Sunday, 31 January 2016

"Hot Rats" by FRANK ZAPPA (2012 Zappa Records CD Reissue – with 2008 Bernie Grundman Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...Son Of Mrs. Green Genes..."

It's hard not to look at Christine Frka's frizzy-haired mad-as-a-dingbat-on-acid stare as she peaks over a wrecked/abandoned Beverley Hill's swimming pool on the cover of Frank Zappa's iconic Jazz-Rock album "Hot Rats" - and not smile. In some ways she summed up the adventure contained within the grooves – gonna be a little frizzled around the edges by the time you're done (Miss Christine was one of the all-girl group The GTOs - Girls Together Outrageously – another Bizarre Records act – she talked Frank into signing Alice Cooper).

After five incendiary albums with The Mothers Of Invention since 1966 (two of which were doubles) – it was time for the inevitable Solo LP proper from Frank Zappa and instead of Vocal Group pastiches and Comedy Soundtracks – Zappa went Rock in a very Jazzy way and never looked back. "Hot Rats" even hit No 9 in the UK charts in late February 1970 – his first and highest chart placing in good old Blighty (the Bizarre Records LP scraped into 173 in the USA).

His CD reissues from this period have been dogged with controversy. Having acquired the rights to own back catalogue - Zappa began remixing the masters to what many felt were sacred cows – even adding posthumous parts that weren't on the originals thereby altering their very nature (he argued he was the artist). Most notorious is the extra four minutes of music added on to the 12:53 of "The Gumbo Variations" on the 1995 Rykodisc CD reissue. Using the Zappa approved 'edit' master of the 1969 album – this BERNIE GRUNDMAN 2008 Remaster goes back to basics and yet still packs a lot of punch especially in those huge instrumental stretches within "Willie The Pimp", "Son Of Mrs. Green Genes" and the Saxophone-driven "The Gumbo Variations". Here are the 'little umbrellas'...

UK released July 2012 – "Hot Rats" by FRANK ZAPPA on Zappa Records 0238412 (Barcode 824302384121) is a straightforward transfer of the original 1969 LP onto CD (using a 2008 remaster) and plays out as follows (43:19 minutes):

1. Peaches En Regalia [Side 1]
2. Willie The Pimp
3. Son Of Mrs. Green Genes
4. Little Umbrellas [Side 2]
5. The Gumbo Variations
6. It Must Be A Camel
Tracks 1 to 6 are the album "Hot Rats" – released early October 1969 in the USA on Bizarre/Reprise RS 6356 and February 1970 in the UK on Reprise RSLP 6356  (re-issued July 1971 in the UK on Reprise K 44078).

Players were:
FRANK ZAPPA – Guitars, Octave Bass & Percussion
IAN UNDERWOOD – Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone & Keyboards (solo on "The Gumbo Variations")
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART – Vocals on "Willie The Pimp"
SUGAR CANE HARRIS – Violin on "Willie The Pimp" and "The Gumbo Variations"
JEAN LUC PONTY – Violin on "It Must Be A Camel"
LOWELL GEORGE – Guitar (uncredited)
MAX BENNETT – Bass on all except "Peaches En Regalia"
SHUGGIE OTIS – Bass on "Peaches En Regalia"
JOHN GUERIN – Drums on "Willie The Pimp", "Little Umbrellas" and "It Must Be A Camel"
PAUL HUMPHREY – Drums on "Son Of Mr. Green Genes" and "The Gumbo Variations"
RON SELICAO – Drums on "Peaches En Regalia"

The fold-out inlay reinstates the colour photos on the inner gatefold of the original LP and those not quite complete musician credits – but unfortunately very little else. Someone could have produced the lyrics to the only song with vocals on it – "Willie The Pimp" – or even explained about the album's intricate history on LP and CD – but alas – you barely get the BG remaster mention and that's it. Still at least the Audio is restored and wicked into the bargain...

The album opens with perhaps his most famous piece – the instrumental "Peaches En Regalia" which features the Bass playing of future Columbia Records guitar whizz Shuggie Otis. Great audio as those keyboard overdubs punch in. The mighty Captain Beefheart adds his considerable larynx to "Willie The Pimp" giving the 9:23 minutes an anchor – but what shines even more is Frank's Guitar soloing giving the piece an almost hypnotic feel as it stoner-rocks along defying all conventional wisdom as to what a Pop Song should be.

The battle between Zappa's Guitar, Sugar Cane Harris' Violin and Paul Humphrey’s extraordinary Drumming on relentless groove of "The Gumbo Variations" certainly tests the Remaster to the max and Bernie Grundman has seen to it that you can appreciate the individual contributions and crescendo all at the same time. The Piano and Flute passages on "Little Umbrellas" are fuller and the almost lounge-room vibe of the Piano and Drums on "It Must Be A Camel" is very clear - a sort of five-minute 'settle down' piece of Jazz Rock that ends the album on a mellow vibe.

The only real let down is the average presentation (sans regalia more than peaches) – otherwise here's one sizzling rodent you need in your suburban pool Mrs. Green Genes...


This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 245 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

Friday, 29 January 2016

"New Breed Workin': Blues With A Rhythm" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2016 Ace/Kent Soul CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...I Said Yeah..." 

Entry number six in an increasingly cool and essential Ace Records CD series (see list below) – "New Breed Workin' - Blues With A Feeling" goes after 60ts American Blues and R&B with a Mod dance rhythm and more often that not gets my increasingly ancient loin juices flowing. Here are the feet/hip twitching details...

UK released Friday, 29 January 2016 (February 2016 in the USA) – "New Breed Workin' - Blues With A Rhythm" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Ace/Kent Soul CDKEND 443 (Barcode 029667244329) is a 24-track CD compilation and plays out as follows (59:11 minutes):

