Monkey House, “Book of Liars” from ‘Friday’ (2019): One Track Mind
I saw a show I’ll never forget on April 29, 2017 in Las Vegas: The last Steely Dan show at the Venetian. It was the stunning end of a successful residency, and also the next to last live performance of Walter Becker.
I assumed that after his death that I would move on musically. However, Becker’s estate has released a flurry of fascinating songs. Then the Donald Fagen-led Steely Dan tentatively performed “Book of Liars,” a song off Becker’s 11 Tracks of Whack album at a few shows.
The band Monkey House, led by composer-keyboardist and Steely Dan expert Don Breithaupt, has now returned to “Book of Liars,” as well – and it is in no way tentative. Monkey House’s last album, Left, made my Best of 2016 list because of Breithaupt’s ability to wrap deep rock-jazz melodies with fascinating hooks.
The Monkey House version “Book of Liars,” just released a single from their upcoming album Friday, has to face the challenge of meeting the original version’s impact – and also that of the Steely Dan version from Alive in America. Fear not, as the emotional impact from the original is intact.
Breithaupt wisely uses real drums to build the suspense in the song, whereas 11 Tracks of Whackhas a demo feel. Not so with the Monkey House version. In addition to the thoughtful drumming by Mark Kelso, Don Breithaupt’s Fender Rhodes sound contributes to the warmth missing in the original. Breithaupt also adds a new horn arrangement which freshens up the song with its subtle strokes of color.
The complexity of Becker’s original bass parts is brought out by Pat Kilbride, and Justin Abedin’s rhythmic-guitar touches tie it all together. Don Breithaupt’s acoustic piano solo even fits better that the one on the original.
Monkey House’s take on “Book of Liars” makes me miss Walter Becker even more, while I eagerly anticipate the release of Monkey House’s Friday. The single is out now on all the usual Internet music sites. You can also support a Monkey House world tour via their Indiegogo campaign page.