Gaetano Letizia & The Blues Underworld Band – Beatles Blues Blast
17 tracks/66 minutes
The Cleveland, Ohio born and bred blues man Gaetano Letizia has now released three albums with his Underworld Blues Rock Band. Along with Letizia on vocals and guitar are Lenny Gray on bass and Mike D’Elia on drums. They also do the backing vocals for Gaetano. Letizia takes a very jazzy and funky approach to his guitar and vocals and here he takes 17 classic Beatle cuts and returns them to their blues roots.
Letizia was raised in the midst of the British invasion so he is more than familiar with the Beatles and their music. They recorded the album in one day live in the studio and you can tell the boys were having fun with this stuff. The lo-fi approach sounds perfect for the material and how it’s covered. It’s an interesting ride through about 10% of the Beatles’ songbook.
The CD begins with “Come Together,” a cut that lends itself nicely to the blues. Letizia gives us a bluesy, funky groove to savor for this opening song from the Fab Fours’ last studio release. D’Elia lays out some drum licks to start “Do It In The Road” a la McCartney in the original. Gaetano gives us some pretty guitar licks in his two solos and then goes funky with the effect peddle to make things more interesting. The earlier hit “Drive My Car” gets new treatment with some more nice guitar and a gutsy lead vocal. Cowbell and percussion are highlighted for fun, too. Next up is “Money” which gets s funky and big guitar lead and long solo time along with a fun drum solo. “Taxman” sounds more like a Stevie Ray Vaughn Texas shuffle which makes for an interesting cover. A slower, more deliberate approach seems almost natural and makes for another great cover. The guitar work showcased is quite cool. Harrison’s classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is up next with a bit of a samba treatment going on. Letezia offers up a breathy, metered vocal to fit the samba pacing. He still manages to get some wicked guitar licks in. “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” is more Joe Cocker than Beatle version but he takes it into a funky direction, too. “I Want You” becomes more psychedelic and proto-metal in its’ approach. The driving guitar gets distorted and the harmonized vocals turn more into a call and response. “And I love Her” is given a instrumental Latin and Santana sort of makeover and it’s quite cool.
“Can’t Buy Me Love” goes from pop and bubbly to gritty and dirty Chicago blues. Stinging vocals and guitar make this makeover different and well done. The pedals come out again for “You Can’t Do That” with a fuzzed up and raucous approach. The ballad “Yesterday” is turned into a somber blues rhumba which works well. “Get Back” rocks out and the stinging guitar solos give this a new face. ”With A Little Help from My Friends” gets dramatic with big rock vocals and big guitar. “Birthday” from the White Album” gets a nice groove going and the guitar work is exceptional. “Blackbird” goes country blues with finger picked notes and a simple but punctuating drum groove. The bass counters the guitar and makes it even more cool with long instrumental runs that are neat. Sgt. Peppers ends with “Day In The Life” as does this album. The song builds in intensity as the vocals grow and the guitar gets more rocked out and distorted to build to a climax.
The first time through I was less impressed. But another play showed me that these guys respected the originals and really wanted to give then new life and put their spin on them, which they did. Letizia’s vocals reminded me at times of Jimmy Thackery where he gets that gruff and almost off key stuff going to make a point and then builds back into a more traditional vocal approach.