Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1967-68)
- Mickey Dolenz
-- vocals, drums, percussion
line up 2 (1968-69)
- Mickey Dolenz
-- vocals, drums, percussion
line up 3 (1969-70)
- Mickey Dolenz
-- vocals, drums, percussion
line up 1 (1986-)
- Mickey Dolenz
-- vocals, drums, percussion
supporting musicians (1987)
- Richard Bechirian -- percussion
- Andy Cahan -- keyboards
- Mark Christian -- lead guitar
- Mike Egizi -- keyboards
- Davey Faragher -- bass
- matt Harris -- backing vocals
- George Hawkins -- bass
- Craig Ostbo -- percussion
- Curley Smith -- drums
Blessing (aka Michael Nesmith)
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: original metallic cover
Catalog ID: 3261
More than anxious to capitalize on The Monkees' popularity, Columbia leaped at the opportunity to finance a Monkees film. Big mistake !!! Written by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson (the latter directed), and starring a bizarro cast including boxer Sonny Liston, Victor Mature, former football player Ray Nitschke and Frank Zappa, anyone expecting a "Hard Days Night" styled comedy was in for a major surprise. To everyone's credit, "Head" proved daring and imaginative, though dense, fragmented and virtually impossible to follow. Anti-war sentiments and non-too-subtle commentary on stardom (the band is seen committing suicide jumping from a bridge), left Columbia executives dumbfounded. Having seen the movie, it's best described as a confusing mess. Needless to say, the film proved a commercial disaster.
Naturally the film was accompanied by a soundtrack album. While it was billed as a Monkees release, technically that was a stretch since the collection included snippets of film dialogue and Ken Thorne's incidental film music. In spite of the fact it was their most creative album, 1968's "Head" suffered from the film connection. Interspersed with fragments of dialog ('Gravy'), sound effects, and Thorne's incidental music ('Opening Ceremony'), it was far from their most consistent set. To be honest, the results were frequently distracting; particularly if you'd never seen the movie. That wasn't to say there weren't a couple of moments worth hearing. Highlights included Nesmith's blazing 'Circle Sky', Jones' campy reading of Nilsson's 'Daddy's Song', and the psychedelic single 'Porpoise Song' (probably one of Carole King-Gerry Goffin's weirdest efforts). Interestingly, the film's biggest musical surprise came in the form of Peter Tork's two contributions. 'Can You Dig It' and the rocker 'Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again' were both killer tunes which made you wonder why he wasn't given more exposure. Their poorest seller up to that point, the album faltered at # 45 on the US charts. (The album was originally released with a metallic mirror cover.)
The album also brought personal tensions to a head (ha!). Having just turned
in two of his most impressive songs in the form of 'Can You Dig It' and 'Long Title: Do I
Have To Do This All Over Again' and increasingly frustrated with the rock star
lifestyle, Tork bought out the remainder of his Colgems contract for a
then-whopping $160,000. Giving him kudos for showing the morale strength to
follow his beliefs. Unfortunately the decision also left Tork broke. Within a couple of
years he was left to working menial day jobs to pay his bills.
1.) Opening Ceremony - 1:19 rating: * star
'Opening Ceremony' was best described as a slight psychedelic sound
collage, notable for a bunch of disjointed sound effects and various folks
chanting the word 'Head' over and over and over ....
Monkees manager Bob Rafelson was living in the same New York apartment building as Carole King and commissioned her to write a song for their upcoming film. I'm not the first to suggest King and husband/writing partner Gerry Goffin borrowed more than a touch of "Magical Mystery Tour" for the song.'. Regardless of where they grabbed their inspiration, the result was one of The Monkees greatest overlooked classics. In fact, the song stands as an overlooked psych classic. Mickey Dolenz was featured on vocals (heavily distorted) and the arrangement was simply stunning - particularly when heard through good headphones (ha). The song was featured and the start of the film in a sequence showing Dolenz jumping off a bridge and being saved by mermaids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKmPmZoKeP0 : Colgems also tapped the song as a single:
- 1968's 'Porposie Song' b/w 'As We Go Along' (Colgems catalog number 66-1031) # 62 pop
The band occasionally included it in their live show.
YouTube has one of those clips taken from a June, 2011 Merrillville, Indiana
3.) Ditty Diego - War Chant - 1:27 rating: ** stars
by Jack Nicholson, 'Ditty Diego - War Chant' was apparently intended as a
not-so-subtle swipe at the band's theme song and squeaky clean image.
You had to give them credit for being willing to look in the mirror and
willing help destroy their public image. "You
say we're manufactured; to that we agree, so make you're choice and we'll
all rejoice in never being free ..."
a page out of the Bo Diddley songbook, 'Circle Sky' featured Nesmith at his
most rocking ...
The song was supposedly inspired by the band's extensive touring.
While the film version interspersed a live May, 1968 performance in
Utah with a series of disconcerting black and white film clips from the
Vietnam war. In contrast the album version was recorded in the studio
with Nesmith and studio musicians - much to the annoyance of the other
Monkees. You can see the film version at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuMnVaeDlw0
incidental sound effects. I doubt these 49 seconds would be any better
if you were stoned.
an interesting, slightly stoned mid-Eastern vibe, 'You Can Dig It' was one
of two Peter Tork compositions. It was also one of the best
things he ever contributed to the band. Mickey Dolenz handled the lead
vocal. Be warned that showing the band surrounded by a harem of young,
scantily clad, dancing women, the clip hasn't aged that well and is likely
to rankle some viewers, but thanks to YouTube, you can see the accompanying
movie segment at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewSO8WyOCgQ'
YouTube also has an interesting 2001 live performance of the song with
Tork handling lead vocals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KK13S55NB1w
1.) Gravy - :05 rating: no stars
what was the driving requirement to hear Davy Jones say "And,
uh, I'd like a glass of , uh cold gravy with a hair in it, please"?
audio clip from the movie: "Sounds
like a lot supernatural baloney to me. Supernatural perhaps.
