Making His Own Sweet Sunshine – “Davy Jones – Live in Japan” (2 CD/DVD) – A Review

 

In these waning days of physical media, it’s nice to see a small reissue label continue to step up their game and release lost and/or semi-obscure recordings that are not only a joy to listen to but fantastic to look at as well.

7a Records, under the guidance of owners Ian Lee and Glenn Gretlund, has created a nice niche line of products (both CD and vinyl) that revolve around releases that feature rare recordings by members of The Monkees or performers such as Bobby Hart who were associated with the group.

The company has already issued a nice trove of solo Monkees recordings that include a couple of gems by Micky Dolenz (“Micky Dolenz – The MGM Singles Collection” and “Out Of Nowhere” with the Metropole Orchestra) as well as two superb releases by Micheal Nesmith (“At the BBC Paris” and “Michael Nesmith & the First National band Redux – Live at the Troubadour”).

Along with a release of a Bobby Hart solo album from 1980 and some really cool Micky Dolenz 45’s, 7a can lay claim to being a small but very classy reissue label that takes obvious care in the truly marvelous packages they create.

Which brings me to the main event of this blog post – “Davy Jones – Live in Japan”.

Released at the end of July in the UK and Aug. 9th here in the U.S.,  “Davy Jones – Live in Japan” (2 CD/DVD) features live recordings Jones did in Japan (naturally) in 1981 as well as a slew of truly obscure songs he recorded in the studio and released in low key in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s.

I’ve known of these recordings for years but for some reason or another I never tracked them down but with the release of this set they’re all in one neat package. And I must say 7a has really brought their A game for sure with this collection.

So what can you expect if you buy this set? Well, let me show you.

CD1:

This CD, “Live in Japan” from 1981, features the first of two Davy Jones live releases that were exclusive to Japan in the early 1980’s after a resurgence of Monkeemania hit the country when “Daydream Believer” became a hit again for The Monkees after being featured in a popular television commercial.

The concert is featured in two mixes, one with the audience prominent in the mix and one that features the audience practically mixed out.

I must say the sound of this live recording is amazing. Everything is sharp and crisp with lovely bass and sounding very well recorded. Not only was Jones in good voice at this concert but he sounds fresh as he hadn’t really overexposed many of these songs in a live setting as he would later on the many reunion tours with The Monkees.

For example songs like “Cuddly Toy” and  “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”  and especially “Valleri” all sound very near the original Monkees recordings but with that extra pinch of energy that revitalizes them.

“Star Collector” doesn’t fair as quite well but is very nice anyway as it was not played very much or even at all as I remember on the various Monkees reunion tours which shortly followed which makes it a nice rarity to hear live.

The bonus tracks with alternate mixes of the same live songs with the audience mixed quite low is an  interesting way to hear the same set. These mixes are nice and clear and work quite well on the newer non-Monkees tracks but I prefer the energy of the audience mix as at times the songs come across as studio re-records which are a bit flatter but some of these mixes are quite nice.

It’s really great to have them as an option though.

CD 2:

This disc features the “Hello Davy” concert which was released in 1982 in Japan on vinyl and later on laserdisc as well.

I love the opening audio of this disc which features Jones dialogue from the Monkees 1967 tour episode from their television show – an unexpected and nice treat.

The live set on this disc sounds quite nice too but a bit louder than the first disc and not quite as clean sounding. It’s still a very lively performance from Jones with the superb  “Rainy Jane”  performance worth the price of the set all by itself. I love this song and this version is a keeper.

On the whole the live set on disc 2 suffers from a bit too much synth in the mix but Jones is in quite good voice and it’s really a fun performance with lots of charm and passion. A slight step down from the live set on disc one but still quite good.

The highlight of Disc 2, and the entire set for that matter, is definitely the studio material on tracks 15-23. “It’s Now” and “How Do You Know” are both quite good, very synth driven nice pop tunes that work quite well. Not the best work Jones ever did but very enjoyable. The latter song has a touch of ’70’s disco which is fun, a little cheesy but a nice tune.

The fun thing is that both of these tracks were recorded in Pete Townsend’s studio, legendary leader and songwriter of The Who, with him present. Too bad Jones didn’t record some of Townsend’s songs or maybe do an album project with him but these two songs are a welcome addition to Jones’ discography nonetheless.

I knew of these tunes from being imports back in the day but hearing them for the first time is quite a thrill in light of the fact that Jones isn’t here anymore to release new music so this will do nicely thank you.

