Firefall Acoustic - Colorado to Liverpool: A tribute to The Beatles Review
Hitching the suffix "esque" to the tail end of any word, is like hitching a batch of helium balloons to the tail end of a donkey in the hopes that it'll convert the animal into a hot air balloon. But no matter how high your hopes, the donkey won't move faster, farther or higher. At the end of the day, it's just a pack animal packing dead air. Ambitious but fraudulent. (Hot H2O donkeys? Air balloons? Grammar lingo? Yes, this is a music review. Hang in there, folks. There IS a point. Promise.) And so it is with most "esque" -ending musical efforts: Doors-esque, Stones-esque, Springsteen-esque. Most "esque" adopters turn out to be wannabes with more delusions than talent because a suffix does not a musical original make. (See? Music appreciation plus a side of existentialism (esque) bafflegab all wrapped up in a scintillating (esque) review.)
But for every rule, there's at least one juicy, satisfying Nyah, Nyah, Nyah-in-your-face exception. And so it is with Firefall, the Colorado-based band (who enjoyed major success in the late '70s, early '80s) with the desire—need?—to create an acoustic Beatles-esque tribute with equal parts individuality and reverential appreciation of musical icons. They even admit that covering much loved material from much loved artists is risky business. Explains Jock Bartley on the cd's liner notes, "Far too many Fab Four 'covers' shouldn't have been made."
Still, Bartley and Steven Weinmeister, (plus a trio of delightfully skilled musicians) opted to "honor (The Beatles') legacy and message of love." And while they include the mandatory thank yous to the Liverpool Lads, by the end of the first beautifully crafted opening cut, it is Firefall that deserves the heartfelt thanks.
It is indeed a tricky path to walk when you decide to follow in the footsteps of giants, but Firefall not only manages to navigate that historic stroll, they actually create a sidestep or two of their very own.
Smart move too to open with the lesser known "Within You Without You". Unlike with one of the gazillion better-known hits by The Beatles, this one, originally released in 1967, allows you to ease into the cd without being hit over the head with the traditional "The Beatles did this WAY better than (fill in the blank)." Because this cut is not as readily linked to The Beatles, you're spared that nagging little voice that gnaws away until you can a: remember who did the song originally, or b: decide which version you honestly prefer. That respite allows you to really appreciate the genuine vocals and astounding guitar work of Firefall.
By the third cut (not to jump over the equally captivating "Girl"), "Norwegian Wood", you really don't care who did it first, you're just thrilled that Firefall did it now. Together or apart, the voices of Bartley and Weinmeister are cinnamon sweet, not so sugary that you develop a toothache after the first verse, and with just enough texture and personality to gently reawaken that craving that's all too often automatically appeased with chocolate. Even the most rabid chocoholic will fess up to an occasional hankering for a little variety, some bit of subtlety. This duo fits the bill tastefully.
Even the handling of the "doodle-doo dums" in "Here Comes the Sun" comes across as sincere rather than the traditional corny bordering on goofy---no small feat when you're trying to do justice to the kings of some of that era's (well, the early stuff anyway) cheesiest lyrics. Okay, don't flip your Ringo wigs just yet. I'm a MAJOR Beatles fan, but even I have to admit that some of their lyrics were simply fun, light and airy. (Shall we discuss "Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies," or "he got toe-jam football"? And there's nothing wrong with that.
But imagine the burden of trying to duplicate that airiness in today's less-than-airy world, without coming across like, well, like something with the suffix "esque" attached to it. Firefall deserves full points for pulling it off, with grace, confidence and proper homage to peerless songwriting and performance.
The vocals, the instrumentation, the production, the harmonies, the arrangements, they all blend together effortlessly, like a handful of old friends getting together to reminisce, laugh, play and embrace a magical, musical relationship that can't be duplicated, but can surely be appreciated.
Do I like you, Firefall? Nah, I love you. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
CD Info and Links
Firefall Acoustic - Colorado to Liverpool: A tribute to The Beatles