Four “HEAD”ed Monkee – Examples of The Monkees “HEAD” on Home Video and CD

 

Welcome to another fine summer day in my corner of the virtual universe!

Today I thought I’d turn the way back machine to 1968. I know, I know, I’m always dialing the way back machine but I was just so in the mood.

When I think of 1968 my mind turns, naturally, to music.

So much great music from 1968 including “The BEATLES” (nicknamed “The White Album”), “Bookends” (Simon & Garfunkel) and “Friends” (The Beach Boys) – just to name a few of my favorite albums and groups from that year.

But today I thought I’d turn my attention to one of the most unique, and interesting, pieces from The Monkees catalog; their movie “HEAD” and its accompanying soundtrack album.

I’ve done pieces on “HEAD” here before but I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of its video incarnations as well as a fun oddball UK CD release from 1992.

As I’ve said before The Monkees film “HEAD” is one strange and amazing piece of filmmaking. To say it’s something different in the group’s canon is an understatement. “HEAD” is one unrelenting ride into the late ’60’s burgeoning era of independent films via Hollywood and one of its biggest musical creations.

The film basically is a series of strange vignettes that chronicle The Monkees phenomena and exposes, in an offbeat and frankly confusing way at times, Hollywood’s penchant for creating illusions and how those illusions (The Monkees) react to their own odd universe (stardom) with all the manipulation that Hollywood stardom entails.

Okay that sounds odd and “HEAD” IS odd but it’s also fascinating, frustrating and in the end fulfilling. The movie is also filled with some of The Monkees best songs including the exquisite “The Porpoise Song (Theme from “HEAD”), “As We Go Along”, “Can You Did It?”, “Do I Have to Do This All Over Again” and “Circle Sky”.

I first stumbled upon the film of “HEAD” via a bootleg VHS tape I acquired in the mid 1980’s. I  remember being just fascinated and perplexed and utterly amazed at the difference of the “film” Monkees to their TV counterparts.

When The Monkees revival happened in 1986 I was finally able to get my hands on a really nice quality copy of the film when I purchased an official copy that was released by RCA/Columbia Pictures (see above) on VHS tape. Remember VHS tape?

Later Rhino Records released an even better transfer of the film on DVD which was then superseded by an even BETTER transfer by an esteemed company called Criterion as part of their Criterion Collection who take great pride in making classic films available in the best quality possible.

The recent Criterion release from one of their Blu-Ray and DVD box sets (“America Lost and Found: The BBS Story”) looks (and sounds) fantastic (also see above). Not only was the film meticulously transferred but the songs were remixed into 5.1 sound and have never and I mean never sounded better!

This stunning print (minus some of the bonus features) was also released as a part of “The Monkees – The Complete Series”, a very limited Blu-Ray set that was available at one time through Monkees.com (more on that set in a future blog post).

The other interesting “HEAD” release from my collection is a 1992 CD release of the soundtrack that came out in the UK on an obscure label called Lightning Records. In fact if my memory serves, and sometimes it doesn’t lol, this was the first CD release of the entire soundtrack.

The album cover was white like the first UK vinyl release and this particular CD issue also features an alternate mix of Mike Nesmith’s song “Circle Sky” which though not superior to the normal mix is a fun variation nonetheless.

At the time I remember thinking how cool it was to get this mix on CD plus the rest of the soundtrack sounding very good, excellent in fact, with very nice mastering.

To this day this is one nice sounding CD though the release of the superb Rhino 3 CD box set of “HEAD” from 2010 is pretty much the last word on this album. The Lightning CD though is a fun collectible and worth tracking down if you can find one.

And if you’ve never seen the film “HEAD” and you’re familiar with The Monkees TV show you may want to give it a try. You may not like it and you may be a bit confused but it is certainly a different experience from watching their TV show.

Well there you have it. A sort of “HEAD” O-Gram from me for the day. As usual you can take a quick gander at the four-“HEAD”ed Monkee above if you’re interested.

That’s all for now, until next time be well and safe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the Band … On Vinyl – “The Monkees Live: The Mike & Micky Show” 2 LP Set

Welcome my friends to another summer Friday here in Webland!

