Early Morning Blu-Rays and Green$$$: “The Monkees – The Complete Series” 10-Disc Blu-Ray Set

Can you believe the 50th anniversary of “The Monkees” as both a TV show and as a recording act was five years ago? Tell me it’s not true. Seriously how can that be five years ago already? A lot can happen in five years. Just take a look at The Monkees.

Since all the hoopla of their fiftieth anniversary and the release of their well-received album “Good Times!” the group managed to put out their first Christmas album, “Christmas Party” in 2018, as well as release what I would consider their best live album “The Monkees Live – The Mike and Micky Show” just this past year.

As you may have noticed by the title of “The Monkees Live – The Mike and Micky Show” The Monkees are now sadly down to two members as group stalwart and perennial class clown Peter Tork passed away in 2019. Nesmith himself has also had a few bouts with health issues culminating in quadruple bypass heart surgery during the first leg of “The Mike and Micky Show” tour in 2018.

Indeed a lot can happen in five years.

As a matter of fact one of the weirdest things to happen since 2016 has been the disappearance of the best (in my humble opinion) Monkees reissue of all-time. I’m talking about the crème de la crème collection of the bulk of their video work from the 1960’s– “The Monkees – The Complete Series” a 10-disc Blu-Ray set.

Not I know I can be prone to hyperbole on occasion but let me say that this 2016 box set of The Monkees complete series has got to be not only one of the best executed Monkees sets ever and as it now turns out it may be one of the rarest as well.

I remember when this set was first announced by its compiler Andrew Sandoval I dutifully followed its progress for several months as the episodes were being scanned in HiDef by Sony and as the bonus material was being selected. I, for one, from the get-go always thought that this set would be (and definitely is!) worth the $200 asking price.

(Note: Plus the set comes with a 45 vinyl single in a groovy picture sleeve (again, see photos) that contains the TV mixes of “Goin’ Down” (with a live vocal by Micky Dolenz) as well as “Star Collector”.)

Unfortunately “The Monkees – The Complete Series” set was greeted with much skepticism, online at least, from many diehard Monkees fans.

First there was the main issue the price. Yes, $200 was steep BUT these episodes are never going to look better and they are by far better looking than any other transfer of the series I’ve ever seen. The colors really pop and the sound even in its original mono presentation is crisp and clean and not muddled like the previous Rhino DVD issue of the episodes.

Then of course there was a lot of complaining about the bonus content.

First off fans were miffed that there weren’t as many alternate soundtracks available as advertised. Second there were issues with some minute footage missing from the “33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee” show. (Note: On both counts neither issue was a big deal to me. I would have loved more alternate soundtrack songs but the rest of the bonus material was so good it didn’t matter to me).

But as I look at it what you did get was FANTASTIC! Here are my favorites from the bonus content disc which I play and enjoy quite often:

  • Monkees camera and screen tests
  • A host of outtake footage cut to songs like the alternate “I Can’t Get Her Off of My Mind”  – this includes some great footage of Davy on a huge piece of ice being pulled through downtown LA by the other three Monkees
  • A truly pristine looking print of the unaired pilot episode with the alternate opening and closing credits with Boyce and Hart providing the vocals on the songs in the episode
  • A lot of “HEAD” outtake footage with great looking yet silent footage paired with songs from the movie along with lesser looking footage with sound but including some of the footage with Davy and Micky in front of the mirror (from a deleted sequence in the film) as well as footage from inside the black box. Truly some terrific stuff!
  • Outtakes from the “33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee” TV special including the uncut live take of “Listen to the Band” which may be some of the best live footage ever captured of the group and the last time the original foursome would play together live until 1986.
  • Rerun versions with alternate mixes of “French Song”, “I Never Thought it Peculiar” and “Midnight Train”.

That is no means the complete list of bonus content (see photo above) but this bonus disc alone is worth the  price of the set let alone the stunning transfers of the original Monkees TV episodes.

Then of course there were also issues with damaged boxes. It seems the weight of the discs caused the inner gold cardboard holder to rip and tear. The outer box cover photo of The Monkees with the lenticular 3D photo also came off on several sets and needed to be glued back in place, again a weight issue I’m guessing.

