul Productions; 2016)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

The thing I like about Tom Guerra's music is that I can take one of his CDs, his latest, "Trampling Out the Vintage," for example, and give it to four or five friends. I could give it to Snidermann, whose reviews you've read here on Steve's tastes run toward hard rock. I could give it to John, who does the Friday Shot Day Show with us. John likes music from the late 60s and early 70s. I could give it to my brother, Doug, whose favorite band is Devo but who likes classic rock. I could give it to Fuse, whose punkabilly band, Hard Six, is one of Ventura County's favorites.

I could give a copy of Tom's CD to all of those people and you know what? They'd all like it. Because "Trampling Out the Vintage," much like Tom's previous CD (see below), has a little something for everyone. It's a terrific rock'n'roll record from start to finish, with a backbone of amazing guitar courtesy Mr. Guerra, and it rolls through tracks that contain hints of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and many others. 

Most of the songs here are written by Tom although there are two cover songs: "Make Your Own Kind of Music," originally recorded by the Will O Bees but probably better known for the Mama Cass version, and "Pay in Blood," a Bob Dylan song. Tom does a great job with both cover songs, putting his spin on them, especially the Dylan song, which is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

On top of all that incredible talent, the CD is astounding in its production quality. The guitars sound live, it's as though you're in the room with Tom while he was playing. And the vocals are smooth and perfectly balanced with the music. One of my pet peeves is when the music is so loud you can't hear the vocals, or vice versa, and this CD gets it absolutely right.

And I would be remiss without commenting about the musicians surrounding Tom. They are amazing as well and are a big part of what makes this CD work so well.

A new CD by Tom Guerra is always welcome. There's an old editorial cliché that they use all the time on book covers, something along the lines of "A new book from Clive Cussler is like a visit from an old friend." I'm going to go ahead and steal that line and use it here: A new CD by Tom Guerra is like a visit from an old friend, and I can't wait until he visits again.

Performing on "Trampling out the Vintage" are: Tom Guerra - vocals and guitars; Kenny Aaronson - bass guitar; Morgan Fisher - piano and organ; Mike Kosacek - drums and percussion; Matt Zeiner - Hammond and piano.

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"All of the Above" (Casa Del Soul Productions; 2014)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I have been remiss in reviewing Tom Guerra's first solo CD, "All of the Above." It was sent to me back in June of this year, as I recall, and I was eager to review it based on how I felt about Tom's band, Mambo Sons (you can read those reviews here). Of course, here it is December and I'm finally sitting down and trying to write my review.

I don't have an excuse for taking this long, but I do have a reason. And the reason is that Tom's album, like the Mambo Sons albums that preceded it, is difficult to review. You can't just say, "It's great classic rock" because it's also "great blues rock." You can't just say "It's deep and thoughtful" because it's also pretty damn funny (just give a listen to "Frankenstein Boots"). You can't just say it's got a 60s feel to it, because it also has a 70s feel, and an 80s feel, and beyond. This CD is more than that. It is, in fact, "All of the Above" and that's a big part of what makes it so listenable.

The interesting thing is that, as different as each song is, it's still driven by irresistible guitar riffs and incredible songwriting. Tom says in his letter to reviewers that he "wanted to make the kind of basic rock and roll album that nobody makes anymore" and that's what he's done. "All of the Above" has a classic sound that channels everyone from Roy Orbison to Mott the Hoople to the Rolling Stones, but filtered through Tom's ears and eyes. (And, speaking of Mott the Hoople, that band's Morgan Fisher makes a guest appearance here, as does The Dickey Betts Band's Matt Zeiner).

The other big part of what makes "All of the Above" such a rousing success is the songwriting style and lyrical content. I don't know Tom that well -- we've only exchanged e-mails -- but this CD feels startlingly honest to me. I get the feeling as I listen to this CD that it is exactly what Tom wanted it to sound like. I feel like I know him a little better after listening to "All of the Above" and, really, isn't communication what music is all about?

So, Tom, my apologies for taking so long to review your excellent CD, and my apologies also to those who should have been listening to this album much earlier this year.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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