I was going to post a look at the groovy new Deluxe 5CD/2DVD box set of Paul McCartney’s “Flaming Pie” album but I am still in the process of savory every single morsel of its contents before I give my thoughts.

Sooo, since anther gem of a grooviness landed at my door yesterday I thought I’d share some thoughts on that instead.

Recently I shared a review of the fabulous CD “The Monkees Live – The Mike & Micky Show” and low and behold the 2 Lp vinyl addition finally managed to makes it way to me so tada here we go with a look at these lovely slices of vinyl.

I had this vinyl set on pre-order since ot was announced but for some strange reason the album was in and out of stock and it took several weeks for it to get here. As they say sometimes it’s just worth the wait and I’m happy to report this 2 Lp set is terrific and well worth the wait for sure!

I won’t go into too much detail about the music on this new set as my previous review of the CD details the songs, etc. on the album. I will say, however, that as good as the CD sounds (and it’s one fine sounding CD) this 2 Lp set I think may sound even better.

Mastered by renowned mastering engineer Kevin Gray, this new 2 Lp set absolutely sounds breathtaking. The music is crisp and clear and packs a lot of punch and the vocals, the vocals just sound so amazing. Everything on the set sounds balanced and alive with all the dynamics intact.

This new 2 Lp set sounds so warm and inviting I’ve honestly never heard The Monkees sound so good. Everything about this set is a treat. The vinyl is dead quiet and the mastering makes it sound almost analog though it was certainly digitally captured and mastered.

After playing side one of the album I decided that it was just too good to stop. That to me says it all. You just sit enveloped in the sound as if The Monkees are performing right in front of you.

The fact that this live album is by far the best representation aurally of the group ever doesn’t hurt but this new 2 Lp set just hits my sweet spot as is now my go to version of this album.

I would highly recommend tracking it down if you’re a fan of the group and are interested in the best sounding version that you can get your hands on and enjoy.

Don’t get me wrong the CD version and I ‘m sure the download version sound great but there’s something special about the sound of this 2 Lp set that really captures the feel of The Monkees 1960’s Lp’s while improving on the fidelity.

As usual you can take a gander at the set above.

That’s all for now. Just a break from all the McCartney music I’ve been enjoying all week. I should be back soon with some thoughts on that set but until then take care and be well.

Until next time, enjoy and it’s Friday!!!

 

 

 

A Flaming Delight – Paul McCartney’s “Flaming Pie” is Reissued With a Souped-Up Recipe (Part 1 – the 2 CD Set)

Who doesn’t love a Paul McCartney album reissue? Speak up, I can’t hear you.

Okay, okay, I may be in the minority here but anytime there’s a reissue of a classic Paul McCartney album, that my friends, is always a reason to celebrate. In my humble opinion anyway.

And as luck would have it today is just that kind of celebration day as I finally got my hands on a choice McCartney reissue that just came out this past Friday, a lovely remastered version of Paul McCartney’s 1997 album “Flaming Pie”.

The “Flaming Pie” album came out hot on the heels of the very successful and critically acclaimed “Beatles Anthology” series and CD sets which were released in 1995 and 1996.

The Anthology project must have really inspired McCartney and brought his creative juices to a boil as the “Flaming Pie” album turned out to be one of his best solo albums (so far) and included several songs that would fit comfortably on a late era Beatles album.

Songs like the haunting acoustic ballads “Calico Skies”and “Little Willow” (a tribute to Ringo Starr’s first wife Maureen who had just recently died), the emotionally stirring “Somedays” (inspired by his first wife Linda’s battle with cancer) as well as the first single “The World Tonight” are all top tier McCartney.

Add the wonderfully playful title track as well as the majestic album closer “Beautiful Night” (featuring drumming by none other than fellow ex-Beatle Ringo Starr) as well as several others and you have one of the true gems in McCartney’s solo music canon.

So here we are today with this fantastic new reissue of the album that’s a part of McCartney’s ongoing (and superb!) Archive Collection.

What do you get with this new remaster you may ask? Well it depends on which version you buy as there are several choices and formats depending on your interest level in the album and the size of your wallet.

