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:
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.
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.
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.