NOTE: Despite having mined the very depths of the Monkees' catalog during the 1990s, Rhino Records set out on an ambitious reissue program of The Monkees catalog a mere decade later, with double-disc editions of the Monkees first two albums in the third quarter of 2006. Gathering both the mono and stereo mixes of each album, along with relevant bonus tracks taken from previous issues and a smattering of unreleased material, these "Deluxe" editions set the bar very high for catalog reissues, and may be the final word in the Monkees catalog on CD.
The Monkees [Deluxe Edition]
Rhino Entertainment Company R2 77678 [2CD]
Released August 15, 2006
REVIEW: I took my time before buying the
deluxe reissue of The Monkee's debut album, after
all, the original Rhino issue is only a dozen years
old, with great sound, good liner notes, and a
plethora of bonus tracks. Plus, there's
something about a double-disc edition of what was
originally a brief, thirty-minute running time which
screams "over-padded." But finally, given the
option of purchasing them on trade, I picked up both
this and the sequel and put them in my CD
player. First things first, the sound on both
the stereo and mono versions of the album are
excellent; even better than the Rhino remasters that
preceded them. And surprise, surprise, the
mono mix of the album, which comprises the
bulk of disc two, is eye-opening; it's punchy,
rawer, and more visceral than the stereo mix, and
has a somewhat nastier feel than the more mannered
stereo mix I've become used to. Worth hearing
for the subtle, and not-so-subtle changes in mood.
The bonus tracks are mostly culled from previous
reissues, as well as the triple-disc Missing
Links CDs which Rhino gleefully released
between other Monkee projects, but there are a
handful of unreleased tracks, the best of which is
arguably Mike Nesmith's demo recording of
"Propinquity (I've Just Begun To Care)" and an
interesting alternate vocal of "I Don't Think You
Know Me" which features Micky's distinctive vocal in
place of Mike's drawling tone. Is this
deluxe package worth getting if you already own the
previous Rhino recording? Probably not.
I can't see myself throwing on the two discs just to
compare the stereo/mono differences, and the
majority of bonus tracks I already own - the few
unreleased gems that show up here are neither
revelatory nor electrifying enough to justify paying
out full-price again for the same album. On
the plus side, the sound is noticeably better, and
at most retailers, you can purchase these deluxe,
two-CD sets for the price of a single CD. And
before I forget, I need to mention that the booklet
included in the package is awesome; Andrew Sandoval
takes great pains to minutely detail the making of
this album, and the completeness and depth he brings
to understanding the creation of The Monkees debut
album is unsurpassed. I guess this is the
price Monkee fans pay for sticking around so long.
[Super Deluxe Edition]
More Of The Monkees [Deluxe Edition]
Rhino Entertainment Company R2 77744 [2CD]
Released August 15, 2006
REVIEW: More of the Monkees features more of the same careful remastering, documentation, and assignment of relevant bonus tracks as its predecessor, but with less in the way of previously unreleased material, it's even more questionable whether old-time fans will be lured into purchasing this reissued double-disc document of The Monkees sophmore effort. Long-time Monkees fans are well aware of the genesis of More of the Monkees, with the tracks assembled without input from the Monkees themselves; in fact, the Monkees often have related the story of how they had to go to a local retailer and purchase the album in order to find out what songs had been included. In fact, it was this album that eventually led to the dismissal of Irving Kirshner, the publishing mogul who had created a marketing monster with the Monkees debut disc. But the Monkees, despite their self-righteous anger over having their product pushed without their consent, really had little to be upset about, (except perhaps the atrocious JC Penny clothing they were forced to model on the cover pic), since the album itself is a tight, stylistically varied carbon copy of their first album, with a sprinkling of rockers, ballads, novelty numbers, and the vocal debut of Peter, who had been cut out of the first album entirely! As with the previous re-issue, the mono mix is included on the second disc, and is perhaps the one to hear, since it has a vicious, earthier attitude than the stereo mix, which is highlighted on disc one. For new fans, this reissue will be pure gold, since it collects all relevant bonus tracks on both discs, taken from the previous reissue, as well as individual CDs in the Missing Links collections. Of the two previously-unreleased tracks included here, you'll find a fuzzier early take of "Tear Drop City" included on disc two, and the mono mix of "Ladies Aid Society" on disc one. Again, the liner notes by Andrew Sandoval are dense, literate and easily give the best picture of the creation and fallout of this album of anything I've read before. And the remastering, by studio wiz Bill Inglot, is clear and bright, far surpassing previous remasters.