1. The Twitch – DANNY WHITE (1963 US 7" single on Frisco 109, A)
2. My Baby's Gone – PEE WEE FOSTER (2016 Previously Unreleased Cleveland R&B Records recording)
3. Cruel World – ROOSEVELT POWERS (2016 Previously Unreleased Arock Records recording)
4. I Can't Even Enjoy My Home – BIG CHARLEY & THE DOMANS (2016 Previously Unreleased Cleveland R&B Records recording)
5. You Never Know – B.B. KING (from the 1963 US LP "B.B. King" on Crown 5359 – also B-side to "The Letter", a 1964 US 7" on King 391)
6. (I Believe) Something Funny Is Going On – BERTHA TILLMAN (1962 US 7" single on Brent 2031, A)
7. Poor Boy's Song – LORD LUTHER (unissued 1960s recording that first appeared on the 2010 Lord Luther CD compilation "I Am The Lord" on Ace CDCHD 1258)
8. I've Got A Feeling For You Baby – NOOKIE BOY (1962 US 7" single on AFO Records 306, A)
9. Bossman – DEANE HAWLEY (1960 US 7" single on Dore 554, A)
10. Keep A Hold On Him – BEATRICE LEE (1962 US 7" single on Kent 385, A)
11. These Tears (Brass Version) – MARY JOHNSON (2016 Previously Unreleased Foxy Records recording)
12. Lucky Girl – JOAN DUVALLE (2016 Previously Unreleased AFO Records recording)
13. Steamboat – ARTHUR GRANT & THE RED SHOES (2016 Previously Unreleased Arock Records recording)
14. Workin' Man – COOL PAPA JARVIS (2016 Previously Unreleased Cleveland R&B Records recording)
15. Real Real Love – RAY AGEE (1967 US 7" single on Krafton 620, A)
16. What Did I Do Wrong – THE OVATIONS featuring LOUIS WILLIAMS (from the 1977 Japanese LP "Peace Of Mind" on Vivid Sound VG-3003)
17. Let Me Know – ROBERT LEE (from the 1993 Various Artists CD compilation "More Gumbo Stew" on Ace CDCHD 462)
18. Breaking Hearts – VARETTA & THE THOMASES (1963 US 7" single on Brent 7040, A)
19. Playboy – BILLY RAY (1962 US 7" single on Kent 367, A)
20. Yes It's You – BIG BOY GROVES & LITTLE MARGIE (first released on the 2009 Various Artists CD compilation "Toast Of The Coast: 1950's R&B From Dolphin's Of Hollywood Volume 2" on Ace CDCHD 1215)
21. Big John – RICHARD BERRY (1955 US 7" single on RPM 448, A)
22. Looking For My Baby – THE MUSIC CITY SOUL BROTHERS (1964 US 7" single on Music City 855, A)
23. Twistin' School – LITTLE BETTY (1961 US 7" single on Alto 2006, A)
24. Now We Must Part – CHET "POISON" IVEY (1962 US 7" single on Gator 302, A)

The 16-page booklet is the usual Ace info-fest – track-by-track explanations by Compiler and Enthusiast ADY CROASDELL – the text peppered with rare label repros from Gator, Frisco, Sue, Brent, AFO, Dore, Music City and Alto Records. There are publicity of photos of names that are too long forgotten – Danny White (Fan Club invite), Buddy Lucas with his saxophone in full Red Indian headdress, Chet "Poison" Ivey calling himself 'Mr. Soul Personality', Lord Luther by a keyboard with his band, Deane Hawley doing her best Bessie Smith impression and Joan Duvalle looking as side-profile regal as Aretha Franklin in some classy black & white. Long-time Sound Engineer NICK ROBBINS has done the transfers and Remasters and a typically great job it is too despite the obviously less than Audiophile sources. "Yes It's You" by Varetta & The Thomases for instance sounds awesome – as clear as 50ts Ruth Brown Atlantic Records R&B...

"New Breed Workin'..." opens with a winner – a genuinely great dancer preceded by some silly 'parlez vous' French dialogue that's followed by a brassy shimmy-shaker rhythm that's guaranteed to have you shaking talcum powder on the kitchen floor. On second listen I'm digging "Poor Boy's Song" and the languid piano R&B roll of "I've Got A Feeling For You Baby". "Bossman" by Deane Hawley is a fantastic groover in a similar vein as Charlie Rich's uber-cool "Big Boss Man". Beatrice Lee screams her message out at the beginning of "Keep A Hold On Him" to young girls willing to listen - "...here's something you better dig!" She 'yeows' and 'yeahs' through her advice song telling the ladies to 'keep him tight" (on the money Miss Lee).

A better dancer is "These Tears" presented here in what’s known as the 'brass version' – pumping horns giving Mary Johnson's impressive growl a real power. Another dude walking down the street is being called 'sugar pie' by Joan Duvalle on the Previously Unreleased "Lucky Girl" – the song tries hard but her slightly off-tone Big Maybelle vocals probably meant it was canned (dips in Audio towards the end too). Arthur Grant & The Red Shoes try their hand at The Drifters Atlantic Records gem "Steamboat" – cleverly mixing in "Ruby Ruby" into the backing vocals. Cool Papa Jarvis bemoans his stagnant working week and the sweat on his brow in "Workin' Man" – a rough and tumbler shuffler with boogie guitar. Far better is the genuinely exciting "Real Real Love" by Ray Agee – the kind of groovy dancer Northern Soul boys would probably chop off your hand for. "What Did I Do Wrong" has The Ovations sounding like Sam Cooke on a boogie tip (great tune) - while "Let Me Know" by Robbie Lee is an organ-led dancer with pleading girly backing vocals. A tiny and obviously ignored trade clipping describes "Looking For My Baby" by The Music City Soul Brothers as 'lively high-powered Blues sounds' and its excellent beat and transfer suggest that a second look has been a long-time coming (clever choice).

Not exactly stormin' like some of the other titles in the series (see review for Volume 1 below) – but there's so much to savour on "New Breed Workin'" that fans of New Breed R&B are going to have to own it. 

Another very nice one from those smart people over at Ace Records...

Titles in Ace's NEW BREED R&B Series of CD Compilation

1. New Breed R&B: Soulful 60s Blues For Today’s Dances (July 2001, Ace/Kent Soul CDKEND 199)
2. King New Breed Rhythm & Blues (July 2002, Ace/Kent Soul CDKEND 210)
3. New Breed R&B With Added Popcorn – Early 60ts R&B Dancers Right In Today’s Groove (February 2008, Ace/Kent Soul CDKEND 291)
4. King New Breed R&B Volume 2 (April 2012, Ace/Kent Soul CDKEND 373)
5. New Breed Blues with Black Popcorn (April 2013, Ace/Kent Soul CDKEND 393)
6. New Breed Workin’: Blues With A Rhythm (January 2016, Ace/Kent Soul CDKEND 443)

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is BLUES, VOCAL GROUPS, RHYTHM 'N' BLUES and ROCK 'N' ROLL - an E-Book with over 175 entries and 1750 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap).


"This Is Clarence Carter/The Dynamic Clarence Carter...And More" by CLARENCE CARTER (January 2016 Ace/Kent Soul CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



This Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION - Exception CD Remasters  
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
Thousands of E-Pages - All Details and In-Depth Reviews From Discs 
(No Cut and Paste Crap)



"...That Old Time Feeling..." 

Alabama's CLARENCE CARTER has had his Atlantic Records catalogue reissued a number of times before in both the UK and the USA by good labels like Rhino, Sequel and Collectables. I've even got Japanese Atlantic versions from two years back with great sound and a reasonable price. So why buy yet again?

Because this January 2016 CD reissue is by 'Ace Records of the UK' (using their Kent Soul label imprint) and 'best ever audio' hardly even scrapes the surface. This CD reissue sounds truly amazing – presented in crystal clear glorious STEREO. As if that's not enough enticement this new version also offers up something quite rare – five Previously Unreleased album outakes tagged on at the end that are actually worth shelling out for. 
Ho! Ho! Ho! as the visually-impaired Montgomery Soul Singer would say-chuckle. 
Let's get to the 'looking for a fox' details...

