7a Records Continues Its Winning Streak with “Micky Dolenz – Live in Japan” – a new CD/DVD Set

 

These past few weeks may seem like a strange time to celebrate live music what with live performances being restricted due to Covid-19 but for Monkees fans it’s actually been quite a good time to celebrate the groups live concert legacy.

The excellent “The Monkees Live – The Mike and Micky Show” CD, which is perhaps the most enjoyable recording of a Monkees live concert, was released just a few weeks ago as the Pandemic began to take hold in the U.S. and features superb live recordings from the recent 2019 Monkees tour featuring Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz.

Now in the past week or so a new CD/DVD set from 7a Records entitled “Micky Dolenz – Live in Japan” has been released and is beginning to make its way into mailboxes and store shelves around the world. As luck would have it it also just happened to have made its way into my mailbox and my hot little hands as well.

Recorded in 1982, “Micky Dolenz – Live in Japan” documents one of Dolenz’ few excursions into live performance for what turned out to be the better part of a decade. You see Dolenz pretty much left the performing side of show business behind in the late 1970s and concentrated on producing and directing in the UK after a brief stint performing with Davy Jones in the play “The Point” in 1977.

Due to an unexpected breakout of Monkeemania in Japan in 1980/81 Dolenz, along with Davy Jones and Peter Tork, toured Japan as a solo artist and gave a series of well received concerts to quite enthusiastic audiences.

Until now the performances documented on this CD were relatively scarce, I believe they might have been released previously in Japan, but I have never seen or heard them so I was quite curious to see how Dolenz fared as performer outside the confines of his Monkees persona.

As it turns out he fared quite well. After a few days with this lovely new set here are some of my thoughts on its contents:

The CD:

First off the sound of the CD is really nice. The vocal mix at times is a bit low but overall it’s a very impressive presentation. It definitely sounds as though 7a had access to a good analog master as the songs have nice clean and punchy bass as well as crisp guitars and drums without sounding sterile or flat.

It’s so nice to hear Dolenz sing this material in the early eighties as he hadn’t been performing live much at the time and his vocal work sounds very close to the original Monkees recordings but with an extra bit of energy.

What’s especially appealing is hearing really solid live versions of rarely performed and deep cut Monkees tracks like “Zor and Zam” and “Pillow Time” as well as Dolenz sung Nesmith tunes like “Sunny Girlfriend” and “You Just May Be the One” which are all highlights of the set.

It should also be noted that Dolenz does some really nice vocal turns on “I Wanna Be Free” (the slower version) and “Shades of Gray” neither of which he sang the lead vocals on as they were originally tackled by Davy Jones.

Another highlight of this set is Dolenz vocal work on “Pleasant Valley Sunday” in which he terrifically recreates all his passionate screams and howls near the end of the song – a really super performance.

Like 7a’s previous “Davy Jones Live in Japan” set this new one also contains some really nice and obscure studio tracks that were cut by Dolenz in the time frame of the 1982 Japan concerts.

I wasn’t really too familiar with some of the bonus tracks but really enjoyed hearing “I’m Your Man” (in two different versions no less) as well as discovering “Tomorrow” from the stage production of Bugsy Malone which Dolenz also directed.

“Tomorrow” is a really nice atmospheric tune that sounds very much like a George Harrison track from the same period. It’s too bad Dolenz couldn’t get his solo music career off the ground at the time as his voice was and still is in top shape and he sounded terrific.

The DVD:

Also like 7a’s Jones set this new collection features the entire show on DVD. While the video quality is only decent, not Hi Res by any means, it certainly is very enjoyable and really fun to see Dolenz almost manic stage presence in this 1982 concert.

The most disappointing thing about the DVD is that after hearing the truly lovely sound on the CD the DVD is a the step down in sound quality. While not horrible the DVD is way more murky and flat sounding as compared to the CD. Again not terrible just disappointing as I listened to the CD first.

Fortunately the CD contains a fully sung Dolenz version of “I Wanna Be Free” as the DVD performance of this song features someone from the audience singing along with Dolenz which kind of works visually but as an audio recording not so much.

I’m guessing the CD is from different shows as maybe Dolenz tried the audience participation just for the cameras but having a different version on the DVD is entertaining and different.