Here’s what’s available:

* A 2 CD set with the remastered album on Disc 1 with a second disc that contains 21 tracks that features several outtakes, rough mixes and demos as well as stray bonus tracks. This is the cheapest option available and the one that has the most bang for your buck

* A Deluxe Edition housed in a lovely large cloth covered box that contains 5 CDs and 2 DVDs as well as several books and reproductions of photos and documents like McCartney’s handwritten lyrics for songs on the album

* A two Lp vinyl version of the album with just the remastered album

* A 3 Lp vinyl version of the album plus the bonus tracks from the 2 CD set

* A Super Deluxe Collector’s Edition limited to 3000 copies which is much like the one above but in a much bigger box (and price tag $$$) with added goodies like the 3 Lp set as well as the 3 Lp set from above and an exclusive vinyl record featuring McCartney’s collaboration with Allen Ginsberg (“The Ballad of the Skeletons”) as well as extra art prints but with basically the same musical content as the regular Deluxe Edition

Whew!

Today in Part 1 of this “Flaming Pie” extravaganza I’m taking a look at the basic 2 CD set of the remastered album.

First off I have to say that the remastering of the album on Disc 1 featured in this set is superb! The album sounds a bit less compressed than the original CD release (shocking but great news!) with clean and clear dynamics throughout.

On several songs I notice lovely little flourishes either with the orchestrations or the clarity of the vocals that now jump out at me. It’s really fun to rediscover this album with better dynamics making the songs so much more impressive all these years after they were originally released.

The absolute mind blower of this set I must say is the 21 track Disc 2 which features several terrific home demos and rough mixes.

Highlights for me include the home demo of “The Song We Were Singing” which features a later dropped middle eight section as well as the charming home demos of “Young Boy” and “Beautiful Night” plus the truly rocking and great rough mix of “Whole Life” which really should have been on the album and the cassette demo version of the languid “Heaven on a Sunday”.

I was kind of worried that all the demos would have a sameness sound to them but I really enjoyed listening to these bonus tracks as a nice look into the making of the album and was surprised at how much I really enjoyed the flow of the selection of songs on this disc.

Really the 2 CD set contains most of the bonus tracks from the Deluxe Edition (minus about five or six rough mixes) so really this 2 CD set is the perfect purchase for fans of this album who aren’t Macca heads who need everything.

Don’t get me wrong though the Deluxe Edition is a thing of beauty and well worth the time if your a McCartney fan but this 2 CD set is a great buy if you just want the lovely new album remaster as well as the majority of truly fun bonus tracks.

The thing about the “Flaming Pie” album that most appeals to me as a long-time McCartney listener is that the emotional pull of the material gives you a rare peek inside McCartney’s emotional core. Not the kind of raw emotion of John Lennon’s first stark solo album mind you but for a musician like McCartney who usually holds his emotions close to his chest this album is a revelation.

Of course Linda McCartney died a year after the album was released so obviously McCartney was going through quite a lot at the time.

Linda’s voice and presence in McCartney’s solo work really defines the Wings era sound and even on this later album her presence, though not as big as earlier albums, really evokes  ’70s and ’80’s McCartney music which is some of my favorite (and most free-spirited) work of his solo career.

It’s nice to revisit the songs on this album in better sound quality and equally nice to hear the behind the scenes demos. To me the end of the Linda era signifies a real change in McCartney’s solo work and this album is a great way to end that era on a high note.

Well, that’s all for now. As usual I’ve posted a few photos of the new 2 CD set above.

Next up is my look at the 5CD/2 DVD Deluxe Edition!!!

Until then be well and take care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul McCartney “Pipes of Peace” on CD – The First (1983) and The Last (2017)

October 1983. I know it was a long time ago but do any of you out there who were alive at the time remember what you were doing?

I for one was in my senior year in high school and as was typical of me then, and now quite frankly, I was eagerly awaiting the release of a brand new Paul McCartney album which was to be released on October 17, 1983.

That album, called “Pipes of Peace”, was the sequel to his very successful and acclaimed album “Tug of War” from 1982 and I was chomping at the bit to hear it.

I already loved and owned the first single from the album, “Say Say Say” the duet with Micheal Jackson, and knew that the upcoming “Pipes of Peace” was pretty much recorded at the same sessions as “Tug of War” and was also produced by George Martin.

Enough said, I’m in, take my money I remember feeling as the release date approached. Of course that’s usually my attitude toward new McCartney releases it was just more heightened at that time and that age.

