Last Sunday morning I was watching “Sunday Morning” and they announced they were going to be doing a segment on The Monkees and I thought, “that’s nice, but what’s the occasion?”
Turns out this year marks the band’s 50th anniversary, which by itself is a good enough reason for a segment on “Sunday Morning,” but then they dropped the bomb that the band had also released a new album. I was giddy, but apprehensively giddy.
You may recall I went to see the pre-fab four roughly 2 years ago and I left the concert feeling that maybe it was best if they retired. It was a good show but I felt like their voices were going.
And then there’s the fact that their last studio album, “Justus,” wasn’t one of their best efforts. I think they were trying to be too hard. They wrote all the songs themselves and, well, songwriting was never the group’s strong suit.
For “Good Times!” they went back to the formula that made them so successful. While each Monkee provided one track, the rest of the songs were written by an eclectic but talented group of songwriters, including classic tunes from former Monkees tunesmiths Goffin/King, Boyce/Hart, Neil Diamond and Harry Nilsson, along with new songs by Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller (Oasis), Andy Partidge (XTC) and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie).
Who knew The Monkees were so popular with the indie music crowd?
The end result is a Monkees album that actually rises to the greatness of the “Headquarters/Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.” era. To put that in context that normal people can understand, if this were a Beatles album, it would rank right up there with “Sgt. Peppers” and “Rubber Soul.”
It’s that good. Really. And I haven’t been impressed by a Monkees album since the “Head” soundtrack and that was 1968. The band’s 5 albums prior to this were average at best. (To be fair, I’ve never heard “Pool It!” but I’m assuming it’s not that great. Without Nez it couldn’t be very good.)
Remember how I said I thought their voices were degrading after I saw them in concert? Well, it’s amazing what recording in a studio can do for you. Mickey has never sounded better, Mike’s stronger here than he was on stage and even Peter sounds good here, and Pete sounded like warmed-over death at the Fox.
What’s really great about the album is how it recaptures the sound and spirit of those early ’60s Monkee tunes. Listening to this record is like going back in time. So many fun songs. “You Bring The Summer” is the perfect light-and-breezy song for the season. “Birth of an Accidental Hipster” nicely captures the band’s psychedelic period. My favorite song has to be “Me and Magdalena,” which features lovely harmonies by Nez and Mickey.
Even the late Davy Jones gets in the act, as the album includes “Love to Love,” an old Neil Diamond-penned track. Davy’s songs were usually hit-or-miss for me but this is one of his better tunes.
Check it out on YouTube then do the right thing and buy a copy. I recommend the digital deluxe version as it includes a really nice tune with a scary title (Terrifying) and a more uptempo version of “Me and Magdalena.”