Baloney, perhaps not."
Mickey Dolenz on vocals (Ry Cooder and Neil Young on guitar), 'As We Go
Along' is one of those lost Monkee classics. Simply a beautiful
ballad; one of the prettiest things they ever recorded. The song
was featured in a lovely segment of the film showing the band members
individually wandering through a variety of idyllic natural settings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_XEIlMje64
needless film dialogue. It makes a little more sense when you see the
film clip that goes along with the dialogue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpvw8RahgG4
by Harry Nilsson, 'Daddy's Song' was easily the
album's most overtly commercial tune and the perfect clip for Davy Jones
personna. Bouncy, campy, and upbeat, it was offset by some
exceptionally dark and disturbing lyrics. The film segment ended with
a hysterical cameo from Frank Zappa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdHUyOHMhN0
still more dialog that doesn't make much sense without seeing the film.
second Tork contribution and another winner. Tork may have had the weakest
voice of the four Monkees, but on this out and out rocker he sounded
great. If you've ever seen the film, the song was set to what'sn a
classic '60s party scene, though the irony was it showcased Michael
Nesmith's growing unhappiness with the craziness surrounding the band: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArauGDh-Edw
Lots of debate with respect to the screaming lead guitar. Some folks
think it was Neil Young. Most folks say Stephen Stills. Tork is
on record as saying he played the lead guitar. To my ears it sounded
actor Abraham Sofaer in his role as the Swami, the first half of 'Swami - Plus Strings'
served as the album's longest
"dialogue" segment. The middle segment featured a reprise of
Goffina dn King's earlier 'Porpoise Song'.
segment offered up an attractive slice of classical strings (written and
conducted by Ken Thorne). The track was apparently intended as a swipe at
Tork's interest in Indian spirituality and the Maharishi (shades of George
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Instant Replay
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 4346
Down to a trio following Peter Tork's departure, "Instant Replay" was clearly recorded under trying circumstances. Mickey Dolenz, David Jones, and Michael Nesmith reportedly went into the studio without any material and basically took it from there. Exemplified by some of the group photos on the back cover, the results made it clear the surviving Monkees weren't particularly happy to be with one another and were rapidly running out of creativity, let alone much enthusiasm for continuing The Monkees nameplate. The collection featured a hodgepodge mixture of older, previously unreleased material with 'Tear Drop City' dating back to 1966, while 'I Won't Be the Same without Her' was recorded in 1967. In contrast ewer efforts like Nesmith's 'Don't Wait for Me' sounded suspiciously like solo efforts (a la Beatles White Album). As to be expected, Nesmith-penned country-rock efforts such as 'Don't Wait for Me' and the pretty 'While I Cry' provided most of the highlights. On the downside, Jones' MOR-moves like 'Don't Listen To Linda' and 'Me without You' were increasingly irritating, though his hysterical stab at hard rock 'You and I' was worth hearing. Usually good for an enjoyable track or two, this time around Dolenz's all-around weird 'Shorty Blackwell' took up way too much track time.
I'd love to be more positive, but probably only of interest to hardcore fans ...
1.) Through the Looking Glass (Tommy Boyce - Bobby Hart - Baldwin) - 2:41 rating: *** stars
certainly not alone in thinking 'Through the Looking Glass' sounded a bit
like a dosed remake of 'Cuddly Toy'. The strange barrelhouse
piano, acid-tinged orchestration, coupled with Dolenz's barely in-tune
vocals made it a weird opener.
was actually a decent enough ballad, but Jones' gasping delivery was so lame
and vapid that he managed to reduce it to nothing more than MOR
sludge. Simply horrible.
rare vocal appearance by Nesmith who sounded a bit gruff, supposedly due to
the fact he'd recently had his tonsels removed. As I recall, the song
was actually recorded during the sessions for their debut album but
subsequently shelved. It certainly had a pleasant Buffalo
Springfield-styled folk-rock sound and left you wondering why Don Kirshner
and company didn't want to hear Nemsith's voice on any Monkess
my ears 'Just a Game ' sounded like a song fragment waiting to be fit into a
true composition. r
without You' was a good example of the group being too cutesy for their own
good. The fact they seemingly ripped off a bit of 'Your Mother Should
Know' helped a bit, as did a rather ragged guitar solo. rating:
country-tinged 'Don't Wait for Me' was a wonderful example of the direction
Nez would go as a solo act
1.) You and I (Davy Jones - Bill Chadwick) - 2:10 rating: **** stars
Jones try to power his way through a hard rock tune (well hard rock for The
Monkees), was actually kind of interesting. It certainly wasn't nearly
as bad as you might have expected and certainly benefited from the brittle
lead guitar provided by Neil Young ... seriously !!!
(Jones and Mickey Dolenz collaborated on a song with the same title for the
1996 Monkees comeback album "Justus".)
keep my comments brief - simply one of the prettiest, most affecting tunes
Nesmith ever wrote and the backing vocals were almost angelic.
With Dolenz handling lead vocals, 'Tear Drop City' was another previously recorded castoff - this one dating back to 1966. To my ears it sounded quite a bit like some of their earlier singles including more than a touch of 'Last Train To Clarksville'. Certainly not the album's most creative outing, though it was commercial in a retro fashion which probably explains why it was tapped as a single:
- 1968's 'Tear Drop City' b/w 'A Man Without a Dream' (COLGEMS catalog number 65-5000) # 56 pop
has a clip of the trio lip-synching the tune for a 1969 appearance on the
Johnny Cash television program. Worth checking out for the velvet
suits and watching Jones go spastic on the bass: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFyp_Xc6J9o
what could you have possible have expected from the combination of a tune
written by Carole Bayer and Neil Sedaka
with Jones handling lead vocals. Sappy schmaltz. Yech.
sappy ballad, but credit Goffin and King for at least crafting a memorable
melody ... always liked the punchy horn charts on this one.