I have to admit these issues were a bit more of a problem. I too received a ripped inner holder and a loose lenticular photo but emailed Rhino Records and they quickly sent me a brand new box with an intact inner holder and cover (see above). For me the issues with the box were solved but I do wish that Rhino had packaged the set in a plastic holder and included a deluxe book instead of the packaging they chose but the box as is is truly lovely.

Because of all of the complaints about content and the manufacturing errors this magnificent box set became tainted in the eyes of quite a few fans. The set was limited to 10,000 copies manufactured and sold exclusively on Monkees.com but after selling about half of the 10,000 copies the set was taken down for sale from Monkees.com.

Andrew Sandoval who put the set together for Rhino said recently that when Rhino moved the location of their shipping facilities they lost track of the rest of the manufactured run of 10,000 blu-ray sets not sold and the unassembled boxes that came with them.

How does this happen? I have no idea. I hope that someday Rhino tracks the rest of the unsold discs and sells them in a smaller and more sturdy packaging. It’s truly a shame that all the work that went into making this set is only available to the few thousand that managed to purchase the box.

I guess the new HD transfers will be used by Sony in the future as they own the rights for broadcast of the series so hopefully the sparkling new transfers will be out there for streaming someday.

As for the blu-ray set it does crop up for sale on ebay but it goes for WELL beyond the $200 asking price. For those of you who may want to splurge on the set it is indeed a lovely and wonderful thing to behold. Worth the money that it now goes for, that’s up to you. I love my set and am so glad I got it when I did.

I would hope that even a new DVD release of these transfers by Rhino would be great and cheaper than the blu-ray set but I don’t hold out much hope for that in the current sorry state of DVD sales. Plus Rhino/Warner Brothers who own The Monkees rights now seem to have lost interest in Monkees releases so that really makes a new DVD set unlikely.

Anyway, I thought I’d share some thoughts and photos of this really great blu-ray set.

Until next time be well and I hope you’ve managed to get the Covid-19 vaccine!

Bye until next time.

Meet the Monkees in South Africa – “The Monkees” 32-173 Mono Pressing

Sometimes you just get plain lucky when you buy something from the Internet.

I mean, most times you know what you’re getting but every now and again you think you’re ordering one thing and get something else.  Sometimes what you get is better and sometimes it’s worse. 

Case in point, I ordered an imported vinyl record of The Monkees first album simply entitled “The Monkees”. From the description it sounded as if it was an RCA pressing from the UK. It said it came in a nice laminated cover, had great sound quality and was overall in very nice shape.

The price was right so I thought I’d take a chance and buy it. I don’t own many UK Monkees pressings so what the heck, I love to add foreign pressings to my collection. If they’re under $20 including shipping which this was then it’s a no-brainer for me.

The album arrived a couple of days ago and to my major surprise it was indeed a lovely copy of “The Monkees” on the RCA label but it wasn’t a UK pressing but a pressing from South Africa!!! I knew that Monkees records were pressed in South Africa but I figured they were quite rare and probably would look and sound crummy.

Well my friends not only does this South African copy of “The Monkees” sound terrific but the cover and the label are in great shape and the album looks as if it was only played a couple of times if that. It’s a very nice clean and crisp sounding copy of the mono mix of this album.

A couple of years ago I stumbled on a pristine mono Colgems copy of this album (see a previous blog post) which sounded really nice and this South African pressing not only equals the sound of that copy it might actually sound a tad bit BETTER. This 32-173 pressing has super quiet vinyl and while not overloaded with bass much like the Colgems pressing sounds nice and full with really warm and crisp vocals.

I’ve only seen a photo of this South African pressing on one other Website, one of my favorite Monkees Websites: http://monkee45s.net/Albums/South_Africa.html

If you take a look at the pressing from the above link the one that I now own has slightly different label text and the RCA Label and 32-173 on the cover aren’t in white box like they are in that photograph from monkees45s.net. Is mine a later pressing? Pressed in another country then imported to South Africa? I have no idea. 

All I can say is that this record sounds damn good and makes me want to track down more South African Monkees pressings though I doubt that would be very easy to accomplish as I’ve never seen them for sale online much at all.

I see that the inner sleeve says it was made in Britain so are the covers made in the UK and imported to South Africa? Is the record itself pressed in South Africa or is that imported as well? Again I have no idea. Interesting though.

I also love how the cover to this South African pressing still has the misspelling “Papa Jean’s Blues” on the cover yet has the correct “Papa Gene’s Blues” on the label. Minute yes but interesting to the collector in me.

