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    The Monkees

    The Monkees 7 ( 1966 )
    Theme From The Monkees / Saturdays Child / I Wanna Be Free / Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day / Papa Genes Blues / Take A Giant Step / Last Train To Clarksville / This Just Doesn't Seem To Be My Day / Let's Dance On / I'll Be True To You / Sweet Young Thing / Gonna Buy Me A Dog

    The Monkees TV show debuted in 1966, patterned, as many of these types of things were, after The Beatles 'A Hard Days Night'. The four band members/actors had some prior musical experience and such names as Stephen Stills, Danny Hutton and Harry Nilsson also auditioned. The producers of the show also considered using existing rock groups such as The Lovin Spoonful before settling on Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork out of the 437 applicants for the roles. 'Last Train To Clarksville' unexpectedly became a huge hit before the TV show even aired. An album was prepared with the music pretty much already down when Mike, Davy, Micky and Peter came in to lay down their vocals. The album itself fell into a gap in the market The Beatles were in the process of leaving behind. The music here is teenage pop, Dylan had moved the goalposts for such groups as The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Even The Beach Boys were moving away from 'pop music' designed for teenagers. As such, we have a bunch of songs here that in places are simplistic, sometimes dated ( even for 1966 ), and occasionally, simply inspired. Well, in just the one case inspired as it turns out. Yes, 'Last Train To Clarksville' is the one. A glorious pop song easily on a par with any other pop song released during 1966, one of the golden years in music history. Micky Dolenz lays down a great vocal, the guitars jangle and the structure of the song is perfect. The Monkees didn't write the song of course, and perhaps were dismayed at how little input they had into their own songs at this point in time. Still, if I'd taken part in whatever way in producing 'Last Train To Clarksville', i'd be proud. Besides, let's put this into context. The Byrds 'Mr Tambourine Man' featured only one Byrd on playing duties, Mr Roger McGuinn. The song was a cover. The Byrds received a lot more respect than The Monkees of course. It's this aspect of receiving respect from the musical community that drove these four guys on, especially after the TV series was axed after only two series. A shame, it was a great show!

    The opening track is familiar of course, the theme tune to the TV series. It contains an unexpectedly great throwback to 1963 of a guitar break at a certain point. 'Take A Giant Step' is a neat little pop song. 'Take A Giant Step' sports a King & Goffin writing credit, the hugely entertaining romp of 'Sweet Young Thing' features an interesting Nesmith, King & Goffin writing credit. Mr Nesmith happened to be the most experienced of the four guys musically and was the most annoyed at not having greater input overall. Sadly, after said highlights, the rest of the album is rather throwaway, although certainly listenable. 'I Wanna Be Free' is a sweetly sung ballad, 'Saturdays Child' a strong pop production with good lead vocals. The album is what it is. A period piece certainly. A pleasent, nostalgic listen to be had by all.

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    Mike Harrison cathairball5000@yahoo.com
    Monkeemania starts here. I'd give it a 6 and 1/2 because there's too much cringeworthy garbage on this album: "I Wanna Be Free" in particular is starry-eyed vomitus. There's some really good stuff on this album: the hits, plus "Saturday's Child" and Mike Nesmith's tunes. Actually, Nesmith's songs are always welcome to my ears for their pre-country rock goodness. More contributions from "Ol' Wool Hat" and less force-fed musical crapola from impresario Don Kirshner would've made for a stronger debut.

    top of page More Of The Monkees ( 1967 )
    She / When Loves Comes Knockin / Mary Mary / Hold On Girl / Your Auntie Grizelda / I'm Not Your Steppin Stone / Look Out Here Comes Tomorrow / The King Of Girl I Could Love / The Day We Fall In Love / Sometime In The Morning / Laugh / I'm A Believer

    Rush-released in January 1967, 'More Of The Monkees' sailed easily to number one in the American album charts. Not all was well within Monkee world itself however, the group greatly disliked this album, Mike Nesmith even calling it "probably the worst album in the history of the world". The harshness of The Monkees toward the album, can in large part, be attributed to their growing resentment at not having greater musical input. Still, Mr Nesmith comes up trumps with his composition, 'Mary Mary', sung by Mickey. It's a charming slice of decent pop music that certainly holds its own amongst the songs written by the 'professional' writers the producers employed across the remainder of the album. The big hit this time around arrives with 'I'm A Believer', strangely positioned as the albums closing tune. It's a wonderful pop tune, though. Breathy vocals, sections that stop start to add the requsite drama. Ah, yes! On the flip-side, Peter Tork gets his Monkees singing debut on record with the bizarre and quite frankly awful, 'Your Auntie Grizelda'. It's the kind of song that would have comedy value if married to the imagery the TV show would provide. In terms of enjoyable, repeated listening, however? Well, no thanks. Donald Duck appears to make a cameo appearence during the songs 'humorous' break, for instance. Going back to the issue of The Monkees lack of songwriting input at this stage, when the dreadful 'Laugh' appears, you can fully understand their frustrations. It's hard to believe a song that credits four ( 'proper'? ) writers being quite so embarassingly poor. The songs hook appears to be the "ha-ha" backing vocals. Says it all, really. Joining 'Laugh' in the weak songs stakes is the terribly insipid 'The Day We Fall In Love', a real stinker of a ballad featuring apparently romantic, semi-sung, semi-spoken vocals.