Sounding like an odd mash-up of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and a sound collage, Dolenz's 'Shorty Blackwell' was weird enough to have fitted on "Head". It certainly wasn't very enjoyable, though I would love to know what it was actually about. The female singer was Dolenz's sister Coco.
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: minor ring wear
Catalog ID: 2871
By the time 1970's "Changes"
was released, The Monkees were basically little more than a
nameplate. Peter Tork had been the first to leave in 1968.
Michael Nesmith left in mid-1970. Both were forced to buy out the
remainder of their Colgems contracts to the tune of $150,000 a year.
Though Davy Jones had previously announced his intention to leave the band,
the financial ramifications may have been the reason he reconsidered the
move. Accordingly, "Changes"
found The Monkees enterprise down to the duo of Jones and stalwart Mickey Dolenz.
With Jeff Barry brought in to handle
production chores, the set occasionally came off as little more than a
musical wake. Left to the mercy of Barry and a gaggle
of other outside writers, Jones himself has labeled the album as being
little more than an Jeff Barry produced Andy Kim solo album with minimal
Monkees participation. Clearly uninspired by their surroundings, neither
principle seemed to put much effort into the set. The new tracks were
rounded out by three previously recorded tracks - 'You're So Good', '99
Pounds' and 'Midnight Train'.
Dolenz's 'Midnight Train' also serving as the only original effort. Exemplified by material
such as 'Oh My My' and 'It's Got To Be Love' the
results were professional, if largely bland and quickly forgotten. The only tracks
that really stood out were the gorgeous bubblegum-ish 'I Love You
Better', the ballad 'Ticket On a Ferry Ride', 'Tell Me Love',
and the circa 1967-era rocker '99
Pounds'. The latter made it clear Jones' wasn't cut out for hard rock. With the collection failing to chart,
Dolenz and Jones officially killed the band.
1.) Oh My My (Jeff Barry - Andy Kim) - 2:57 rating: ***** stars
Originally penned for Bobby Bloom, 'Oh My My' found the duo taking a shot at an unexpectedly tough rocker. With Mickey on lead vocals it was still a pop tune, but complete with hard rock guitar that sounds a bit like Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here', the tune actually wasn't half bad. It was also tapped as the final Monkees' single on Colgems:
'Oh My My' b/w 'I Love You Better' (Colgems catalog number 66-5011) #
98 pop The quality is poor, but YouTube has a promotional video
clip of the tune at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izHTcRe9P8U
spite of a slightly flat Dolenz performance, 'Ticket On a Ferry Ride' was a
decent ballad with some nice Monkee-ish backing vocals I'm
guessing those backing vocals came from Barry, Bloom, and company.
getting a chance to toughen up his sound ... While he simply didn't
have the vocal chops to pull it off, the song was good enough to
survive. Not to be confused with 'Your So Good' which appeared
on "Missing Links Volume III"..
MOR-ish vocals and delivery turned this one into a throwaway. Shame
since the song had good structural bones and would have been quite good with
a less lounge act delivery.
by future Tidbits members Steven Soles and Ned Albright,
'Acapulco Sun' had a winning melody
with a breezy, tropical feel. The tune's always
sounded like something Mike Nesmith might have written. Great slide
guitar on this one. I've never seen a copy, but the song was released
as a Mexican single.
fans will be able to tell from the retro sound (just check out the fuzz lead
guitar and Arthur Butler's Farfisa organ), '99 Pounds' was a leftover from
the 1967 "Headquarters" sessions. The irony
stemmed from the fact Barry had produced the song back in 1967.
As mentioned previously, the song underscored Jones was never going to cut
it as a hard rock singer, but there was so much energy packed into these two
and a half minutes, it was easily one of the album's standout performances.
1.) Tell Me Love (Jeff Barry) - 2:32 rating: **** stars
the album's most interesting song, 'Tell Me Love' managed to mash-up a
Gospel flavored ballad with a pseudo-classical feeling. One of
Dolenz's best performances, the song also sported an amazing bass line.
took awhile for 'Do You Feel It Too?' to kick into gear, but when it did the
song's melody was almost enough to compensate for Jones' flat
Love You Better' was the album's best song and a great example of Barry's
knack for crafting killer bubblegum pop. You had to wonder why
the song was relegated to the 'Oh My My' "B" side.
second Soles-Albright contribution, 'All Alone In the Dark' featured an off,
quasi-jazzy feel. While I didn't particularly like the song, it was a
nice fit for Doenz's goofy persona.
album's lone original composition, 'Midnight Train' was another
"resurrected" song. The track was originally intended for
inclusion on 1969's "The Monkees Present". To
my ears the Western swing feel made it sound like a Mike Nesmith
composition. Kudos to Dolenz for effortlessly handling the
mile-a-minute vocals (his sister Coco was featured on backing vocals).
The song's always reminded me of Commander Code and the Lost Planet Airmen's
'Hot Rod Lincoln'.
Another rescue job - 'I Never Thought It Particular' dated back to 1966's "More of the Monkees" sessions. I'm guessing it was dropped due to the fact the Jones sung ditty sounded too much like some of their other releases. A far more typical Monkees sound, but easy to see why it was shelved.