Headquarters [Deluxe Edition]
Rhino Entertainment Company 77760 [2CD]
Released July 10, 2007
REVIEW: Even after we've had a remastered edition, a deluxe box set, and a plethora of bonus tracks, Rhino still hasn't finished lauding the masterwork that is The Monkees' Headquarters. Now, in the Deluxe Edition, we get to hear a stunning new stereo mix, a handful of new, unheard bonus tracks, and the dense mono mix as well. Is it worth it? Oh yeah. The stereo separation makes hearing the album an entirely new experience, which, for someone like me whose heard the album several times now over the years, is a revelation. And if you haven't heard Headquarters yet, what are you waiting for? It's a brilliant conglomeration of everything that made the Monkees great - the country/rock/psychedelic/pop influences of each of the band members different muses blend in a unique, and flabbergastingly successful way that defies all logic about how rock bands are supposed to work. And adding to this unlikely mix is the Monkees own surreal sense of humor which pokes its head up on tracks like "Band 9" and "Zilch" which lead away from traditional album tracks and cheerfully skip into MonkeeLand. My only real regret about this release is what's not here - the punchy "Do-de-ron-de-ron"-led intro to "She Hangs Out" isn't found on either the mono or stereo single mixes included here, and while the producers have included a sparkling new version of "If I Learned To Play The Violin" (previously only available on a long-deleted CD-ROM program) the original mix is AWOL. Still, what's here is thrilling, and the liner notes, by Andrew Sandoval, again pull out intriguing facts and stories and theories that are fresh and interesting, and contain a few pictures which I've not seen before. It's strange to think that on the eve of the Monkees being denied entrance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame due to their "illegitimacy" - a reminder of how legitimate they became (and how hard they had to fight for that right) is put into consumer's hands.
Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. [Deluxe Edition]
Rhino Entertainment Company 77767 [2CD]
Released July 10, 2007
REVIEW: I've never been much of a fan of PAC&J as other reviewers seem to be; after the unity of Headquarters, their follow-up album seems to be pulling the band apart stylistically, as well as literally (which was indeed happening behind the scenes.) To some extent, I blame Mike for this - he states unequivocally in the liner notes that he consciously wanted to push the band in a more country-blues direction, and the twangy opening track, "Salesman" immediately points out the more pronounced direction in sound. With Headquarters, the different stylistic bents of each member was synthesized into a unique whole, but for PAC&J, each member of the band (with the exception of Peter) decided to pursue their own musical muses, producing their own tracks with Chip Douglas (who was carried over from the Headquarters sessions), but bringing in their own players, choosing their own songs, and reverting back to Kirschner's model of record producing, but now with the Monkees in charge. The problem is, Kirschner had a golden ear for choosing hits, and the Monkees, despite their many talents, weren't up to his level. The album has many great moments, with "Words", "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "Cuddly Toy" as well as "She Hangs Out" (in the arrangement that I prefer) and "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round" my favorite tracks; but others, such as "Daily Nightly" and "Star Collector" injecting dark cynicism into the Monkees cheery blend, and the syrupy "Hard To Believe" and "Don't Call On Me" knocking a star off of the album. Peter Tork also takes a far less visible approach here, with the novelty track "Peter Percival..." being his only solo number. Davy Jones's solo numbers also show him beginning his descent into squishy ballads and treacly dance-hall numbers which clash with the Monkees pop/rock audience. As far as the remastering and stereo mixing goes, this is the first album where the stereo mix sounds too strident to me; I actually prefer the mono mix on disc two, which sounds less distracting than the bright stereo on disc one. The liner notes by Andrew Sandoval contain fine interviews with Mike and Peter as well as Chip Douglas. Again, a fine upgrade from Rhino's previous release, but it's this album that portents the beginning of the end for the Monkees.