UK released Friday, 29 January 2016 (5 February 2016 in the USA) – "This Is Clarence Carter/The Dynamic Clarence Carter...And More" by CLARENCE CARTER on Ace/Kent Soul CDKEND 444 (Barcode 029667244428) offers 2LPs onto 1CD plus Five Previously Unreleased Outtakes and plays out as follows (76:41 minutes):

1. Do What You Gotta Do [Side 1]
2. Looking For A Fox
3. Slippin' Around
4. I'm Qualified
5. I Can't See Myself
6. Wind It Up
7. Part Time Love [Side 2]
8. Thread The Needle
9. Slip Away
10. Funky Fever
11. She's Ain’t Gonna Do Right
12. Set Me Free
Tracks 1 to 12 are his debut album "This Is Clarence Carter" in Stereo – released December 1968 in the USA on Atlantic SD 8192 and in the UK on Atlantic 588 152

13. I'd Rather Go Blind [Side 1]
14. Think About It
15. The Road Of Love
16. You've Been A Long Time Coming
17. Light My Fire
18. That Old Time Feeling
19. Steal Away [Side 2]
20. Let Me Comfort You
21. Look What I Got
22. Too Weak To Fight
23. Harper Valley PTA
24. Weekend Love
Tracks 13 to 24 are his 2nd album "The Dynamic Clarence Carter" in Stereo – released March 1969 in the USA on Atlantic SD 8199 and in the UK on Atlantic 588 172

BONUS TRACKS Recorded 1966-1967:
25. I'm Happy-Go-Lucky (Mono)
26. She Ain't Gonna Do Right (Mono)
27. Take Me, Use Me (Stereo)
28. There Won't Be Another Sunset (Mono)
29. I'll Be Over After A While (Mono)

The 16-page booklet features full plates of the American artwork front and rear for both LPs – but cleverly Ace have reproduced the 'Original Notes' on the rear of each LP in clear print so fans can actually read the text. There's new liner notes from Soul Expert DEAN RUDLAND that goes into wonderful track-by-track knowledge. The two other Ace CDs they've done for Clarence Carter have been for his Fame Records 7" singles – the vast majority of which were in MONO – so these album in glorious true STEREO are something to behold. The reissue label's long-standing Audio Engineer DUNCAN COWELL handled the transfers and Remasters – and wow is all I can say. I've adored "Looking For A Fox" as one of those sneakily great 60ts Soul groovers that slaughter all in its path when you're out on the dancefloor. The album STEREO cut of "Looking For A Fox" presents subtle differences in that it loses the background singers that were on the Mono single cut – but the upside is that the Audio punch is unbelievable and the thrill factor just as good. This is a fantastic sounding CD and Carter fans will absolutely have to ditch all previous versions...

The debut album had been two years in the making for the blind singer – gathering songs and finally getting into Rick Hall's Fame Studios. His debut opens with the rather schlocky Johnny Rivers and Jimmy Webb vehicle "Do What You Gotta Do" – but by the time you get to his fabulous ballad "I Can't See Myself (Crying About You)" and the funky keyboard groove of "Wind It Up" – you're being hit with a lethal combo – great tunes transferred with rolicking audio. Side 2 opens with the chugging Soul of Clay Hammond's "Part Time Love" – the Fame Gang Session Players laying down a blinder on Guitar, Piano and Horns (wow city). Rudland rightly points out that there's a cymbal on "Thread The Needle" that seems to have been overdubbed onto the Stereo mix – the thing is that this sucker sounds so clear - it threatens to punch a hole in your speaker stack. Clarence's utterly gorgeous "Slip Away" is full and clean - and many people's fave raver "Funky Fever" is surely going to make you shimmy your shammy and not give a monkeys what the neighbours think...

His 2nd album only cemented the building reputation of the debut – it opens with a truly stunning transfer of "I'd Rather Go Blind" – a cover of an Etta James classic on Chess. Don Covay & Otis Redding's "Think About It" sounds fantastic too – but Duane Allman fans will freak out for "The Road To Love" – their hero plays a wild guitar solo half way through (flanged left to right and away) and its never sounded this clear to me (and I've had this track at least five times before on varying compilations). Two great sounding tracks follow – Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's "You've Been A Long Time Coming" and The Doors classic "Light My Fire" – but despite the quality transfer neither ignite and in fact feel slightly uncomfortable against the rest of the real Soul Music on the album. Things return to kick ass with the wonderful slink-funk of "That Old Time Feeling" – a co-write between Carter and Rick Hall. His lovely cover of the Jimmy Hughes chart winner "Steal Away" comes at you with such clarity as to make you double take. But my itchy fingers immediately flick to my double Side 2 craves – "Too Weak To Fight" and the fabulous guitar-funk of "Weekend Love" - both dancing like Abbot Costello with ants in his pants. Even his cover of Jeannie C Riley's "Harper Valley PTA" rocks – a cautionary tale where we're reliably informed by the nice principals of said educational establishment that "...Mrs. Johnson...you're wearing your dresses too high..." (oh dear).

I had though the Previously Unreleased would be throw away (four in Mono and one in Stereo) – but thankfully they're not. After all that Stereo bliss – the Mono "I'm Happy-Go-Lucky" comes as an audio shock but a minute in and I'm hooked – a great groove that shows his undeniable knack for picking a 'feeling' and nailing it. Both it and "There Won't Be Another Sunset" are from the same 1967 session and Rudland is right to describe them as 'rather wonderful'. Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn's "She Ain't Gonna Do Right" is a demo and despite its 'frail' audio still sounds great - while the Stereo "Take Me, Use Me" features some lady vocalists to great effect (uncredited unfortunately). His own "I'll Be Over After A While" ends the music fest on an upbeat note...

I've loved Ace's commitment to Soul and R&B across the four long decades they been in the Reissue game. But for me - a long time reviewer and passionate lover of both genres – this CD is something of an Audio milestone. Fantastic music accompanied by truly awesome transfers of it. 

I know its only the end of January but for little old fart me - this is already a shoe in for 2016 'Soul CD Reissue Of The Year'...

PS: I also highly recommend "The Fame Singles Volume 1: 1966-70" by Clarence Carter that Ace put out in 2012 – it has 24 Mono Tracks in blistering sound quality and features many non-album cuts too. See my review...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is SOUL, FUNK & JAZZ FUSION - an E-Book with over 240 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

"The Complete Them 1964-1967" by THEM [featuring Van Morrison] (2015 Exile/Sony/Legacy 3CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...I Gave My Love A Diamond..." 

The last time I bought the two 60ts THEM albums on CD was way back in 1998 (remastered by Decca) and subsequently there's been other compilations covering Van Morrison's brilliant first band. But they were all quickly deleted and thereafter began accumulating unhealthy price tags. Well at last in 2015 (after acquiring his catalogue) - Sony/Legacy has rectified this gaping hole in truly brilliant 60ts R&B music by giving Joe Public this all-encompassing 3CD peach-a-rooney - "The Complete Them 1964-1967". A whopping 69-Tracks - 20 of which are Previously Unissued - and all of it newly remastered from the best sources. So once more unto the "Baby Please Don't Go" breach for our Six Counties Heroes...

UK released 4 December 2015 – "The Complete Them 1964-1967" by THEM [featuring Van Morrison] on Exile/Sony/Legacy 88875150542 (Barcode 0888751505421) is a 3CD Anthology of New Remasters and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (64:17 minutes):
1. Don't Start Crying Now
2. One Two Brown Eyes
Tracks 1 & 2 are the A&B-sides of their debut UK 7" single on Decca F.11973 released 6 September 1964 - USA on Parrot 7702
3. Baby Please Don't Go
4. Gloria
Tracks 3 & 4 are the A&B-sides of their 2nd UK 7" single on Decca F.12018 released 6 November 1964 (March 1965 in the USA on Parrot 9727). In April 1966 – the American Parrot label flipped the tracks and put out “Gloria” as the A-side which resulted in a chart placing at 71
5. Philosophy
Track 5 was exclusive to the UK "Them" 4-Track EP on Decca DFE 8612 released February 1965 (no US release). The other tracks on the EP are "Don't Stop Crying Now", "One Two Brown Eyes" and "Baby Please Don't Go"
6. Here Comes The Night
7. All For Myself
Tracks 6 and 7 are the A&B-sides of their 3rd UK 7" single on Decca F. 12094 released March 1965 – May 1965 in the USA on Parrot 9747
8. One More Time
9. How Long Baby
Tracks 8 & 9 are the A&B-sides of their 4th UK 7" single on Decca F.12175 released June 1965 (no US release)

10. Mystic Eyes
11. If You And I Could Be As Two
12. Little Girl
13. Just A Little Bit
14. I Gave My Love A Diamond
15. You Just Can't Win
16. Go On Home Baby [Side 2]
17. Don't Look Back
18. I Like It Like That
19. I’m Gonna Dress In Black
20. Bright Lights, Big City
21. My Little Baby
22. (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66
Tracks 10 to 22 are their debut UK album "Them" [aka "The Angry Young Them!"] – released 11 June 1965 in Mono on Decca LK 4700.

The US "Them" album was released July 1965 in both Mono (PA 61005) and Stereo (PAS 71005) and featured 12 rejiggered tracks as opposed to the UK configuration of 14. Using Disc 1 of this 3CD set - fans can configure the US album as follows [4] = Track 4:
Side 1:
1. Here Comes The Night [6]
2. Mystic Eyes [10]
3. Don't Look Back [17]
4. Little Girl [12]
5. One Two Brown Eyes [2]
6. Gloria [4]
Side 2:
1. One More Time [8]
2. If You And I Could Be As Two [11]
3. I Like It Like That [18]
4. I'm Gonna Dress In Black [19]
5. (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 [22]
6. Go On Home Baby [16]

23. (It Won't Hurt) Half As Much
Tracks 23 is the non-album A-side of their 5th UK 7" single on Decca F. 12215 released August 1965 – USA on Parrot 9784 (the album track "I'm Gonna Dress In Black" was its B-side in both countries)

Note: "Mystic Eyes" b/w "If You And I Could Be As Two" was issued as their 5th 7" single – released November 1965 in the UK on Decca F.12281 and October 1965 in the USA on Parrot 9796

Disc 2 (63:47 minutes):
1. Could You Would You
2. Something You Got
3. Call My Name
4. Turn On Your Love Light
5. I Put A Spell On You
6. I Can Only Give You Everything
7. My Lonely Sad Eyes
8. I Got A Woman
9. Out Of Sight [Side 2]
10. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
11. Bad Or Good
How Long Baby [see NOTE}
12. Hello Josephine
13. Don’t You Know
14. Hey Girl
15. Bring 'Em On In
Tracks 1 to 15 and Track 9 on Disc 1 make up their 2nd album "Them Again" – released 21 January 1966 in the UK on Decca LK 4751 (Mono) and April 1965 in the USA on Parrot PA 61008 (Mono) and PAS 71008 (Stereo).
NOTE: The UK LP had 16 tracks with "How Long Baby" slotting in between "Bad Or Good" and "Hello Josephine" on Side 2 - but as "How Long Baby" is already featured on Disc 1 – it isn't duplicated on Disc 2.

16. Richard Cory
Track 16 is the non-album A-side of a May 1966 7" single – released UK May 1966 on Decca F. 12355 and in the USA on Parrot 3003 – the album track "Don't You Know" from "Them Again" was its B-side in both countries

17. Friday's Child
July 1967 UK-only 7" single on Major Minor MM 509 – this Stereo Mix is Previously Unreleased

18. The Story Of Them Part 1
19. The Story Of Them Part 2
Tracks 18 and 19 are the A&B-sides of a non-album UK-only 7" single released September 1967 on Major Minor MM 513

20. Baby What You Want Me To Do
21. Stormy Monday Blues
22. Times Getting Tougher Than Tough
Tracks 20 to 22 are non-album songs that appeared on the Dutch-Only 4-track "Friday's Child" EP released 1967 on Decca BU 70 500 – it's pictured on Page 10 of the booklet

Disc 3 "Demos, Sessions & Rarities 1964-1976" (74:15 minutes):
1. Don't Start Crying Now (Demo) – Previously Unissued
2. Gloria (Demo) – Previously Unissued
3. One Two Brown Eyes (Demo) – Previously Unissued
4. Stormy Monday Blues (Demo) – Previously Unissued
5. Turn On Your Love Light (Alternate Version) – Previously Unissued
6. Baby Please Don't Go (Take 4) – Previously Unissued
7. Here Comes The Night (Take 2) – Previously Unissued
8. Gloria (Live On BBC's "Saturday Club") recorded 1 March 1965 – Previously Unissued
9. All For Myself (Live On BBC's "Saturday Club") recorded 1 March 1965 – Previously Unissued)
10. Here Comes The Night (Live On BBC's "Saturday Club") recorded 1 March 1965 – Previously Unissued
11. Little Girl (Version One) – first appeared on the 1965 Various Artists UK compilation LP "14" on Decca LK 4695 – reissued on the 1997 2CD set "The Story Of Them" – this take is different to the version on the "Them" LP
12. Go On Home Baby (Take 4) – Previously Unissued
13. I Gave My Love A Diamond (Take 8) – Previously Unissued
14. (It Won't Hurt) Half As Much (Take 2) – Previously Unissued
15. My Little Baby (Take 1) – Previously Unissued
16. How Long Baby (Take 1) – Previously Unissued
17. One More Time (Take 14) – Previously Unissued
18. Gloria (Live on BBC's "Saturday Club" Version 2) recorded 22 June 1965 – Previously Unissued
19. Here Comes The Night (Live on BBC's "Saturday Club" Version 2) recorded 22 June 1965 – Previously Unissued
20. One More Time (Live on BBC's "Saturday Club") recorded 22 June 1965 – Previously Unissued
21. Call My Name (Single Version)
22. Bring 'Em On In (Single Version)
Tracks 21 and 22 are the A&B-sides of their 6th 7" single – released March 1966 in the UK on Decca F. 12355 and in the USA on Parrot 9819
23. Mighty Like A Rose – Van Morrison song recorded April 1966 which first appeared on the US-only Them LP "Backtrackin'" on London PS 639
24. Richard Cory (Alternate Version) – Previously Unissued

These three-way card digipaks are a bugger to keep from being crumpled – but at least "The Complete Them" looks the part. Each of the CDs sports the red 'Decca' writing aping the original English LP labels - while the 16-page booklet contains in-depth liner notes by none other than the great man himself (yes Van Morrison writes and speaks). The two UK album front covers are pictured, rare EPs, concert posters, trade adverts and newspaper reviews along with track-by-track annotation. Each of the flaps have classy black & whites of Them live - but it's a shame they didn't picture some of the many Parrot singles or LP sleeves (different covers) underneath the three blank see-through trays.