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Barrel Full of Monkees
Grade (cover/record): VG+/ VG+
Comments: double LP set, minor ring and edge wear
Catalog ID: SOLD 5043
Price: SOLD $15.00
The final Monkees release on Colgems, 1971's "Barrel Full of Monkees" was a double LP 20 track compilation. Apparently geared for the children's market that grew up with the band's television program, the set was actually quite good. Overlooking the absence of much in the way of liner notes (but then do 10 year olds care about liner notes), the compilation pulled together the band's radio hits, pseudo-hits and a couple of their better album tracks. Curiously it didn't sell well. That might have something to do with the fact fans had grown up and moved on to other things, or perhaps something to do with the hideous cover art. (The album shouldn't be confused with the Rhino Records release "Barrel Full of Monkees: Music for Children" that featured an inferior track listing.)
Full of Monkees" track listing:
2.) Cuddly Toy (Nilsson) - 2:45
3.) Star Collector (Carole King - Gerry Goffin) - 3:30
4.) What Am I Doin' Hangin' 'Round? (Lewis - Clarke) - 3:02
5.) Pleasant Valley Sunday (Carole King - Gerry Goffin) - 3:10
2.) Valleri (Boyce - Hart) - 2:16
3.) Randy Scouse Git (Mickey Dolenz) - 2:35
4.) I Wanna Be Free (Boyce - Hart) - 2:24
5.) Listen To The Band (Michael Nesmith) - 2:45
2.) She Hangs Out (Jeff Barry) - 2:33
3.) Gonna Buy Me A Dog (Boyce - Hart) - 2:28
4.) She (Boyce - Hart) - 2:27
5.) (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone (Boyce - Hart) - 2:25
2.) Your Auntie Grizelda (Keller - Hilderbrandt) - 2:28
3.) A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You (Neil Diamond) - 2:35
4.) Mary, Mary (Michael Nesmith) - 2:12
5.) Shades Of Gray (Barry Mann - Cynthia Weil) - 3:20
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: minor ring wear, cut lower corner
Catalog ID: SOLD
With the band's television program going into Saturday morning syndication, Bell Records took advantage of the new audience to release another "best of" collection; 1972's cleverly-titled "Re-focus". Most of the band's top-40 hits were here; the one odd (and interesting) choice being the inclusion of Nesmith's 'Listen To the Band'. Given the set did little sales wise, it's one of the rarer titles in the catalog and the packaging was kind of cool.
"Re-focus" track listing:
Rating: ** (2 stars)
Title: Tails of the Monkees
Catalog: SM 10012
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: picture disc
Catalog ID: 5364
So let me be warn you that in spite of the title, "Tails of the Monkees" was a real hodgepodge. The subtitle gave you the impression this was a previously unreleased concert performance ... Unfortunately large chunks of the album's scant playing time were devoted to interview materials (mostly with Michael Nesmith) pulled from television appearances, radio interviews. etc. Most of it was pretty bland, though Nesmith's comments on seeing Jimi Hendrix and having him open for The Monkees were pretty funny. Another warning, while there were five 'live' performances (none featuring particularly good sound quality), they weren't really Monkees tracks, rather featured the mid-1970s Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart pseudo-Monkees line-up. I'm guessing the live tracks were recorded in Japan.
the Monkees" track listing:
'Opening Live' was basically a sound collage pulling together snippets of radio interviews, their television show, etc.
2.) Comments Regarding Their Musical Career rating: ** stars.
Pulled from The Interview Show, 'Comments Regarding Their Musical Career' featured Michael Nesmith talking about the band's roots and early relationship with Screen Gems.
3.) Last Train To Clarksville rating: *** stars
The first of five live tracks, with Dolenz handing lead vocals, 'Last Train To Clarksville' was a surprisingly good performance, sticking pretty close to the studio original. Unfortunately the sound qualify was abysmal, sounding like it had been recorded through a wool blanket.
4.) Comments rating: * star
'Comments' featured Nesmith going on about the band trying to show some creative independence.
5.) I Wanna Be Free rating: ** stars.
Another Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart performance, 'I Wanna Be Free' was probably the worst of the five concert numbers. The studio version wasn't any great shakes, and the concert version only served to showcase the ravages time had taken on Davy Jones' voice. Yech.
6.) Comments rating: ** stars.
It was fun to hear Nesmith talking about Hendrix touring with the Monkees on 'Comments'.
7.) I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight rating: *** stars
Probably the best of the live tracks, 'I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight' actually managed to capture a bit of garage rock energy.
Side two opened up with Harry Harrison prattling on about the band for Armed Forces Network The In-Sound. Geez, did Harrison ever sound like a schmoozer ... Ever wanted to a be a Green Beret ?
2.) I'm a Believer rating: ** stars.
The live version of 'I'm a Believer' suffered from sound quality that was even more dismal than the other four tracks. While Dolenz handled the lead vocal, Jones brief segment underscored how weak his voice had become.
3.) Comments rating: ** stars.
A continuation of The In Sound interview, the splicing between DJ Harrison and Nesmith was hysterically inept, as were the question being asked. The ad for the Women's Army Corps advertisement was even funnier. \
5.) I Remember the Feeling rating: ** stars.
'I Remember the Feeling' was lame beyond anyone's wildest dreams - it sounded like they'd stolen it form an after shave commercial.
Another snippet from he In Sound interview, Jones was featured on some dull comments about whether the band played their own instruments. rating: * star
7.) A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You rating: ** stars.
It was billed as previously unreleased, but to my ears this version of 'A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You' sounded like it was the original studio version - way too accomplished and smooth to be a live take.
8.) White Christmas rating: ** stars.
Originally the 'B' side to the seasonal 45 'Christmas Is My Favorite Time of Year' and featuring Jones on lead vocals, this countrified version of 'White Christmas' may be the world's dullest cover of the classic song. Jones literally sounded like he was asleep.
So unless you're a major Monkees fanatic, or simply love picture discs, you can probably live without this one.
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Pool It !
