To say that all good things come to those who wait has many meanings nowadays.
Not only did it take me quiet a long time to secure a physical copy of the album I’m reviewing today but it also took quite a long time for an album of this quality to be bestowed on the solo career of singer Micky Dolenz.
You see the album in question, “Dolenz Sings Nesmith”, is quite frankly a late career triumph I wasn’t really expecting. Sure when I heard that Micky Dolenz had spent his time in lockdown last year recording an album of his ex-bandmate Michael Nesmith’s songs, I thought it was a great idea.
What’s not to like? One of the premiere pop voices of the 1960s tackling the equally excellent songs of Mike Nesmith, I mean sounds good right? I was expecting good.
What I wasn’t expecting was the end result – something not merely good but great. Excellent in fact – excellent, adventurous, audacious and catchy as hell thank you very much.
The people at 7a Records, the small boutique label that released this album, must be pleased as punch as I’m sure they know what a quality product they have released.
Produced and arranged by Nesmith’s oldest son Christian with the help of Monkees scholar and sometimes manager Andrew Sandoval, “Dolenz Sings Nesmith” takes a loving and creative look at not only the career of Mike Nesmith as a songwriter but the entire Monkees musical output and blends it with a modern yet retro sound that hits on all cylinders and is ripe for repeated listening pleasure.
Okay, okay that may sound a bit over the top but I am truly smiling ear to ear having finally digested this album in its entirety and I must say I am one happy music fan.
It’s funny I’ve also never had to search so hard for a physical copy of a new album before as I had to do with this release.
Part of that search stems from the fact that physical media is the ugly stepchild of the music industry as of late but the other part stems from the fact that this album was way more popular than anticipated and had to be repressed to meet demand as it sold out fairly quickly in physical form (yay!).
Of course the album has been available online since its May 21st release date but I am such an old fart and physical media lover that I wanted to wait and digest the album in full with either a CD or vinyl pressing that had liner notes I could read while I listened.
Well it took me until just yesterday to be able to finally get ahold of a vinyl copy (a turquoise and Michel Nesmith signed copy) that I could give a few spins and finally gather my thoughts and dig deep into this monumentous new recording.
I had previewed a couple of tracks from the album online and luckily the entire album not only sounds as good as those samples implied but is in fact without question one of the best solo Monkees albums I’ve ever heard.
(Note: By the way this vinyl pressing sounds fantastic and is super quiet and very nicely pressed, very flat.)
Here is my track-by-track rundown on the entire vinyl album:
“Carlisle Wheeling” – I love the classical sounding strings at the beginning, a nice touch. This is one of my favorite Nesmith songs and it has been since I first heard the 1987 issue of The Monkees outtake on “Missing Links” Volume One. And of course Dolenz’ singing is superb as always. Actually this arrangement and recording approach remind me so much of Paul McCartney especially his songs like “English Tea” from the “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard” album.
“Different Drum” – This is one of the ones that I heard online beforehand and I appreciate it so much more hearing it on a bigger stereo system on the vinyl pressing. It sounds terrific. This jaunty, poppy yet bluesy approach would have worked so well on a Monkees LP. Only two songs into the new LP and this album already feels like a cousin to The Monkees “Good Times” album – older yet modern sounding at the same time.
“Don’t Wait for Me” – This is another one of my all-time favorite Nesmith songs from the “Instant Replay” Monkees album from 1969. I love this gentle acoustic approach versus the heavy country and western approach of the Monkees take. Of course both work but this version somehow seems a little bit more emotional in its stripped down form and Micky’s vocal also adds a bit of urgency to the song.
“Keep On” – This is one of the Nesmith tunes I’m not as familiar with but what a great performance. If Dolenz could get any airplay this would be a natural single, the country yet slightly psychedelic pop feel works great and sounds old and new at the same time. Great lyrics for 2021 and very timely!
“Marie’s Theme” – God what a great tune. This reminds me of the feeling I get listening to Nesmith’s Monkees country influenced tunes. While this take has an obvious overall country feel there’s enough pop sensibilities that this song comes across as the perfect blending of country and pop. The echoed vocals near the end remind me of the vocals from “Auntie’s Municipal Court” a favorite cut of mine from 1968’s “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” – just great.
“Propinquity (I’ve Just Begin to Care)” – Another classic Nesmith song that sounds so good in this sped up arrangement. The fast banjo so reminds me of “You Told Me” from the “Headquarters” album. In fact I’d call this take “Headquarters 2021” as Dolenz vocals sounds so 1967 here and so strong. A great country/pop tune.
“Nine Times Blue” – Yet another great Nesmith tune that the Monkees themselves actually performed live on The Johnny Cash show in 1969. What a great transformation to turn this simple acoustic ballad into a torch song. I love Dolenz vocal on this track. This is some of his best singing in years. The background vocals are terrific as well at the build-up near the end of the song before it slips into the rock psychedelia of …
“Little Red Rider” – Holy cow what a great blistering rock take on this Nesmith tune. I enjoyed the original approach to this song but this simply superb all-out rock attack is terrific! Truth be told this arrangement really transforms this song into something special.
“Tomorrow and Me” – Love the Dolenz vocal on this! Very 1969 sounding with a hint of Pink Floyd to boot. Reminds me of Dolenz own “Shorty Blackwell” (another tune from The Monkees “Instant Replay”) mixed with Nesmith. Love the strings, one of the many highlights of the album for me.
“Circle Sky” – What can I say, what an inspired idea to turn the garage band rock of the classic Monkees song into an Indian raga!!! I’ve heard some people online who hate this but I absolutely LOVE IT!!!
This reminds me more of George Harrison’s approach to Indian pop/rock than Peter Tork’s approach on the sitar laden “Can You Dig It?” which is also on the “HEAD” soundtrack. This may be my favorite version of this fine song. SIMPLY SUPERB!
I was not expecting this kind of transformation, hats off to Christian Nesmith production and arranging skills.
“Tapioca Tundra” – An otherworldly “Lost in Space”/”Star Trek” space like beginning that evolves into a 1930s/40s vibe. Cleaver and effective. Another highlight of the album for me.
“Only Bound” – What a lovely song. So reminds me of an update of “As We Go Along” also from the “HEAD” soundtrack. In fact this whole album blends the entirety of The Monkees short musical journey (which in itself encompassed many musical styles) with Nesmith’s solo country career and tosses it in with a hint of the blues and eclecticism that never fails to entertain.
“You Are My One” – A lovely and haunting short coda of a song that is the perfect way to end the album
Well there you have it, not a bum track in the lot. This is a surprisingly strong album and what a gift to Monkees/pop/rock or country music fans.
In this day and age I’m sure a new Micky Dolenz album is not on many peoples radars and that’s too bad. This album is way better than it has to be and is so nice to hear a voice like Dolenz’ being utilized to its highest potential on such strong and moving material.
If you’re a fan of physical media keep an eye out for copies of this album online. It’s an import in the United States as 7a Records is a British company but I hear more physical copies are being made and should be available soon.
If you aren’t a fan of physical media then you owe it to yourself to track this album down on all the streaming services online as it’s far too good an album to go unnoticed.
As usual I’ve shared a few photos above of the vinyl copy of the album which can be bought from Nesmith’s own Videoranch Website.
Until next time be well and see you soon and here’s hoping for some new 7a Records products as good as this one in the future!