MonkeyJunk’s last CD “To Behold” did very well for the band and impressed with its variety of styles and full sound from a bass-less trio. The new CD maintains the same production team of Steve Marriner and Ken Friesen and was again recorded in Ontario. Steve sings lead, plays harp, keys and baritone guitar; Tony D plays guitar and Matt Sobb drums with both adding background vocals. The material is all original apart from one cover and two writers from outside the band contribute to four of the tracks.
MonkeyJunk wrote five of the tracks themselves. “You Make A Mess” is an upbeat opener, Steve reminding us of what a strong singer he is as Matt propels the tune and Tony uses the wah-wah in his solo. No harp on the opener but Steve opens “Right From Wrong” with a blast of harp before leading the band on a catchy shuffle with Tony adding some nice slide touches. “Yearnin’ For Yesterday” finds Steve singing with some distortion and echo on his vocal in a style that (strangely!) reminded me of Jethro Tull. “What I Got To Give” returns to a bluesier base with plenty of Tony’s slide over a snappy drum track from Matt, definitely one to get the toes tapping. The final track on the CD is “Swank” which runs to over seven minutes, an instrumental which features Steve’s keyboard playing. Whilst he is best known for his harp work here he shows that he is no slouch on his second instrument, his organ playing taking us back to the 60’s and the likes of Booker T or Steve Winwood in the Spencer Davis Group. Tony adds to the retro feel with some atmospheric guitar in the middle before Steve returns to the main theme on the outro. Quite unlike anything else on the album but an interesting track.
Fellow Canadian singer, songwriter and harp player Paul Reddick gets writing credits on two tracks. “Once Had Wings” is a ballad but comes across rather like when hard rock bands do ballads, lots of strong guitar power chords and epic drums. The absence of a bass player here might prove a weakness but is not noticed at all, suggesting that this is one of the cuts on which Steve plays baritone guitar. “Say What?” is an uptempo tune in which the usual bragging about making love ‘all night long’ is reversed when the promise comes from the girl! Some nice echoey guitar from Tony in his solo. Fellow Ontarian Matt Chaffey co-wrote two tracks on the album. “Je Nah Say Kwah” must be intended as a joke version of the French “Je ne sais quoi” which appears in the chorus of a strange little song about being shipwrecked and discovering a girl with magic powers. Lots of harmony vocals here, Tony’s guitar riff being at the heart of the song and Steve delivering a short, sharp harp solo. “Sirens In The Night” opens with police sirens before an insistent drum beat and slide riff take us through the song.
The one cover is Bobby Charles’ “Why Are People Like That?”, a song that is probably covered too frequently but this is still an excellent version, Steve’s vocals being perfect for the song, his harp also strong and dramatic while Tony’s sinuous slide is all over the background as well as taking a very effective solo.
This CD is perhaps not as varied as “To Behold” but further cements the reputation that MonkeyJunk has acquired over the last five years with a series of strong performances. It is easy to see why the band has garnered so many awards in Canada and is beginning to make an impression ‘south of the border’.