Alma Records [Release date 02.08.19]
Monkey House are flying the flag for Steely Dan and the best we can say is that ‘Friday’ could have been an album of Steely out-takes. Given that Walter Becker died in 2017 and with him the possibilities of further recording/touring (remembered here on ‘Book Of Liars’) Monkey House could well fill the void, notwithstanding that Donald Fagen continues to tour in his own right.
This is an album of great, reverential playing and will appeal to those who relished the Steely Dan grooves.
Opening track ’10,000 Hours’ with its snappy brass and sub-Skunk Baxter guitar should be enough to lure the faithful. The Manhattan Transfer provide vocals to ‘The Jazz Life’, Francois D’Amours provides tenor sax to another album highlight ‘Welcome To The Rest Of The World’.
‘Say It For The Last Time’ reminds of Toto-marshalled ‘Human Nature’ so, yes, ‘Friday’ is a tad derivative with mid-tempo Toto referenced elsewhere. And erstwhile Dan sessionist Michael Leonhart adds a trumpet solo to ‘Island Off The Coast Of America’.
Mainman is Don Breithaupt (vocals/keyboards) who has also written, produced and arranged. The whole album – the band’s fifth – is full of Dan motifs (especially with the brass bits) but also puts us back in 1976 when the FM radio airwaves were ruled not only by Steely Dan, but also by the likes of Daryl Hall & John Oates and Boz Scaggs.
We are told that FM Radio’s days may be numbered, especially in the States, with the popularity and use of curated streaming services. ‘Friday’ is at once a throwback but a demonstration too that – whatever the listening medium – good music will prevail. ****
Review by David Randall
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