The resurrected ‘Listen Again’ series takes a second look at previously released platters.
For those music lovers who missed the first (or even second or third incarnation) of “Listen Again,” “Listen Again” is a review series in which we revisit releases that, for whatever reason, never received the attention or acclaim they might have deserved when they first hit the record bins. Whether it was because the album was ahead of its time, strayed from the artist’s expected style, was misunderstood, or just not properly promoted, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to “listen again.” This time we revisit John Tabacco’s 2018 album Monadic Integration Parade.
John Tabacco is an American singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, engineer, and graphic artist. He has engineered, mixed, and mastered music for more than 30 years. Tabacco is also the co-founder of SA3. SA3 is a proprietary analog to digital conversion technology for sound and video. His rockin’ resume also includes live performances with such tribute groups as Stealin’ Dan, and Mostly Moptop, and literally dozens of releases including solo albums and other collaborations.
Monadic Integration Parade
Monadic Integration Parade is a 16-track album. With one exception, all of the material here was written by Tabacco. Here he leads the way on bass, guitars, lead vocals, keyboards, and programming and is occasionally assisted by an assortment of other able artists.
In a reference to the album’s conspiratorial theme, Tabacco also notes that the disc “is dedicated to Chiron Last (whoever he may be).” More importantly, the CD garnered the Akademia Music Award for Best Alternative Rock Album in 2019. In recent online communiques, Tabacco briefly spoke of the disc.
He said: “I recorded [it] a few years back. [I]t’s got a lot of good music on it. The concept is pretty conspiratorial and does center around some dark edges, but if you can get beyond that, the songs sit well in the mind. Or at least I’d like to think that. In any event, I look forward to [people] listening…”
Track by Track
The first track is “Resistance Is Assistance.” It is an apt album opener in that it unquestioningly indicates what is to come in terms of theme and amply serves up a sample of what is to follow musically as well. Nick Rufolo guests on basic keyboard and bass and Mike Rufolo also appears on drums on this, mellow, jazz-tinged track.
The second selection, “Safe Conservative Clothesure”, slots in seamlessly. Lyrically, some of the social commentary is actually ironic considering our current state of affairs. It speaks of amputating preachers and “conservative closure” while also saying “take back your rights.” Still, it’s got a great sound reminiscent of Tabacco’s classic signature sound. Tabacco notes that this is an older “old song from 1986” that he “brought back from obscurity” specifically for this release.
“What’s different about this piece is the fact that it was produced by Grammy award-winning musician, Bob Stander. It was by far the most expensive piece I’ve ever paid for. It was worth it of course on many levels, not the least of which the playing on it is quite excellent.” The cut includes Scott Chasolin on keyboards, Josh Dion on drums Bob Stander on bass and guitar, and songstress Susan DeVita on backing vocals.
The song is followed by “Nobody, Nobody Knows.” This peppy piece provides the listener with a truthful reflection on the future. The track features Patricia Amendolia on backing vocals, Barry Hartglass on bass, and Vinnie Zummo on guitars.
The Next number is “If Creator.” This track, too, focuses on future possibilities and one’s fate in a surprisingly light piece reminiscent of Frank Zappa in part. Chris Marshak sits in on drums and Amendolia remains on backing vocals.
“Choking On A Chickpea” concerns airplay and the radio industry past and present. Is it a musical metaphor, a stereophonic story, or both? Perhaps it doesn’t matter that much. It works.
“I’m Not Satisfied” is the sixth slice of lyrical life served up here. It’s probably a bit biographical and yet it’s also an audio observation on perseverance. The signature sound remains solid here.
In a way, “You And Your Voice” is perfect for those who think they make no difference. Sometimes it only takes one person showing they care to keep a person going. It’s an intimate tributary with a universal lesson. Susan DeVita appears on the other end of the line: “Hello.”
“You Would Be Surprised” flows wonderfully from the previous piece. It has a sneaky bit of darkness to it but fits perfectly into place. While credited to Gian DiMauro and Howard Berger, Tabacco owns it.
“Hippocrate’s Run Around” takes the audience in a slightly different direction yet still contains prerequisite Tabacco-track elements. It concerns familial medical trials and tribulations and although it’s essentially an instrumental, paints what one can imagine to be the perfect picture soundtrack for a silent movie of the event.
“Lately (Need Some New Sneakers)” presents another musical mood of sorts. Still, Tabacco’s performance remains strong, steady, and familiar as to his little lyrical lines that sneak out from under the everyday observations and effective melody.
“Such Agendas” seems perfect for a movie soundtrack or perhaps a TV sitcom. It’s light but with some nice little moments. Joe Gioglio appears here on electric guitar.
“Metro People” is a fine example of what Tabacco can do when he collaborates with others. In this case, LarsCarlsson, and Soren Skarback. This poppy piece would also work well on a soundtrack complete with some social commentary to boot. Gioglio is back on electric guitar.
“Excerpt From Across The U.S. In A Red Suburu, 1986” Tabacco notes this was actually “recorded with a portable cassette machine.” Sounding like an initial writing session for a Dylanesque ditty for the 2007 movie Walk Hard, or a rambling revisit of Frank Zappa’s “Have You Ever Heard The Band?”, it provides both a nice segue and an interesting aural palate cleanser featuring John Tabacco, Laura Tabacco, and Nick DiMauro.
“Saturn, Moon, Matrix Distractions” is a welcome follow-up. Speaking of distraction, a lot is going on here in this musical message which you might miss as it is cleverly camouflaged by Tabacco’s signature sound. Susan DeVita provides backing vocals.
Tabacco takes us back to the beginning as this next track opens…or does he? Here on “What A Wonderful World” a.k.a. “Wonderful Plan E.T.”, Tabacco channels Louis Armstrong, Al Yankovich, and Frank Zappa in his own “glass-half-empty” eco-influenced version of “What A Wonderful World” the 1967 song by Bob Thiele and George Douglas. It’s both sad and funny at the same time.
The closing cut is “Nature Asks Nothing Of Us, But ‘They’ Do.” Listen carefully to this song. Musically, it will both transport you to another place and ground you in Tabacco’s reality…and leave you wondering…
With a running time of almost 59 minutes, this disc is another extraordinary example of Tabacco’s tuneful talents and his ability to “play well with others.” He once called the music here “American quirky pop.” At times though, it’s more like perspicacious pop, with elements of alternative, rock, and even pinches of punk.
While his signature sound is often impacted by a few select other artists, Tabacco is always able to dance along that razor-thin line between base derivation and honest inspiration. He almost always renders up an exceptional amount of individualistic audio offerings perfect for perceptive listeners. So, if you’ve never heard John Tabacco’s Monadic Integration Parade,” listen to it. If you’ve already listened to it…listen again.