    It's not all bad news, of course. 'I'm A Believer' is clearly good, a good half dozen of the other tracks are very enjoyable. 'Hold On Girl' has a great little keyboard part and charming backing vocals. 'Steppin Stone' was a biggie, one of their best known songs. It hits quite hard although possibly not as hard as The Sex Pistols version released a decade later. 'When Love Comes Knocking At Your Door' is a slight, if very enjoyable slice of folk-rock, 'Sometime In The Morning' a brilliant gem of a track. 'Sometime In The Morning' has such a lovely, delicate sound. The jingle-jangle guitar is there, the lead vocal ( Mickey? ) superb, extremely evocative. It's this kind of material, however it was sourced, that brings up the rating a little to counteract the stinkers. Oh, as an aside. I've just realised i've given the first two Monkees albums nearly the same ratings I have the first two Beatles albums. The Beatles got a '7' & '7.5', The Monkees a '7' and '6.5'. Although, having just realised said fact, I'm not actually inclined to change anything.

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    Mike Harrison cathairball5000@yahoo.com
    Yeesh, the cringeworthy garbage on THIS album is even worse than the worst tracks on the first album! "Laugh" is awful. "The Day We Fall in Love" makes me want to punch out Davy Jones, and it isn't HIS fault! I actually "Your Auntie Grizelda" does have some goofy charm....I have this visual of Peter Tork having an epileptic fit in the middle of the filming of a MONKEES episode. The album does exemplify the rush for mere record company "product", and it would've been an outright disaster if it weren't for the good songs, which happen to be REALLY good. Aisde from the fine hits, "She" is a real good tough rocker, much better than some of the garage-band clunkers on the NUGGETS box. I always liked "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)"; I think that's a really good vehicle for Davy Jones' starry-eyed teenager persona and it has an almost punkish feel for a full-bore pop song. Nesmith's "Mary Mary" is a fine song with an unusual structure, although I think it was undone by rush! ed production.

    Stephen stephendfall@yahoo.co.uk
    This is one of my favourite albums ever. Your Auntie Grizelda (with vocals recorded in one take) is, in fact, a highlight: it's just so demented. Imagine this on the Nuggets compilation and it makes a lot more sense. I'd also love to hear this song covered by The Fall. It's a garage punk classic! As is (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone. In many ways this album was ahead of its time. It's true that The Day We Fall In Love is weak filler (hard to believe that it took two people to write this song), but otherwise there's really not a dull moment.

    top of page Headquarters ( 1967 )
    You Told Me / I'll Spend My Life With You / Forget That Girl / Band 6 / You Just May Be The One / Shades Of Gray / I Can't Get Her Off Of My Mind / For Pete's Sake / Mr Webster / Zilch / No Time / Early Moning Blues And Greens / Randy Scouse Git

    With the band members seeking control over their own music, 'Headquarters' came closest to giving that control during the original hit-songs era of the group. The Monklees had ousted Don Kirshner as the groups music supervisor and hooked up with Chip Douglas as producer. The Monkees play together as a real band, on just about every track here. Although perversely, and perhaps in an attempt by the record label to prove they 'needed' outside writers, none of the songs here were released as singles in the USA. In the UK, the superb 'Randy Scouse Git' penned by none other than Micky Dolenz reached number two. Five tracks here were written or co-written by Michael Nesmith. Seven of the forteen tracks come from outside writers, although with The Monkees themselves ( along with Chip Douglas ) responsible for the music and arrangements. A couple of tunes here are even genuine Monkees co-writes! Anyhow, of the Micheal Nesmith penned tunes, we've a couple or three of absolute genuine corkers. Whilst listening and re-listening to his songs in particular, I was wondering what would have happened if The Byrds have enlisted Mike Nesmith to replace Crosby/Clark round about 67/68 rather than hiring Gram Parsons? Worth speculating, isn't it? Mike's 'You Told Me' is catchy and well put together folk/rock, 'You May Just Be The One' the best song here, an absolute highlight that should have been a hit song. It puts to shame the efforts of so many groups of the era, but still The Monkees struggled for acceptance and genuine critical respect?