The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees [Deluxe Edition]
Rhino Entertainment Company RHM2 522248 [3CD]
Released February 8, 2010
REVIEW: The Monkees last album to feature a #1 hit single ("Daydream Believer"), but tellingly, their first album NOT to go to number one (it stalled at number three), The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees receives the "deluxe" treatment from Rhino in an over-the-top, oversize, three-CD package, expanding the original album with remastered mono/stereo mixes, alternate and unreleased tracks, and deluxe packaging. By the time this album was being recorded, the Monkees had splintered into their four individual factions, firing producer Chip Douglas, and selecting, writing, and recording their own tracks. And since the Colgems studio had acquired a new eight-track system, the Monkees where having a high time fiddling with various arrangements, eating up each other's studio time, and creating numerous variations for each of the album's songs.
Andrew Sandoval calls this The Monkees' "White Album" period, but the feel of BB&M is far more polished than The Beatles later stripped-down effort, with Colgems resources completely at The Monkees disposal. Mike Nesmith was the most experimental, with all of his songs diverging both from the Monkees pop formula, as well as his own alt-country leanings. His strange, psychedelic ramblings are responsible for the album's uneven first half, but the entire album has an odd, disjointed quality, with excellent songs ("Daydream Believer", "Ill Be Back Upon My Feet", "Valleri", "Zor and Zam") sitting uneasily with Mike's bizarre "Auntie's Municipal Court," "Magnolia Simms" and Davy's syrupy "We Were Made For Each Other."
As if to overcompensate for the albums' deficiencies, Rhino Handmade has packaged BB&M in a thick, oversize box with a 3-D lenticular cover, large photo-filled booklet and limited-edition bonus vinyl single, poster, and button. The plethora of bonus tracks aren't nearly as interesting as their volume would indicate, with the vast majority being alternate takes, which, while marginally interesting, make for repetitive, tedious listening. I'm also a little ticked off by the packaging, which veers away from previous "Deluxe" editions, making this release an awkward fit on the ol' bookshelf. Notes, remastering, and documentation are all in keeping with previous box sets, but this release, for all its bells and whistles, is actually the least satisfying of all the Deluxe Editions.
HEAD [Deluxe Edition]
Rhino Entertainment Company RHM2 525670 [3CD]
Released October 26, 2010
REVIEW: I've been hoping for a Deluxe edition of HEAD for a long time now, it being the last of the truly great Monkees albums - not only was it a great soundtrack, with several memorable songs, but it was the *one* Monkees album which sounded like what you'd imagine a Monkees album to sound like - with surreal clips from the film interspersed throughout. A truly psychedelic listening experience. Apart from the movie, the soundtrack presented the listener with a treasure of riches, from the Carole King-penned "Porpoise Song" to Peter Tork's "Can You Dig It" to the live proto-punk of "Circle Sky" - there's simply not a weak link on the entire album. Despite it's being one of the very best Monkees albums in their catalog, I'm not going to recommend this over-priced, over-hyped box set put out by Rhino Handmade. Much like their previous The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees box set, the extras here feel superfluous, with lots of stereo/mono/alternate takes filling up the first two discs, as well as more live tracks taken from the same show that produced "Circle Sky", and to be honest, it all detracts from, rather than adds to the HEAD listening experience.
The second bonus disc included is even more rare - a radio show featuring Davy Jones plugging the film along with outtakes from the soundtrack interwoven throughout. It's an OK bonus, but no one is going to be listening to this more than once or twice. Then, the final nail in the coffin for me is the packaging, which once again over-reaches itself both is size and practicality - it's a shelf-busting behemoth which is long on style, but short on brains. And the "retro" inclusion of the original 45 single of "Porpoise Song" b/w "As We Go Along" and a small HEAD button will please collectors, but for fans of the music and film, they're just added *stuff*, and don't justify the $60.00 price tag which Rhino is charging for the set. If they'd really wanted to make this release worth the price, Rhino would have added the actual film as a bonus - widescreen, restored and remastered, with bonus material, instead of allowing Criterion to bury it in their pricey box set America Lost & Found: The BBS Story . Notes and remastering are all in line with previous deluxe releases, but the sound is not as bright and punchy as I expected.
