greatest hits

NOTE: Monkees have had their fair share of greatest hits packages over the years: some with bonus tracks, others simply trying to cherry-pick the best overall introduction of the Monkees to the curious.  There are various levels of interest for people, and Rhino has been repackaging the Monkees' hits in several various formats for all types of interest levels, with an overall high level of success.  So, beginning at a beginner's level, and moving up from there, here are the greatest hits:
Essentials (June 4, 2002) Rhino 76057 [CD]


1. (Theme From) The Monkees (Boyce/Hart) - 2:19
2.
Last Train to Clarksville (Boyce/Hart) - 2:47
3.
I Wanna Be Free (Boyce/Hart) - 2:25
4.
I'm a Believer (Diamond) - 2:45
5.
(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone (Boyce/Hart) - 2:21
6.
A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You (Diamond) - 2:49
7.
Pleasant Valley Sunday (Goffin/King) - 3:16
8.
Words (Boyce/Hart) - 2:51
9.
Daydream Believer (Stewart) - 3:00
10.
Valleri (Boyce/Hart) - 2:21
11.
Porpoise Song {Theme from "Head"} (Goffin/King) - 4:11
12.
For Pete's Sake (Richards/Tork) - 2:11

You'll hear lots of fans disparage budget packages like this.  With 79 minutes of space available on a compact disc, to many it seems a crime to put just 12 songs at barely over 35 minutes when there are so many other great Monkees songs that could be included and open the eyes of the unbelievers.  But I know lots of people who just know the hits, and just want the hits.  Sometimes people are just looking for the one song they remember from when they were young, and most likely, the song they're looking for is on here.  Not a bad apple in the bunch among these twelve smashes, and I can't even say that for some of the other single-disc collections.  If you're just barely familiar with the Monkees, and what you hear on the radio sounds like what you're after, then this disc is for you, and you'll be happy with it.  On the other hand, if you're looking for a meatier bite of Monkee madness, and hope to find a collection with the hits and just a little bit more to savor, then pass this by, since there are other single-disc collections at the same price that will offer you more.  This disc is for beginnners only.  For the rest of us...


Daydream Believer and Other Hits (March 17, 1998) Rhino Flashback 75242 [CD]


1. Daydream Believer       
2. D.W. Washburn       
3. Tapioca Tundra       
4. Words       
5. Pleasant Valley Sunday       
6. Valleri       
7. It's Nice to Be With You       
8. Good Clean Fun       
9. Oh My My       
10. You Can't Tie a Mustang Down

Rhino did a great disservice to fans when it put out two budget collections of Monkees music whose sole purchasing point was a single, unreleased track.  The first of these, "Daydream Believer and Other Hits" is a mess of selection and sequencing.  Yeah, there's "Daydream Believer" as well as "Words," "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "Valleri" among the hits, but then to intersplice these songs with "D.W. Washburn," "Tapioca Tundra," "It's Nice To Be With You" and "Oh My My" makes one wonder just what Rhino's definition of 'hits' is.  (Or perhaps what its definition of "is" is - but we'll discuss that another time.)  The fact that this disc (and the following one) are perhaps the only ones casual shoppers will find in the discount bins is discouraging, and misleading, but most annoying is the single unreleased track "You Can't Tie A Mustang Down," which is a forgettable rocker with Micky taking lead vocal, but why make collectors shell out for nine tracks they already have for the one they don't??  Especially when Rhino has spent such care in putting together the "Missing Links" CD's for just that purpose?  So what we really have here is a CD that's too spotty for the casual listener and too ridiculous for the fans.  Which brings us to...


I'm A Believer and Other Hits (June 29, 1997) Rhino Flashback 72883 [CD]


1. I'm a Believer 
2. Girl I Knew Somewhere 
3. Shades of Gray 
4. Cuddly Toy 
5. Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You 
6. Heart and Soul         
7. Someday Man         
8. Ceiling in My Room         
9. Listen to the Band         
10. I'm Not Your Stepping Stone

The other half of this diabolical duo: "I'm A Believer and Other Hits," which as a compilation is much better in its song selection, but again tacks on an otherwise unavailable track, the stupifying "Ceiling In My Room" which even fans will find a tedious listen.  But otherwise, this bargain basement CD is fine, with tracks culled from everywhere: from the earliest, ("Girl I Knew Somewhere") to the 1997 single "Heart and Soul."  It's not that the songs are bad on this collection, but there's no real theme, and not all of the tracks were even on singles, much less were "hits," so again, this is deceptive marketing and a shoddy way to treat fans who might want to hear "Ceiling In My Room" just for curiousities' sake by making them shell out several dollars for a sub-par track. I have to say it: This is one of the reasons that fans justify trading mp3's on the internet, it's piracy, sure, but it's just as mercenary to expect collectors to pay for the same songs over and over and over to get the one track they don't have.