    Mr Dolenz writes 'Randy Scouse Git' about The Beatles.
    The four kings of E.M.I.
    Are sitting stately on the floor
    There are birds out on the sidewalk
    And a valet at the door.
    He reminds me of a penguin
    With few and plastered hair,
    There's talcum powder on the letter
    And the birthday boy is there.

    The song begins all super catchy and clever, then ends in a fury with interweaving angry vocals and softer harmony vocals. It's a song with a distinctive beginning and ending and deservedly nearly topped the charts in the UK. Mr Tork also writes a cracker of a song, although Mickey sings, with the mighty 'For Pete's Sake'. It's another potential hit song on an album where the highlights are The Monkees own self-penned material. The songs chosen from outside writers are solid and round out the album. I particular like the lovely ballad, 'Forget That Girl'. It's a track with a great arrangement, it's a pop gem on an album full of rock-pop gems. 'Headquarters' is a fine album and every Monkees doubter should get the opportunity to hear it, in full.

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    Mike Harrison cathairball5000@yahoo.com
    Yes, a definite 8 & 1/2 for what might be the finest Monkees album of them all. Given the stylistic mix of pop, folk, psych, country, and the spoken-word "Zilch," this album's a real variety show, fer sure. But these guys handle just about every song in a fun and inventive way. Nevermind the fact that Dolenz and Jones were really actors and not exactly musicians.....I think this LP proves that all four guys had a lot of all-around talent. I probably would've preferred a few more self-penned songs, but the outside material is really good. Nesmith was one of the earliest country-rock innovators, but he's rarely given credit for this.....all the reason to search for his 70s solo albums. "Randy Scouse Git" and "For Pete's Sake" are just great, inventive "hard pop" songs.

    top of page Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn And Jones 8 ( 1967 )
    Salesman / She Hangs Out / The Door Into Summer / Love Is Only Sleeping / Cuddly Toy / Words / Hard to Believe / What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round? / Peter Percival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky / Pleasant Valley Sunday / Daily Nightly / Don't Call on Me / Star Collector

    After the largely self-penned and self-performed 'Headquarters', The Monkees return to using outside musicians (for the most part) and a majority of external compositions. Mickey Dolenz introduced the Moog to the rest of the band, indeed he owned one of the first twenty Moog synths ever made. 'Daily Nightly' and 'Star Collector' feature this instrument, Mike Nesmith has five lead vocals and the album sold in excess of two million copies, a certified hit. Sessions for 'Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones' started almost as soon as the sessions for 'Headquarters' ended and the band members were developing and pulling in different musical areas. Tork would soon leave the band, Mickey Dolenz seemed to be losing interest yet the overall results are satisfying. True, 'Pleasant Valley Sunday' stands streets ahead of everything else, a classic Dolenz pop vocal and perfect pop production all round, a song to rival in terms of pop construction, if nothing else, anything The Beatles were putting out. Only three tunes on this album were self-penned and one of those is Peter Tork's 'Peter Percival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky', a spoken word slice of mischief and nothing more. The other two both come from Nesmith, 'Daily Nightly' and 'Don't Call On Me' the latter of which sports the albums sweetest vocal - who would have thought Nesmith could ever sound so sweet?

    The Nesmith sung 'Love Is Only Sleeping' was originally intended to be released as a standalong single, they released 'Daydream Believer' instead. Still, this Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil tune is certainly one of the best here. It's got subtle touches of psychedelia, a strong lyric and vocal yes, would have worked as a single although probably not as well commercially as 'Daydream Believer' did. Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz got to sing the Harry Nilsson penned 'Cuddly Toy' which is another track that could have been a hit. It's this sort of commerciality that critics still used against The Monkees and in retrospect, 'Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd' is certainly a more straightforward record that 'Headquarters', almost a retreat to using outside musicians and writers, although releasing an album so soon after the last almost definitely left the band members lockers empty. Oh, it's also worth noting that Dolenz didn't want to play drums on the album, the only tracks that feature his drumming are 'Cuddly Toy' and 'The Door Into Summer'. So, 'using outside musicians and songwriters' is a line that detractors could use, but The Monkees had good, mitigating circumstances. Besides, this twenty-nine minute long album is just a simple slice of good time pop/rock and there is nothing at all wrong with it 'only' being that.

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    top of page this page last updated 21/05/11

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