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.
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.
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.
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.
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!