Then & Now... The Best Of The Monkees  Arista AL9-8432 [LP] / Arista A2CD-8432 [CD]
 
1. (Theme from) The Monkees
2. Last Train To Clarksville
3, Take A Giant Step
4. (I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone
5. She
6. A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
7. I'm A Believer
8. Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)
9. Sometime In The Morning
10. The Girl I Knew Somewhere
11. Randy Scouse Git
12. You Just May Be The One
13. For Pete's Sake
14. Pleasant Valley Sunday
15. What Am I Doing Hangin' Round
16. Words
17. Goin' Down
18. Daydream Believer
19. Valleri
20. D.W. Washburn
21. Porpoise Song (Theme from Head)
22. Listen To The Band
23. That Was Then, This Is Now
24. Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere
25. Kicks

Strangely enough, although Rhino has done a bang up job on the Monkees catalog reissues and box sets, I still consider this disc put out by Arista to be the best single-disc introduction to the Monkees that has ever been produced.  The track selection is mostly (more on that later) flawless, with one awesome pop song after another flowing easily from beginning to end.  The sound on this release is muted compared to what's available now, but otherwise, if I were to make my own CD of fun tracks to listen to by the Monkees, it would look remarkably like this one, and I think that word "fun" is the key.  Arista wasn't concerned with making the Monkees "respectable" and "important" which Rhino seems to thrive on; (and which I think they deserve), this package was designed to cash in on Baby Boomer sentiment coupled with GenX interest in the group that was sparked by MTV in the mid-eighties.  So Arista put together the most familiar, radio-friendly package they could, filled it to the brim and tacked on three new songs which amazingly enough, didn't pale in comparison to what had come before, (with the glaring exception of "Kicks" - a poorly realized cover of an old Paul Revere and the Raiders hit song.)  But "That Was Then, This Is Now" and "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere" are totally fun, retro tracks that Micky totally rocks on. And not all of the tracks are the dusty, old familiars either: "D.W. Washburn" would hardly be called a familiar track by most Monkees fans, but here it fits perfectly as a friendly little aside, sounding more like the Beatles' "When I'm Sixty-Four" than ever before in this context. A fine package, and somewhat rare and hard to find now.



The Monkees Greatest Hits (Nov. 1995)  Rhino 72190 [CD]


1. (Theme From) The Monkees
2. Last Train to Clarksville
3. I Wanna Be Free
4. I'm a Believer
5. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone
6. Mary, Mary
7. A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
8. The Girl I Knew Somewhere
9. Randy Scouse Git
10. Pleasant Valley Sunday
11. Words
12. Daydream Believer
13. Goin' Down
14. Valleri
15. D.W. Washburn
16. Itís Nice to Be With You
17. Porpoise Song (Theme From "Head")
18. Listen to the Band
19. That Was Then, This Is Now
20. Heart and Soul

When it came Rhino's turn to put together a greatest hits package after gaining control of the Monkees complete catalog, they didn't change much from the very successful Arista album.  Most of the songs are the same on each disc, and as single CD's they both work very well in doling out the most familiar hits with a chosen selection of lesser-known album tracks to "broaden the minds" of the consumers.  But where the Arista package added tracks of listenable interest, here Rhino seems to be more mindful of giving equal credit to each Monkee (with the notable exception of Peter Tork, who is nowhere to be found here, except in the cover picture.)  So for extra tracks we have "It's Nice To Be With You," by Davy, "Listen To The Band" by Mike, and the 1987 track from "Pool It" - "Heart and Soul" which features Micky.  To my mind, none of these tracks add a thing to the collection; "Nice To Be With You" is utterly forgettable tripe courtesy of Davy Jones Constipated Ballads, Inc., "Listen To The Band" is powerful, but seems to heavy-handed in the midst of the other songs, and "Heart And Soul" isn't nearly as fun as "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere" from Arista's hits package.  So overall, you get a good dollop of the hits, and some off-key choices that mar an otherwise fine package.



