Friday, September 15, 2006

Hey Hey I Watched the Monkees

Today in Music History:

In 2004 Johnny Ramone passes away after a fight with prostate cancer. RIP Johnny.
I don't quite remember the Monkees from their September 12, 1966 debut on the television screen. Homercat was yet a wee kittie. I became familiar with those 4 zany boys in the early seventies when their show went into syndication and aired on Saturday mornings back when we only had two stations to choose from. Micky Dolenz the funny one, Mike Nesmith the smart and serious one, Peter Tork the naive one, and Davy Jones the cute one. Then I really remember their resurgence in popularity in 1986 when MTV took to airing the Monkees. It was bonafide Monkeemania. We held a couple Monkee parties back then.

Millions of people still listen to their music. In fact, their legacy has been further strengthened by Rhino Entertainment's acquisition of The Monkees' franchise from Columbia Pictures in the early 1990s, with remastered editions of both the original television series and their music library having now surfaced in stores on DVD and compact disc collections, and here it is 40 years and 3 days since their first appearance and Rhino is pulling out all the stops. On August 15th, Rhino released limited-edition reissues of the group's first two #1 albums, The Monkees and More of The Monkees. Rhino remastered and expanded both albums for deluxe, double-disc sets that feature stereo and mono mixes of the original releases, rare alternate versions of album tracks, as well as previously unreleased tracks.

I'm tempted to go into their whole history but most of you know it by now and their are enough sites out their to visit who probably would do a lot better job than the cat. I will share afew tidbits though. The group's first two releases combined for a total of 31 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Album chart and helped the group sell more than 16 million albums between 1966 and 1968-more than The Beatles and
Rolling Stones combined. They hold the record for most #1 albums in one year. Four of their albums (The Monkees, More of the Monkees, Headquarters, and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones, Ltd.) hit #1 in 1967. They were the first American band to play in Thailand. They were the first rock band to extensively use the Moog Synthesizer on a pop album. They were the first male leads in a television series to have long hair and The Monkees reunion tour was the largest grossing tour of 1986.

How about the music on these two new limited edition discs? Well you all know the songs. Superb pop tunes written by some of the best songwriters ever to put pen to paper. On their first album, the boys' involvement was mostly limited to vocals. Of course Nesmith the troublesome one really wanted to play his own instruments. So much so that their are two Nesmith songs on the first album. By the time of their second album they were fighting the powers to be (Kirshner) to play their own stuff. It too had a couple songs written by Nesmith. By the time they had released their third album, Headquarters, they had gained control of the group, fired Kirshner and started doing their own thing.

I have to hand it to Rhino, they have done a bang up job on these limited edition reissues. This isn't a case of milking the cash cow. These are very impressive discs. The sound quality is great in both mono and stereo. The double-gatefold packaging is very classy and impressive, the extensive liner notes are excellent, detailing the making of each album, which I found fascinating. The production credits are as complete as it's possible to recreate after forty years. There are also plenty of photos, many of which I've never seen before. However, the real reason you want to get this edition is the sound. These albums have never sounded as good as this, not EVER. Every track is clean and quiet with low distortion. The bonus tracks are awesome and I found that I liked some of these bonus tracks and the alternate mixes better than the original albums. I am not exaggerating here folks. This is a genuinely impressive restoration job! (in case you're wondering, I don't work for Rhino) One can only imagine, but what if The Beatles catalogue got this treatment.

THIS is the way reissues should be handled. I truly hope the industry takes note of this. If you're a Monkees fan, you owe it to yourself to purchase these fine editions at once. If you're just a casual listener I would still recommend these albums over previous releases, because there's some good stuff here besides "the Hits". Please support Rhino/Warner so they will be encouraged to continue issuing the remainder of the Monkees catalog in this truly deluxe format. Way to go guys!! A few samples now.
The Monkees
Papa Gene's Blues
Gonna Buy Me A Dog
Theme from The Monkees(second recorded version) RS
More of The Monkees
Mary Mary
Your Auntie Grizelda RS
Look Out(Here Comes Tomorrow) with Peter's narration

Buy The Monkees
Buy More of the Monkees

Funny Toon