New Monsoon: The Sound

Jambands generally do not put out great studio albums as often the live experience of a good touring band does not translate as well to the studio. Of course there is the exception to this rule: Umphrey McGee’s Anchor Drops and RAQ’s Carbohydrates come to mind and now the New Monsoon masterpiece, The Sound. Produced by Santana’s Michael Shreve along with Paul Kimble, this cd is a mix of rich harmonies, inspired songwriting and tribal beats.

New Monsoon shows increased maturity with this new release, both in their songwriting and confidence in the vocals by lead guitarist Jeff Miller and pianist Phil Ferlino. With the unexpected departure of their main singer in former bass player Heath Carlisle late in 2003 both singers have risen to the challenge and the band has remerged with a renewed vibrancy.

Many of the tunes have already been part of the NM live repertoire for months: “Journeyman,” “Rock Springs Road” and “Dark Perimeter” to name a few, but the appearance of new songs like the title tune and “Hold on for Now” had never been performed live until recently.

The sound of The Sound overall is wonderful, if anything a minor complaint is the three drummers being too low in the mix on some songs. New Monsoon is a rock band who jams as opposed to a jamband that rocks. Classic rock influences abound in Miller’s exuberant guitar playing: Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana and Jimmy Page. This along with the banjo and acoustic guitar of Bo Carper, the Hornsby-esque piano work of Ferlino and steady basslines of Ben Bernstein, form the basis of NM’s sound. Add to that the triple threat of tabla player Rajiv Parikh, Latin percussionist Brian Carey and the rock solid trap set of Marty Ylitalo, and the band serves up an unique mix of Latin, Middle Eastern, country and rock and roll beats.

“Journeyman” is a hard rocker from the start, sounding a bit like early Santana, churning along to a frenzied finish. Beautiful ballad “Broken Picture Window” starts out introspective and builds to a frenzied climax. The optimistically joyful “Rock Springs Road” shines, along with the guitar anthems “Dark Perimeter,” sounding like a Bad Company story song, and “Bridge of the Gods,” where the unique blend of the tabla and banjo meshes so well. Face it, you just don’t see a banjo and a tabla in the same band too often. Interspersed are the introspective and powerful title track, the blazingly hot “Another Night in Purgatory,” and the psychedelic soundscape of “Hold On For Now.” The cd closes with “Falling out of Trees,” a lovely piano instrumental. Their musical influences are apparent but the band combines them to make their own signature sound.

This is a band on the verge, and this cd is a praiseworthy effort by the San Francisco rockers that will surely turn new listeners into New Monsoon fans.

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