Okay, Christmas in October – really?
Well even I think its’ a tad bit too early for all things Christmas BUT tomorrow a new Monkees album is being released and it’s a Christmas album of all things!
That’s right, The Monkees are releasing their first Christmas album ever and it’s full of new songs as well as some nice takes on standard Christmas fare.
The first single “Unwrap You at Christmas” was released online earlier this week and has gotten some good response along with some “meh” comments. The song was written especially for The Monkees by Andy Partridge and is sung exceptionally well by Micky Dolenz and has a retro ’60s sound that’s very pleasing.
I have to say I like the new song, it’s nothing earth shattering but it’s a fun pop song done in the style of the Monkees critically acclaimed 2016 album “Good Times!” which fits since its produced by the same man, Adam Schlesinger.
I was kind of worried before I popped the CD into my player because I heard some caustic comments by another prominent Monkees fan online who said he declined to review this CD for a magazine implying that he hated the contents.
Well, after hearing the entire CD I have to say I’m relieved as it’s very well done and has some really wonderful performances on it.
Of the new songs written especially for this album, “House of Broken Gingerbread” (written by producer Adam Schlesinger and writer Micheal Chabon) is terrific with its weird lyrics and rocking yet slightly trippy ’60s feel with great vocals by Dolenz – definitely one of the highlights of the disc for me.
Another highlight is the title track “Christmas Party” (written by Peter Buck of R.E.M. and Scott McCaughey) which begins with some dialogue by Davy Jones from The Monkees 1967 Christmas TV episode and sounds like “I Was There (and I’m Told I Had a Good Time)” from The Monkees “Good Times!” album meets Jimi Hendrix!
Rivers Cuomo’s contribution to the album “What Would Santa Do” is a good song but a bit quirky. The lyrics are a bit trite but still a fun track that Dolenz sings well. Odd but endearing which is what I thought of his song “She Makes Me Laugh” from “Good Times!” which I’ve come to really love.
Davy Jones is featured posthumously on the album with two songs that feature vocals he recorded in the 1990s – “Mele Kalikimaka” and “Silver Bells” – that were featured on a solo Christmas album that he released.
Both songs are spruced up with new instrumental backings for this album and sound very traditional and feature lovely vocals by Jones which were originally produced by famed Monkees producer Chip Douglas.
It’s so nice to hear Jones voice sounding so young and fit on these tracks. “Mele Kalikimaka” has always been a Christmas favorite of mine and its nice to hear Jones sing it. A bit sappy yes but nice – that’s what Christmas albums are for!
Another one of the true highlights of the album are the two tracks that feature Mike Nesmith – “The Christmas Song” and “Snowfall”.
“The Christmas Song” is done in a beautiful slow country style and features wonderful vocals from Nesmith that remind me of his vocals on the song “Don’t Call on Me” from the Monkees fourth album “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, Ltd.” from 1967.
“Snowfall” is another lovely track that also features a strong country vibe with great vocals that features sparkling production by Nesmith’s son Jonathan Nesmith.
The one vocal by Peter Tork on the album is also terrific – a rendering of “Angels We Have Heard on High” that features Tork on the banjo.
Tork recently recorded his vocal which sounds a bit electronically manipulated but really nice and touching especially in the light of Tork just today acknowledging that he has had some heath issues as of late.
All in all it’s a very enjoyable album and after all this time who would have thought we’d get ANY new Monkees album.
Yes, you have to be a fan of Christmas music. I can see a lot of fans will really get there knickers in a twist as to me the album is meant to be fun and goofy and Christmasey just like most Christmas albums and not be taken too seriously.
This album definitely sounds like a “Good Times!” Christmas but to me that’s a good thing. I can hear Beach Boys, Motown and ’60s flashes throughout the album and since all of that is music I love I really enjoy this album.
Dolenz as ever sounds like he signed a pact with the devil as his vocals are just great throughout the album especially on his bluesy take of “Merry Christmas Baby”.
Dolenz also sings a cover of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” which turned out great in my opinion. It’s a nice understated acoustic approach to the song which really works. I know a lot of people really dislike this song but I don’t, I rather enjoy it. What’s not to love – Micky Dolenz and Paul McCartney, now that’s a Merry Christmas!!!
The production does at times maybe try a bit hard to sound like the ’60s but overall it’s a fun album that I’ll play again and certainly one of my favorite Christmas records – that’s for sure.
Really there’s nothing horrible on the album – it s a goofy run through Christmas Monkees style that’s filled with some fun retro pop mixed with joyous and wistful touches courtesy of Nesmith and Tork.
You might as well not even come to the party if you don’t like Christmas music and are expecting a sequel to The Monkees superb “Good Times!” album.
If you want some well done pop/rock Christmas and are a fan of the 1960s or The Monkees you might be pleasantly surprised to find this album is a lot of fun – to me anyway.
Until next time, be well and pardon me while I dig around for those Christmas lights – I’m in the mood lol!