20 Greatest Hits (June 22, 1999)  Audiophile Records APH102811 [CD]


1. The Monkees(Theme From)
2. Last Train To Clarksville
3. I'm A Believer
4. Steppin' Stone(I'm Not)
5. A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
6. The Girl I Knew Somewhere
7. Pleasant Valley Sunday
8. Words
9. Daydream Beliver
10. Valleri
11. Tapioca Tundra
12. D.W. Washburn
13. It's Nice To Be With You
14. Porpoise Song
15. Tear Drop City
16. Listen To The Band
17. Someday My Man
18. Good Clean Fun
19. Oh My My
20. Take A Giant Step

This imported disc from England claims to be a "gold" disc, with super-bit mapping, making it the only Monkees CD to receive such high-class treatment, but don't believe it.  A mid-priced CD that has a curious track selection, the well-known hits are here, along with some baffling filler: in addition to the annoying "It's Nice To Be With You" are the completely non-hits of "Tear Drop City," "Someday My Man," "Oh My My," and the renamed for UK audiences version of Randy Scouse Git: "Good Clean Fun."  Wow.  So someone has to tell me, were these last five songs really hits in the UK, or is someone just pulling my leg?  Anyway you look at it, the songs on this disc really veer all over the place when compared to their early hits of the sixties, which fill up the first half of the CD.  I can't imagine anyone really thinking that these are the big hits, but hey, you know what P.T. Barnum said...



The Best Of The Monkees (April 29, 2003)  Rhino 73875 [CD]


The Best of the Monkees
1.    (Theme From) The Monkees (Boyce/Hart) - 2:18
2.    Last Train to Clarksville (Boyce/Hart) - 2:46
3.    I Wanna Be Free (Boyce/Hart) - 2:24
4.    Papa Gene's Blues (Nesmith) - 1:59
5.    I'm a Believer (Diamond) - 2:46
6.    (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone (Boyce/Hart) - 2:24
7.    She (Boyce/Hart) - 2:39
8.    Mary, Mary (Nesmith) - 2:17
9.    Your Auntie Grizelda (Hildebrand/Keller) - 2:28
10.    Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) (Diamond) - 2:15
11.    Sometime in the Morning (Goffin/King) - 2:28
12.    A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You (Diamond) - 2:47
13.    The Girl I Knew Somewhere (Nesmith) - 2:34
14.    Shades of Grey (Mann/Weil) - 3:21
15.    Randy Scouse Git (Dolenz) - 2:33
16.    For Pete's Sake (Richards/Tork) - 2:10
17.    You Just May Be the One (Nesmith) - 2:03
18.    Pleasant Valley Sunday (Goffin/King) - 3:15
19.    Words (Boyce/Hart) - 2:51
20.    Daydream Believer (Stewart) - 2:59
21.    Goin' Down (Dolenz/Hildebrand/Jones/Nesmith/Tork) - 4:23
22.    What Am I Doing Hangin' Around? (Castleman/Murphey) - 3:07
23.    Valleri (Boyce/Hart) - 2:20
24.    Porpoise Song [Single Version] (Goffin/King) - 4:10
25.    Listen to the Band (Nesmith) - 2:28
26.    (Theme From) The Monkees [*] (Boyce/Hart) - 1:25
27.    I'm a Believer [*] (Diamond) - 3:13
28.    (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone [*] (Boyce/Hart) - 2:49
29.    Pleasant Valley Sunday [*] (Goffin/King) - 3:39
30.    Daydream Believer [*] (Stewart) - 3:13

