Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Monkey House - Friday (2019)



I've told this story before, but it's worth repeating: back in 2008, I "liked" a Steely Dan group on Facebook and, because social media loves to sell my personal data, I soon saw an ad that said something along the lines of "if you like Steely Dan, you'll like this Monkey House album." Based on that Facebook ad, I bought the thing unheard and immediately fell in love with the music. I've since purchased the group's whole back catalog, checked out any new releases, including this recent album.

From the album's press release:
Sophisticated musicianship, imaginative lyrics, and a flair for melody are signatures of the sound of Monkey House, a sound that has earned the group serious critical acclaim, peer respect, and a steadily expanding international following.
Click here for full press release.

Breithaupt says this is the best Monkey House album and I'm glad he said it because there's no way I could pick a "best."

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: none, but as of this writing, it sits at #11 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.

Tracks:
  1. 10,000 Hours - Described by Breithaupt as "the track where you realize 'Oh! They don't don't just listen to Steely Dan, they also listen to Earth, Wind & Fire.'" This thing subtly moves from funk to samba near the end and Snarky Puppy guitarist Mark Lettieri deftly solos in both grooves. I used to joke with Breithaupt that I'd be willing to fly myself up to Canada to perform on a MH track or two, but after hearing these guys tear up this chart, I'm rescinding my self-invitation because there's no way I could keep up. The lyrics reference Malcolm Gladwell's faulty 10,000 hour "rule" and the middle eight lyrics "where'd ya get notion that motion is action?" reminds me of many of people I've worked with - so busy they never get anything done (at least that's how I interpret those words).
  2. Nine O'Clock Friday - One of the most Steely Dan-ish songs on the album, including the lyrical allusion to Can't Buy a Thrill. I dig the build to the chorus and the organ pads in this one. "It's nine o'clock Friday and you're going home" - been there.
  3. Shotgun - this catchy, upbeat cut is currently my favorite song on the album and one I nominated as "The Song of the Summer" two months ago:
    Nice trumpet interludes throughout.
  4. Welcome to the Rest of the World - The piano intro reminds me more than a little of Todd Rundgren or Carole King in a very good way and then the band kicks in and keeps a steady mid-tempo groove with a distinct late-70's feel. The chorus is the one of the best hooks on the album. Top-notch sax work throughout from Fran├žois D’Amours.
  5. Book of Liars - A Walter Becker tune from his 1994 album, Eleven Tracks of Whack. Becker died while Monkey House was recording this album, so Breithaupt chose to cover this tune as a tribute. Not my favorite tune on the album, but I certainly appreciate the sentiment.
  6. The Jazz Life - How could these guys possibly take it up a notch? Get The Manhattan Transfer to sing the chorus with their characteristic close harmonies that sound effortless. Fingers crossed for another MH/MT collaboration in the future. Make sure to stick around for the tasty bass solo on the coda.
  7. I'll Drive, You Chill - Yet another hook-filled chorus while the verse groove is reminiscent of the backing tracks to Steely Dan's "Do It Again."
  8. Say It For the Last Time - pleasant mid-tempo cut, reminds me more of the group's earlier work.
  9. When the Mud Men Come - A funky, half-time-feel satire of doomsday preppers. One of the better guitar solos on the album; I keep waiting for an organ solo that never comes.
  10. Because You - One of my (many) favorite cuts. An intro that grabs me from the get-go that eventually gets to a chorus that I have to sing along with. My co-workers don't appreciate my falsetto much. 
  11. Brainyard - Steely Dan ska? Somehow the arrangement works (particularly the horns). Nice instrumental break about 2 minutes in. Any song with the lyric "You kids get off my lawn" appeals to someone my age, i.e., one of my general height, weight and build.
  12. Island Off The Coast Of America - Nice way to close an album. Beautiful shuffle ballad with background vocals to die for, courtesy of Lucy Woodward. Plus the second half of the thing is a muted trumpet solo from Steely Dan's own Michael Leonhart, and even then it's too short. Then you hit the repeat button and it's back to track one.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None. Only recently released, I just got my autographed copy that I pre-ordered months ago as part of the group's Indiegogo campaign.

Also, the beautiful cover photo is "Times Square, 1958" by photographer Pete Turner, whose photos graced the covers of many CTI/A&M jazz albums in the '60s and '70s. And now I'm down that rabbit hole.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Left (2016)
Big Money: Singles, Remasters, Rarities, 1992-2005 (2005)

Also:
Just Passing Through: The Breithaupt Brothers Songbook, Vol. II (2014)


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