Monkey House = Don Breithaupt. Let's just get that out there. Sure, he surrounds himself always with first-class players. Justin Abedin, Mark Kelso and Pat Kilbride are all "predictably amazing" (according to DB). But there truly is only one monkey in the house and it's Don. I know from first-hand experience what a formidable songwriter Don is. We've written a few together and his knowledge and instincts (both required commodities) are unparalleled.
You'll find out exactly what I mean when you listen to Friday, a new collection of twelve little masterpieces, all but one penned by Mr. Breithaupt. He says "I started writing songs for this album the day "Left" was released in 2016; setting your freshly minted music loose on the world creates a void that can only be filled by making more music."
Amen to that. "Book of Liars" (the lead-off single) is the only non-original. As Don states, it is a "from-the-heart homage" to his musical hero Walter Becker (who died while this record was being forged). There is no mistaking the Steely-Dan-esque vibe of Monkey House and this track is a perfectly fitting tribute. Don gets writing help from Chris Smith and Guido Luciani on "Say It For The Last Time" - pure pop perfection. I love the bold brassiness of "10,000 Hours". And "Welcome To The Rest Of The World" is definitely one of my favourites. The piano intro punches a decidedly 70s groove and then hello sax! Love it.
I asked Don while he called this record Friday and he responded "The word Friday came up organically in two of the song titles, so when I went looking for an album title, there it was. Also, I think people pretty universally have a nice association with Friday. It's freedom day. To me, Friday seems like the album where all the disparate musical strands that have constituted Monkey House over the years wove themselves together into a unified pattern."
Those strands include funk, jazz, soul, yacht rock, pop, singer-songwriter and the smoothest groove possible, created with intelligence and passion for intelligent and passionate music-lovers. Don fully and lovingly acknowledges the Steely Dan comparison. "Monkey House got created when a whole bunch of songs I had written with outside artists in mind didn't get covered because they were considered too quirky, tricky or jazzy. I thought: well, I guess I have to do them, then! The SD connection was originally a stylistic mission — SD had broken up, Fagen wasn't making records (this is late 80s), and I just thought someone should carry their legacy forward, their way of making records, their wide-ranging harmonic palette, their literary lyrics, their fundamental funkiness."
With Friday Monkey House has succeeded once again in creating and collating a rare and textured collection of twelve singular songs that belong together on the same album. It's the ideal Friday night album. Or any night. Or every night.
Well done Monkeys!
Vickie van Dyke