Oh and there’s also an interesting selection of letters pressed into the matrix grooves on each side of the album. There’s the TZRM number as well which comes from the Colgems master tape number but I have no idea what the selection of letters between dots stands for. Anyone out there familiar with South African pressings? If so drop me a line or comment here and let me know.

Anyway, just a quick post for all the Monkees fans out there. I figured all those Monkees nerds out there like me might like to see and hear about a fairly rare foreign pressing of The Monkees first album. I was just so excited to get this pressing that I had to share it here for those of you who are interested. 

As usual you can take a look at some photos of this groovy South Africa pressing of “The Monkees” above and below. 

Until next time be safe and well and I hope you’ve been able to get your Covid Vaccine!

More Monkees and more soon to come.

A Digital Hello from Ringo Starr with “Zoom In” – His New Vinyl/CD EP

Things seem to be getting better all the time to borrow a phrase from one of my all-time favorite groups. What with spring finally arriving and Covid vaccines coming to the fore, at least in the US, there seems to be more hope in the air in first three months of 2021 than there was in the entire year of ugh that was 2020.

To top off all these good vibes comes a burst of digital cheer from none other than former Beatle Ringo Starr with the release yesterday of his new mini album or digital EP (whatever you want to call it) titled “Zoom In”.

This groovy new collection of five tunes lasts about twenty minutes and is a fun burst of energy that doesn’t overstay its welcome and because of that is ripe for repeated listening. And for all you physical media fans “Zoom In” comes on both vinyl as well as CD and is also available to stream at all the usual digital watering holes for those of you who could care less about owning your music but still may want to sample some of the songs.

So far this year I haven’t really bought any newer music so it’s a pleasure to discover an old friend sending out a kind musical word or two to help put out some much needed positivity into the universe after so many months of gloom.

I know a lot of folks may say Ringo Starr, really? But for me Ringo’s musical output from 1992 on has included some of the strongest and most entertaining music of his solo career and I can always count on at least a gem or two on every record he’s released in that time and this new EP is no exception.

Here’s a brief thought or two on each of the fives songs from “Zoom In”:

“Here’s to the Nights” – You know when I first had heard this song it didn’t really strike me as being great but serviceable. Now that I’ve heard it a couple more times I really enjoy it. It might be a tad bit generic in places but the lyrics fit 2020 like a glove. The melody does remind me of Paul McCartney’s song “Hope for the Future”. Speaking of Paul McCartney he’s featured on background vocals but you can’t really hear him that well. There are other big league back vocalists too like Sheryl Crow and Lenny Kravitz but again it’s hard to make them out. Not a bad song at all. I’d give it to solid “B“.

“Zoom In Zoom Out” – The title track and another decent song. Again a little bit generic but really nice instrumental work and Ringo sounds really good on this song. It has a nice groove and a typical Ringo pop tune circa 2021. Another solid “B

“Teach Me to Tango” I really like this song! I’d say this is my favorite from the EP. It has a great chorus and is a nice fast-paced song that’s played really well and Ringo sounds vocally the best of the five tunes on the album. In fact given his age Ringo sounds overall pretty good vocally these days. Yes there is a touch of autotune here and there but really he sounds pretty solid. I’d give this song an “A” and will definitely come back to it for repeated future spins.

“Waiting for the Tide to Turn” – For some reason this reminds me of an ’80s Police type tune with a little reggae mixed in. The first time I heard it it was a little bit generic but after a couple more plays I really like it. In fact I like the soulful backing vocals a lot. I’d give it a “B+

“Not Enough Love in the World” – I really enjoyed this song because the lyrics speak to so much of what I’ve been feeling  throughout 2020. It’s been such an isolating and sad year that this song’s message really struck a cord with me. It’s a breezy pop tune that would have sounded nice on any of Ringo’s ’70s albums. I give this another “B+

All in all I really enjoyed this ep. It’s a nice 20 minutes of solid pop/rock from Ringo which is always a good thing in my book. If you enjoyed any of Ringo’s work from the last 30 years or so this is on par with most of that and while it may be not as strong as his recent “Postcards from Paradise” album it’s still a solid and enjoyable piece of work.

