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So just who is this Tom Fuller guy? Well, Tom Fuller Band's 'Ask' is the third album to be released under said moniker although the man seems to have escaped my radar until now. The press sheet informs that Fuller's grandmother worked for infamous gangster Al Capone although, random facts aside, what of his music? Well, there's kind of a seventies rock vibe present throughout the songwriting with acoustic and distorted electric guitars often neatly layered alongside keyboards, bass and drums. Topped off with Fuller's infectious vocal tones which range from the balladic smooth to the gruffer rock, 'Ask' is a rather engaging listen. Wilco, Cheap Trick and Chicago rhythm and blues are points of comparison offered in the press blurb although, ignoring such musical semblances, 'Ask' actually contains some finely crafted, mainly up tempo, melodically infused slices of rock. And the melodies come thick and fast as songs flow seamlessly throughout their generally formulaic structures. Formulaic but flawless, and with compositions of the high quality we have here, its generic underpinnings matter little for there are surely no pretensions to originality. To criticise 'Ask' for lack of originality would be missing the point as Fuller's aim is evidently not to be ground-breaking with his music, rather, more straightforwardly, to write a series of catchier-than-catchy tunes. In this he succeeds, and with the assistance in their execution of some very experienced players, including two members of Paul McCartney's band no less (Abe Laboriel Jr. and Brian Ray). 'Anthem Man' has to be the highlight for me (one of two tracks he co-wrote with James Wold, the others all composed by himself) as it oozes emotion like no other song on the album - perhaps mainly due to Fuller's vocal delivery which is particularly impassioned on this tune to emphasise its anthemic essence. In general, though, his singing is quite astounding and he knows how to accentuate each composition's themes and melodies by utilising the tonality and intonation of his voice to suit the mood of the music and the lyrics he sings at all the right moments. 'Hell Fire Angel' is another prime example of this as it switches between mellow and heavier passages with concomitant vocal variation to suit. Okay then, so now I'm fully aware of who Tom Fuller is, and I urge you to go check out the man's music for yourselves. If you enjoy unpretentious, emotionally charged rock that pertains to pure musical sincerity then 'Ask' is the album for you.
Redcap Records
Review by Mark Holmes
5th Sept 2011
1) Lovers; 2) Ask
3) Doin' Nothin'
4) Take Me Away
5) Anthem Man
6) Hellfire Angel
7) Merci Beaucoup
8) Keeping Time
9) Morphine Maureen
10) Hot Air Balloon
11) The Best of Me
12) Garden Dreaming Days
"...unpretentious, emotionally charged rock that pertains to pure musical sincerity..."