Well, after the runaway success of The Beatles "1" a whole slew of other CD's began appearing, hoping to tap into the same money well that the Beatles hits package did, and Rhino, despite having a Monkees hits CD on the market, and still available, just had to jump on the bandwagon with "The Best Of The Monkees." A curious CD for a couple of reasons: first, squeezed into the 25 tracks on the first CD are some head-scratchers - since when is "Auntie Grizelda" considers one of the Monkees 'best?' If so, then I'm missing something, because even among the Monkees' novelty songs, it rates pretty darn low for me. "Shades Of Gray" is included as a pleasant surprise for me, but again, hardly the first song that springs to mind as part of the Monkees absolute best. Then there are other choices, like "What Am I Doing Hangin''Round?" and "Papa Gene's Blues" which is a fine track from Papa Nez, but again, in the whole of the Monkees output, is it one of the 25 absolute best? Methinks not, but hey, nobody asked me. So again it seems to me that Rhino misses the boat on creating a really listenable greatest hits package for the Monkees, despite having the whole enchilada at their disposal. But fans might want to snap this up for another curio: a second CD of five karioke-encoded backing tracks, which when played in a karioke player, displays the lyrics to the song and all those wannabe Monkees out there can pretend they're shaking up up with Davy (or whoever.)  Well, enough of the single discs.  Not satisfying enough?  Still not sure if you want to take the plunge and invest in a box set?  Then this next title is for you:



The Monkees Anthology (Apr. 28, 1998)  Rhino 75269 [CD]



DISC 1:
1. Monkees, (Theme From) The
2. Last Train To Clarksville
3. Take A Giant Step
4. I Wanna Be Free
5. Papa Gene's Blues
6. Saturday's Child
7. Sweet Young Thing
8. I'm A Believer
9. Steppin' Stone, (I'm Not Your) - (single version)
10. She
11. Mary, Mary
12. Your Auntie Grizelda
13. Sometime In The Morning
14. Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)
15. I'll Be Back On My Feet - (TV version)
16. Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You, A
17. All Of Your Toys
18. Girl I Knew Somewhere, The
19. You Told Me
20. Forget That Girl
21. You Just May Be The One
22. Shades Of Gray
23. For Pete's Sake
24. Randy Scouse Git
25. No Time

DISC 2:
1. Pleasant Valley Sunday - (single version)
2. Words - (single version)
3. Daydream Believer
4. Goin' Down
5. Door Into Summer, The
6. Cuddly Toy
7. Love Is Only Sleeping
8. What Am I Doing Hangin' Round?
9. Star Collector
10. Valleri
11. Auntie's Municipal Court
12. Zor And Zam
13. Porpoise Song (Theme From "Head") - (single version)
14. As We Go Along
15. Circle Sky - (live)
16. Through The Looking Glass
17. You And I
18. While I Cry
19. Listen To The Band - (single version)
20. Good Clean Fun
21. Mommy And Daddy
22. Oh My My
23. That Was Then, This Is Now - Micky Dolenz/Peter Tork
24. Heart & Soul
25. You And I

Although it bears the same name as The Beatles Anthology trilogy, the Monkees Anthology is NOT a collection of studio outtakes and rarities.  It's nothing more than a bridge between Rhino's single- CD collections, and the four disc box sets. Talk about catering to every person's need!  I imagine that there are folks out there who discover that after hearing a greatest hits package, they are craving more, but simply can't justify shelling out for a deluxe box set. Well, this set is for you! Not only does it have all the hits, but a very generous, albeit condensed overview of the Monkees entire career, touching upon some album tracks from 1966 through 1996. It comes with a thoughtfully annotated booklet with photos and track commentary, super-cool and groovy holographic packaging, and wunnerful, wunnerful sound. Who could ask for anything more?  Actually, I'm betting that Rhino is hoping that people who listen to this set will shell out for the more expansive box set, or better still, have a total relapse into Monkeemania and purchase Rhino's entire catalog of Monkee merchandise! But for this reviewer, it's a fine set on its own, despite the ever abominable presence of the abhorred "Auntie Grizelda." This is a great double-disc collection for any medium-Monkee fan, and may satisfy all your Monkee needs.

The Definitive Monkees (2001)  WEA 8573 86692-2 [CD]


 

CD ONE - (Theme from) The Monkees / Last Train To Clarksville / Take A Giant Step / Saturday's Child / I'm A Believer / I Wanna Be Free / (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone / She / A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You / Mary Mary / The Girl I Knew Somewhere / Look-out Here Comes Tomorrow / Shades Of Gray / Sometime In The Morning / For Pete's Sake / Forget That Girl / Randy Scouse Git / You Just May Be The One / Pleasant Valley Sunday / Words / Daydream Believer / Goin' Down / What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round / Cuddly Toy / Valleri / Porpoise Song (Theme From Head) / Listen To The Band / That Was Then, This Is Now / Heart and Soul