Still all of that pales into the trivial when you clap ears on the fabulous new remasters. A team of three handled the transfers – Rhino's long-time Sound Engineer DAN HERSCH was abled helped by ANDREW SANDOVAL and RICHARD WHITTAKER – and the results are fantastic. Hersch and Sandoval are names that have appeared on The Band, Love and The Kinks CD reissues to great acclaim (amongst others) - while Richard Whittaker has handled Elton John, The Rolling Stones and Thin Lizzy SACD and SHM-CD Remasters with equally impressive results. This primordial 60ts R&B music has always sounded ballsy – but now it's positively standing up and wanting to start a fight. These are not amped for the sake of it either – they're just wonderfully muscular and clear – full of presence and warmth...a job well done boys.

The young Van Morrison devoured Pye International 45s that he bought in a local Belfast record shop only a few streets away from where he lived. Along with London and Decca – they were amongst a slew of primo British labels releasing the tastiest American R&B and Soul tunes of the day. Them's debut 45 "Don't Start Crying Now" came from a Slim Harpo LP while he found the 1933 Big Joe Williams classic "Baby Please Don"t Go" on a John Lee Hooker 'Audio Lab' album he'd bought from a mate. For the flipsides of their first two 45s – Van stumped up two absolute barnstormers – "One Two Brown Eyes" and the immortal "Gloria" - fans are just gonna eat up the Audio Blast on these. Producer Bert Berns brought his own song to the table – the wonderful "Here Comes The Night" which features an uncredited Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin on Guitars (he's also on "Baby Please Don't Go") with Alan White on Drums and Ireland's Phil Coulter on Keyboards. The session also included John Carter, Ken Lewis and Perry Ford from The Ivy League on Backing Vocals. Their Producer Tommy Scott wrote "How Long Baby" under the songwriting guise of 'Gillon' while Van's own "All For Myself" is a superb riff John Lee Hooker would have smiled at.

By the time we get to the self-titled debut album (known in some circles as "The Angry Young Them!") and its opener "Mystic Eyes" – I'm already on a major British R&B high. The frantic "Mystic Eyes" with Van's wicked harmonica warbling is presented here in speaker-rattling Mono. But it has to be said that the strange 'lo-fi' production of "If You And I Could Be As Two" still sounds like it was recorded in Uncle Bill's dodgy bucket on well-used Scotch tape. The Audio however immediately improves with Van's "Little Girl" – a great Doors type groove (a version of it turned up on the 1965 Decca compilation LP "14" which is very hard to find – one of the rarities included on Disc 3). Other goodies on the album include his cover of Rosco Gordon's "Just A Little Bit" and his own songwriting stretching out lyrically in the 'Camden Town' song "You Just Can't Win". But my fave on here is his superb warbling treatment of John Lee Hooker's "Don't Look Back" where the keyboards, his voice and the cool rhythm section all combine perfectly into something old meets something new. Collectors will know that Peter Bardens of Camel plays keyboards on the album while Jimmy Page plays Guitar (both uncredited).

If Disc 1 is good-to-great – Disc 2 ups the ante even further as the tunes simply got better and better (from all sources). The 2nd Them LP also saw what Van felt was their most 'stable' line-up - but on the downside it also ultimately contributed to the end of the band as it included three songs he'd planned for a solo project – "Could You Would You", "My Sad Lonely Eyes" and the Phil Coulter/Tommy Scott composition "I Can Only Give You Everything". Tommy Scott put those three masters on the LP (Van claims) without his permission and even though shows in Los Angeles went down a storm (The Doors were the support act!) – the gig was up once they got back home. Van Morrison was also lurching towards Soul Music – a direction the rest of the band weren't into ("Don't Look Back" and "Friday's Child" have more than a few hints of his preferred musical direction). I also love his version of Paul Simon's "Richard Cory" and those three non-album cuts from the Dutch "Friday's Child" EP still have a whack to me by virtue of the fact that I never saw them on vinyl back in the day – ever. They still feel like discoveries...

Having said that their covers of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You", Fats Domino's "Hello Josephine" and Bobby Bland's "Turn On Your Love Light" are good time R&B fun still – slow for "Spell" and rocking for "Love Light". Them even get a bit Count Five "Psychotic Reaction" for "I Can Only Give You Everything" (or is it the other way around) – a manic Tommy Scott winner that would have made for an adventurous single release in 1965. And you can already hear the 1968 Bang Records solo LP "Blowin' Your Mind" sound in the very Van Soulfulness of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" – an inspired rearrangement of the Bob Dylan classic. Van's own "Bad Or Good" and the lovely "Hey Girl" are classy originals for someone so young - while the jaunty "Don't You Know" is probably Tommy Scott's most accomplished tune. The 'True Stereo' of "Friday's Child" is properly gorgeous too. The UK-only Major Minor 7" single "The Story Of Them Part 1 & 2" still sounds impossibly cool as he raps on about 'The Maritime Club' in Belfast where they used to play with Rory Gallagher and the bouncer would smack people on the head and even knock them out...

Juicy is what describes the "1964 to 1967 Rarities" of Disc 3 – 20 Previously Unissued tracks out of 24 is a mighty big haul in any fan's books. What comes as a shock is how good they all are. The first four demos show the Belfast Gypsies raw and ready to boogie – Van's harmonica wailing out of the speakers (even if that thinny organ sound is almost comical) – "Gloria" still sounding astonishing even in embryonic form. There's a count-in to the 5 May 1964 take on Bobby Bland's "Turn On Your Love Light" where the version is more relaxed but somehow missing that punch that the finished cut had. Page fans will be glued to "Baby Please Don't Go (Take 4)" where there’s extra rhythm guitar and perhaps a tad more echo on Van's vocals (taped 1 October 1964). The tune is still kicking like a mule and presented here with absolutely stunning sound quality. The same goes to a wonderful Take 2 of "Here Comes The Night" sounding like it’s live in your living room...

