Some of Shelley’s Unreleased Blues – Michael Nesmith “Different Drum: The Lost RCA Victor Recordings”

Now this is how you do an archival CD release.

Great cover – check.

Great liner notes  – check.

Great recreation of old vinyl label on CD – check.

Wonderful unreleased content that sounds great – most important check of all.

What am I talking about? Well this Friday a new CD compilation will be released called “Different Drum: The Lost RCA Victor Recordings” by former Monkee Michael Nesmith.

This terrific new CD from Real Gone Music consists of 22 unissued recordings from Michael Nesmith’s acclaimed RCA albums from the early 1970s. Among the 22 songs are out-takes, alternate versions/takes from the era as well as alternate instrumentals, alternate backing tracks and uncut versions.

Monkees fans in particular should look out for some of the really interesting versions of tunes Nesmith wrote and recorded with The Monkees including “Circle Sky”, “Listen to the Band”, “Magnolia Simms” (weirdly enough) and “Tapioca Tundra”. Not to mention “Some of Shelly”s Blues” and “Hollywood” both of which were released as Monkees as well as solo Nesmith recordings.

Now I have to admit that I came to Michael Nesmith’s solo career as a true blue Monkees fan.  I’ve always enjoyed the country leanings of Nesmith’s Monkees music but I must admit that besides “Joanne” (a song I’ve always loved) I never really delved that deeply into his RCA catalog certainly not at the time in the 1970s.

I was a true pop fan and for some reason back in those days being the kid that I was I never liked the sound of the steel guitar all that much or the sound of more traditional country music. I’m not sure when that changed but gradually as I got older I began to seek out more traditional sounding country music and I must say began to enjoy it.

Nesmith’s solo music on a lot of his RCA albums leans much more toward traditional country than his Monkees work with the steel guitar very prominent on many of the songs. So with my ears now more tuned to this style of music I thought it might time to reassess these RCA albums.

It was only when Nesmith began to tour again around 2014 that I really began to take another look at his RCA years and found that not only did I really like those recordings but I was amazed at how good of a songwriter Nesmith really was and what a great voice he and on these RCA albums.

Skip to 2018 and the reissue of Michael Nesmith’s RCA albums on digital and streaming services by Sony Music Entertainment. Renowned Monkees archivist/manager Andrew Sandoval lovingly chose and mixed the 22 songs that comprise “Different Drum: The Lost RCA Victor Recordings” as bonus tracks for the various RCA albums as part of their new expanded streaming presentations.

There was no talk of them being pressed onto physical disc and it seemed as if they would only ever be available online. I quite enjoyed these new out-takes as well as the remastered albums but I am a physical music buyer and thought that since they would never be released on disc they would never be part of my collection.

Well I guess never say never as even though Nesmith’s remastered RCA albums haven’t been issued on disc, not yet anyway, lo and behold these lovely 22 out-takes will finally see the physical light of day this Friday with the release of “Different Drum: The Lost RCA Victor Recordings”.

I happened to get a copy of this disc early as I ordered it directly through Real Gone Music’s Website, https://realgonemusic.com/, and it got here in three days.

After giving this fine disc a spin or two, here are some thoughts on my personal highlights:

Different Drum – A very country and western take on the song that propelled Linda Ronstadt into the Top Twenty in 1967. This version is different from the version that appeared on“And the Hits Keep on Comin'” album as it swings a bit more than that version and is a bit looser sounding. Very nice.

American Airman – A previously unreleased track that’s quite good. It’s a song about life on the road with a country band and to me sounds like a sort of sequel to “Listen to the Band”. After you’ve listened to the band then here’s a document of what life’s like on the road. Check out some of these lyrics:

“Yeah, flight two
And it’s back to you
So I set my watch on L.A. time
Jet-lag
Find my bag
I think the one over there is mine
It’s 10 pounds overweight”

Tengo Amore – I truly love this track. An alternate instrumental that really works sans the vocal. It’s very atmospheric and what I would call cosmic cowboy music much like the sound of Nesmith’s recent disc “Cosmic Partners: The McCabe’s Tapes” featuring Red Rhodes. Originally released on the “Loose Salute” album I think I enjoy this alternate version more than the released take.

Circle Sky – Obviously well known to Monkees fans this take is actually very like the “HEAD” soundtrack take with clearer vocals. It’s a rocky version that’s slower than The Monkees “HEAD” version yet thankfully not like the grunge version found on “Justus”. This take is actually really good and might be my favorite version next to the live Monkees version from the film “HEAD”.

Listen to the Band – A much different take not only from the classic Monkees version but also from Nesmith’s other solo recording. The Monkees version is country with a pop sheen while the version from the Loose Salute album is decidedly more country. This new alternate is more rock with a hint of country. Lovely take, interesting.

Some of Shelly’s Blues – A great version, is there any bad version of this terrific track? More laid back than The Monkees version which is actually more country sounding than this. This new take has a country feel but sounds a little bit more what I would have thought a Monkees version would sound circa 1966, a mix of country and pop. Great Nesmith vocals on this take.

Magnolia Simms – A very country take on the classic Monkees track. Weird to hear a non-1920s sounding version without skips. Too bad there’s no vocal but really fun to hear. Strange to hear this track played straight so to speak but nice.

Hollywood – Another instrumental take on one of my favorite Nesmith songs. Again would have loved to hear a vocal but a really nice take and much faster than The Monkees version.

Tapioca Tundra – A very lovely languid country instrumental take on the Monkees “Valleri” b-side and “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” album track.

Loose Salute (Radio Spots) – Too funny and typical contrary Nesmith doing radio spots for his album yet highlighting albums by other artists. Too fun and a great way to end this disc

Those are just some of the many highlights in this new collection. Really the whole disc is very enjoyable and a nice way to get acquainted with Nesmith’s solo career working as a greatest hits of sorts as it covers a lot of Nesmith’s best songwriting throughout his career.

Then again perhaps a true hits collection may be a better introduction to Nesmith’s solo music as this set may appeal more to the already converted but it’s still a really good listen and a well put together CD package in the waning days of physical media.

Now how about those remastered Nesmith RCA albums in a small CD box set perhaps? I know, I’m probably dreaming but why not?

As usual check out some photos of this new CD above.You should be able to buy it anywhere CDs are sold or online as well. I love saying that seeing as how CDs seem to be getting more and more scarce.

Until next time be safe and well and enjoy this early summer sunshine!

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