Catalog: RNIN 70706
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 3213
With MTV having introduced The Monkees to another generation of fans via re-reuns of their television show, it was only a matter of time before the accountants moved in and ensured that a reunion was a viable alternative for folks. Bless his soul, but Michael Nesmith had the courage (and financial resources) to sit this one out.
With Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork having resumed touring in 1986, it was only a matter of time before pressure was brought to bare with respect to recording some new music. The pressure came as the trio were getting ready to embark on another US tour. The response was 1987's Roger Bechirian produced "Pool It!". While the album was marketed as a Monkees album, that was pretty much a stretch. With most of the album's dozen songs penned by outsiders, the results came across as solo efforts, rather than a true collaboration. Their voices remained recognizable and Rhino had the marketing sense to live up to the trio's established television personas - Jones the romantic and main ballad singer ('(I'll) Love You Forever' and 'Counting On You'); Tork the quirky member ('Gettin' In' and 'Since You Went Away'), and Dolenz as the easy-going, good-natured one ('Heart and Soul'). You also got the feeling neither Rhino, nor the trio were sure how too update their sound for a mid-'80s audience. Their new wave cover of Wreckless Eric's (I'd Go the) Whole Wide World' wasn't half bad, but things went off the creative rails when they took a stab at "toughening up" their sound. Released as a single 'Every Step of the Way' was hysterically inept, while 'Midnight' simply underscored the fact Jones was ill suited for rock and roll.
Following a squabble over an appearance at an MTV awards show, the network effectively banned the group from it's play list. You could also argue the album cover photo didn't help sales. Pitchfork included the album on it's list of "The Worst Record Covers of All Time". Neither seemingly bolstered sales, the album peaking at # 87 on the US charts.
the Monkees" track listing:
Against every fiber in my body, I have to admit that I thought the title track was a great song. Dolenz sounded in good form and the tune had the kind of goofy melody that was a perfect match for the remaining Monkees. Easy to see why Rhino tapped it as a single:
- 1986's 'Heart and Soul' b/w 'MGBGT' (Rhino catalog number RNOR 74408) # 87 pop Interestingly, Rhino financed a promo video, but MTV banned it after the band refused to play for an MTV sponsored awards show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mo7cBvd62Uw
2.) (I'd Go the) Whole Wide World (Eric Goulden() - 2:56 rating: *** stars
With Mickey on lead vocals, their version of '(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World' wasn't going to make you forget the Wreckless Eric original (off his "Stranger Than Fiction" LP), but give The Monkees credit for finding the song and not messing with it too much.
3.) Long Way Home (Dick Eastman - Bobby Hardt) - 3:46 rating: ** stars
Jones instantly recognizable vocals gave 'Long Way Home' one of the album's most Monkee-fied sound. Again, the big drums and '80s production haven't aged all that well, but it was one of those sappy ballads that sent generations of little girls squealing in delight.
4.) Secret Heart (Brian Fairweather - Martin Page) - 3:05 rating: *** stars
Another Mickey vocal and probably the album's most readily commercial tune, though the song's '80s production sounded strained and a bit calculated.
5.) Gettin' In (Peter Tork) - 3:03 rating: *** stars
Penned by Tork, 'Gettin' In' found Peter turning in his best new wave influences ... Imagine The Monkees having overdosed on Duran Duran. LOL The '80s, though not necessarily at their best. Filmed by an audience member, YouTube has an in-concert clip of the song. Worth checking out just to see Tork's dance moves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGv4O7lZ_eg
6.) (I'll) Love You Forever (David Jones) - 3:22 rating: * star
Written and sung by Davy Jones (it had previously been released as a solo 45), '(I'll) Love You Forever' might well be his signature tune. And it's exactly what you'd expect - a big, bloated, and hard to stomach ballad that probably wouldn't appeal to any female over 15. YouTube has a May, 2010 Jones' solo performance of the tune at Epcot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fikhJ6AEZLI
1.) Every Step of the Way (Mark Clarke - Ian Hunter) - 3:21 rating: ** stars
Hum, The Monkees trying to toughen up their sound with kind of an aggressive, new wave edge. The problem was that in spite of the mullet, Jones simply didn't have the kind of voice suited to the genre and the song wasn't all that good. That didn't stop Rhino from releasing it as a single:
- 1987's 'Every Step of the Way' b/w ('I'll) Love You Forever (live version)' (Rhino catalog number RNOR 74410) In conjunction with the single, Rhino released a hysterical promo video for the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=270LOvTrxWg
2.) Don't Bring Me Down (Tom Teely - Glenn Wyks) - 2:56 rating: **** stars
'Don't Bring Me Down' was a sweet, breezy pop tune that in retrospect suffers a bit from the heavy '80s production sound. Still it was another nice tune for Dolenz's commercial voice. Rhino also funded a cute video for the song. In conjunction with Nickelodeon, the company ran a "Meet the Monkees" fan contest where the winner got to have dinner with The Monkees. The dinner was filmed and became a promo video. A then young girl by the name of Adrianne Boomer won the contest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08G78HJ_Q18
3.) Midnight (David) - 4:28 rating: ** stars
Another tune where they were apparently trying to toughen up their sound. Unfortunately, Dolenz simply didn't have to kind of voice to pull it off. 'Midnight' found Mickey apparently having overdosed on Miami Vice .... Pretty horrible tune.
4.) She's Movin' In with Rico (Andrew Howell) - 3:21 rating; * star
The reggae flavor wasn't a good sign ... and yeah, 'She's Movin' In with Rico' was easily the album's worst performance. Just like Jones couldn't pull of hard rock, reggae wasn't his calling. Horrible.
