Album Review Saturdays 2024 Episode 8

When choosing the music variety for Album Review Saturdays 2024 Episode 8 there were a lot of immediate releases that drew my attention, but I diverted my interest because I realized there were two that I was excited about two weeks ago that I didn’t get on the show!  So, I rectified that error quickly, and then I had to get in some instrumental progressive rock!  We take two reviews from Florida, and one from Switzerland.  I’ll let you already assume which is the instrumental progressive fusion band (first two guesses don’t count).  Here’s Album Review Saturdays 2024 Episode 8, I hope this gives you something to listen to!

 

LINK TO OUR YOUTUBE VERSION
[Mark Kuligowski & Panelist DAHM discuss these (3) albums + adds three (2) more reviews, again this weekend]

 

 

Monkey3 – Welcome to the Machine

This is my first adventure into the progressive fusion, instrumentally sound arena of Monkey3 out of Switzerland.  To my embarrassment (remember, I do not claim that I listen to it all — I try to), I have never heard one of their records!  Now, I could have ventured into the idea that the reason I had not heard of them was that they were in certain genre of music that I do not partake of, or that perhaps they were just not buzz worthy enough to be in front of me (Twitter, Facebook, Release Lists).  The truth is this is a complete miss for one reason or another that I cannot blame anyone other than myself for.  How did I come to Welcome to the Machine, then, you might ask (I hope you ask, that’s why I write these things)?  I saw the cover, which seems to have some Hellraiser connection to “the box” that I can always hear Pinhead calling out for.  Still terrified by that movie.  So, I think that’s “the box” on the cover of this space-lookin’ album, against the gold gleam and horror of that box.  What’s the band name?  Monkey3?  Is that even allowed in writing?  A word followed by a number without a space?  Shouldn’t it be written out as “Three?”  What should I expect from a band formed — no founded — by Picasso (no not that Picasso)?!

All right!  This instrumentally sound, progressive fusionsists have crafted a brilliant musical expression of space rock, featuring all kinds of progressive natures that utilize perfectly the guitars or keyboards as a vast expansion of the intense rocking flow of Welcome to the Machine.  Immediate kudos to these artists for their utter command of every inch of this experience.  You can take pleasure in the hardest of rock guitar solos, and then be sucked into the vortex of space, building — no manufacturing relentlessly and beautifully — to phasers-set-to-thrill crescendos.  Every instrument shines from the bass lines to the variety of drum fills and ever changing percussive flow.  If you enjoy a wild, passionate, and blindfolded instrumental orgie with Rush, Pink Floyd (very evident in beginning of ‘Collapse’), and Animals As Leaders being lead by the harder edge of progressive rock, you will have found your pleasure.

This instrumental album will… “…tear your soul apart!”  Wait, no that’s the best quote.  This is the best quote!  “Time to play…”  This is forty-six minutes of — hell yes!  Open Monkey3’s box of albums, as I am about to.  The audio pleasure’s they will show you…

The Band

  • Walter – Drums
  • Jalil – Bass
  • Boris – Guitar
  • dB- Keys and Sounds

Welcome to the Machine Tracklisting

  1. Ignition
  2. Collision
  3. Kali Yuga
  4. Rackman
  5. Collapse

 

 

 

 

JJ Grey & Mofro – Olustee

This southern soul-rock outfit started by John Higginbotham, aka “JJ Grey,” and Daryl Hance (who left the band ten plus years ago for a solo career) have come a very long way from their humble beginnings in the southern pan-handle of Florida.  Olustee is a vibrant recording that still carries their signature, but finds much much more interesting sounds, bridges (which they cross wonderfully), and the first real fantastic studio songwriting connection in their history.  Olustee keeps you sweetly comfortable in the background of the blues with that pleasing southern hinted vocal and melodic structures that are carefully woven throughout the variety of songs and lovely stories.

When we say the blues here, the familiar chord and structure is there, but JJ Grey and Mofro modestly tilt it and drive it like a swamp boat through the glades, taking their time in places, and in others, ripping it full throttle-ish.  Both are great rides, and it’s the backbone of the album, giving you all those wonderful hard-blues guitar solos, harmonics, and then horns and background singers, too!  But, there’s another side to this recording that really pops out at you.  It’s the piano and the ballad writing that’s got me smitten.  It’s as if there was some sort of southern-soul possession from Elton John & Bernie Taupin.  I’m not kidding.  While it starts subtly with ‘Seminole Wind’ in a southern delivery (those horns with piano, so cool), it carries with the faster paced ‘Wonderland’ and then it floors me at the end with ‘Deeper Than Belief.’

