Over the past couple of years, it has become apparent to fans of Kyle Megna and The Monsoons, Mile of Music attendees, at least one brilliant music writer and Megna himself that, while the band’s work on previously released, impeccably-produced albums of all-original material is excellent, the Monsoons sound even better live.
Megna is both astute and generous; “Dark Funk” is his response to the demand for the live sound. It is a very good response.
The product of one eight-hour recording session with producer Marc Golde at Rock Gardens studios, “Dark Funk” achieves Megna’s ambitious objective “to capture what we’re doing live. It’s the best we sound when we’re all playing together.”
The songs are “organic” in the sense that each cut on the album is one complete “take” in the studio with no overdubs.
“We did two or three takes of each song,” Megna explained, “but we did not take a part of one take and splice it with another. We wanted to be consistent in presenting complete song featuring the live sound.”
This is also the band’s first album with guitarist Aaron Zepplin and saxophonist Ross Catterton.
“We are very comfortable with Aaron and he is very easy to work with,” Megna said. “He takes the sound to a more professional level. He’s a trained musician – that’s his only gig – and he takes his role in the band very seriously.”
“He knows when a song needs to breathe and he lets those parts breathe,” Megna added, “but he also knows when to let loose.”
Catterton is the most recent addition to the band; he’s only had one rehearsal with the group but it sounds as though he’s been playing with them for years. The addition of his sax playing is both a seemingly natural and almost perfect complement to the already very good Monsoon sound.
“Ross adds something we’ve never had before,” Megna said. “It’s both different and very appealing.”
The Monsoons are anchored by one of the Fox Cities’ best rhythm sections, bassist Jon Wheelock and drummer Ryan Seefeldt. Keyboardist Dave LeBlanc, who often performs with Megna as a duo, is a major contributor to the sound.
LeBlanc gets the album started with an organ riff on “Beat Up Drum,” that recalls Question Mark and The Mysterians (how’s that for an esoteric reference?) and sets the table for Wheelock, Seefeldt and Catterton to set a strong groove around Megna’s bluesy vocal and thought-provoking lyrics.
While there is a lot more than funk on this record, Zepplin starts “You Are My Light” with a most funky intro that is joined and finely augmented by Catteron, who adds colors that take the sound beyond merely funk-inflected rock the song changes direction as LeBlanc and Catteron bring some jazz that then builds to what the record is all about – the entire band rockin’ hard on the same page.
“Time and Place” has a gentler feel, a positive lyric… “this is real love,” and begins by making the listener very glad Zepplin and Catteron are in the band. Zepplin’s mid-song guitar solo is exactly what the song needs and not an exercise in overplaying or showmanship.
LeBlanc goes back to the early days of the Moog Synthesizer for the opening sounds on “Pick Your Feet Up” and then hands it off to Wheelock to drive a slow-building groove that opens the way for some outstanding fills by Catteron as well as his best solo.
Zepplin finds another funk-flavored intro that leads to a quirky but catchy harmony on “I’m Gonna Get Down,” which ultimately turns the funk intro into the powerful, hard-driving Monsoon rock sound that clearly benefits from Catteron’s presence. The tune also features one of the better rock guitar solos you’ve heard by Zepplin, but you may want to play this tune – and all the others for that matter – a second time and focus on Wheelock’s bass playing. He is definitely one of the best around.
Moody sax begins “You Me And Everyone” and stays in the mix as Seefeldt and Wheelock set the beat in an unhurried but still urgent pocket. The tempo and dynamic changes on this tune showcase the band’s strengths but with new textures and sounds that emphasize the band is moving in the right direction.
Kyle Megna and The Monsoons are on Facebook as well as kylemegna.com