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CD REVIEW: Tom Chaffee & The Saturnalia, "Tom Chaffee & The Saturnalia"
By David Lockeretz - 01/27/2003 - 08:37 PM EST

Artist: Tom Chaffee & The Saturnalia
Album: "Tom Chaffee & The Saturnalia"
CD Review: L.A.-area guitarist Tom Chaffee proves that instrumental rock is alive and well on this CD. Chaffee's songs work because they are just that: songs. Chaffee understands a concept that eludes many instrumental musicians: Instrumentals can work just as well as vocal songs, as long as they adhere to the same rules.

Rather than merely being vehicles for shredding a la Yngwie Malmsteen (if you don't know who he is, I've proved my point perfectly), Tom Chaffee's songs have cohesive structures, memorable melodies and butt-shaking grooves. There is good variety on the CD too. Songs like "Atomic Clock" and "Pump & Grind" are pure funk with an attitude, whereas "Lighthouse" and "The Waltz" are gentler and more lyrical. "La Ballona" opens with country-flavored acoustic guitar before the rock groove settles in. The rhythm section playing is tight too. While the occasional presence of keyboards or sax might provide some variety, the trio works very well within the confines of their format--they are equally comfortable in blues, funk, country or rock.

The main thing that needs improvement is the recording quality. On "La Ballona" and "Old Feeling", the drums are too loud and seem equalized too bottom-heavy; particularly on the latter, where the bass guitar isn't heard well enough. Chaffee's guitar at times is equalized too top-heavy.

These minor quips aside, this CD is a very promising effort from Tom Chaffee, who is doing more than his part to put instrumental rock back on a map that's been missing it hard for a long time.

For more information about Tom Chaffee, visit www.tomchaffee.com.


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