In 1966, if you’d told me there would be a new Monkees album in 2016, I’d have gone into Full Guffaw; yeah, this band, to the extent it really was a band, may hang around for a while, but no way they’ll even be remembered half a century from now, let alone in the studio cutting new material, and hey, Don Kirshner will be — what, a hundred and thirty?
Shows you what I knew then. (Hey, I was thirteen. Gimme a break.) The three surviving Monkees — Davy Jones died in 2012 at sixty-six — with the able assistance of ace producer Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), have reunited for a twelve-track popfest that ranks as the second best Monkees waxing ever, right after whichever Greatest Hits compilation you have. As always, there’s first-class outside material, plus contributions from the band themselves; the voices are a bit deeper than they were 50 years ago, but the singing is every bit as good. Do they play their own instruments? Depends on the track. On the closer, “I Was There (And I’m Told I Had A Good Time),” Micky Dolenz sings and plays drums; Schlesinger takes care of bass and piano, and genius guitarist and occasional Schlesinger associate Mike Viola does the six-string thing. One track here has sort of appeared before: “Love to Love,” a Neil Diamond (!) number sung by Davy, recorded for the Headquarters sessions but struck from the track list before release. It surfaced as a bonus track in a 2007 reissue; this version adds backing vocals from Peter Tork and Micky.
Perhaps the most Sixties track here is “Wasn’t Born to Follow,” a Carole King/Gerry Goffin number made famous by the Byrds, recorded in 1968 and given fresh Tork vocals here. The least? Maybe “I Know What I Know,” written and sung by Mike Nesmith, a piano-driven piece that would have fit in well with Nez’ First National Band material.
If you’ve been a fan all these years, congratulations: you’ve just been justified. And besides, Don Kirshner’s long gone.
(In case the FTC asks: I bought this.)