Nit picking aside the DVD is a joy to watch and it along with the CD really makes this set a must buy for any Monkees or Micky Dolenz fans out there.

Conclusion:

Throw in a very through and informative booklet and nice fold out cover and you have one one heck of a nice collection – a real winner in my opinion.

7a Records has been on quite the impressive winning streak of excellent Monkees related releases and this fine set is an impressive addition to their now growing catalog.

As I’ve said before I am truly amazed that we are seeing ANY of this material let alone the treasure trove of Monkees related material that 7a has been able to dig up so far and one can only hope that they keep digging and find some more Monkee related manna to release in the future.

It’s so nice to have a quality look at some of the solo work from at least three Monkees (Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith) as it gives a more well rounded view of the group members as performers and I think that had 7a not done these sets then they would be lost to time.

Anyway it s a really super collection and if you can track one down then by all means do and enjoy!

As usual  I’ve posted some nice photos of the new “Micky Dolenz – Live in Japan” above.

Until next time be safe and well and see you around the Net.

 

 

 

 

1972: Partridge School – The Partridge Family “Notebook” Album

With all the talk lately of virtual school due to the current Coronavirus Pandemic my mind has been drawn back to my years of early education.

I can’t imagine having to take classes via the Internet. I would just hate having to be home while also having to manage classes as well as not being able to go anywhere. As a young kid that must be really tough.

School to me, especially grade school, means the 1970’s, pencils, books, book covers, lunch money and notebooks.

Ahhh, notebooks – that’s the key word. I remember many a notebook in my day, all of them filled with doodles on every margin and yes with some actual school work mixed in of course.

Today, since everything reminds me of music, I thought it would be fun to turn the way back machine dial to 1972 and not only revisit my early grammar school days but highlight the sixth album by The Partridge Family called appropriately enough “The Partridge Family Notebook”.

By the time “The Partridge Family Notebook” landed onto store shelves in the fall of 1972, the television show The Partridge Family was in the first half of its third season on air and while the show’s main heartthrob David Cassidy was still melting hearts around the world a bit of Partridge fatigue had begun to settle in with record buyers.

This sixth Partridge album was the first Partridge album not to go gold (sales of 500,000 copies) and produced the final Top Forty Partridge hit single the superb “Looking Through the Eyes of Love” (#39).

While “The Partridge Family Notebook” landing at #41 on the Billboard Top 200 charts wasn’t that bad for a fictitious television pop group the previous five Partridge Family albums had all sold amazingly well with the first four (“The Partridge Family Album”, “Up to Date“, “Sound Magazine”, “The Partridge Family Christmas Card”) selling over a million copies each.

With the previous two albums (“Shopping Bag” and “The Partridge Family At Home With Their Greatest Hits”) each only selling 500,000 copies obviously the Partridge train was begging to slow down by the fall of 1972.

By this time David Cassidy had also began to release solo albums and singles so there was definitely a glut of product out there with Cassidy’s smooth vocals front which I’m sure caused the beginning of overexposure.

Even though this sixth Partridge album was greeted with a more lukewarm commercial reception than its predecessors I think that it’s actually a pretty decent collection of songs.

At the time of the album’s release I felt that “The Partridge Family Notebook” was a bit of a retread of past Partridge material and while I enjoyed it I thought it wasn’t nearly as strong as the first three Partridge albums which I truly loved.

I must say time has been kinder to this album as I now really enjoy it and rate it as one of my favorite Partridge albums. Songs like “Storybook Love”, “Together We’re Better”, the first single “Looking Through the Eyes of Love”, “Love May Be the Answer” and “Take Good Care of Her” all rank as some of my favorite Partridge moments.

Fans of The Partridge Family TV show I’m sure are very familiar with most of the songs on this album as most of them were featured heavily in the third and fourth seasons of the show.

I’m guessing that Bell Records, the label that released Partridge Family music, must have been expecting bigger sales as “The Partridge Family Notebook” is by far one of the easiest Partridge platters to still be found sealed as the album flooded the cut-out bins in stores throughout the remainder of the 1970’s.

