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THE BEST OF THE MONKEES
Micky Dolenz - Lead and Backing Vocals, Drums and Percussion,
Rhythm Guitars, Keyboards
Don Peake - Guitar; James Burton - Guitar; Glen Campbell - Lead Guitar; Al Casey - Guitar; James Helms - Guitar; Chip Douglas - Bass; Kim Copli - Drums; Doug Dillard - Banjo on "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round"; Bill Chadwick - Guitar; Keith Allison - Guitar; Gerry McGee - Guitar; William Pitman - Bass on "Papa Gene's Blues"; Hal Blaine - Drums, Frank DeVito - Drums; Jim Gordon - Drums; Gary Coleman - Percussion; Carol Kaye - Bass on "I'm A Beliver"; Louie Shelton - Guitar; Tommy Boyce - Acoustic Guitar on "Last Train to Clarksville"; Wayne Erwin - Guitar; David Walters - Percussion. On "I Wanna Be Free": Michael Rubini - Harpsichord, Bonnie Douglas and Paul Shure - Violins, Myra Kestenbaum - Viola, and Fred Seykora - Cello. Other musicians also appeared on several other tracks.
CD Package includes second Karaokee CD for these songs: (Theme From) The Monkees, I'm a Believer, (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone, Pleasant Valley Sunday, and Daydream Believer.
There are many different greatest hits albums put out by several different labels for the Monkees. This LP should not be confused with a different LP, released in 1981, and titled, Best of The Monkees, which was released by a minor label and contains just 14 tracks. The Best of The Monkees has 25 tracks (not counting the 5 extra Karaokee songs) and is one of the better of the band's greatest hits releases.
Lets look at this LP song by song. The first four songs on here come from their first LP, The Monkees. "(Theme From) The Monkees" which opens up the album, is a better than average theme song, recorded for their TV show. The only Monkee on this song is Micky Dolenz, singing both lead and backing vocals. Same thing goes for the next tune, the excellent "Last Train to Clarksville", which went to number 1 on the charts - around the same time their TV show was premiering. Then we have Davy Jones alone on "I Wanna Be Free". Jones does a great job on the vocals here, the song could not have been sung better. Perhaps the only problem with this one is that it is too mushy a song for me.
"Papa Gene's Blues", a fine country song, is one of only two songs (both written by Mike Nesmith) on the first album to actually feature two of the Monkees playing instruments, as both Nesmith and Peter Tork play guitar on it (Dolenz sang the backing vocals).
Next up is the first of three Neil Diamond penned songs, "I'm a Believer". This one went to number 1, too, and overall sold better than any of their other hit singles. "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" was another top 20 hitter on the charts for the band. "She" is one of those songs that is very good, but does it belong on a greatest hits LP? Dolenz's vocals are excellent on this one, but it is the weak backing vocals supplied from the others that is a turn off. "Mary, Mary" is up next, and although not a bad song, it doesn't belong on this album.
The fun loving, kiddy sounding "Your Auntie Grizelda", is actually an excellent tune. Tork, who didn't get to sing lead on too many songs, does so on here, and other than the ridiculous noises he makes in the middle of the song (used for the TV show), he does a great job handling this one.
The second Neil Diamond song, "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)", follows, and what a dandy it is. This one is about loving two ladies at once, and sung by Jones, as it should have been, since he was the main woman's man in the group. "Sometime in the Morning" is another song that could have been kept off the LP, followed by the last of the Diamond numbers, "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You". Damn, the Monkees sure knew how to cover Neil great!
I've noted a few songs on here that really were borderline as far as being on a "best of" LP, but "The Girl I Knew Somewhere", clearly is only an average song at best. Most greatest hits albums usually seemed to miss a great song or two, this one misses several, including 3 tens - "Star Collector", "Forget That Girl", and "No Time". I've already noted what 3 songs could have been dropped for these missing gems. But the interesting thing about "The Girl I Knew Somewhere", is that the first take of this song was actually the very first song that the Monkees played on as a band with no outside help. But Don Kirshner, the main man behind the group in the early days, rejected the song. A year later he had session musicians re-record the tune, leaving only Dolenz's vocals on it.
For the rest of the album, we have all winners. "Shades of Grey" was unlike anything the band ever tried before, a very mellow and solemn tune, pulled off nicely by the boys. Then we have "Randy Scouse Git", which was released as a single in the UK as "Alternate Title", and made it to number 2. Written by Dolenz, Micky had picked up the three English slang words in the title while in England, with "randy" meaning horny; "scouse" a slur against working-class Liverpudlians; and "git," meaning an idiot (and short for illegitimate). So the record label asked him to provide an alternate title for its UK release, and Dolenz ending up renaming it just that.
"For Pete's Sake" was written by Tork, titled by Nesmith when Tork could not think up a title for it, and sung nicely by Dolenz. "You Just May Be the One" is one of the better Nesmith penned songs, followed by my all time favorite Monkee's song, "Pleasant Valley Sunday". Nesmith played his lead guitar on this ditty differently than he normally would, no county tang on this one, we get to hear more of a psychedelic riff, which sounds great! Two more strong tens follow, "Words", like so many songs by the Monkees, is great thanks mainly to Dolenz's vocals; and "Daydream Believer" is a wonderful shot of fresh air!
"Goin' Down" is another one of those "different" Monkee songs; this one is very jazzy, not something you would expect from this band, but it passes the test with flying colors. A country song, "What Am I Doing Hangin' Around", follows the jazz number and somehow fits in order fine. Sung by Nesmith, his heavy Texan voice sure was made for singing country and you can hear why on this tune.
"Valleri" is another fine song, even if it features sessions musicians only on it. Then comes "Porpoise Song", their most underrated number. The theme song from their only movie, Head, this one is written very much in the John Lennon mold, and is a totally far-out psychedelic tune. Too bad most didn't give this song a listen when it was first released.
"Listen to the Band" closes out the LP, written and sung by Nesmith. It was a plea to the fans who by this time had deserted the band. In fact on this song, Tork had left and The Monkees were now a trio, and soon to be breaking up. But for a group that started out as four guys answering an ad for acting in a TV show, boy did they put out some great songs and music, and The Best of The Monkees, proves that well enough.
- Keno 2009
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