5.) Since You Went Away (Michael Levine) - 3:50 rating: ** stars
Tork had actually previously recorded this tune with his band Peter Tork & the New Monks. This version represented a slightly fuller arrangement, though the vocal was equally flat. Too cute for more than one or two spins, but 'Since You Went Away' was a perfect song for Tork's goofy persona ...
6.) Counting On You (Alan Green) - 5:46 rating: ** stars
'Counting On You' closed the album with an acoustic ballad. The combination of some of Jones' sappiest vocals (he sounded like he was going to breakdown in the middle of the song), and Alan Green's hideous lyrics made this one a pain to sit through. Simply awful.
Rating: **** (4 stars)
Title: Good Times!
Catalog: R1 554873
Grade (cover/record): NM/NM
Catalog ID: --
I clearly recall buying "Good Times!" when it came out in 2016. I remember the purchase because I was surprised to see a Monkees album generating favorable critical reviews. I wondered if part of those favorable reviews had to do with Davy Jones' 2012 death, or if it was mindless sentimentality for the band's upcoming 50th Anniversary and an era most music fans had no direct memories of. "Grandma said Davy was so cute ..." I also assumed the project was going to be little more than a throwaway 50th anniversary "cash grab." Sure, Michael Nesmith was independently wealthy, but not so Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork. I also remember buying three copies since I planned to gift copies to my sons. And then ... nothing. Life's daily schedule took over and I never got around to listening to the album, or giving the extra copies to my kids.
When Peter Tork passed on in 2019, I decided it might be time for me to give the album a spin. Again, the album just sat on the shelf. When Michael Nesmith unexpectedly passed on in December 2021 I finally got around to listening to the album.
I will readily admit that most of my skepticism was misplaced. "Good Times!" teamed the surviving Monkees with the late Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne fame handing production. Elsewhere Monkees fanatic/archivist Andrew Sandoval was credited with producing a couple of the bonus tracks. So first off, this is not meant as a criticism, but musically the album had a bit of a stitched together feel. The song quality was quite good, but the mix of new material from outside sources and previously unreleased vintage tracks made for a couple of bumpy transitions. The new material found the band teamed with an impressive collection of contemporary songwriters/producers, including Schlesinger, Death Cab for Cuties' Ben Gibbard, Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, and XTC's Andrew Partridge. Kudos to the writers for contributing material to the project and to the Monkees for displaying strong tastes in selecting outside material. Gibbard's 'Me & Magdalena' was a transfixing ballad that showed The Monkees could update their sound, without losing their souls. Partridge's 'You Bring the Summer' and Summers' 'She Makes Me Laugh' managed to meld a more contemporary pop sound with classic Monkees moves. Those songs were rounded out by a couple of new originals. Dolenz's 'Little Girl' was probably the album's weakest performance. Nesmith's "I Know What I Know' showcased his affection for melancholy. The rest of the set featured a series of mid-'60s tunes the band recovered from the archives. Vintage tunes like the title track and 'Gotta Give it Time' featured new lead vocals (mostly from Dolenz), along with minor instrumental updates. While Dolenz handled most of the vocals, the other members, including the late Jones, were also given spotlight moments - Jones handled the cover of Neil Diamond's 'Love To Love', Nesmith handled lead on the original 'I Know What I Know' and 'Birth of An Accidental Hipster', while Tork was featured on 'Little Girl' and a lovely cover of Carole King and Gerry Goffin's sweet ballad 'Wasn't Born To Follow.'
I'm hesitant to call it a comeback album, but it makes for a fun listen and was what was to be their final studio release found them going out with a bang. Well worth tracking down.
Times" track listing:
'Good Times' opened the album with an update of a demo track originally recorded and shelved back in 1968. With Dolenz sharing vocals with songwriter Harry Nilsson, it was apparently one of the last efforts the band recorded before their break-up with nemesis Don Kirshner. Perhaps not the most original track they've ever recorded, 'Good Times' was still a surprisingly accomplished and energetic rocker. The thing that initially caught my ear on the title track was how good Dolenz sounded next to the Nilsson vocal. How many folks in their 70s can sound as invigorated as Dolenz?
2.) You Bring the Summer (Andy Partridge) - 3:00 rating: **** stars
I remember reading the album featured the band working with a host of "outside" contributors, including Andy Partridge. My initial thoughts weren't very positive given Partridge's XTC catalog. Not that XTC didn't have a knack for catchy melodies - it's just I associate Colin Moulding with their more commercial offerings. Well, as is so often the case, I was dead wrong. The glistening pop 'You Bring the Summer' was a perfect track for The Monkees. Powered by a insidiously catchy melody and one of Dolenz's best vocals, this one should have been a massive pop hit for the band. Maybe you can't recapture the past, but this came close.
There's a cute animated promotional video for the tune: The Monkees - You Bring The Summer (Official Music Video) - YouTube Rhino released the track as a downloadable single.
3.) She Makes Me Laugh (Rivers Cuomo) - 3:00 rating: **** stars
In contrast to XTC, a collaboration with Weezer's Rivers Cuomo seemed logical to me. Adding a touch of Merseybeat and folk-rock jangle-guitar to the mix, 'She Makes Me Laugh' harkened back to the band's earliest efforts - pure ear candy, The result was another candidate for radio airplay and it was another track featuring a cute animated promotional video: The Monkees - She Makes Me Laugh (Official Lyric Video) - YouTube Rhino released the track as another downloadable single.
4.) Our Own World (Adam Schlesigner) - 2:45 rating: **** stars
Written and produced by the late Fountains of Wayne front man Adam Schlesigner, 'Out Own World' was the song that offered up the best blend of contemporary power pop and classic Monkees pop. Schlesinger reportedly wrote the song with Dolenz in mind. Once again Dolenz sounded fantastic.