"...Over again now to the group from Ireland..." goes the so-BBC introduction to a decidedly lo-fi "Gloria" taped 1 March 1965 at The Playhouse in London for the BBC's "Saturday Club". The audio is good as you can imagine rather than being great – but the performance is full on and cool into the bargain. Tremendous Bass on "All By Myself" – nicely transferred. The Audio goes back to Studio Quality again with 'Version One' of "Little Girl" – but then goes stratospheric on 'Take 4' of "Go On Home Baby" taped 5 May 1965 at Decca's Studio 2. Another audio shocker is "Mighty Like A Rose" which first saw the light of day in 1974 on the American "Backtrackin'" LP on London – sounding fantastic here. It ends on an 'Alternate Version' of Paul Simon's S&G classic "Richard Cory" taped 19 April 1966 at Decca's Studios – stunning stuff and a hugely satisfying end to a Disc that blows you away rather than just impresses...

Van Morrison's original version of THEM burned brightly for two to three years only – but man they lit up the musical sky on the evidence presented here.

An easy 2015 'Reissue Of The Year' in my books. Buy "The Complete Them 1964-1967" and give it some ‘G-L-O-R-I-A’ across your limp hydrangeas...if you know what I mean...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is COOL 1960s MUSIC - an E-Book with over 200 entries and 2000 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 


"Classic Album Collection" by THE MONKEES (2016 Rhino/Warner Brothers 10CD '50th Anniversary' Mini Box Set Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...Daydream Believers..."

September 2016 is the 50th anniversary of The Monkee's first appearance on NBC Television in the USA - and long-time supporters of the band RHINO RECORDS of the USA want to celebrate this. So you get their musical legacy wrapped up in a neat and glossy '50th Anniversary' 10CD clamshell box set containing all 9 of their studio albums on Colgems Records from 1966 to 1970 with a further 13-track 'Bonus Disc' gathering up non-album single sides/versions, a studio outtake and several solo stragglers from 1971 and 1980. There's even a rare and thankfully not-too-tampered-with 1986 Remix of their huge hit "Daydream Believer" which I think is first time on CD. Here are the 'hey hey' details...

UK released Friday, 22 January 2016 – "Classic Album Collection" by THE MONKEES on Rhino/Warner Brothers 081227949860 (Barcode 081227949860) is a '50th Anniversary' 10CD Clamshell Mini Box Set and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "The Monkees" (29:42 minutes):
1. (Theme From) The Monkees
2. Saturday's Child
3. I Wanna Be Free
4. Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day
5. Papa Jean's Blues
6. Take A Giant Step
7. Last Train To Clarksville [Side 2]
8. This Just Doesn't Seem To Be My Day
9. Let's Dance On
10. I'll Be True To You
11. Sweet Young Thing
12. Gonna Buy Me A Dog
Tracks 1 to 12 are their US debut LP "The Monkees" – released October 1966 in the USA on Colgems COM-101 (Mono) and COS-101 (Stereo) and January 1967 in the UK on RCA Victor RD 7844 (Mono) and SF 7844 (Stereo) – the STEREO Remaster is used.

Disc 2 "More Of The Monkees" (28:32 minutes)
1. She
2. When Love Comes Knockin' (At Your Door)
3. Mary, Mary
4. Hold On Girl
5. Your Auntie Grizelda
6. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone
7. Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) [Side 2]
8. The Kind Of Girl I Could Love
9. The Day We Fall In Love
10. Sometime In The Morning
11. Laugh
12. I'm A Believer
Tracks 1 to 12 are their 2nd album "More Of The Monkees" – released February 1967 in the USA on Colgems COM-102 (Mono) and COS-102 (Stereo) and April 1967 in the UK on RCA Victor RD 7868 (Mono) and RS 7868 (Stereo) – the STEREO Remaster is used.

Disc 3 "Headquarters" (31:16 minutes):
1. You Told Me
2. I'll Spend My Life With You
3. Forget That Girl
4. Band 6
5. You Just May Be The One
6. Shades Of Gray
7. I Can't Get Her Off My Mind
8. For Pete's Sake [Side 2]
9. Mr. Webster
10. Sunny Girlfriend
11. Zilch
12. No Time
13. Early Morning Blues And Greens
14. Randy Scouse Git
Tracks 1 to 14 are their 3rd album "Headquarters" – released June 1967 in the USA on Colgems COM-103 (Mono) and COS-103 (Stereo) and July 1967 in the UK on RCA Victor RD-7868 (Mono) and SF-7868 (Stereo) – the STEREO Remaster is used.

Disc 4 "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd." (35:52 minutes):
1. Salesman
2. She Hang Out
3. The Door Into Summer
4. Love Is Only Sleeping
5. Cuddly Toy
6. Words
7. Hard To Believe [Side 2]
8. What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?
9. Peter Percival Patterson's Pet Pig
10. Porky – Pleasant Valley Sunday
11. Daily Nightly
12. Don't Call On Me
13. Star Collector
Tracks 1 to 13 are their 4th album "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd." – released November 1967 in the USA on Colgems COM-104 (Mono) and COS-104 (Stereo) and January 1968 in the UK on RCA Victor RD 7912 (Mono) and SF 7912 (Stereo) – the STEREO Remaster is used.

Disc 5 "The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees" (37:19 minutes):
1. Dream World
2. Auntie's Municipal Court
3. We Were Made For Each Other
4. Tapioca Tundra
5. Daydream Believer
6. Writing Wrongs
7. I'll Be Back Up On My Feet [Side 2]
8. The Poster
9. PO Box 9847
10. Magnolia Simms
11. Valleri
12. Zor And Zam
Tracks 1 to 12 are their 5th album "The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees" – released May 1968 in the USA (& UK) on Colgems COM-109 (Mono) and COS-109 (Stereo) and in the UK on RCA Victor RD 7948 (Mono) and SF 7948 (Stereo) – the STEREO Mix is used.

Disc 6 "Head – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" (28:49 minutes):
1. Opening Ceremony
2. Porpoise Song (Theme From "Head")
3. Ditty Diego – War Chant
4. Circle Sky
5. Supplicio
6. Can You Dig It
7. Gravy
8. Superstitious [Side 2]
9. As We Go Along
10. Dandruff
11. Daddy's Song
12. Poll
13. Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?
14. Swami
Tracks 1 to 14 are their 6th studio album "Head – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" – released December 1968 in the USA on Colgems COSO-5008 (Stereo only – original copies in a 'foil' effect sleeve) and September 1969 in the UK on RCA Victor RD 8051 (Mono) and SF 8051 (Stereo) – the STEREO Mix is used. Note: only tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 11 – all other tracks have 'no artist' accredited.

Disc 7 "Instant Replay" (28:49 minutes):
1. Through The Looking Glass
2. Don't Listen To Linda
3. I Won't Be The Same Without Her
4. Just A Game
5. Me Without You
6. Don't Wait For Me
7. You And I [Side 2]
8. While I Cry
9. Tear Drop City
10. The Girl I Left Behind Me
11. A Man Without A Dream
12. Shorty Blackwell
Tracks 1 to 12 are 7th studio album "Instant Replay" – released February 1969 in the USA on Colgems COS-113 (Stereo only) and May 1969 in the UK on RCA Victor RD 8016 (Mono) and SF 8016 (Stereo) – the STEREO Mix is used.