Now I also distinctly remember being quite surprised by both the critical and commercial  reception that greeted “Pipes of Peace” which was not what  I was expecting and seemed to come out of nowhere.

Don’t get me wrong I loved the album, still do in fact, but the critics were less than kind to the album in many of the reviews that I read and I was quite shocked when the album stalled at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 200 albums after entering at 16 the week before – truly weird.

The single “Say Say Say” was an out and out smash hitting number one for several weeks so it was truly strange to see the album kind of not tank really but not do as well as I had expected.

To this day a lot of McCartney fans are lukewarm at best to this album but from day one I’ve always loved it. Granted the “Tug of War” album is a much stronger collection of songs but I’ve always enjoyed this lighter sounding sequel and it never fails to put me in a calmer peace of mind whenever I play it.

“Pipes of Peace” holds many happy memories for me and remains one of my my all-time favorite McCartney albums. In fact the title song as well as “Keep Under Cover”, “So Bad” and especially “Through Our Love” are songs I return to frequently and have enjoyed quite often throughout the years.

In honor of this lovely album I thought I would post some photos of the first CD issue of the album from the UK from 1983 as well as the last CD issue, I’m guessing anyway, from 2017 on Capitol Records which contains the latest remaster of the album from the Paul McCartney Archive Collection.

I must say both CDs sound quite good but I may give the slight edge to the newer remaster as it has a bit more punch than the original. The original CD is definitely warmer and has great acoustics but sounds slightly softer and less detailed than the remaster.

Both are quite good and every time I play the Made in Japan original UK CD it really takes me back in time as that’s how I remember the album sounding in 1983.

Can it really be over thirty-seven years ago, yikes!

As usual take a gander above at the two CD issues as well as a bonus ad I cut out from some magazine at the time (Rolling Stone magazine most likely) and if you’ve never heard the “Pipes of Peace” album you should definitely check it out as it’s stood the test of time.

(Note: Just for grins I also added a couple of photos of the first US CD issue of the album on Columbia Records – one made in Japan and one made in the US. Both of these CDs sound pretty much the same as the UK first issue but may sound even a tad bit better.)

Anyway, enjoy this quick peak at Paul McCartney’s “Pipes of Peace” and until next time be well and more of my musings coming soon …

 

 

 

 

 

Cheer Up Sleepy Jean – Monkees CD Variations (Part 1)

Well, it’s been a bit since I stepped into the virtual word of blogs but as we near the end of very hot and steamy July (in these parts anyway) I thought it might be a good time to drop back in and say hello.

The best way to survive the heat , for me at least, is to try and find a cool place and listen to some music. And what better music to listen to then some older music, some 1960’s music.

Fans of classic ’60’s pop/rock are in luck as today I have The Monkees on my mind so I thought it might be fun to take a look at some variations of Monkees CDs that have managed to make their way into my collection.

The two CDs I’m highlighting today are a 1987 German import CD of the group’s classic second album “More of the Monkees” as well as a copy of the 1994 Rhino Records CD version of their fifth long player “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” that happens to be a BMG Record Club version.

First up, “More of the Monkees”:

I found this groovy imported version of the 1987 Arista Records CD sometime last year and was immediately struck by the unusual cover. Let me back-track a bit though for a second.

In 1987 Arista Records, who at that time owned The Monkees music catalog, had decided to release some of The Monkees albums on CD for the first time after having licensing The Monkees catalog to Rhino Records who had reissued the group’s catalog very successfully on vinyl in 1985 and 1986.

The Arista version of “More of the Monkees” holds a special place for Monkees collector’s as several songs on this CD were remixed from the multi-track masters thus creating unique versions of some of the songs from this album.

This Arista CD is the only place to find nifty remixes of the following songs: “She”, “Mary, Mary”, “Hold on Girl”, “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)”, “The Kind of Girl I  Could Love”, “The Day We Fall in Love” and “Sometime on the Morning”.

Many of The Monkees original master tapes were still MIA at the time so Arista remixed these songs to give the CD version of the album a sonic boost.

In 1994 when Rhino Records took control of the group’s catalog these remixes were replaced by the original mixes thus this Arista CD is a must have for fans of the group as these remixes sound really nice and have various length and vocal differences that are fun to hear.

