Micky Dolenz Talks New Monkees Music
By G.H. Harding
GOOD TIMES — The new Monkees album (their first in nearly 20 years) is a remarkable love letter to their fans – both young and old. Remarkable in how the three surviving members, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith, still shine vocally, musically and remarkable in the simply sumptuous material on the record. People in my particular demo can’t help but recall their two-season run of their NBC show, although I was always more of a Beatles and Stones-guy even back then, I must admit that every time I viewed the show, I adored it. I was instantly captured by their antics and naivety. The show won two Emmys in 1967 for their ground-breaking techniques.
As Micky Dolenz says, “It was about a band … that never made it, but lived at a beach house in Malibu.” Dolenz says that one of their earliest fans was Beatle-John Lennon who immediately clicked in on the concept by saying they were more like the Marx Brothers, than The Beatles. Maybe that’s why Dolenz and Lennon clicked so well when Lennon had his hallowed lost weekend in Los Angeles all those years later.
The album Good Times (Rhino Records) brims with all the musical gusto of those early halcyon years that you’d want to expect. The new songs, by the likes of Rivers Cuomo (Weezer) and Andy Patridge (XTC) are spot-on excellent. Fitting mementos to their early success, while crackling with the contemporary elements of today. Cuomo’s “She Makes Me Laugh,” the first single, is a perfect homage to their early records, with Dolenz singing better than ever. His harmonies with Nesmith are as beautiful as ever, and attests to Dolenz being one of best singers in rock. He is indeed, right up there with Roy Orbison and Freddie Mercury.
I also really enjoyed the Noel Gallagher/Paul Weller composition “Birth Of An Accidental Hipster.” To me, it sounds like something Nesmith could have written himself; jam-packed with the new age/psychedelia that his songs always had. His vocal interplay with Dolenz is outstanding. Thought the industry-term-FM-track is hardly ever used anymore; this song fits right into that description. Boy, where is Scott Muni and the old WNEW, when you need them? Tork’s “Little Girl” is a standout too. He says in the liner notes that he wrote this song for Davy and they originally had thought to release this as a proper follow up to the groups “I Wanna Be Free.” He’s right, it would have been a perfect and fitting follow up.
Partridge’s “You Bring The Summer” another spot on take on those earlier years. One listening and you’re right back in the 60’s! Again, Dolenz astounds in his vocal delivery.
The Neil Diamond-penned track “Love To Love,” never released in 1977, sung Davy Jones who passed in 2012, is also on the album. It sways in almost a Zombies-like way … and, is an immediate standout; not only for the obviously analog-like recording (not to mention the brilliant track no doubt provided by The Wrecking Crew) but, for the brilliance of Diamond’s writing. I love Diamond and to me, this reminds instantly of his “Solitary Man.” A standout track.
For me, however, the gemstone of the album is a song written and sung by Nesmith, “I Know What I Know.” Featuring just Nesmith and producer Adam Schlesinger, it is pure brilliance and immediately attests to Nesmith being one of the most creative artists on the scene today. Simple and stark, I defy anyone to listen to this track just once and not be immediately entranced. It is a show stopper. Nesmith, though not on the current 50thanniversary tour (which began last week in Florida), I hope when he does show up … he performs this one. Terrific!
Adam Schlesinger, who produced the album, has done just an outstanding job with this project. I wasn’t all that familiar with his work before this (I knew he did some terrific work on the Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do, which is a huge fave of mine). As the bassist for Fountains of Wayne, he was nominated for 2 Grammy Awards in 2003. Born in 1967, he, like John Lennon, definitely gets the Monkee-thing.
It’ll be interesting to see how this record does; The reviews have been totally positive thus far; even Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone reviewed it, so, I’ll take that as a good sign. One of the top albums of the year! A totally delightful, thoughtful and important record for certain.