Monks Road (label)
17 April 2020 (released)
27 April 2020
A supergroup? A collective? Monks Road Social probably see themselves more as simply a gathering of musically-inclined friends, and a very prolific gathering it is too - 'Humanism' is their third album in only fourteen months. The nucleus of the outfit consists of Mick Talbot (of The Style Council fame), Crispin Taylor (Galliano), Dr Robert (Blow Monkeys) and Matt Deighton (Mother Earth), and for this record, they based themselves in sun-soaked Andalusia, Spain. Various friends dropped by to add their own twists to a recipe that takes in elements of soul, jazz, funk, dub, folk and world music, and apparently all present were "happy to serve the same master: the music". That's deep, maaaan.
It kicks off strongly with 'Said Too Much' and 'On The Wings Of The Morning'; two arresting slices of soulful acid jazz, taken to sublime heights by vocalists Sulene Fleming (formerly of The Brand New Heavies) and Belle McNulty, as well as by some superbly sinuous saxophone. The duo of Neil Jones (of Stone Foundation) and Celia Carballo also lend their voices to a couple of the record's highlights; harmonising beautifully on the choruses of the languid folk/dub-flavoured 'Me, Mrs Jones & You' and the upbeat Saturday night soul stomper 'City Lights'.
Elsewhere, the Malian Kamalengoni player Ibrahim Diakité sprinkles some magic on 'Sequiso', and Peter Capaldi (yes, he of Doctor Who fame!) lends his voice to the organ-laden rock n' soul of 'If I Could Pray'. Be sure to turn the latter up loud, should you ever find yourself driving in a convertible along a deserted stretch of the Costa Del Sol.
Weak links are few and far between here, although some of the more mellow, largely acoustic numbers like 'El Alba' and 'Apricot Glow' fail to penetrate the subconscious in the way that much of 'Humanism' easily does. Perhaps it's just that what sounds great in sunny rural Spain, doesn't always translate well in cloudy suburban London.
Still, across the range of genres explored here, there's nothing that sounds forced or contrived - a fine reflection of the passion, ability and mutual respect among all involved. Amid these days of self-isolation, the Monks Road Social are all about collaboration, and they'd welcome your ears.