It is my belief that JJ Grey and Mofro have crafted their best album to date, and one that is certainly a contender to be ranked in the albums of the year for 2024.  While time will tell, as the albums pile up, I just feel the ear of my soul will keep moving me back to this record and all it has to offer from the blues, to the piano, to horns, and to even the string arrangements.  Olustee has all kinds of flavors for your soul beyond the black water of the named creek, battlefield, and the Osceola National Forest (there’s your history and geographical information for the week).  This album is visit worth planning, so get your earbuds ready.

The Band

  • John Higginbotham (JJ Grey) – vocals, guitar(s), piano/keyboards, harmonica
  • Katie Dutton, Laiken Love, Niki Dawson, Sage Grey – backing vocals
  • Todd Smallie – bass
  • Pete Winders – guitars (electric and acoustic)
  • Craig Barnette – drums, percussion
  • Eric Brigmond – keyboards and backing vocals

Other instrumental additions:

  • Bassoon – Paul Curtis
  • Conductor – Zoltán Pad
  • Congas, Percussion – Eric Mason
  • Saxophone, Flute – Kenny Hamilton
  • Trombone – Quinn Carson
  • Trumpeteers – Dennis Marion, John Reid (41), Marcus Parsley
  • Violin [Fadolin] – Lev Zhurbin
  • Budapest Symphony Orchestra

Olustee Tracklisting

  1. The Sea
  2. On Top of the World
  3. On A Breeze
  4. Olustee
  5. Seminole Wind
  6. Wonderland
  7. Starry Night
  8. Free High
  9. Waiting
  10. Rooster
  11. Deeper Than Belief

 

Amigo the Devil – Yours Until the War Is Over

The vaudevillian Johnny Cash is back with a new album!  Having seen him for the first time, opening for Clutch (see my review on Beyond Live here), I was darkly smitten with the idea of listening to his latest.  However, I was a little caught off guard a little bit into the record, not realizing that perhaps the darker side was stepping closer to more thought provoking in depth than his usual comedic crescendos (although they are there).

Yours Until the War Is Over truly starts with an album cover straight out of John Mellencamp’s collection.  And, while I wasn’t completely believing in the foreboding look of it–it should have been a slight sign.  Don’t get me wrong, Amigo the Devil, which is Danny Kiranos (who could sort of pass for David Grohl in the way he carries himself on stage), still has the vim and pissin’ vigor and comedic timing delivery that you expect.  There are just fewer songs that capture that to me this time around.  The way it starts off, perfectly in that wheelhouse, with those first three songs, especially ‘I’m Going To Heaven.’  But, it’s songs like ‘Mechanic,’ and ‘Barrel and Staghorn’ that I’m still scratching my dark-noggin’ on.  They seem to be carrying the lyrical content into a sincere pitch black folk as if these were interludes of more deeper thought.  I don’t displace this, saying that he’s not entitled to it, and I may find much later in listens (as I am definitely going to be listening to this more, considering the challenge I had with it first and second listens) that it finally clicks to me the flow and the movement to clever, whimsical, and bare bone honesty.  There’s life decisions, struggles, and regret living in this record where you’re waiting for the punch line — and it doesn’t really come.  It probably wasn’t meant to come.

I will say, nothing really prepares you for the very distant from usual, crusher called ‘Closer.’  I will leave it at that, and beg you, if you’re not sure about this to play it all from start to finish, and let me know where you stand on dark folk and interesting lyrical depth lurking from Amigo the Devil this time around.  While I was drawn to him for the whimsical and vaudeville approach into alternative dark-folk, I’m still dwelling on what Part II of ‘Once Upon A Time at Texaco’ could have sounded like.

The Band

  • Danny Kiranos – Guitars, Banjo, Vocals

Yours Until the War Is Over Tracklisting

  1. Hanging By the Roots
  2. It’s All Gone
  3. I’m Going To heaven
  4. The Mechanic
  5. Once Upon A Time At Texaco, Part I
  6. Barrel and the Staghorn
  7. Agnes
  8. Cannibal Within
  9. Garden of Leaving
  10. Virtue and Vitriol
  11. One Day At A Time
  12. Stray Dog
  13. Closer
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