Artist: The Monkees
Album: The Monkees 50
Label: Rhino Records
Release Date: 08/26/2016
Presuming that I’d be able to name, and would know, every song in this collection, Elmore publisher Suzanne Cadgène commented that I could practically review it before receiving it. “Perhaps. Perhaps not,” I said inside my HEAD. Not! Not even close.
I expected The Monkees 50 to be a monumental, essential, historic, joyous double-CD (not three!) jubilee celebration. A golden-anniversary gift befitting fans from casual to hard-core. A fun, loving tribute and lasting testament to the band (and brand) itself, with an elaborate booklet of detailed liner notes and delightful, insightful prose like Glen A. Baker’s extensive, exhaustive inner-sleeve essay from Australia’s 1979 double-album Monkeemania: 40 Timeless Hits, Mitchell Cohen’s centerfold story in 1986’s comeback album Then & Now… or perhaps Andrew Sandoval’s work on Rhino’s own Listen To The Band (1991), Anthology (1998) and 2001’s Music Box set. It’s not! Not even close.
Manifold sins of omission were committed here, but the most short-shrifted, dissed (and pissed?) victim is poor pacifist Peter Tork. “Can You Dig It?,” “Long Title…” (33 1/3 of HEAD’s songs!), and “Your Auntie Grizelda” are missing. So is “Saturday’s Child” and “Daily Nightly” from Micky Dolenz. The band’s prolific, tongue-in-cheekiest member, Michael Nesmith’s, “Sunny Girlfriend,” “Sweet Young Thing,” “You Just May Be The One,” “What Am I Doing Hanging ‘Round?” and “The Kind Of Girl I Could Love” all lie discarded and scattered on the crime scene’s cutting room floor along with “All Of Your Toys.” And “Riu Chiu” too. Ugh! Say it ain’t so, Rhino.
Yes I’m disappointed. Annoyed. Dismayed. Perplexed. Flummoxed. Muddled and befuddled. Bewitched, bothered and bewildered. Beguiled, bemused, confounded and confused, but not amused. How quickly, carelessly, hastily and haphazardly was this project put together? (They had 50 years!) How were songs selected/rejected? Was there a method to this madness? Any rhyme or reason to the process? Was there a dartboard involved? WTF?
“Why These Fifty?” Because compilation producer John Hughes arbitrarily decided to use the officially released Monkees singles (U.S.) as his starting point. (But made exceptions!) To his 29 A and B-side selections Hughes added “what we (he) thought were key album tracks that are huge fan favorites. Then there was an opportunity to throw some things on there that I [he] felt were just not appreciated as much.” Like “You And I” and ‘Regional Girl’ from Justus. (1998)
So instead of dearly departed Davy Jones’ HEAD piece de resistance “Daddy’s Song,” “Star Collector,” “I Wanna Be Free” or even “Laugh,” we get his bizarre “French Song,” brassy (but not ballsy) “Someday Man,” horny/corny “A Man Without A Dream” and the ludicrous, laughable “Every Step Of The Way.” That annoying obnoxious second single from Pool It! (1987) features 80’s-overkill production and an outre, overblown, unctuous, unconvincing Jones vocal. He sounds like the illegitimate love-child of ex-Sex Pistol John Lydon’s “Johnny Rotten” and Katherine Hepburn’s Broadway–bombing “Coco!” (Or Yoko Ono.) Few besides Davy’s die-hardiest devotees will hail this horrendous song’s inclusion (intrusion!) here. Was it scintillating, sardonic satire or pitiable, pathetic parody? Either way, it stinks like decaying apples, peaches, bananas and pears. (File under “Rank!”) Anything that far gone should be composted, not recycled and re-issued! I know Mr. Hughes has his reasons for doing 50 this way (his way), but none of them rhyme. A “No Monkees were used in the making of this record” disclaimer should be affixed to each cover. The next time Rhino should consult Micky, Mike and Peter and then “Listen To The Band!”
Read Dennis’ review of the Monkees’ recent show at New Jersey’s State Theater HERE.