The last three tunes are my favorite and feature “(Hey Ra Ra Ra) Happy Birthday Mickey Mouse” and “You Don’t Have to Be a Country Boy (To Sing a Country Song)” both from a 1978 UK 45 released originally on Warner Brothers Records. It’s a nice bit of nostalgia for me as I own that UK 45 and it’s really great to hear these songs sounding spiffy and clean with no pops.

My absolute favorite song in this whole collection is the Chip Douglas produced “Rainbows” from 1983 which to me sounds like a long lost Monkees track. Every time Jones worked with Douglas there was a magic captured that other producers didn’t get from him. Super song which I previously owned on a bootleg cassette which I’ve loved for years so it’s nice to hear it cleaner here.

DVD:
The DVD of the same “Hello Davy” 1982 concert featured on CD2 actually looks quite good. I prefer to hear this set while seeing the visuals as Jones is a pleasure to watch as he’s in his element performing before a live crowd of adoring fans.

The picture isn’t perfect but it’s very good. While by no means a HiDef visual experience it’s certainly an enjoyable presentation and it’s really fun to see Jones work an enthusiastic crowd a few years before he rejoined The Monkees in 1986.

Conclusion:

Really who would have thought this material would ever see the light of day on CD and DVD in 2019?

I’m really pleased that 7a has put together a such superb package that along with the discs includes a terrific booklet filled with nice liner notes that detail all its contents  along with a lovely tri-fold mini-Lp style cover with a great Monkees era photo of Jones.

Quality sound, packaging and presentation – what more could you ask for in a reissue?

I think that Davy Jones love of his audience and love of performing permeate this entire set and that’s a feeling that shines through and grabs the listener/viewer and that’s a special kind of magic that relatively few performers are able to sustain over a long career as Jones did.

This set along with all of 7a’s previous releases was obviously put together with great love and affection and it shows. Jones love and affection as well as 7a’s definitely make this a must buy for any Jones or Monkees fan out there.

As usual see some photos of the set (above) along with a photo of the menu screen from the DVD.

That’s all for now.

Until next time be well and go out and spread some sunshine of your own!

 

 

 

Anatomy of a Plastic (Partridge Family ) Bus – Careful Nervous Mother Driving

Sometimes being a bit of a pack rat pays off.

You see about 45 years ago I was given a toy for my eighth birthday. This wasn’t just any toy mind you. It was a bus. A plastic bus.

So what’s the big deal about a plastic bus you say?

I’m glad you asked. Let me take you back a bit.

This would have been January 1974. At the time I was a huge fan of the television show “The Partridge Family”.

Like millions of other teen and pre-teen kids I religiously watched the show every Friday night, along with “The Brady Bunch” and “Nanny and the Professor” (there’s a real blast from the past – you never hear about that show anymore), and bought all their records.

My first blast of Partridge came in 1970 when my older brother Tom and I were shopping with my mother at L.S. Ayres.

I believe we were in their little record section (they had one in those days, a very nice one too). Tom spotted the single for “I Think I Love You” and asked my mom if she would buy it and lo and behold he and I both got a copy.

(Note: unlike other 4-year-old’s I had a thing for records even at that tender age and probably badgered my mother until she got me one too lol.)

The single came in a groovy picture sleeve and of course I still have it though it’s a bit tattered these days but I do own a mint copy as well (see a previous blog post).

Anyway, from 1970 to 1974 I managed to get all of The Partridge Family’s albums (and played them to death) along with other Partridge paraphernalia like a lunch box, comic books and the like.

But back to the bus. I distinctly remember getting the plastic Partridge Family Bus on my eighth birthday. Seeing as how the bus is dated 1973 on the box my mother probably got it a few months earlier and held it for my birthday or it was still stores at the time.

I don’t remember asking for it so she must have spotted it in a toy shelf or ordered it from a catalog. I don;t ever remember seeing in a store myself so the catalog seems a more likely bet.

I’m sure most older Partridge fans never even seen the bus as it was obviously geared toward younger kids and it’s fairly rare these days.

And of course being the pack rat that I am I still own the bus and I think it’s still pretty fun to look at as the Partridge bus is a pretty iconic image to a lot of people my age (translation: older folks).

Take a gander above at my plastic Partridge Bus, I thought it might be fun to see all sides of the box as I still have it in nice shape and you rarely see photos of it anywhere.

(Note 2: the reason I have this in such good shape and in the box is that my mother was a depression era child and I remember her saying that she didn’t have many toys growing up so she wanted us to keep our toys in good shape and put them back in box so we appreciated being lucky enough to have them.)