My main criticism of this fine collection I’d say is the mix which is a tad bit muddy. It sounds good but a little thick and homogeneous in spots. It doesn’t bother me enough from enjoying the album but it would have been nice to hear a clearer mix but oh well I’ll take what I can get and am just glad Ringo’s still out there rocking in his own unique way.

At any rate it’s great to hear form an old friend. I’ve always enjoyed Ringo’s work and this is just another fun digital postcard that I will take out and enjoy every now and again. I think the shorter format works well for Ringo and I look forward to hearing more as he’s said that he’s working on another mini album as we speak.

As usual there are photos above of the CD version of “Zoom In”. I’m not sure if I’ll grab the vinyl version but like all things Beatle or ex-Beatle with me you never know.

Until next time be well and safe and I hope it’s a sunny and warm day in your part of the world!

 

A Closer Look: The Monkees “Headquarters Deluxe Edition” by Friday Music

Today we’re taking a look back on 2013 as well as 1967. What? Let me explain.

First, let’s set the dial of the way back time machine to the early part of 1967. At that time, in the United States at least, The Monkees were probably the hottest new musical group on the scene. (You see I said group, more on that in a minute).

By the time The Monkees went into the studio to record their third album called “Headquarters” they had already had two number one singles (“Last Train to Clarksville” and “I’m a Believer”) as well as two number one albums (“The Monkees” and “More of The Monkees”).

In fact “More of The Monkees” was in the midst of it’s eighteen week run at the number one spot atop the Billboard charts after having overtaken “The Monkees” which had spent thirteen weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 200.

You see my friends those kind of sales numbers aren’t just big they are HUGE. That kind of overnight success tends to turn peoples heads and many in the music industry were in an uproar that this “fake” TV group was outselling practically everyone without seeming to have paid their dues or even be real musicians.

It was in the midst of this kind of criticism and animosity that The Monkees, spearheaded by group members Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork, decided to make a stand and have the group not only record their vocals but also be allowed to play their own instruments on the music that they recorded.

It’s long been the spiel of many a Monkees critics that not only did the group members not play their own music but they were just four pretty faces picked at random to fill TV roles and none of them possessed any musical talent at all. That’s far from the truth.

Yes The Monkees was a TV show about a rock group that wanted to be The Beatles but somewhere along the line the fictional Monkees became an actual band that far outlasted the TV series from which they came.

The “Headquarters” album, in my opinion, is where The Monkees story really becomes interesting. This “fake” TV band did indeed morph into a pretty darn good bonified group that contained not only one of the best pop singers of the era (Micky Dolenz) but one truly superb songwriter (Mike Nesmith) as well.

Truly all four group members wrote some very good songs (just take a listen to the Dolenz penned “Randy Scouse Git” and Tork’s “For Pete’s Sake” both from “Headquarters”) and all four could sing and play very well. If the group members had little talent or musical ability then there’s no way they could have created such a long lasting legacy in the music world.

So where does this lead me, it leads me to today’s look at my favorite digital version of the “Headquarters” album which was released by Friday Music in 2013.

Actually this Friday Music 2 CD set called “Headquarters Deluxe Edition” is really a reissue of Rhino Records Deluxe CD version of “Headquarters” which came out in 2007. The main differences from Rhino’s set was that Friday Music’s version came in a standard CD case instead of a fold open digi-pak and had a different mastering of the music which was a bit quieter and more dynamic than Rhino’s set.

Both sets had the same bonus tracks but for some reason the Friday Music set deleted the slates or session chat that came before the start of the songs which I love but I’m guessing many fans can live without.

I’ve read online that some folks think that the mastering for the main stereo and mono versions of the “Headquarters” album came from Rhino’s “Headquarters Sessions” 3 CD set but as I’m uncertain of how this mastering happened all I know is that it sounds better to me than the 2007 Rhino version and is well worth seeking out for fans of this album.

I have also posted a vlog about this Friday Music CD release as well as a couple of other versions of “Headquarters” below:

As usual I have posted photos (above) of the groovy Friday Music 2 CD issue and while I believe this set may be out of print I think you can still find copies online fairly easily but that may change in the near future as people seem to be leaving physical forms of music behind fairly rapidly these days.

Well, that’s all for now. I just wanted to take a quick look at this lovely reissue which has pretty much fallen through the cracks.

I hope you are all healthy and well and until next time be safe and listen to some music! Preferably good music or at least some older good music.

See you next time.