Disc 8 "The Monkees Present..." (29:40 minutes):
1. Little Girl
2. Good Clean Fun
3. If I Knew
4. Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye
5. Never Tell A Woman Yes
6. Looking For The Good Times
7. Ladies Aid Society [Side 2]
8. Listen To The Band
9. French Song
10. Mommy And Daddy
11. Oklahoma Backroom Dancer
12. Pillow Time
Tracks 1 to 12 are their 8th studio album "The Monkees Present..." – released October 1969 in the USA (& UK) on Colgems COS-117 (Stereo only – no UK release).

Disc 9 "Changes" (32:05 minutes):
1. Oh My My
2. Ticket On A Ferry Ride
3. You're So Good To Me
4. It's Got To Be Love
5. Acapulco Sun
6. 99 Pounds
7. Tell Me Love
8. Do You Feel It Too?
9. I Love You Better
10. All Alone In The Dark
11. Midnight Train
12. I Never Thought It Peculiar
Tracks 1 to 12 are their 9th and last studio album "Changes" – released June 1970 in the USA-only on Colgems COS-119 (Stereo only). They would reform and release “Pool It!” in 1987 on Rhino Records.

Disc 10 "Bonus Disc" (40:02 minutes):
1. A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
(Non-album track, March 1967 US 7" single, A-side of Colgems 1004. For B-side see Track 3)
2. She Hangs Out (Single Version)
(February 1967 WITHDRAWN Canadian 7" single on Colgems 1003)
3. The Girl I Knew Somewhere (Mono Single Mix)
(Non-album version. March 1967 US 7" single, B-side of Colgems 1004. For A-side see Track 1)
4. All Of Your Toys
(Originally unissued – first appeared on the July 1987 US LP "Missing Links" on Rhino RNLP 70150)
5. Goin' Down
(Non-album track. October 1967 US 7" single on Colgems 1012, B-side of "Daydream Believer")
6. D.W. Washburn
(Non-album track. June 1968 US 7" single, A-side of Colgems 1023. For B-side see Track 7)
7. It's Nice To Be With You
(Non-album track. June 1968 US 7" single, B-side of Colgems 1023. For A-side see Track 6)
8. Porpoise Song (Theme From "Head") (Single Version)
(Non-album version. October 1968 US 7" single, A-side of Colgems 1031)
9. Someday Man
(Non-album track. April 1969 US 7" single, A-side of Colgems 5004 – B-side is "Listen To The Band")
10. Do It In The Name Of Love by MICKEY DOLENZ and DAVY JONES
(April 1971 US 7" single on Bell 986, A. For B-side see track 11)
11. Lady Jane by MICKEY DOLENZ and DAVY JONES
(April 1971 US 7" single on Bell 986, B. For A-side see track 10
12. That Was Then, This Is Now by MICKEY DOLENZ and PETER TORK
(June 1980 US 7" single on Arista ASI-9505, A)
13. Daydream Believer (1986 Remix)
(1986 US 7" single on Arista ASI-9532)

PACKAGING/REMASTERS:
The Mini Clamshell Box is glossy and pleasing to look at front and rear – as are the ten 5" x 5" single sleeve repro covers inside (all matt). All use the US Colgems Records artwork – each with clear writing and reasonably readable details. None of the CDs have original label art - all are red Rhino labels (a bit of effort boys). And it doesn't take a Mensa student to work out that the first five albums could easily have had 'both' the Mono and Stereo mixes on them – allowing fans to sequence every single as well (most were in Mono). And the lack of even a rudimentary booklet with some history and info on this most fondly remembered band is pretty crappy – especially given the fact that The Monkees shifted a whopping 70 million albums worldwide and managed four Number 1 albums in the US in a row – a Beatles type feat. But at least you get great AUDIO. Although there's no mention of Mastering/Remastering anywhere - the Remasters announced on the sticker (outside of the box's shrink-wrap) feel just like the 2006 Rhino issues to my ears. These albums sound brill – clean, full of presence and swimming in that great Stereo vibe that accompanies this kind of 60ts music...

Rather obviously modelled on The Beatles – the Monday night showing of 'The Monkees TV Show' on NBC throughout the later half of 1966 guaranteed staggering exposure for the newly made-up group. The Monkees were broadcast into every home in the land – a country obsessed at the time with all things British and musical. So for the hugely popular debut album songwriter-experts Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart took the lion's share of the hits (Tracks 1, 3, 4, 7, 9 and 12) while Michael Nesmith was already making his mark with "Papa Jean's Blues" and a co-write with the mighty duo of Gerry Goffin and Carole King on "Sweet Young Thing". A young David Gates (pre Bread) contributed "Saturday's Child" and The Hollies released "I'll Be True To You" in 1965 (then entitled "Yes I Will"). It should also be noted that even though The Monkees were indeed "...too busy singing to put anyone down..."  - the STEREO master is used for the whole album but the "Theme From" opener on Side 1 is in MONO. 

But real Monkeemania began in 1967 where the band managed three album releases in the same year – and all of them hitting the US No. 1 spot – a feat only second to - well The Beatles. Boyce and Hart took something of a backseat on the 2nd album "More Of The Monkees" – nonetheless providing two winners in "She" and "(I'm Not You) Steppin' Stone". Neil Diamond contributed two nuggets as well – "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)" and the magical "I'm A Believer". Things got even better with the next record. What's impressive about the "Headquarters" LP (their 3rd No. 1 in the US) is that it felt like the 'real' Monkees were emerging. Dogged with accusations that they were merely puppets of the record label and couldn't play jack let alone write - suddenly both their songs and production values went through the roof when ex Turtles bass player Chip Douglas came on board. "Headquarters" would take six weeks to record (instead of six minutes) and feature the band on most every track. Then there were the quality songs - the combo of Mike Nesmith originals like "You Told Me", "Sunny Girlfriend" and especially "You Just May Be The One" - along with superb Boyce & Hart songs like "I'll Spend My Life With You" and "Mrs. Webster" gave the album a real "Rubber Soul" feel – albeit two years after the event. The string arrangements on Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil's "Shades Of Gray" are gorgeous as is the Bacharach piano playing and harmony vocals. Diane Hildebrand and Jack Keller had provided "Your Auntie Grizelda" for the 2nd LP – here they trumped up again with the bass-thumping pop of "Early Morning Blues And Greens". Although they're fun – the two snippets of band written nonsense "Band 6" and "Zilch" thankfully only last 40 seconds and a minute. It ends on Mickey Dolenz's "Randy Scouse Git" which was wisely re-titled "Alternate Title" for single release in the UK on RCA 1604 in August 1967. "Headquarters" is a great album by The Monkees...