So there you have it, a pretty fun blast from the past toy and for any Partridge fans out there a really fun oddity to enjoy.

Well, that’s all for now.

Until next time be well and of course … Come On, Get Happy!!!

 

 

 

 

Rhino Records “Summer of ’69” Monkees “HEAD” Vinyl Reissue (Silver Pressing)

Ahhh, the summer of 1969. I remember it well.

Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch.

I can honestly say I was alive in the summer of 1969 but as for remembering it well that’s where things get a little fuzzy.

I was three years old in the summer of 1969 and the only true memory I have from that summer is the fleeting vague memory of watching the moon landing late in the evening on an old black and white portable TV set with my family crowded together in a small bedroom.

But, memories not withstanding, this post today does indeed center on the summer of 1969 – well sort of.

You see Rhino Records has just released a series of vinyl reissues that they call the “Summer of ’69 – Peace, Love and Music” that centers on albums which feature music from that heady, long-ago summer.

I’m sure the “Summer of ’69 – Peace, Love and Music” reissues are really meant to tie into Rhino’s various Woodstock 50th Anniversary reissues on both vinyl and CD but they did decide to reissue some cool albums.

The one vinyl album of the dozen or so albums that Rhino Records is touting from the summer of 1969 that I decided to repurchase (again, my wallet groans) is one of my favorite albums by The Monkees, the soundtrack to their completely off-kilter movie “HEAD”.

(Note: this soundtrack was actually released in December 1968 but since I’m guessing most of its sales occurred in 1969 I guess Rhino’s pushing of this album as part of the summer of 1969 is somewhat valid and hey any excuse to reissue a Monkees album is fine by me!)

Now, I need another vinyl copy of the “HEAD” soundtrack like I need a hole in the head but since that’s never stopped me before here’s what I have to report on the newest vinyl reissue that hit indie record stores at the end of July.

First, the highlights this new vinyl reissue:

  • It features the Colgems logo on the back cover (a small thing and odd to non-believers but for a Monkees freak like me it’s such a fun thing to see)
  • The album is pressed on silver colored vinyl which looks just great and I do love me some colored vinyl!
  • The album artwork is reproduced very clearly yet one point off for not using a mylar cover like the original but I get that the cost must have been prohibitive
  • By far the coolest thing about this release is the reproduction of the original Colgems inner sleeve which is now a one sided insert with the word Colgems replaced by the word Rhino – again a small thing but oh so cool! I absolutely love that Rhino has done this, super nice touch!

Okay, now for the sound.

I played the entire record and can say that it sounds great and is an absolutely terrific pressing with hardly any pops or ticks and has a nice full and punchy sound.

This new vinyl reissue mimics the original pressing with the same mixes as the original pressing, as far as I can tell anyway, with the short version of the “Porpoise Song” without the extra minute or so coda of music like the 45 being the most glaring thing that stood out at me as Rhino has often used the longer stereo version on its reissues of this album.

Truth be told it sounds to me like this new pressing might have come from the transfer used for the 2010 “HEAD” CD box set. The sound is really quite good and with such a nice vinyl pressing this album really shines when listened to on a decent turntable as it isn’t overly loud yet nice and full and warm.

A nice addition to any Monkees collection for sure and if you’re a fan of vinyl and don’t have this album then it’s an especially nice way to add some great music to your turntable and/or collection.

Well, there you have it. Not a necessary purchase by any means but any Monkees fan or fanatic out there will, I’m sure, really enjoy this new vinyl reissue despite the fact that Rhino has reissued this particular album a couple of times previously in the past few years.

I’d have to listen to those other recent vinyl reissues to compare but from my memory this one stacks up well as I remember those sounding pretty good. I must say though that the reproduction of the Colgems inner sleeve really makes this new pressing a compulsory buy for any true Monkees fans (okay, I can’t really explain collectoritis but it’s real and if you’re affected by it then this make sense!)

Above I posted a few pictures of this groovy new pressing and as always feast your eyes (or hide them if you’re trying not to buy any more new vinyl) on this lovely new version.

Until  next time be well and … goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

(Sorry,  I couldn’t resist. If you don’t get the reference then I’m sure this whole post must have seemed pretty tedious)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mail Order Monkees – ’70’s Hit Collections Through the USPS

 

Welcome to August!

Even though it’s only the first week of August a lot of schools around where I live are either already in session or will be next week – probably the case for most of the U.S.

The “back-to-school” ads and displays in stores always take me back to my grade school years and no matter how many decades go by I still remember the early 1970’s and grade school and Saturday morning cartoons, etc.

