It’s the time of year for saving money!
Dang. Peter Tork has passed (RIP) joining Davy Jones (RIP) in rock ‘n roll heaven. Hopefully he is hanging out with all the other rock ‘n roll greats who have left us in recent years. (sigh)
As I was spining some Monkees vinyl (I am a longtime fan), I realized I had not checked Tidal where most of their catalog is streaming in high resolution 24-bit, 192 kHz MQA fidelity (unless otherwise noted). Following is run down of their albums there, for those of you who want to explore this terrific music that has influenced generations. Click the italicized titles to jump to the albums.
The Monkees debut sounds pretty fabulous, the home for the “(Theme From) The Monkees” and hits like “Last Train To Clarksville,” “Take a Giant Step” and “Saturday’s Child.” Played by members of The Wrecking Crew, expect top musicianship on these 1966 era recordings, yet don’t expect Abbey Road.
More Of The Monkees is a fine sequel with “She” and “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone” rocking sweetly alongside “I’m A Believer.” Much like the debut, this album sounds great with its strummy acoustic guitars, tambourines and harmonies.
Headquarters from 1967 finds the band taking creative control to great effect. Peter delivers killer Banjo on “You Told Me” and Mike’s “You May Be The One” rocks madly. Peter’s classic “For Pete’s Sake” became the closing theme for second season of the TV show! The best sounding Monkees album to date.
Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. continues the Monkees-as-a-real-band creative ascent kicking off with a one-two punch of “Salesman” and “She Hangs Out.” Mike Nesmith’s “What Am I Doing Hanging Around” is great proto-country rock and Carole King & Gerry Goffin’s “Pleasant Valley Sunday” is timeless. Solid 1967 pop music fidelity all around here.
The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees is an underrated gem from 1968 containing at least two legendary hits, “Daydream Believer” and “Valleri.” Davy’s vocals on the former sound particularly present on this recording.
Head, the fabulous soundtrack to The Monkees’ psychedelic protest movie is only available in CD quality here (boo! hiss!) but sounds pretty decent. Carole King & Gerry Goffin’s “Porpoise Song” plus Mike’s “Circle Sky” and Peter’s “Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?” make this essential to hear.
Instant Replay is a stop-gap 1969 release compiling previousy unreleased tracks dating to the bands beginnings. Only streaming in CD quality, it contains some gems like “Teardrop City” and Carol King & Gerry Goffin’s “I Won’t Be The Same Without Her.” “You & I” is notable not only for its Wrecking Crew players but also the presence of none other than Neil Young on guitar somewhere in the mix.
The Monkees Present, made after Peter left the band, is a fine, if erratic 1969 album with many standouts. Mike Nesmith’s “Listen To The Band” is a great sounding country rocker and Mickey Dolenz’ haunting “Mommy & Daddy” a near tribute to Zappa’s “Mom & Dad” (at least lyrically). This is my favorite late period Monkees album which sounds quite nice on Tidal especially on more full-bodied tracks like Davy’s “French Song.”
Changes is a spotty ending from 1970 (just Mickey and Davy) but has its charms with tracks by the great Jeff Barry and Andy Kim. Mickey’s “Midnight Train” is a fun Johnny Cash homage.
The Monkees Live 1967 is an archival release and “it is what it is” (as they say) fidelity wise, but the perfrormances are heartfelt capturing Monkeemania in all its glory. With the band mostly playing their own instruments on this, tracks like “Mary Mary” and “I’m A Believer” take on a fun, garage band / indie rock sensibility. Despite the rawness, the recording quality is surprisingly good (engineered by the legendary Hank Cicalo) so its worth checking out Live 1967.
Good Times is the final and best reunion album by The Monkees featuring a host of great songwriters and musicians on it. Streaming in 48 kHz, 24-bit fidelity, it still sounds real nice. Click here for my review from when it was released.
So, Rest in Peace, Peter. Paraphrasing Ray Davies’ famous song: ‘Celluloid and magnetic tape heroes never really die.’ You won’t be forgotten. Thankfully, Mike and Mickey are still with us so be sure to see them on their current tour while you can.