As if to confirm that album No. 3 was no freak of great songwriting choices - album number 4 "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd." wades in with more of the same. It opens with a great one-two song combo – Craig Smith's caustic tale "Salesman" and Jeff Barry's wonderfully atmospheric pop of "She Hangs Out". Not to be outdone – they're followed by the infectious acoustic strum of "The Door Into Summer" – a fantastic 'penny-whistle band' ditty written by Nesmith's pal and Monkees Producer Chip Douglas (Chip was with The Turtles). It features Nesmith on Lead Vocals with Dolenz adding superb backing harmony (the title apparently comes from a Sci-Fi novel of the time). Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil trumped up again with the excellent guitar bop of "Love Is Only Sleeping" – a tune I thought would have made for an ace 45. Perhaps smart – perhaps part lucky – their choice of Nilsson's "Cuddly Toy" as a song is brilliant – perfectly adapted to that Monkees' sound while at the same time bringing Nilsson's talent to the attention of RCA (his career started here). Psychedelic things were clearly on Mike Nesmith's mind for his wonderfully period "Daily Nightly" (a trippy blast) - while Gerry Goffin & Carole King's fab guitar pop "Pleasant Valley Sunday" was lifted off the album and made No 3 on the pop charts in July 1967.

"The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees" hit the Number 3 spot on the US album charts but didn't register with the British public at all - and after four consecutive No.1 albums in America – it was already a sign of their sone-to-be rapid fade (the next album "Instant Replay” in 1969 barely made No. 32). That's not to say that "The Birds..." doesn't contain goodies like Davy Jones' thinly veiled 'dancing bear in a circus' in "The Poster" reflecting the media tornado he'd been in for nearly three years. Ace songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart threw the personal ads "PO Box 9847" and the wicked "Valleri" into the mix while Nesmith went all vaudeville with the whimsical "Magical Simms". They even got a bit political with "Zor And Zam" – a Bill & John Chadwick reflection on 'that war' far away – rather wistfully wishing that 'nobody came'.

The extravaganza that was the soundtrack to 1968's "Head" delighted some newcomers but confused and alienated just as many fans. Across the years though its psychedelic leanings have amassed the album a serious cult following. Listening to the 1:12 minutes lunacy of "Opening Ceremony" – it's hardly surprising so many thought it indulgent cobblers – but then it segues into Goffin & King's lovely "Porpoise Song" and things start to cook. "...Let's all lose our minds..." they shout in the speeded-up pee-take of their own band image in "Ditty Diego". But then you get the kicking Nesmith original "Circle Sky" where his vocal is deliberately buried – like he's miles away – trying to get through. Side 1 ends on Peter Tork's finest moment "Can You Dig It" – all Tabla-patters accompanied by treated clavinet sounding keyboards and doomy Jefferson Airplane guitars (The Monkees man!). There then arrives four minutes of genius – the album's undoubted masterpiece – the beautiful "As We Go Along" written by Carole King and Toni Stern. It's gorgeous acoustic strumming and pure melody reminds you of the Tim Buckley at his finest or the sheer melody magic of The Byrds (as the B-side to the 45 for "Porpoise Song" – it reached 51 on the US singles charts). The other peach is Nilsson's "Daddy's Song" where Jones even apes Nilsson's vocal style. Peter Tork goes all Dylan gangling-guitar on the final song "Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?" – his vocal sounding not unlike Ringo Starr. I suppose you could argue that if they'd left off the largely silly links between the proper songs – the album might have been seen as a genuine piece of wonder at the time – but who knows...

Despite a lot of new material by Nesmith ("Don't Wait For Me" and "While I Cry", Dolenz ("Just A Game" and "Shorty Blackwell") and Jones on "You And I" – the 1969 album "Instant Replay" seemed not to fly (it barely scraped No. 56 on the album charts). Songwriters Boyce & Hart had served them well on all the preceding records - and they did so again with winners like "Through The Looking Glass" and the very Beatlesesque "Tear Drop City". But others like "Don't Listen To Linda", "Me Without You" and Carole Bayer/Neil Sedaka's awful "The Girl I Left Behind" were beginning to sound like sappy reject pap for just another 60ts Pop band.

By the time they reached "The Monkees Present..." in late 1969 the gig was already up with Peter Tork jumping ship (down to three as the front sleeve showed). Then tunesmith Mike Nesmith left as well for a solo career (down to two). The last album they did before they split was 1970's all-but-forgotten "Changes" with only Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz left in the band. They gainfully tried to look joyous on the front cover but only managed to look dated and at odds with the new decade (the album barely scraped 100 in America) and wasn’t even given a UK release. Considering it feels like a 'throwaway' disc at the base of the box - the 13-track 'Bonus Disc' is actually a corking listen. It gathers up the non-album single sides like Neil Diamond's "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You", the kazoo-fun of "D.W. Washburn" and the very Association/Harpers Bizarre upbeat summery sounding "Someday Man" as well as better song outtakes like "All Of Your Toys" and solo sides from 1971 and 1980. Hell even the 1986 Remix of "Daydream Believer" isn't the travesty you'd expect from that decade of excess – just a very tasteful and slight pump up of the rhythm section here and there...

It has to be said that the absence of the MONO mixes when there was so obviously room for them and there being not even a rudimentary booklet to sing their considerable musical and commercial praises lets the side down somewhat. That aside – you’re left mightily impressed with the music and Rhino's wonderfully clear remasters – and that they managed to carve a niche of their own away from the 'Pre Fab Four' taunts that dogged them early on.

A simple 2CD "Best Of" will probably suffice for most - but I've found with the 10-discs of "Classic Album Collection" that I enjoyed their musical ride way more than I would ever have given credit to. "...Hey Hey We're The Monkees" indeed...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is COOL 1960s MUSIC - an E-Book with over 200 entries and 2000 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song - huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 


SOME OF MY E-BOOKS FOR SALE on AMAZON (All Updated to 2018)

1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD - Volume 2 of 3 - EXCEPTIONAL REMASTERS

1975 to 1979 Exceptional CD Remasters

OVERLOOKED ALBUMS 1955 to 1979 - EXCEPTIONAL CD REMASTERS FOR 400 FORGOTTEN LPS...

BLUES, VOCAL GROUPS, RHYTHM & BLUES and ROCK & ROLL on CD - EXCEPTIONAL REMASTERS

GROOVIEST SOUNDS AROUND! 1960s MUSIC ON CD (All-Genres) - April 2019 Update

1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD - Volume 3 of 3 - EXCEPTIONAL CD REMASTERS

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT 1970 - BEST CD REMASTERS

CLASSIC ROCK & POP 1970 to 1974 - EXCEPTIONAL CD REMASTERS

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT 1971 - BEST CD REMASTERS

1960s and 1970s MUSIC ON CD Volume 1 of 3 - EXCEPTIONAL REMASTERS

CLASSIC PROG ROCK, PSYCH and Other Genres Thereabouts - Exceptional CD Remasters...

MY BROKEN HEART (75 Days In The NHS) - Poem of Poems

INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order