Actually my grade school nostalgia got kicked into gear a couple of weeks ago while on vacation in Michigan with the purchase of, what else, a record that clearly reminds me of grade school and especially Saturday mornings.

As luck would have it I stumbled upon a fairly rare Monkees album from 1970/71 called “The Monkees’ Golden Hits” on Colgems Records.

“The Monkees’ Golden Hits” featured twelve Monkees tracks that were also made available as separate cardboard records that were attached to the outside back of various Post Cereal boxes (see one of my earlier blog posts which features several of the cardboard records I still own!).

After the cardboard records had been out a while Post Cereal decided to release a mail order regular vinyl album featuring all of the songs from the cardboard records which was only made available through mail order and not in retail stores.

Even though I was only 4 and 5 years old at the time I clearly remember cutting the records from the cereal boxes and walking through the store with my mother pointing out the cereal with The Monkees records so she was sure to buy those boxes. I even have vague memories of her filling out the form (also on the back of a cereal box) to order the full vinyl album.

I also have vague memories of playing that album to death and a much more vivid memory of my older sister being so irritated that I did that she took a pencil eraser and made several erase marks on the record so I wouldn’t be able to play it again! (Never mess with my sister when she’s mad – at least when she was a pre-teen).

Well fast forward a few decades and just a couple of weeks ago I found a really nice copy of “The Monkees’ Golden Hits” in a store in Michigan for the princely sum of $5!!!

Now the record is actually pretty rare and this is only the second time I’ve ever seen one for sale in a store. Funny enough the other time time was about 15 years ago in ANOTHER record store in Michigan lol. Michigan must love their Monkees.

Anyway the record is in great shape and I was flabbergasted when I played it that it sounded TERRIFIC! Colgems pressings are notoriously hit or miss for quality but this record just sounded superb. One of the best sounding original Monkees vinyl records I own.

The other mail order set I’m featuring tonight also comes from the 1970’s and was also only available through mail order.

Simply titled “The Monkees”, this set was released through RCA/Laurie House and featured 2 records filled with The Monkees hits and singles and album cuts.

I remember it must have been the summer of 1976 or 77, somewhere in the mid-’70’s, and we had a huge antenna on the roof of our house that sometimes barely picked up TV stations occasionally from either Chicago, Illinois or South Bend, Indiana which were both pretty far away.  (I believe I saw a Chicago station but it may have been South Bend, it’s too long ago to remember exactly).

Somehow I managed to track down a Monkees episode every now and again and even though I could barely see it at times, I clung to the TV for that half hour until the picture and sound came in good enough to enjoy.

(Note: The mid-’70’s was a barren desert for me as a Monkees fan as no channel locally played their TV show and there was no  place to track down Monkees records save for the lone release of “The Monkees Greatest Hits” on Arista in 1976. I didn’t drive obviously so I wasn’t aware of any used record stores.)

I remember seeing the commercial for the Laurie House 2 Lp set and after several attempts I got the mail order address for the set and low and behold 4-6 weeks later it magically appeared at my door.

I remember being floored as it had several Monkees songs I have never heard, at the time I didn’t own all of their original singles, so songs like “The Girl I Knew Somewhere”, “Someday Man” and “It’s Nice to Be With You” which came from their 45’s were revelations and I was thrilled to death to have some new (to  me anyway) Monkees music.

Luckily by 1976 I kept my records in good shape and this 2 Lp set is still in great condition and still sounds great.

As usual above you can take a glimpse at these two groovy Lp’s that are two of my favorite Monkees Lp’s I own.

And you can see above my original unplayable copy of “The Monkees’ Golden Hits” (with the eraser marks still visible) as well as my original cover which is still remarkably in quite good shape (the cover is in the last two photos). I don’t know how that happened but there you go.

I put the copy of “The Monkees’ Golden Hits” that I bought 15 years ago in my original cover as the cover for it was completely trashed but the record was near mint. Go figure.

The other fun tidbit – to me anyway – is that my original pressing of “The Monkees’ Golden Hits” and the one I found a couple of weeks ago are on thin but sturdy vinyl yet the one I bought 15 years ago, the near mint one, is a very, very thin Dynaflex type pressing.

Weirdly enough the near mint Dynaflex pressing doesn’t sound as good as the VG pressing I just bought a couple of weeks ago which has the occasional pop and click but sounds very full with nice bass and has remarkable sound which really surprised me. Interesting.

Well that’s all for memory lane today.

Until next time be well and look out Fall is coming!