5.) Gotta Give it Time (Jeff Barry - Joey Levine) - 2:17 rating: **** stars
Originally recorded in 1967, 'Gotta Give It Time' sounded very much like a track they'd unearthed from the vaults. In spite of the remix and Dolenz's new lead vocal (this was one of the tracks where Nesmith and Tork were clearly heard on the backing vocals), this one exhibited that classic Monkees vintage sound. All the more enjoyable for it. Would have sounded great in a live setting.
6.) Me & Magdalena (Ben Gibbard) - 3:33 rating: ***** stars
Penned by Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard, 'Me & Magdalena' was the album's standout performance. With Dolenz and Nesmith sharing lead vocals (the pair sounded so comfortable singing together), this was an "adult" version of the band - Thoughtful vocals gracing a beautiful melody ... anyone hearing this one cold cocked would have been dumbfounded to learn it was The Monkees. There are actually two versions of the tune - the album's acoustic, mournful arrangement and a non-album version with a faster, jangle-rock arrangement that was every bit as enjoyable.
I'm not sure when or where is recorded, but YouTube has a live performance of the tune at: Me & Magdalena - Super Rare Performance in HD, Nesmith & Dolenz, The Monkees - YouTube The track was also released as a downloadable song.
1.) Whatever's Right (Bobby Hart - Tommy Boyce) - 2:00 rating: *** stars
Sounding like one of the shelved tracks (but apparently not), 'Whatever's Right' was upbeat and bouncy, capturing the band at their most calculated. Sure it was catchy and commercial, but it just seemed to be one of those paint-by-numbers album fillers. Co-writer Hart provided organ and backing vocals.
2.) Love To Love (Neil Diamond) - 2:29 rating: *** stars
Another archival track, 'Love To Love' was the only track showcasing Jones on lead vocals. The song had a tortuous history. Initially recorded as a 1967 demo, the song was re-recorded with plans to include it on 1969's "The Monkees Present" album. It ultimately didn't make the final cut. This version featured the 1967 instrumental track, Jones' 1969 vocals, and new backing vocals from Dolenz and Tork. To his credit Jones' managed to avoid some of his sappier tendences and the jangle-rock arrangement was nice. At least to my ears, the song's always reminded me of Diamond's own 'Solitary Man.'
3.) Little Girl (Mickey Dolenz) - 2:42 rating: ** stars
One of two new originals, Dolenz's 'Little Girl' spotlighted Tork on lead vocals, but in spite of a nice vocal, the track's country-rock melody simply didn't measure up to the rest of the album.
4.) Birth of An Accidental Hipster (Noel Gallagher - Paul Weller) - 3:31 rating: **** stars
Hard to imagine going wrong with a song penned by Oasis' Noel Gallagher and The Jam's Paul Weller. On the other hand, it seemed like a strange writing team to pair with The Monkees. The funny thing is Nesmith and Dolenz managed to turn in an impressive cover of the tune. I'd argue it was Nesmith's standout performance on the set. The album's closest brush with psychedelia, the song also sported a tasty guitar solo from Mike Viola, though I wish it hadn't faded out so early. YouTube has Dolenz and Nesmith performing the song for an Australian crowd: Birth of an accidental hipster The Monkees The Mike & Micky Show Sydney Opera House 18 June 201 - YouTube
5.) Wasn't Born To Follow (Carole King - Gerry Goffin) - 2:53 rating: **** stars
I'll readily admit to overlooking what a talented singer Tork was. Blame the fact he just didn't get a lot of spotlight time. ''Wasn't Born To Follow'' was originally recorded for Carole King's 1968 album with The City. The Byrds recorded what is probably the best known version for the "Easy Rider" soundtrack. Kicked along by some understated banjo and a great guitar solo, Tork's take was a beautiful, contemplative, country-tinged version that should help highlight his talents. Another album highlight.
6.) I Know What I Know (Michael Nesmith) - 3:30 rating: *** stars
The second of two new originals, 'I Know What I Know' was a pretty and stark ballad showcasing some awkward lyrics, Nesmith's labored voice, and producer Schlesigner on chamberlain.
7.) I was There (And I'm Told I Had a Good Time) (Adam Schlesigner - Mickey Dolenz) - 2:15 rating: *** stars
Well, the title was perfect for a rock band, musically 'I was There (And I'm Told I Had a Good Time)' was basically a throwaway track. Dolenz sounded like he was singing in a subway tunnel.
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: The Monkees' Christmas Party
Catalog: 81227 92456
Grade (cover/record): NM/NM
Comments: gatefold; red vinyl
Catalog ID: --
Looking at the concept, marketing, and the participants, 2019's "The Monkees Christmas Party" seems to have been a continuation of 2016's "Good Times!". Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesigner produced most of the album. Michael Nesmith's sons Charles and Jonathan separately produced his two songs. Peter Tork produced his lone contribution. Many of the same participants again contributed original material. XTC's Andy Partridge, Schlesigner, and Weezer's Rivers Cuomo all returned and in many cases played on the sessions. Like the earlier album, new original material was rounded out by a selection of old and newer material, though this time around there was not a single original tune. As far as Christmas albums went, the results weren't terrible. The genre imposes some major limitations on performers. Your limited in terms of themes and how often does anyone come up with a new "classic" holiday tune. Nobody did on this outing. On top of that, how often can you listen to the same classic Holiday tunes? Sure, it's a great song, but did you really need to hear another rendition of ''The Christmas Song', or Angels We Have Heard On High'? My biggest disappointment was Rhino's marketing ploy. Selling this as a Monkees album was a major stretch. With Davy Jones having passed on, that left Mickey Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork to carry the Monkees torch. In practical terms, Dolenz was left to do most of the heavy lifting leaving you with the feel this was really more of a Dolenz with friends solo album. In fact, on the majority of these 14 tracks he was the only Monkee actually participating in the recording sessions. To their credit, the surviving band members made sure Jones was represented, even though it was forgettable covers of 'Mele Kalikimaka' and 'Silver Bells.' Tork's fingerprints were even harder to find - he was represented by a stripped down, countrified cover of 'Angels We Have Heard On High.' Sadly, within four months of the album's release he was dead. Nesmith turned in okay covers of the classic 'The Christmas Song' and the obscure 'Snowfall.' Perhaps because it reflected the whole group at their prime, the inclusion of a 1967 live performance of the Spanish hymn 'Riu Chiu' stood as the album highlight for me.
