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LIVE MUSIC REVIEW
MAMBO SONS LIVE - CD RELEASE PARTY FOR "PLAY SOME ROCK & ROLL!" JANUARY 10, 2003, SULLY'S PUB, HARTFORD, CT (by Stan Sax, 1/17/03)
In the end, there was no doubt that the delivery exceeded the hype. And the hype, as Tom Guerra, guitarist said in a morning interview, "There's more hype to this event than when Grand Funk played Shea Stadium!". To the packed house, raw, pumping, driving basic Rock and Roll ruled.
Guerra said "the title came from some guy at a gig yelling out "PLAY SOME ROCK N ROLL!!!!"....the inevitable outcome is the 4-piece group's 2nd CD, named exactly as requested. And for that individual and all others requesting "Rock n Roll"? It delivers, 1000 fold. Mambo Sons, for the uninitiated, play anything but Mambo. For those after the inside trivia, the name came from a song by Marc Bolan, late guitarist/vocalist of T. Rex.
Mambo Sons is Guerra, Glastonbury, on guitars and backing vocals; Scott Lawson, Northampton, lead vocals and guitar; bassist, Jeff Keithline, originally from Glastonbury, now residing in Rhode Island, and Mike Hayden, South Windsor. And their collective roots grow long: Guerra and Lawson have tag-teamed for over 20 years, and Hayden and Keithline go back musically together 30 years now, gaining their first major exposure with Columbia Records' Silverado. These four are not simply seasoned veterans, but have gained national acknowledgement through endorsements: Tom Guerra via his exclusive endorsement of Brian Moore Guitars; drummer Mike Hayden has been endorsed by Grover Pro/Silver Fox, makers of professional drumsticks.
The billing was timed a few months after the actual release took place. Recorded, mixed, mastered and digitally perfected at Casa Del Soul Studio, the timing on the release party was based upon multiple activities amongst the band members - including Guerra's initiation into parenthood this past fall.
Diehard Mambo Sons fans come from far and wide. I'd surfed their website and the guestbook includes fans in Japan, Europe and coast-to-coast stateside. The word has been out, and those that showed up at Sully's were well rewarded. The last time the band played out live was March 1st, 2002, at Sully's Pub.
The band kicked right out of the gates with tunes off their new CD... from the opening power chords of "I Get Around To Much", it was evident that the boys were back in town. Guerra's guitar, along side of Lawson's early "ow ow ow owww.....", kicked in strong, with the tighter-than-superglue rhythm from Keithline's bass and Hayden's drum. By the first chorus, the crowd was singing along.... The first Guerra solo ripped.... bending, tremolo, quarter-note triplets and Lawson's encouraging "ROCK and ROLL", this band was in "the zone" from the start.
Wasting no time, Guerra's slide guitar and Hayden's drums kicked into "Blame It All on You"... again, with a refrain so familiar that, as I turned and checked the bouncing crowd, I could see mouth's moving along with the lyrics. The uptempo tune and totally infectious feeling were like a cloud of joy. Lawson was smiling, loving his fat-bodied acoustic guitar, and his little baby amp: He said to me before the gig, "it's a great acoustic, but the best thing is that I've got it pumped through this little cabinet with like these 4x5" speakers in it, and it works!"
True to the CD, the next tune was "Come on Back to Me". "Now you can bang my gong". Just another lyric? ...another piece of homage to one of their primary influences - "Bang A Gong" was notably T-Rex's hit that brought them into the spotlight. (Coincidentally on the night that T.Rex's drummer Mickey Finn passed away.) A mid-tempo song, it again had the band's signature drive, and Guerra's magicianship on guitar.
"River is Wide" starts with an absolutely stinging riff by Guerra, haunting, and complimented by Scott Lawson's exceptional voice... Hayden is so rock solid, and with the years of playing with Keithline, they were just hooked into Scott's vocals and Tom's leads... which he played dual. "A number of the guitar tracks with dual harmonies were done in the studio... but with Scott playing the acoustic, I had to double up and play the harmonies and leads at the same time." With his eyes closed, Tom was loving it - opening his eyes to make smiling contact with his fellow sons, and look upon the sea of approving, dancing, ecstatic followers. Long-time fans, and newfound ones as well.
The band played a number of tunes from their first CD: The linking of that CD's opener, "Habits of Mine", right into "Crazy Girl", was devastatingly right. "When we did that CD, I played a lot of harmony guitar tracks - Crazy Girl was one of them. With Scott playing the acoustic live, I had to double up and play the harmonies and leads at the same time." With his eyes closed, Tom was loving it - opening his eyes to make smiling contact with his fellow Sons. To the faithful, the moment couldn't have been timed more perfectly. Guerra repeated the cloned guitar harmonies on "Strawberry Hill", single-handedly mastering them.
Getting back into the tunes from the "Play Some Rock and Roll!!" CD, the band covered all we were hoping for, including the "Our Time is Getting Closer", a beautiful tune dedicated to George Harrison. The few covers included a perfect "Psychotic Reaction" (Count Five, circa '66), "I Fought the Law" (covered by many, but few making it sound this good), T.Rex's "20th Century Boy" and The Stones' "The Last Time". Throughout the evening, the Mambo Sons' diehard fans kept shouting "MONKEYFINGER!!!" from the first CD. Those fans were rewarded before the end of the night with a climatic version of "Monkeyfinger".
With Jeff Keithline and Mike Hayden working on an independent project, and Scott Lawson staying musically busy as well, more live ventures will be forthcoming. "Once the projects die down, and I start getting some sleep", said new dad Tom Guerra, "we'll have more live gigs".
I encourage you to visit their website and download their songs, www.mambosons.com , because for those that were there for this rare live gig, they experienced a 90 minute masterpiece. You'll want to keep your eyes open to find out where they will be playing next. Because the Mambo Sons - Tom Guerra, Scott Lawson, Jeff Keithline, and Mike Hayden - are professionals without comparison. They came to "Play Some Rock and Roll".... SOME??? ...how 'bout nothing but 100% Rock and Roll!!!
SET LIST: I Get Around Too Much Blame It All On You Come on Back To Me River is Wide Habits of Mine Crazy Girl Little Live Thing Rockaway What You Got Our Time is Getting Closer Strawberry Hill Devil Moon Everything Was Mine Psychotic Reaction Tomonga Street '79 I Fought The Law The Last Time 20th Century Boy Monkeyfinger