The Exciting Sounds of Menahan Street Band
Menahan Street Band, an all-star Brooklyn collective featuring members of Budos Band, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and Charles Bradley’s backing band, deliver their first album in nearly a decade. The Exciting Sounds of Menahan Street Band has already had three singles, the opening track “Midnight Morning” is an excellent depiction of their overall sound which seamlessly fuses elements of funk, R&B, hip-hop, and rock into an instrumental stew. Yes, this is an album of instrumentals. Another you may have heard is “The Duke,” which gets a rebirth after the band revisits Charles Bradley’s 2013 Victim of Love.
The song was originally recorded during those 2012 sessions with Bradley but here takes a more upbeat turn with its repetitive riffing groove through Menahan’s instrumental approach. Bandleader and producer Thomas Brenneck comments, “Our friend Adam Feeney (aka Frank Dukes), would come by often those days with demos and ideas. Some turned into songs that made Charles’ album like ‘Strictly Reserved for You’ and ‘Where Do We Go From Here,’ and some sat on the shelf. I tried putting vocals on ‘the Duke’ with Charles, but he could never get into. It never clicked.” Brenneck believes Bradley’s vocals on “The Duke” still exist on a tape somewhere, but maybe it was meant to wait until now. The most recent single is “The Starchaser,” another example of their signature melodic and soulful groove that evokes music of the streets.
After all, this is a band with deep historical roots. This is their first album since 2012. Known mostly as the musicians that accompanied the great Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones both in the studio and on stage, Menahan Street Band come forth with an album that’s moody, cinematic, and beat-wise contemporary. Produced by Brenneck in the collective’s very own Diamond Mine Studios in Long Island City, NY, the album mingles electronica with hip hop, rock and roll, funk, and some unclassifiable sounds. More of the moods are melancholy than jubilant, but together they encompass a wide range. You’ll find those danceable moments.
Here’s more on their various musical disciplines and pedigrees: Thomas Brenneck (Budos Band, The Expressions, Los Yesterdays), Dave Guy (The Roots, Late Night House Band, The Dap-Kings), Nick Movshon (Lee Fields and the Expressions, The Black Keys, The Avalanches), Leon Michels (Big Crown Records, El Michels Affair, The Black Keys) and Homer Steinweiss (The Dap-Kings, Holy-Hive, Lee Fields and the Expressions). They each bring a unique perspective to this infectious, urban-based sound found in some other outstanding tracks such as “Rising Dawn” and “Devil’s Respite.” Gleaning titles one can’t help but be struck by some that paint the perfect urban soundtrack for a gloomy, stay-at-home winter such as “Rainy Day Lady,” “Cabin Fever,” Glovebox Pistol,” and “Snow Day.” The band has been the foundation for some of modern hip-hop’s most successful beats; their music has been sampled by the likes of Eminem, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, 50 Cent, Curren$y, to name a few. Those are samples; you won’t find any vocals and certainly no rapping here. Instead, this is smooth flowing, dreamy stuff that sneaks up to the point where you’ll find your foot tapping or head bobbing after perhaps being in a trance-like state on some of the tracks.
- Jim Hynes