Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tony Monaco: “The Definition Of Insanity” (2019) CD Review

I’m a big fan of certain so-called jam bands, and on Tony Monaco’s new album, The Definition Of Insanity, he covers songs from both the Grateful Dead and Phish. That is what got me excited to give this disc a listen. This CD, unlike Monaco’s past releases, actually features mostly covers. There is only one original track on it. In addition to tunes from Phish and the Dead, he covers music by Floyd Cramer, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Leon Russell (among others). Yes, the material is from a wide range of styles and genres. Tony Monaco plays organ, piano and accordion on this album, and also sings on three tracks. Joining him on this release are Derek DiCenzo on guitar and Tony McClung on drums.

Tony Monaco opens with a cover of Phish’s “Cars Trucks Buses,” an instrumental track from Billy Breathes. That tune was written by Phish’s keyboardist, Page McConnell, so it is perhaps a perfect fit for Tony Monaco. And, yeah, this version has plenty of delicious work on organ. The group does jam on it, turning in a version significantly longer than Phish’s studio rendition, more in line with the length of live versions. I dig Derek DiCenzo’s work on guitar. And toward the end, there is a cool drum section. Tony Monaco then switches gears with a sweet rendition of trumpeter Lee Morgan’s “Ceora” (the original version featuring Herbie Hancock on piano). Things then get groovy and funky with “Root Down,” a delicious composition by Jimmy Smith (it was the title track to a 1972 live album). This track features some cool work on both guitar and keys, over that great groove. It’s a fun track from beginning to end, and is one of my personal favorites. There is a playful ending.

Asako Monaco (Tony’s wife) joins him on piano for “Never Let Me Go,” adding to the beautiful romantic feel of this one. This is the first track of the album to feature vocals. It was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, and has been recorded by folks like Nat King Cole and Dinah Washington. Tony Monaco turns in a really good vocal performance here. He then goes in yet another direction with “Non Ti Scordare Di Me,” which also features vocals. I love this one especially once it reaches the main section. I dig that timeless European sound, and Tony Monaco plays accordion on this track. That’s followed by the album’s sole original number, “Awa Athar,” which has a seriously cool vibe right from the start. It develops a good groove, and I like that guitar work. This, for me, is another of the disc’s highlights. Tony Monaco then goes in a totally different direction with a cover of Floyd Cramer’s “Last Date.” Yes, this album is even a little bit country, with Monaco’s organ taking on the sound of pedal steel.

Then we get the track that got me interested in this disc, the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’” (a song from my favorite album, American Beauty). This instrumental rendition begins on drums, and quickly establishes a nice groove. Tony Monaco delivers the vocal line on organ, and, yes, it’s difficult to keep the lyrics from running through my head as I listen. Tony Monaco gets good and loose on the organ here (I think Brent Mydland would smile if he were listening). Then we get some good stuff on guitar, Derek DiCenzo delivering a different take on the guitar part than I’ve heard in other versions. Tony concludes the album with a song by Leon Russell, one of the great musicians we lost in that most foul year 2016. “A Song For You” is one of Leon Russell’s most beloved compositions. It was the lead track on his self-titled debut solo album. Tony Monaco delivers a pretty, heartfelt rendition on piano and vocals, with the band coming in a couple of minutes into the song. I am really fond of this rendition. “I love you in a place where there's no space or time/I love you for my life, you are a friend of mine/And when my life is over, remember we were together/Now we’re alone and I’m singing this song for you.”

CD Track List
  1. Cars Trucks Buses
  2. Ceora
  3. Root Down
  4. Never Let Me Go
  5. Quando Quando Quando
  6. Non Ti Scordare Di Me
  7. Awa Athar
  8. Last Date
  9. Truckin’
  10. Triste
  11. A Song For You 
The Definition Of Insanity was released on January 18, 2019 on Chicken Coup Records. By the way, for me the definition of “insanity” is believing a single word that Donald Trump utters. Would someone please just put an end to the insanity and horror of this administration?

No comments:

Post a Comment