Thursday, 28 January 2016

"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)
(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)

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). 

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc