When I received a copy of this CD in the mail I was immediately curious. Mick Kolassa had come out with a great album, Taylor Made Blues, just a year ago and I thought this was kind of quick to have a new one ready. I know the guy works fast, but damn, that was like Speedy Gonzales fast.
Here, he’s teaming up with Mark Telesca, whom, if I remember correctly, was a semi-finalist at the 2015 IBC in Memphis. Telesca is known for his acoustic work and he’s one of the guys responsible for giving South Florida a reputation for good blues.
I should have figured the two knew each other. Hell, Kolassa seems to know just about everybody. He’s also one of those guys who seems to have done it all in his life. He’s a veteran of the United States Armed Forces, he has a Ph.D. and was a college professor while carving out a very good career in another field.
He’s also a fine musician who has done several great albums and he donates most, if not all, of his proceeds from album sales to Blues charities.
Getting back to their duo album, You Can’t Do That! which is available on Swing Suit Records, when I turned it over and started reading the list of titles, it was apparent that this was an album of all covers. Specifically covers of songs made up of a foursome with names like John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
Yes, these guys decided to tackle the Beatles catalog in order to make this album. My intrigue radar is now up and wondering what the heck they were thinking. No wonder they called the album You Can’t Do That, because I’m sure that’s all they heard from both Beatles fans as well as blues fans.
They were joined by Jeff Jensen on guitar; James Cunningham on drums and other percussion; Eric Hughes on harp for two songs; Marc Franklin on trumpet and Flugelhorn for two songs; and Tommy Boroughs on fiddle and mandolin on two songs.
All of the songs they covered were written by the tandem of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
A little vaudeville trumpet opens up I’ll Cry Instead, and immediately you know we are not in Liverpool. Heck, we’re not even in Pepperland. We’re in the swamp and while the song is recognizable, it has an entirely different feel. Beatles enthusiasts might not dig it, but let’s keep listening to see what these boys can do.
Next up is their version of Can’t Buy Me Love. It’s got a western flair going and the guitars add a hint of danger to the song. Telesca takes the vocals on this one, Kolassa sang the previous title. It’s a pattern they will continue throughout the album with Kolassa singing the odd numbered titles, Telesca the even.
The tempo is very slow for the next song, I Feel Fine. Hughes’ harp adds so much to the song. Kolassa’s delivery is straight out of the Delta with a depth of emotion added to the lyrics. It twists the words into something that’s not in the original.
Telesca’s take on Fixing A Hole from Sgt. Pepper’s takes the song down an entirely different path. It’s dark and the tempo is slow, almost tortuous from the vocals. I think this is one of the best on the album. It’s also the first one they tackle from the Beatles more experimental years.
Kolassa tackles the title track next. You Can’t Do That uses some fancy steel guitar riffs with a harp to place the song deep in the swamp. The song is about jealousy and control – a couple of subjects that have been covered in the occasional blues song. This one really works for the blues lovers. There might be some Beatles fans who are lighting torches, but the guys have been respectful in their interpretations. Far better than some I’ve heard from other “big name” stars.
There’s a bit of country funk in Got To Get You Into My Life. It kind of rocks, much like the Earth, Wind & Fire version if they did it acoustically. This is one that most mainstream listeners will gravitate towards. Ringo, I mean Cunningham does a great job on the drums.
The song that just might be my favorite on the album is next. Lady Madonna, as sung by Kolassa, turns the lyrics into a song of grief and longing. The fiddle adds a plaintive sound and I found this interpretation to be a great version.
Next up is a song I never really cared for, Why Don’t We Do It In The Road, which was on the album The Beatles, more commonly known as The White Album. It was originally just a twelve-bar blues number before the band and the producers added the heavy percussion. Here, it is stripped down to its basic essentials. I’m still not crazy about the song, but they do a credible version on it.
Next, they add a little samba riff to She’s A Woman. The percussion changes the feel of the song and Kolassa manages to add a great deal of emotion to the lyrics. It’s an interesting adaptation of the number, taking it from the more carefree Beatles and looking back from the perspective of someone older and wiser.
Next up is a selection from the second side of Abbey Road, the mash up known as Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam. As part of the 16-minute medley, these two songs by Lennon had a great impact. Here, the acoustic version is fun, but it sort of loses the power of the original. I’m not sure the two work acoustically and they’ve changed the approach to Pam so much that it’s a completely different song.
The last song on the album is also from Abbey Road. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, has been covered in the past by the likes of Joe Cocker and Ike And Tina Turner. Here it gets a country hoedown treatment complete with a mandolin. Sorry guys, the story of a woman breaking into Paul McCartney’s house kind of loses it, although you get serious props for the attempt.
Kolassa and Telesca are obviously having a lot of fun with the album, and they are brave enough to not really care if there’s any backlash. I doubt that there will be any riots that follow them around, but if they do, what a great piece of publicity!
Like most cover album, you’re going to find those that speak to you and those that don’t. I’m sure that a few of these will end up on the show and you can make up your own mind. In the meantime, head over to their websites: http://www.mimsmick.com/ for Mick Kolassa and https://www.marktelesca.com/ for Mark Telesca.
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