Oh, man you know that you’re a westcoast pop fan when you just shout out a “Wow!” when hearing the opening track on the new MONKEY HOUSE album. Yes, it is the Canadian top notch band who’s back, with their fifth full length album to date. This time they have aimed for a little more rhythm based sound. I can tell you, they have nailed it!
The qurtet is still DON BREITHAUPT (keyboards, lead & background vocals), JUSTIN ABEDIN (guitars), MARK KELSO (drums & percussion) and PAT KILBRIDE (basses). The list of guesting artists is pretty impressive too and I’ll get back to that.
Among the 12 songs (13 for the Japanese release) there is an excellent cover version of the STEELY DAN song “Book of liars”. Breithaupt is a huge fan of the band and this is a grand hommage to the sad loss of Walter Becker.
Time to mention the top notch horn section. They are WILLIAM SPERANDEI (trumpet), TONY CARLUCCI (trumpet), VERN DORGE (alto sax), JOHN JOHNSON (tenor sax) and WILLIAM CARN (trombone). Some examples of their great playing and arrangements are “Because you”, the opener “1000 hours” (a tempo filled westcoast pop tune with a funky attitide) and, well, almost everywhere. Strong arrangments all over.
Surely, the STEELY DAN influences are obvious in songs like “Island off the coast of America” and “Nine O’Clock Friday” but never close to being rip-offs. They stand on their own feet, these guys. And they sure know where to find additional players; the tenor sax solo by FRANCOIS d’AMOURS in “Welcome to the rest of the world” and the guitar solo by DREW ZINGG in “Nine O’clock Friday” are just two examples. A few songs are absolutely in the same vein as YOUNG GUN SILVER FOX.
Ah, “Jazz life” with MANHATTAN TRANSFER guesting is fantastic! Rather smooth westcoast on the slightly jazzy side, with a splendid arrangement and a tasteful & impressive bass solo. All musicians involves are such tight performers and the song nicely built with a soft verse and bridge, followed by a chorus with a little more vocal edge where the Transfers show who’s the boss. “Say it for the last time” has got a lovely beat, almost a fraction of reggae but also in the tempo that jazz/fusion band THE RIPPINGTONS like to perform and sometimes even TOTO. Such a fresh song and sound!
One song where the ideas of adding a more rhythm based thinking into the songs is clear, is “Shotgun” which is one of three singles that were out ahead of this release. It is a cool tempo filled song in kind of pop and funk mode.
“I’ll drive – you chill” is stylewise very close to JaR, which says a lot of the quality these possess. Fantastic. Same goes for the previously mentioned “Nine O’clock Friday” which Randy Goodrum and Graydon couldn’t have done any better!
You’ve got lots of great moments ahead of you when you start to get acquainted with this album. So far in 2019 it is the best album I’ve heard. Compared to earlier releases, which are all good, this is even better! It sounds like this quartet are having fun and they are such good musicians. This album is released on CD as well as vinyl. Produced by Breithaupt and PETER CARDINALI. A sure buy!