Jeff Monn - Reality

Jeff Monn

Released 1968 on Vanguard
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 20/07/2000ce

This album is pretty obscure and to my knowledge it has not been re-issued as of yet. It was issued on the Vanguard label in 1968 (also home base to the likes of Country Joe and the Fish,Circus Maximus and Sandy Bull and many others.)
Jeff Monn may not be a household name to most but those fortunate to have heard New York garage kings The Third Bardo's "I'm 5 Years Ahead Of My Time" will recognize the voice of Mr. Monn. He was in fact the lead singer of that great group. His vocals are pure psychedelic snarl,similar to the Chocolate Watchband's Dave Aguilar.
It seems Vanguard were impressed enough with The Third Bardo to sign Jeff Monn to a solo deal and supply him with a brass section and orchestra to color his Rolling Stones influenced song stylings.
Those coming to this album expecting the full garage assault of the Third Bardo will be disappointed, in fact the guy who sold me this album is a total garage freak and he told me he couldn't take the brass and strings. Me, I kinda like them and in many ways this record reminds me of The Pretty Things criminally dismissed third album "Emotions".
What is easily apparent on "Reality" is that Jeff Monn has major talent. He probably could knockout ace garage songs all day but decided to follow a more ambitious route with his songs. But who knows the horns and strings could have been Vanguard's idea,in that case the joke is on me.
But in my opinion "Reality" is a very impressive collection, showcasing the many sides of Jeff Monn's talent. The record opens with an aggresive folk garage song called "Think I Care" which really draws the listener in with a great hook and swinging brass, "Walking Around In Your Disguise" is a moody ballad that comes close to Love's "Forever Changes" territory, the song is enhanced by some colorful brass phrases.
"Give It To Me" is another superb track bringing to mind the feel of The Saints-Prehistoric Sounds" LP and also Saints spinoff group The Laughing Clowns. The title track "Reality" is next and it's a nice uptempo ballad similar in style to The Rolling Stones-"Between The Buttons" album. "She Is There For Me" sounds like it could have been left over from Jeff's days with the Third Bardo, here it comes across like a cool breeze of garage soul. Side one ends with the very Dylan-like "I Need A Friend" that kinda reminds me of "She Belongs To Me". All in all side one in consistently solid.
Side two begins with a cover of The Rolling Stones' "Back Street Girl" that's ok but nothing special. Next on tap is the best song on the album in "I Can Understand Your Problem" which is a song Jeff did indeed record with The Third Bardo, it's a cool and menacing garage number that's augmented by some brass fills that remind me of Cat Steven's 1967 hit "Mathew and Son".
"My Good Woman" is a beautiful ballad that again brings to mind Phil May's vocal work on The Pretty Things "Emotions" album (mentioned earlier.)
Sadly the record ends on a bum note with 2 rather lacklustre covers, Jimmy Reed's-"Ain't That Loving You Baby" and a totally overblown take of The Rolling Stone's-"I'm Free" that's almost as bad as The Soup Dragons version. Jeff really should have stuck with his own material as the 3 covers on this record are totally uninspired.
But in conclusion the high points on the record by far outweigh the low points making it a most worthwhile listen. "Reality" can also be found at a reasonable price. However if you are a garage fan who hates brass and strings you might want to stay away.
To sum it up Jeff Monn appeared to be a singer/songwriter who had talent to burn why he failed to click remains a mystery to me.

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