Monkees' Christmas" track listing:
1.) Unwrap You At Christmas (Andy Partridge) - 3:34 rating: **** stars
Admittedly the title always makes me smile. In spite of the constraints associated with crafting a Christmas song, 'Unwrap You At Christmas' wasn't bad. Yeah, Andy Partridge sounded like he had stitched together ideas from a dozen earlier compositions. Welcome to Christmas cliche 101. Once again Dolenz sounded way better than anyone in their 70s should have and the Michael Allred promotional video animation was cute. The Monkees - Unwrap You At Christmas (Official Lyric Video) - YouTube
2.) What Would Santa Do (Rivers Cuomo) - 3:15 rating: **** stars
Reflecting a funny touch of seasonal aggregation, the bouncy 'What Would Santa Do' found Weezer's Rivers Cuomo turning in one of the album highlights. Damn, if it wasn't another awesome Dolenz performance. Here's the tune's promotional video. Yeah, it's basically the same panels as on 'Unwrap You At Christmas' with different word "Bubbles": monkees What Would Santa Do - YouTube
3.) Mele Kalikimaka (Alex Anderson) - 2:25 rating: * stars
Bing Crosby owns the classic version and we've all grown up with it And while it was certainly nice of the rest of the band to include the late Davy Jones on the album, this wasn't the song to remember him by.
4.) House of Broken Gingerbread (Adam Schlesigner - Michael Chabon) - 2:51 rating: **** stars
As on "Good Times!" the late Fountains of Wayne front man Adam Schlesigner proved to be the most sympathetic Monkees collaborator. Admittedly, this was basically just a Schlesigner and Dolenz collaboration, but 'House of Broken Gingerbread' was a wonderful update of The Monkees' classic sound with a 2019 edge.
5.) The Christmas Song (Bob Wells - Mel Tormé) - 3:40 rating: *** stars
As good as Dolenz sounded, it was nice to hear Nesmith given a moment in the spotlight. Sure, it wasn't the most original choice of material, but the brief spoken word segment and the slowed-down, country-blues vibe was actually charming in a low-keyed fashion. Here's the link to the lo-tech promotional video: The Monkees - The Christmas Song (Official Music Video) - YouTube
6.) Christmas Party (Peter Buck - Scott McCoughey) - 3:05 rating: **** stars
REM's Peter Buck's "Christmas Party' toughens up the sound with 'Christmas Party' and the results are actually quite appealing and even radio friendly.
7.) Jesus Christ (Alex Chilton) - 2:37 rating: **** stars
My pick for one of the album's standout performances, their pastoral cover of 'Jesus Christ' managed to capture some of the Holidays true meaning with one of Alex Chilton's prettiest melodies. Yeah, the Big Star version was dark and cynical, whereas all of that seems lost to Dolenz who plays it straight. Doesn't matter. I still like the performance.
1.) I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day (Roy Wood) - 3:31 rating: *** stars
I've always loved the Roy Wood/Wizzard original. Against Wood's original performance the cover didn't come close. On the other hand, kudos for good taste in covers and any performance that exposes more Americans to Wood's catalog is a good thing.
2.) Silver Bells (Ray Evans) - 3:27 rating: ** stars
The second and equally forgettable Jones performance. Totally forgettable.
3.) Wonderful Christmastime (Paul McCartney) - 3:33 rating: *** stars
I'm one of those folks who thinks McCartney's 'Wonderful Christmastime' is irritating. Even breezier than the original, this cover did noting to change that opinion.
4.) Snowfall (Claude Thornhill - Ruth Thornhill) - 2:55 rating: ** stars
I'd never heard this song before. The second Nesmith vocal, the result was a bit too MOR for my tastes, but again, it was nice to hear Nesmtih's voice.
5.) Angels We Have Heard On High (traditional) - 2:48 rating: *** stars
Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying Tork's countrified cover of 'Angels We Have Heard On High.' His banjo accompaniment added a sweet touch to the simple arrangement. At the same time, there was something disconcerting about his vocal. Maybe it has to do with my visions of Tork as a young man, whereas he sounded quite old on this performance. I could almost picture an old man sitting on his deck in a rocking chair. Given James Lee Stanley produced the song and was featured on guitar, I've always wondered if this was an outtake from a 1996 album Tork recorded with guitarist Stanley ("Two Man Band.")
6.) Merry Christmas, Baby (Johnny Moore - Lou Baxter) - 2:57 rating: ** stars
There are so many versions of 'Merry Christmas, Baby.' Charles Brown, Otis Redding, Bruce Springsteen, Cheryl Crow, etc., etc. Dolenz's effort to match those earlier versions didn't even come close.
7.) Riu Chiu (TV Version) (traditional) - 1:30 rating: **** stars
Sung in Castilian Spanish, their live, acappella performance of this 16th century Spanish carol was originally included on episode 47 of their television show 1967's "The Monkees Christmas Show." Producer Chip Douglas reportedly introduced the song to the group, suggesting they take a stab at recording it. For anyone who thought these guys were studio puppets, this is a must see performance. YouTube has a link to the television performance: Rķu Rķu Chķu (High Quality) by the Monkees - 1967 - YouTube
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