Rock G.P.A.: The Blow Monkeys [part 33]

blow monkeys (c) 2017 michele sidener-howard
Blow Monkeys in 2017 [L-R]: Mick Anker, Neville Henry, Dr. Robert, Crispin Taylor

[…continued from last post]

Languid tremolo guitar and delicate strings personified the summery Soul vibe of “Fortune’s Wheel.” The spoken middle eight from Dr. Robert shared the spotlight with the buttery sax of Neville Henry and all was well with the world. The music here was as comforting and the melody tends to get stuck in my Mental Walkman® for hours on end.

The funky flute groove of “God’s Gift” was as big a contrast as this album was allowed to have. The starring role was atypically saved for guest Jacko Peake’s trilling flute. But with the deep-shag Funk vibe, Mr. Anker also got something to sink his teeth into. As did the taut, urban sax of Mr. Henry. The guitar was as minimal as it got here, until the instrumental break where Dr. Robert pulled out the distortion pedal for the first time on this one to bite a little deeper into the groove.

“An Act Of Faith” was the most atypical song in this program. It began with a regimented groove where the motorik hi-hat and the bass line syncopated for a rare sense of urgency in this program. Thus it continued from the first three verses, until the chorus finally appeared, and with it the tempo immediately down shifted into something far slower as Dr. Robert paid off the “sowing seed” references in the second verse with the literal tale of a woman planting for future generations as the music seriously paused to allow the chorus to take all of the time that it needed to. Just one more verse and chorus before the urgency of the introduction returned for a final bar.

With “Nothing To Write Home About,” the album reached its stopping point. A slow meditation of Stax Soul on the ephemeral nature of even a meaningful love affair in the cosmic scheme of things. And then the CD threw a curve ball. A hidden track that was only listed on the Japanese CD, and unheralded here. “Words On The Wind” was a brief, lively, jazz coda that gave the last word to Henry’s punchy sax ululations with the horns adding rhythm to it all before having literally the last word.

This was an unusual Blow Monkeys album in that is stuck to a tighter stylistic map than usual with vintage Soul sounds, and slight nod towards Funk predominating. Not since “Animal Magic” had their been as focused a Blow Monkeys album as this one had been. And with eight guest musicians contributing, there was a fairly large cast here that saw Dr. Robert focus strictly on guitar, with all keys being played by Mick Talbot [organ] and Jos Hawken [piano].

The four piece string section really came into their own here and the Blow Monkeys penchant for having live strings on their albums reached its apotheosis here. After the sax of Neville Henry, the one trait I most associate with The Blow Monkeys would be strings and the arrangements here were full and rich throughout most of the album.

The opening song set the bar at a high level and the album managed to keep it there for the bulk of the program. This was an album of musical Soul Food and after hearing it the first time, I played it in our home one Sunday morning and my wife wasted no time in taking it to work the next day and importing it into her iTunes there; the ultimate accolade! Fans of Soul music from the pre-Disco era, will have much to admire here. Even as the band touch upon the Funk that preceded that in the marketplace.

After hearing this one, I wondered how the band could possibly better it even as I was grateful that I was able to pre-order an autographed at PledgeMusic during that platform’s salad days. I love putting down money [when I have it] for such endeavors. Then I can go on with my life and just receive a CD in my mailbox when it’s ready. I would have liked to have pledged the £40 to get my name in the booklet like I did in 2008, but that was over my budget. Though I did notice that this was the only booklet pledging roster of their albums this far [that were crowdsourced] to not have at least one of my friends in the list, if not more. The presence of Françcois Marckmann, [who ran the old Yahoo Associates Mailing list if memory serves] was the one name that I recognized, though I can hardly call him a friend.

I also noticed that the album was released on Monks Road Records, a different branding than “Blow Monkey Music,” the band’s own imprint, but close enough to think that it might be a label of their making. But I would soon find out how wrong I was.

Next: …Rampant Socialism

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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