Charles Dickens’ book, A Tale of Two Cities opens with, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The 1960s was a dark and confusing time, especially if you called America your home. In ‘63, a very popular president was assassinated. In ’68, his brother Bobby was also murdered and that same year Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as well. To make matters worse, the USA found themselves in a war that was the first ever conflict seen nightly on national television. As the anthem outside the 1968 Democratic Convention shouted, “The Whole World Is Watching.” “ It was the worst of times.”
However not long after the Kennedy assassination, four musicians with mop top haircuts from Liverpool, England landed on the shores of America. From there, what followed were some of the finest musical talents: The Supremes, Cream, Hendrix, Dylan, Janis, The Stones, and The Who. I could go on and on with many many more artists, but this was the music of the ’60s. “It was the best of times.”
With regard to music’s best, it also includes a popular song from the 1960s, Sonny and Cher’s, “The Beat Goes On.” As the beat has gone on and on throughout the decades, two musicians have emerged taking the beat right back to the 60s while adding their own evolving sound. They are The MonaLisa Twins. Here these nineteen year old musicans from Austria are moving listeners forward with their newest album, MonaLisa Twins Play Beatles & More. Make no mistake about it, if you love music of the 60s you will love The MonaLisa Twins as they cover songs from The Beatles to a few other favorites of that period. However, to say the band is simply covering songs of that era, would be selling them a bit short. These fresh new faces are doing much more to their music by giving listeners a trendy sound mixing pop, folk, blues, and even a bit of jazz making their album something that many artists past and present would approve. Essentially, The MonLisa Twins’ newest album does an outstanding job offering listeners a “blast from the past,” but with a splash of MonaLisa to make things interesting.
In the album opener, “Revolution,” the girls kick in with a bit of a Texas Blues beat and adding a touch of attitude to go along with it. The only thing missing is Paul’s scream at the beginning. However, I believe its Lisa giving us her primal “all right” throughout the song that would give Sir Paul some competition. I like the way at times their voices seem to stand alone, while emphasizing the rhythm and bass guitar. The guitar solo at the end of the track is nicely done as well.
However, in “This Boy,” it really takes you back. This is one of my favorite Beatles tunes because of the close harmonies throughout the song. I feel Mona and Lisa made a wise choice keeping the song as close to the original. Their harmonies are spot on, making the piece timeless. The girls continue singing beautiful harmonies with “In My Life,” another Beatles favorite. They captured the essence using only what sounded like an acoustic guitar. The song says so much about life as the ladies sing true to the number giving it a peaceful feeling to this unplugged sound. Listening to it, can’t help but think of many that have gone. Miss you Walt.
Moving on to another track, one I have not heard covered until now, Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” a protest hymn to the Vietnam War. I really like the guitars in this piece as if Mona and Lisa are playing with some needed displaced anger of their own. The sense of urgency and provoked vex in their voices gives the number its just do. I’m sure Neil would give his “rubber stamp” of approval.
However, it is with “People Are Strange,” that is once again is so spot on. This track doesn’t lose any luster, continuing with the ghostly presence that it has. But Mona and Lisa’s version has so much more than the original. The bass solo – yes, you heard right – the bass solo was simply superb. Was that Entwistle? To compliment the bass solo was an awesome percussion solo that had some mixed in jazz flavors. For this writer, “People Are Strange” is their best piece. The song keeps to the original version, but adds so much giving it a cool twist with the bass and percussion. This is a number that went over so well in front of a live audience, simply flawless.
The last track is one of Janis’s own, “Mercedes Benz.” This is another piece that the ladies did so well with the intro sounding like a bit of gospel while adding a country flair throughout. The blues harp by Mona gives the number a nice finale. Both girls sounded as if they were having a lot of fun with this number. I m sure Janis would get a kick out of it.
Listening to the band throughout their album was in this writer’s opinion a real gas. That’s a ’60s expression. They have so much energy, feeling, and emotion in their work and the songs they chose to cover. However, while covering these songs, not only doing an outstanding job, but also adding their own zest to these tunes, giving the listener a taste of the past, but also playing in the here and now. I have the feeling when they come to America, they will be very well received. There is definitely a market for their music from the young and old alike, making their sound a collection of covers but with something of their own. They certainly captured this writer’s regard with their own idiosyncratic sound. All they need is to make their mark on America with these timeless rock and roll collections. Need I say more?
And so it goes, this is The MonaLisa Twins, and it is “the best of times.”