Deep Cuts

The Tom Collins

Tricorder Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


A lot of people think they’re the world’s biggest Jimmy Page fan. Sorry folks, but y’all need to get in line behind Fran Capitanelli.

Atlanta-based singer-songwriter-guitar-slinger Capitanelli never made any bones about the fact that he wanted to make music that sounded like classic Led Zeppelin. What is honestly still astonishing 20 years later is just how good he and his band The Tom Collins were at doing exactly that, long before anybody had ever heard of Greta Whatshername. Deep Cuts, the second of three independently released discs from the power trio of Capitanelli (vocals and guitar), Craig McQuiston (bass and vocals) and Kyle Spence (drums), is basically Zep 2001.

There’s a bit of a twist in the vocals, where Capitanelli’s nasal twang comes off more Tom Petty than Robert Plant, but it’s a detail you hardly notice when the group is busy delivering its specialty: greasy swagger in service of deliriously fat riffs. That’s apparent from opening seconds of “Seashow,” the first proper song after a brief intro. The trio lays down a grinding groove with thundering guitar over a propulsive rhythm section.

“TKMJ” is similarly explosive, featuring an especially angular, piercing hook, but also exposes the one real weakness of this album: it’s more style than substance. Capitanelli and friends go after a familiar sound and nail it, but the lyrics don’t feel like they matter, they’re just a means to an end. Having said that, The Tom Collins are astonishingly good at what they do, going for a full-on jam in the fifth minute that feels like a lost segment of the mighty Zep’s “Rock And Roll.” my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Lowbrain” is where it gets almost eerie, with Capitanelli’s every move on guitar like a parallel-universe Page, from tone to riffage to even his weird, crinkly soloing. If you haven’t gotten the message yet, “Tribute” opens with a bludgeoning sonic assault that feels like a marginally slower variation on “Immigrant Song,” and then “Young Girls” delivers a passionate blues that builds as they go. Piling on, the lurching “Bookends” and the riffy “Hit And Flipped” both sound like outtakes from Houses Of The Holy.

“Second Chance” dips into a different stew of influences with an especially knotty and nimble riff over a bass line that feels suspiciously close to original hard rock anthem “You Really Got Me.” “Life This Curse”—track 10—is where the band finally busts out a bit, a midtempo, slightly spacy and loose-limbed number featuring Capitanelli on acoustic, electric and slide.

“She Loves Sin” provides a late highlight, opening up as a ringing number with a nice churn to it and some of Capitanelli’s better singing, before three minutes in it segues into a second segment with even more drive, building into a heavy jam that jumps all the way to triple-time before it winds up. “Camden” closes the album, a deliberate blues with a steady rhythmic pulse and rather melancholy vocals.

One thing that’s clear from my backwards travels through The Tom Collins’ catalog is that is that Capitanelli’s singing and songwriting both evolved and improved over the course of three albums. On Daylight Tonight it feels like there’s more attention paid both to lyrics and to phrasing and enunciation. Part of the issue with this particular album may be that the vocals feel like they’re mixed a little low, as if they’re the least important part of the music. That may be on purpose, but it does make this album a great argument for lyric sheets...

The coolest part of Deep Cuts, much like 2005's swan song release Daylight Tonight, is hearing someone take a familiar, distinctive sound and make new music employing that precise palette. It’s good music that continues and builds on all of what were the most compelling and fun elements of the classic Led Zeppelin sound, focusing a little more on hooks and riffs without sacrificing any of the muscle and grease. The Tom Collins may have passed on into the history books, but you can still enjoy the thunder and grind and magnificent riffage that the trio put out into the world during their too-brief tenure.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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