Starting in 1966 as a teen cultural parody of the Beatles, the Monkees - featuring Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith - shot to the top and released two No. 1 albums. "The Monkees" (1966) stood at No. 1 for 13 weeks, and "More of the Monkees" (1967) outdid its predecessor with an additional five weeks.
After acquiring the Monkees' complete (released and un-re-leased) audio and video catalog, Rhino has reissued three of the group's classic albums: "The Monkees," "The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees" and "Changes.""More of the Monkees," "Head" and "The Monkees Present" will be available Nov. 15. And "Headquarters," "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd." and "Instant Replay" are due out in January.
Not only do these reissues feature clean, remastered and refurbished favorites. They also include, for the first time in 20 years, a listing of the many different musicians who lent their talents to the musical side of "Fabricated Four." Glen Campbell, Stephen Stills, Ry Cooder and Buddy Miles are just a few of the previously unmentioned.
In addition, each album contains several rare bonus tracks - musts for Monkees collectors.
Rhino home video will also release all 58 original Monkees TV episodes, the Monkees movie "Head" and the rare "331/3 Revolutions Per Monkee" TV special early next year.
After breaking up in 1970 and taking a 15-year hiatus, the band made a remarkable comeback in the mid-'80s (with the help of Rhino and MTV) by releasing a new album, "Pool It!" and reissuing all of the Monkees original albums on vinyl. Dolenz, Tork and Jones then regrouped for a successful 1986 summer tour.
In 1991, Rhino issued a Monkees box set, "Listen to the Band," and has been preparing for the band's 30th anniversary in 1996.
Here are reviews of six of the nine Rhino releases:
MONKEES; "The Monkees" (Rhino) (originally released in 1966). * * * 1/2
Who could ever forget the zany, crazy spontaneity these four very different boys from around the world shared on TV during the mid-1960s?
This remastered debut is still a fun listening treat. Leaning more toward the folk-than-rock style, Monkees standards "(Theme from) The Monkees" and the No. 1 hit "Last Train to Clarksville" are still as hummable as ever. The only difference is the absence of the vinyl biscuit's pops and ticks.
Englishman Davy Jones' puckish vocals find sentiment in "I Wanna Be Free" as Micky Dolenz's goofiness rings through clear in "Gonna Buy Me a Dog."
This release, as with the other remastered discs that will follow, includes outtakes and unissued versions of rare and popular Monkees songs.
The rare track "I Can't Get Her Off My Head" finds its way into the Monkee lore, as do alternative versions of "I Don't Think You Know Me" and "(Theme from) The Monkees."
MONKEES; "More of the Monkees" (Rhino) (originally released 1967). * * *
The sophomore effort of the "Fabricated Four" had less to do with the band than its predecessor.
While the band was out making appearances, producer Don Kirsh-ner (of Kansas fame) hand picked the 12 original songs from over 34 masters and like the album before, the only Monkee to actually appear in the mix of studio musicians was the singer. But hit the charts, this album did.
"More" included the Neil Diamond-penned No. 1 hit "I'm a Believer" and the Neil Sedaka/
Carole Bayer collaboration "When Love Comes Knockin' (at Your Door)."
With the opening rock anthem "She," the album takes off where the debut left off. "Mary, Mary" (which incidentally became a rap hit for Run D.M.C. in 1988) stayed in line with the "Monkee sound," while "Your Auntie Grizelda," a musical takeoff on the Rolling Stones' "19th Nervous Breakdown," served as Peter Tork's vocal debut.
The most dated cut is "The Day We Fall in Love." This romantic Davy Jones poetry session backed by rapturous orchestral arrangements, now seems camp and silly. Jones' dreamy english accent talks of sweet bliss and a never-ending warm fuzzy feeling.
The bonus selections include never-before released versions of "Don't Listen to Linda," "I'll Spend My Life with You," "I Don't Think You Know Me" and an early version of "I'm a Believer," in which Micky Dolenz trods through the lyrics for the seemingly first time.
MONKEES; "The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees" (Rhino) (originally released in 1968). * * *
This rerelease is actually the fifth from America's Fab Four. The original hit the streets two years after the band's debut, and there are subtle differences in the musical makeup.
The band used a lot of orchestration and horns to "enhance" the Monkees sound. Unfortunately, the album loses the freshness of the debut.
For starters, Michael Nesmith jumped on the psychedelic bandwagon with "Writing Wrongs" and dabbled in Roaring '20s swing with "Magnolia Simms."
Then the album turns a little sappy with horns and violins on "We Were Made for Each Other" and "I'll Be Back Up on My Feet."
But Jones, with his never-changing voice, saves the mix and is featured on the album's quaint first single, "Daydream Believer." Dolenz also tries his best at a Jefferson Airplane take-off on "White Rabbit" called "Zor and Zam," an anti-war anthem recorded during the unrest surrounding the Vietnam War.
The new tracks are "Alvin," "I'm Gonna Try," "The Girl I Left Behind Me" and "Lady's Baby."
THE MONKEES; "Head" (Rhino) (originally released in 1968). * * *
Now for some trivia.
Question: What does Jack Nicholson have to do with the Monkees? Answer: He helped create this album/movie soundtrack.
Question: Which inventive rock band leader made his debut on the album and movie? Answer: Frank Zappa.
The album "Head" recorded to coinside with the Monkee's avant garde move of the same title, is a collage of music mixed with scenes and sounds from the movie.
Nicholson pieced together soundbyte after soundbyte. The album deemed to destroy the Monkees' "Teen Idol" label did just that. And much like the Beatles' movies at that time, "Head" was a musical journey through the brain.
MONKEES; "The Monkees Present" (Rhino) (originally released in 1969). * * 1/2
The same time the Doors fiddled with the country music sound ("Runnin' Blue" from "The Soft Parade"), the Monkees, minus Peter Tork who quit the band a year earlier, jumped on the country bandwagon with "Oklahoma Backroom Dancer," "Good Clean Fun" and "Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye."
The only element that makes this a Monkees album is the presense of Davy Jones' and Mickey Dolenz's vocals. Mike Nesmith was deep into his creative process and penned some great tunes. The problem, they didn't sound like the Monkees and even die-hard fans had problems digesting the switch from bubblegum psychelelia to campy country.
Though the year was financially disastrous for the band, it was individually enriching for each Monkee. "The Monkees Present" was the first album the producers at Don Kirshner records let the Monkees take the helm.
Some good cuts on this album include "Listen to the Band" and the foreign movie influenced "French Song." But instead of a breakthrough album that would reestablish the band, it left fans disappointed and yearning for the past.
MONKEES; "Changes" (Rhino) (originally released in 1970). * *
The last early album recorded under the Monkees name is also the least Monkee sounding album.
More in line with rhythm and blues, "Changes" brought an end to the phenomenon by reducing the group to two - Jones and Dolenz. And even then, they were just fulfilling a contractual obligation.
Noticeable differences can be heard throughout the album, and even the single "Oh, My, My" lacks the spunk the Monkees built a career on. In fact, this album is so much different from the others that it originally didn't chart (the first original Monkees album to accomplish this feat).
The rerelease features never-before-issued tracks of "Time and Time Again"; "Do It in the Name of Love," which was released as a single in Japan, where it enjoyed moderate success; and "Lady Jane."