As I said earlier the truly unique thing about this German version of the Arista CD is the cover with the special price banner that wraps around the CD booklet. This CD was available in the States but lacked this groovy wrap around.

Small difference I know but I’ve never seen this CD version before so I thought it might be fun to share it here.

Next up is “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees”:

In 1994 after Rhino Records won control of The Monkees catalog they began reissuing all of their albums on CD along with some choice bonus tracks.

This CD issue of the album included some terrific outtakes including the superb early version of “The Girl I Left Behind Me” (one of my favorite all-time Monkees alternate takes) as well as shirt and goofy Peter Tork spoken ditty “Alvin” and the notorious “Lady’s Baby”  also by Peter Tork which was worked on so much that Tork spent a fortune recording it only to have it rescinded to the vault.

In 2010 this terrific 1994 CD was expanded to a superb deluxe 3 CD set by Rhino Records with a treasure trove of previously unreleased gems from the 1967/68 sessions for the album.

Truth be told though that as time goes by I find that I prefer the 1994/95 mastering for the original Monkees albums on these first Rhino Records issued CDs. They’re easier on the ears and these CDs also contain unique mixes of some of the bonus tracks that were replaced by other mixes on subsequent reissues.

The only unique thing about the CD version “The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees” here today is that it’s a copy form the BMG Music Club which I happened to find in the used bin sometime last year.

All of my copies of the 1994/95 Rhino CDs were bought in stores when they originally came out so I had never run across a BMG copy before thus it landed here lol (see photos above).

For anyone new to Monkees collecting their is something unique mix wise in almost every CD version of their albums that were released on both Arista and Rhino Records so it’s worth the time trying to track them down if you can and have the interest.

As usual you can take a gander at these CDs above. I think I’m going to take some time in front of a fan and a stereo ad give these bad boys a spin.

That’s all for now! Until next time be safe and well and enjoy your late summer.

 

 

 

 

“Up to Date” – A Partridge Cartridge and Its CD Siblings

Nothing says the 1970’s like 8-track tapes.

I mean really. Not that they were the best sounding medium but in the 1970’s 8-tracks were everywhere.

At the time I thought they were pretty cool, you could bring your favorite albums with you in the car! Ahhh the days before CDs and streaming.

So why all this talk of 8-tracks? Well, you see. I happen to have just come into my possession a super groovy 8-track tape form 1971 and thought I’d share it here.  The tape in question, “Up to Date” by The Partridge Family, is one of my all-time favorite albums from the 1970s so what better way to remember it than to acquire the 8-track version.

I have one other Partridge cartridge (8-track lol) but it doesn’t come in the cool blue old-style Bell Records logo cardboard case that’s on this tape. Small thing I know but that’s what’s fun about collecting. (Err, trust me, you have to be a collector).

Most of The Partridge Family records and tapes I own have the then current style Bell Records loco but I’ve been seeing quite a few Partridge Family records online with this old style ’60’s Bell logo so I was quite surprised and delighted to find it on this tape.

Now of course I no longer have an 8-track player (yet!) but the allure of the past bit me so voila here it is.

I have to say that of all The Partridge Family recordings this particular album, along with “Sound Magazine”, is probably my favorite by the group.

The wistfulness of songs like “Morning Rider on the Road” and “I’ll Leave Myself a Little Time” plus the pop perfection of “I’ll Meet You Halfway”, “There’s No Doubt in My Mind”, “You Are Always on My Mind”, “She’d Rather Have the Rain” and “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” make this album one of the best collections put out under the Partridge banner.

Even though Cassidy’s silken voice was still being sped up a tad on this album, the last album producer Wes Farrell applied this technique to to make Cassidy sound younger, the songs are so strong that it remains a true pop gem from the early seventies that still holds up to this day.

I also thought I’d share the various CD pressings of this fine album as well – see above.

The first CD issue from 1992 on the Razor & Tie label is by far the best digital sounding version of this album. Mastered by Bill Inglot, this “Up to Date” CD stays very true ot the vinyl version of the album and is very easy on the ears.