Nonetheless it’s still a fine pop album and one of my favorite albums to reach for in times of crisis such as the past few weeks have brought with all of the Coronavirus uncertainty.

Above I’ve shared a few photos of my “The Partridge Family Notebook” copies that I own on vinyl and CD. This past year in fact I managed to track down the really fun alternate cover of the album that was released in Germany which was also used for the CD issues of the album.

The German vinyl copy also sounds really good but is not quite as bright and clean sounding as the regular US Bell pressing which I also happen to own in near mint condition in the shrink wrap (notice the cut-out mark on the lower right corner).

As for the CD versions I prefer the original Arista CD that even though is mastered a tad bit to loud is still better sounding than the later 7T’s label reissue which is louder even still.

Whatever format you may find this album in give it a listen as it’s filled with a lot of pure pop pleasure that only seems to grow sweeter with time. That may be age speaking but whatever it’s still a good listen.

Well, that’s all for today.  As usual I hope all of you are well out there and remember to stay safe and be courteous of others!

Until next time go spin some music.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Don’t We Chew it in the Road? – Beatles Chu-Bop Bubblegum Mini-Albums

Well, you never know what you may find when you’re cleaning out closets, at least at my house! Today I stumbled upon something I bought a long, long time ago and what seems like oh so far away.

Let me take you back a bit.

The time happened to be September 1982. I was 16 years old and I was just beginning my junior year of high school. I’m not saying I can remember things from that year clearly anymore but I can remember things related to music.

Of course I was a major Beatles fan (shocker I know to readers of this blog) and I not only loved collecting their recordings on 45 and LP but I did have a thing for all things Beatles – dolls, lunch boxes, games … and bubble gum.

Yes I do have a lot of the Beatles bubble gum cards from the 1960’s but there was also some current bubble gum out at the time that featured The Beatles as well. They were called Chu-Bops and featured album artwork from various classic rock acts with little pink bubble gum records inside.

Now I certainly don’t remember where I saw that these were out. They were probably mentioned in Beatlefan (a fan magazine I subscribed to at the time) or maybe I saw them in stores. It’s so long ago I just don’t remember.

I do however remember ordering a complete set from God knows where and to this day i still have that complete set of 16 Beatles Chu-Bop albums still sealed in their original mailing envelope (postmarked September 3, 1982 by the way).

Honestly I thought I had gotten rid of them years ago but I was surprised to find the complete set in a box at the bottom of a stack of boxes in a closet.

Opening up that package really took me back in time and or course the sweet smell of unchewed bubble gum came wafting out at me as I took the set out to peruse the contents.

I must say the artwork is very well done on these and reproduced very nicely. I can’t remember the other artists albums that were made into Chu-Bops at the time but it would have been The Beatles I was mainly interested in so I’m sure these were all the ones I would have bought.

Oddly enough the 16 Beatles albums in this set represent a majority of The Beatles Capitol albums though not all of them. Included was then current compilation album “Reel Music” but not “The Beatles Second Album” or “The Beatles Story” – strange.

One of the albums, “Revolver”, had come undone at the side and the rock solid piece of pink vinyl shaped gum popped out in all its stale glory. I’m amazed, or scared, that after over 38 years the gum still smells sweet as ever though I wouldn’t dare try to chew it.

Nonetheless they were a joy to find and even though they’re stiff as boards and some a bit wavy they’re all like they were the day you would have seen them in a retail store.

Who knows what I intended to do with them? Knowing me I never intended to chew them but honestly I had forgotten I even owned them until today. A sweet surprise in so many ways.

I guess I’ll wait and see how long this nuclear waste bubble gum records will remain in one piece lol. Since they’ve lasted this long I’ll just keep them in their packages and check in on them ever few years.

At least this surprise find is such a nice pick-me-up to end the week as the news has been so ugly and depressing and a trip back to 1982 in any way is a fun diversion.

I can’t imagine many sticks of gum lasting this long but in the world of collectors out there I’m sure there’s still unchewed gum from the 1960’s out there as well in unopened packs of Beatles bubble gum.

As usual feast your eyes on my stale bubblegum albums above. Too bad we don’t have a way to virtually smell as these puppies still smell so sweet – mmm.

Until next time be well and take care out there.

Ta ta for now!