Monkees 50th Anniversary Releases – The First Wave
by Fred Velez
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Monkees, and Rhino Records has begun the celebrations by rolling out the first two major Monkees releases to mark this milestone, both released on January 19.
The first of the two releases is the Complete Classic Albums collection, a cd box set of all nine original Monkees albums from the groups’ initial 1966-1970 period. All nine albums come in mini sleeve reproductions of the original album covers. There’s a little Easter egg with the first album with the incorrect spelling of the song ‘Papa Jean’s Blues’ on the album cover while the correct spelling of ‘Papa Gene’s Blues’ is on the cd label, a nice inside joke on the first pressing of the cover.
The Colgems logo is prominent on all the covers which is a nice touch, the cd labels resemble the Colgems labels with Rhino listed instead. All of the CD’s are the 2007 mastering of the albums with the exception of Changes which is a new 2015 remaster. A tenth disc is included featuring the A and B-sides of the Monkees songs that didn’t appear on the albums. ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’ is presented in the original single mix and both of its b-sides are included, the original early version of ‘She Hangs Out’ which appeared in only the Canadian release of the single and ‘The Girl I Knew Somewhere’ which appeared on the wider release of the single. ‘All Of Your Toys’ written by the late Bill Martin, which was originally going to be the Monkees instrumental debut but remained unreleased for years, is presented in its intended single mix. ‘Goin’ Down’ is presented with the slightly longer fade-out. ‘Porpoise Song’ is the longer single mix. The Micky Dolenz & Davy Jones single and its b-side ‘Do It In The Name Of Love’/’Lady Jane’ which they recorded after the Changes album is included as well as the 1986 reunion single ‘That Was Then, This Is Now’. Rounding out the bonus CD is the 1986 remix of ‘Daydream Believer’ with the more prominent drum track. All the CD’s look great in the mini sleeves and comes in an attractive, compact box and should be of great appeal to casual fans and collectors alike. The only thing lacking is a booklet of footnotes with a brief history on the albums, but this is a minor issue and doesn’t deter from the enjoyment of the CD’s
The second release is a limited edition of the Monkees Cereal Box collection, a fun reference to the Post Cereals Monkees records found on the back of some of the Post cereal boxes in 1969 to appeal to the younger Monkees fans who had discovered the show through the Saturday morning reruns.
Original 1969 Post Cereals Monkees Record
Where those original records featured the Mike/Micky/Davy lineup of 1969, the Rhino records feature the caricatures of all four Monkees. Pressed on plastic on cardboard, the four records individually feature the original version of ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ plus the previously unreleased TV mixes of ‘Words’, ‘I Never Thought It Peculiar’ and ‘Valleri’. The records and the packaging are very clever and attractive and will look good when added and displayed to a Monkees collection. Unfortunately, the sound quality of the records is on par with the sound quality of the original cereal box records, which is not surprising for records pressed on cardboard. These records are better seen than heard. Rhino could have made this a more appealing package by either adding a cd or a download code so that those who purchased the records would be able to obtain better sounding copies of the songs. This is a sadly missed opportunity which could have been executed better. Hopefully Rhino can still rectify this issue for those who purchased the records. However, they do look nice when displayed.
Of the first two 50th anniversary releases the complete album collection is much more appealing, especially for fans who don’t have all the Monkees albums and would like them in one compact set. The cereal box records is aimed more towards the completist collector. For the first wave of 50th Anniversary Monkees releases, the albums collection is a nice start. If you want to get the cereal box records, since it’s a limited edition, get them while they’re still available.
Coming soon: The Monkees on Bluray!
Fred Velez, 2016.