I’ve also included the later Buddha Records/Sony reissue CD which sounds okay but is mastered a tad bit loud for my tastes. And even more recent reissue of the album, coupled with the first Partridge platter “The Partridge Family Album”, is even louder still which is a shame as it’s nice to have it on one CD with along with the first album.

It doesn’t take much looking to find the Razor & Tie CD of “Up to Date” but if you’re a fan of this album then it’s worth the hunt as the CD sounds pretty darn good. Maybe not quite as good as the best vinyl pressing but close enough to be one of the best options out there for this collection.

As usual check out my photos above so you can get a glimpse of the groovy 8-track a well as the CDs.

Well that’s all for now. Pardon me as I take a stroll back in time to my plush shag carpet and rest a while on my curved orange cough while I sip a Fresca.

Until next time be well and … Have a nice day!!!

 

 

 

Monkees Overseas – My Recent Monkee Vinyl Discoveries from Germany and Japan

What a long strange trip it’s been so far. This year will certainly go down as one of the most unusual and scary years in recent memory.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here but today I am back to share some recent (and somewhat obscure) vinyl pressings I’ve somehow managed to discover even in the midst of all this Covid madness and unrest in the world.

The one thing that represents normality to me is music so here are some groovy new Monkees vinyl pressings I’ve added to my stash.

Funny enough I rarely run across original Monkees pressings from overseas but in this last month I’ve come across two lovely Japanese vinyl pressings and one German pressing – “The Monkees” and “More of The Monkees” (both from Japan) and “Instant Replay” (Germany), all stereo.

Since Covid-19 has really limited my in person shopping all three of these gems were online purchases and all were had for very reasonable prices seeing as they are all in excellent shape and sound terrific.

The first album I stumbled upon was an original 1969 German pressing of  “Instant Replay”. The listing said it was a UK copy but I could tell from the photos it was from Germany and looked to be in great shape.

Sure enough when it arrived it was indeed a lovely German first issue that to my surprise played super quiet and just sounded amazing. I have other German pressings of Monkees albums that sound good but a bit muted but this beauty sounds every bit as good and dare I say it better than my original U.S. Colgems pressings.

Overseas pressings are usually taken from dubs of the U.S. masters thus they tend to sound a bit less lively than the original U.S pressings but that’s not the case here.

Original Colgems U.S pressings tend to be noisy and have some sibilant issues which make some songs sound screechy but this German copy is in nearly unplayed condition and everything sounded crisp and clean and very wide open.

Next up I stumbled upon two Japanese pressings from another online seller, one an original 1967 RCA pressing of “More of The Monkees” and the other and 1970’s pressing of “The Monkees”  on Bell Records.

My experience with Japanese pressings is mainly the 1980’s reissues on Arista Records which I gather didn’t come from the best sources as they don’t sound great. Not bad but not great.

I was really curious to see how these earlier pressings sounded and to my surprise I’d say that this copy of “The Monkees”  is probably the best vinyl pressing I’ve ever heard with “More of The Monkees” not far behind.

I take one point off from the sound of “More of The Monkees” as two songs have been rearranged in the playing order (“I’m a Believer” and “She”) and weirdly enough both songs sound quieter and a bit muted whereas the rest of the album just blooms open like a flower with great separation and terrific sound.

It’s amazing how much better these earlier Japanese pressings sound as compared to the 1980’s Arista Records versions. These are so close to the original U.S. Colgems sound wise and with the improvement in pressing quality they just may be the way to go if you want to hear these albums on vinyl.

All three albums are not only quite impressive sonically but the covers are pretty nice as well.

The German “Instant Replay” has a nice laminated cover which really makes the crazy colors pop on the front cover and both of the Japanese covers are made from nice thick paper stock with “More of The Monkees” being exceptionally thick as well as textured to boot.

Plus “The Monkees” pressing has a completely different cover to the more familiar U.S. pressing and also includes some crazy artwork on the inner sleeve which is a real treat (see above).

All in all three great foreign pressing discoveries and much better sounding than UK Monkees pressings which I see more of but pale in comparison sound wise to these gems.

As usual take a gander above at these three beauties and if you’re a fan of vinyl and a Monkees fan it might be worth your while to try and track down some of these foreign pressings as they might just surprise you with how good the sound.

Until next time be well and see you soon!

 

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!