April 14, 2007

April's Record You Should Own

Originally, I was going to write this on April Fool's Day...but that would have been disrespectful.

Besides, in an age where a guy like Sanjaya is considered worthy of media coverage, you have to give the Monkees their props. Originally designed as a Beatles knock-off, these four gentlemen decided to take their musical futures in their own hands. Their previous album was the first where they played their own instruments; however, this month's Record You Should Own easily stands toe-to-toe with other great 1967 albums, like Forever Changes or Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

That's right - Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones Ltd is that good. If Rhino Handmade really loved us, they would put out a limited edition boxed set of these sessions.

Much of it comes through the stylistic diversity of the album - PACJ hits on country ("Salesman", "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?"), teenybopper pop ("She Hangs Out"), sheer psychedelic freakout (check the end of "Pleasant Valley Sunday"), psychedelia ("Words", "Daily Nightly"). For that alone - coming from four guys juggling a hit television show, touring, and recording - should be enough.

Part of the genius of this album is that, sonically, it is nothing like its contemporaries. This is the first use of the Moog Synthesizer in pop music, giving several songs a slightly unearthly quality (check "Daily Nightly" or "Star Collector"'s malevolent middle). Plus, several times backing vocals are used almost as a fifth instrument (the end of "Pleasant Valley Sunday", "Words", and the creepy mix of Micky Dolenz' and Mike Nesmith's voices on "Love is Only Sleeping"), giving the album a slightly ominous air. If you're looking for flower power cliche's, this is definitely not your album.

Finally, this happens to show a much darker side to the Monkee's music (which is probably why most oldies stations only play "Pleasant Valley Sunday." Lyrically, the songcrafters who wrote the Monkees' fare have given some nice little lyrical clues - maybe everyone was having enough of the grind, but what other so-called bubblegum band would dare use lines like:
"Then she turned away and said/Once I loved but love is dead..."

"My thoughts all seem to stray/to places far away/I need a change of scenery..."

"And mountainsides put arms around/the unsuspecting city"

"Well I guess your chances come but once/and boy, I sure missed mine..."

"How can I love her/when I just don't respect her?"
(These were, ironically, the same sessions which gave us "Daydream Believer")

Anyway, if there's one really killer track, it's Davy Jones singing "Star Collector". Personally, I believe that if you replaced the organ and Moog with a fuzzy guitar, and gave Davy more of a Cockney accent, you would have a killer Sex Pistols cover. Of course, for many, you would think of Peter Tork riding around a flying saucer control room on a motorcycle. But trust me, this is one killer track on a great album.

There's bad news and good news when it comes to this album - according to Amazon.com, it's out of print. However, you should be able to find it on Rhapsody, or ITunes. (Rhino has a non-MP3 version available for direct download for $10. You can't beat that price, folks).

Or better yet - head down to your local indie record store. They have a lot of great music available, may sell used CDs, and quite frankly - it's a great place to learn how to be a musical guru.


golfwidow said...

My favorite Monkee's song: Here Comes Tomorrow. My favorite Monkee: Peter Tork.

I liked the hell out of your podcast.

doppelganger said...

Hey - I'm sorry it took me a while to listen to the podcast...

Good stuff - I'm gonna have a play with that audacity...

(And yeah, let Russell T top 'n' tail the season - good idea)

Roger Green said...

I LOVE Words. Never owned this album (or any Monkees album exc. the Greatest Hits), but sounds interesting.