[…continued from this post]
So now The Blow Monkeys had reformed. They had self-released an album through crowdsourcing. The thing to do was to obviously tour, since that was the way that bands earned a crust in the ‘noughts. Dr. Robert had played the occasional retro 80s gig, but the full Blow Monkeys name still had more pull, I’m sure. Once the band were out meeting the loving public on stages in the UK and Europe, they got the idea to put it down on disc with their first live album, “Travelin’ Souls • The Blow Monkeys Live At The Legendary 100 Club.”
The package was self-released and included a DVD of the show, and it was one of those items that was available from the band and little else. It remains the one contiguous Blow Monkeys album that is outside the purview of this Rock G.P.A. because I still don’t have a copy. While I’d certainly love to see the band, the fact remains that, apart from a jaunt behind “Animal Magic,” I have no evidence of The Blow Monkeys ever touring America. Their reformation period [see what I did there?] has been strictly for the benefit of the UK and Europe. But their reactivation did bring label interest sniffing around. It was in 2011 when FOD Records, a Canadian indie label [?!] signed the group for their next album, “Staring At The Sea.”
The Blow Monkeys
Staring At The Sea | 2011
The new 2011 model Blow Monkeys took a side trip into straight forward Pop/Rock with a side order of some Singer Songwriter dipping sauce. “Steppin’ Down” was a jaunty number with a shuffling beat and it featured the strings that were usually on every Blow Monkeys records, but they played an even bigger role on this album; dovetailing with the saxes of Neville Henry.
The next track managed to revisit one of the tracks from Dr. Robert’s 1999 solo album, “Flatlands.”
Hanging On To The Hurt” was effectively transformed here from an intimate, lo-fi production with promise, to the classic that was always latent within. I loved how it began, not a hundred miles away from the 1999 original. Dr. Robert intimate on acoustic guitar but then the string section entered the song and it built in intensity that put the 1999 recording very much in the shade. Gone was the tentative quality of Dr. Robert’s vocal for something far more emphatic. As the song climaxed the difference between the two approaches were vastly different. What a stunning revitalization for that song!
“The Killing Breeze” was the first single from the album and the strings added so much effective drama to the mellow vibe of the song. With a title like that, one was set up for something more heavy-handed. But the delicacy of the melody and the relaxed crooning from Dr. Robert made this more like a cool breeze. As ever, Mr. Henry knew when an how to apply his unfailing sax to the song to give it just the lift it needed at crucial moments of the tune. This one is good to loop for an hour or so.
Then, all bets were off when the brash horn charts kicking in on the backbeats announced that “Seventh Day” was in the house and taking no prisoners! This one began with a hook that reached right out and grabbed you by the lapels and shook you down…hard. Then, to make sure we got the message, Dr. Robert stomped on his wah-wah pedal for the first time in decades and really put the boot in on his wailing guitar here. I can’t ever recall him playing this this sort of spitfire fury before! When the song ended on the ice cold ending with the horns repeating the hook from the intro, I could only wish that it was available in an expansive seven minute 12″ mix! May I please have some more of this dish?
In an abrupt volte-face, the pensive title track to the album was next with a delicate song of nostalgia from Dr. Robert reflecting on his father with the gentle stirrings of his acoustic Spanish guitar and the double bass holding the song down. The fruity Jazz insouciance of Henry’s tenor sax was effortlessly conjuring up memories of Black’s “The Sweetest Smile” very successfully here.
Dr. Robert has not been shy about how much of an influence Fred Neil has held on his mature songwriting, and “What It Takes” was a song that could have slotted in effortlessly into a Neil opus ca. 1971. The gentle rhythm section was a real throwback to that era, and Dr. Robert’s guitar solo was a thing of beauty. he certainly nailed the vibe he wanted to achieve here with aplomb.
Next: …Do You Want A Rain Dance?