Instant Replay [Deluxe Edition]
Rhino Entertainment Company RHM2 528791 [3CD]
Released November 22, 2011
REVIEW: 1968 turned out to be the beginning of the end for the Monkees. With the cancellation of their television series, the failure of their feature film HEAD, a poorly-conceived 33-1/3 television special about to bomb in the ratings, and their albums failing to top the charts, gentle Monkee Peter Tork bought out the remainder of his contract, leaving the remaining three members to attempt to retrench. 1969's Instant Replay, their first album as a trio, was a hodgepodge of tracks, some dating as far back as 1966, and using the same "go their separate ways" approach that they had used for The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, the result was, if anything, a drop in their fortunes. Listening to the deluxe edition Rhino has put together, it's clear that while The Monkees were far from a dry well, there's no hit single present, and strangely, its an album that starts off weak, and gets stronger as it goes. The deluxe box set is a rich look at this troubled album, with the mono mix clearly being the superior version, with again, a punchier, more direct approach giving the songs a far stronger presence than the stereo mix. The bonus tracks which follow the stereo and mono versions are diverse and well-chosen, with Mike's country influences getting stronger, Davy's West End leanings coming ever more to the fore, and Micky's jittery, amphetamine-laced pop becoming more frenetic. Just give a listen to Davy's psychedelic superior rough mix of "You and I" to get a glimpse of how "in-tune" The Monkees were with the times! Each part of their divergent personalities were in full-flower, giving this box set the clearest look yet at how impossible this combination of talents could continue as a functioning group. The sound is impeccable, the liner notes, again by Andrew Sandoval, are superb, and the shelf-eating over-sized packaging is on par with Rhino's previous two releases. But again, it feels like the fine folk at Rhino are squeezing the radish - the third disc is nearly bereft of actual Monkees - filled mostly with studio backing track sessions, and the 45 rpm single enclosed has the sole appearance of Peter Tork in an acetate version of "Prithee". It's a law of diminishing returns on display, but Rhino is still asking for full price.
REVIEW: What may be the final entry in Rhino records deluxe editions of the Monkees back catalog, the three-disc The Monkees Present truly sounds like the scrapings at the bottom of the barrel for the band's seemingly endless vault. Although lavished with the same loving care as previous editions, with stunning mastering and presentation, the material is so far from the pop highs from 1966-67 that most listeners will be left scratching their heads as to why these obvious leftovers are being given such reverential treatment. The liner notes make clear what the listener can discern for themselves - that by 1969, the Monkees were well and truly dead. Their final television special 33-1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee had bombed in the ratings, their singles and albums were no longer cracking the top fifty, their concert appearances were failing to sell out, and the three remaining members of the band we no longer seeing each other regularly - only on the rare television guest spot appearance where they would occasionally argue or try to one-up each other in who got to speak! All of these factors spilled over into their recording sessions, which were done separately, and partially in the hopes that their series, which was due to be rebroadcast in reruns, and would cut in some of the new songs, would somehow reignite "Monkee-mania." But, although the reruns generated good ratings, record sales continued to stagnate.
This set sounds great - but the songs by this time had devolved from top of the chart hits and cheerfully goofy novelty tunes to wildly experimental far-left-of-center genre exercises, with Mike finalizing his move into country-rock anarchism, Davy diving deeply into cheesy love songs and cabaret numbers, and Micky recording anything that struck his fancy, whether it was commercial or not. The schisms in their personalities are so apparent throughout that it's a wonder they were ever able to create coherent albums. Even Colgems promotion seemed to be cheering on the destruction of The Monkees, with one back-handed advertisement proclaiming that this album "doesn't sound like 'Good Clean Fun' - It doesn't even sound like the Monkees!" - as if that was a good thing. The bonus tracks run the gamut from alternate stereo and mono mixes, far too many backing tracks for songs that were never finished, a handful of unreleased songs, and a sprinkling of wrong-headed promos. It's an exhausting listening experience, with a strong sense of deja-vu as some songs receive up to SIX different versions over the course of this three-CD set, and some old songs (yet ANOTHER mix of "Circle Sky"!) popping up yet again.
With internet scuttlebutt buzzing that Rhino Records, once the premiere label for catalog reissues, has been gutted by its parent company Warner Brothers, and left with a skeleton staff - leaving many promising catalog reissues (The Bee Gees, Rod Stewart) unfinished, it may well be that this is the last of the Monkees deluxe editions we'll see.
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