BONUS CD - Tema Dei Monkees / So Goes Love / Teeny Tiny Gnome / Mr.Webster (Alt.Version) / Hold On Girl (Alt. Version) / Apples, Peaches and Pears / Love To Love (alt.version) / Midnight Train (demo Version) / She'll Be There / Riu Chiu / Circle Sky (Alt. Mix) / Merry Go Round / War Games / Seeger's Theme / Party / Shake 'em Up / Rosemarie / Propinquity (I've Just Begun To Care) / Look Down / The Crippled Lion / Hollywood / How Insensitive / Michigan Blackhawk / My Share Of The Sidewalk / If You Have The Time / Time and Time Again / Storybook Of You / You're So Good / Steam Engine (Alt Mix) / Angel Band / Little Red Rider

What an odd duck this double CD is!  Equal parts greatest hits and rarieties making this a decidedly mixed-bag for fans who are looking for "just-the-hits."  The first CD is actually one of the better sequenced hits packages I've seen: with all of the well-known singles alongside some truly worthy album tracks, I think this CD rivals any other for song selection and  playability.  The second CD, which boasts of having the rarest of rare Monkees songs, is more problematic: yeah, "Tema Dei Monkees" and "Teeny Tiny Gnome" are probably among the rarest of Monkees artifacts (though everything here can be found on Rhino's Missing Links trilogy), but that's for good reason: they're not the best rarities the Monkees have in their vaults!  Why not include "All Of Your Toys," or "If I Ever Get To Saginaw Again?"  I'm not sure what the compilers were thinking - it seems to me that listening enjoyement should come above all else when putting together a disc, who cares how rare a track is if you only want to listen to it once?  I think the play back value of the second CD brings this set down a lot, so I'm only giving it a qualified recommendation. The packaging is very nice, and I'm finding LOTS of these being hawked on eBay for much less than the $32.00 asking price, so I'm figuring that these are going to be piling up in storehouses, otherwise, consider it a good purchase for the first CD, and use the second disc to remind you how good the first one is.


The Monkees: 36 All-Time Favorites (2002) EDI/Timeless [CD]

Disc 1
1. (Theme From) The Monkees
2. Last Train To Clarksville
3. Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day
4. Papa Gene's Blues
5. When Love Comes Knockin' (At Your Door)
6. I Wanna Be Free
7. Take A Giant Step
8. Sweet Young Thing
9. She
10. Your Auntie Grizelda
11. Mary, Mary
12. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone

Disc 2
1. I'm A Believer
2. Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)
3. Forget That Girl
4. You Just May Be The One
5. Shades Of Gray
6. Sunny Girlfriend
7. Early Morning Blues And Greens
8. Cuddly Toy
9. Words
10. Listen To The Band
11. What Am I Doing Hanging Around?
12. Daydream Believer

Disc 3
1. Valleri
2. Porpoise Song (Theme From Head)
3. Daddy's Song
4. She Hangs Out
5. Saturday's Child
6. Tapioca Tundra
7. Salesman
8. Star Collector
9. You Told Me
10. For Pete's Sake
11. Dream World
12. Goin' Down

As a music collection, this three-CD, budge set, really isn't that bad: I don't have major problems with any of the tracks included; the sound is on par with other collections (although less stellar than the Rhino releases); and for the money, it's a great set for novices.  Favorites even manages to touch on most of the bases of the Monkees timeline, from later LP entries like "Star Collector," "Porpoise Song," "Lilsten To The Band" and "Tapioca Tundra" to thier biggest hits, "Last Train To Clarksville," "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," "I'm A Believer," and "Daydream Believer" - it even carries "Valleri" and "Saturday's Child" - which might have been overlooked on similar budget sets.  Of course there are some problems with this collection - for one thing, the CD's each run about 30 minutes long, it could've been trimmed down to a two-CD set for even less price, but for some reason, the general public seems to think that more CD's mean more music!  And there's no liner notes to speak of, just the track listing on the back cover.  But of course, you don't purchase a set like this expecting quality, just good music at a low, low price, and this set delivers that competently.  And the music here is almost without exception, some of the best that the 1960s had to offer, so if you can track down this set (usually found on eBay or some of the budget CD catalogs which sometimes find their way into my mailbox), you might want to splurge on this for a friend who is still unaware of the magic of the Monkees.
This page design and content © 2006 Bret Wheadon