live albums

NOTE: The Monkees were never expected to go on tour.  Created to be a television presence only, the quickly grew beyond those narrow boundries and formed their own creative unit.  When asked by promoters if they would do a concert, the Monkees said yes, and then scrambled to put together a band which was essentially a power trio of guitar, bass and drums with four lead singers!  Although musically, they could never be considered superior musicians, they generated a raw, garage-band sound, and their early shows were considered major professional triumphs.  More recent tours have utilized professional backing bands, with the Monkees taking various instruments and presenting far more polished shows for their devoted fans.

The Live Albums, Part I (1967- 2002)

The Monkees Live 1967 (1987, re-released Oct. 25, 1990)  Rhino R1-70139 [LP] / Rhino R2 70139 [CD]


Live 1967
1. Last Train to Clarksville (Boyce/Hart) - 3:41
You Just May Be the One (Nesmith) - 2:09
The Girl I Knew Somewhere (Nesmith) - 3:26
I Wanna Be Free (Boyce/Hart) - 3:00
Sunny Girlfriend (Nesmith) - 2:32
Your Auntie Grizelda (Hildebrand/Keller) - 2:39
Forget That Girl (Farthing-Hatlelid) - 2:18
Sweet Young Thing (Goffin/King/Nesmith) - 2:34
Mary, Mary (Nesmith) - 5:09
Cripple Creek (Traditional) - 3:19
You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover (Dixon) - 4:34
Gonna Build a Mountain (Bricusse/Newley) - 3:34
I Got a Woman (Charles/Richard) - 7:49
I'm a Believer (Diamond) - 3:26
Randy Scouse Git (Dolenz) - 3:02
(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone (Boyce/Hart) - 5:10

This first document of the Monkees live in concert is a mixed affair.  On the plus side, the four lads play with undisguised energy, and perform with aplomb in front of an extremely enthusiastic audience.  The sheer amount of sound coming from the crowd is astounding, making it a dubious prospect that many of them even heard what the Monkees were playing!  Plus, the band plays a broad selection of both their hits and take time for individual moments that showcase each band member, with Mike performing "You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover," Davy belting out "Gonna Build A Mountain," Micky doing the Ray Charles standard "I Got A Woman," and Peter picking his way through the banjo instrumental "Cripple Creek."  Otherwise, it's the hits they play, and even though they've only been together a year, there's a heapin' handful of them, as you can see from the tracklist above.  The main problem with this recording is twofold: first the sheer primitiveness of the technology at the time made live recordings very difficult.  Balances are off, audience noise is often overwhelming, every glitch is captured, with no attempt at cleaning up the sound in the studio later.  I suppose it creates a "you are there" atmosphere, but for casual listening, it's very distracting.  Second, and probably most damning, is the garage-rock sound the Monkees had when they played live.  Those fans looking for a sound at all similar to what's on their studio albums will be mightily disappointed, since those sounds were made by slick session players for the most part, and instead of trying to recreate that sound live, the Monkees just, well... churn them out.  Micky's playing is powerful, but uncrafted, and the twin guitar sound of Mike and Peter lacks any sort of nuance or polish.  (Of course I doubt that nuance would even be discernable at these decibel levels) but again, for listening pleasure, it's a bit like hearing two trash can lids being banged together.  Lots of fans like the raw nature of "Live 1967," but for me, I find it's the one album I don't listen to.

The Monkees Summer 1967: The Complete U.S. Concert Recordings (2002)  Rhino Handmade
RHM2 7755  [CD]

Summer 1967 - The Complete U.S. Concert Recordings
1. Introduction     (2:40 )  
2. Last Train To Clarksville      (2:54)  
3. You Just May Be The One      (2:51 )  
4. The Girl I Knew Somewhere      (2:44 )  
5. I Wanna Be Free      (3:48 )  
6. Sunny Girlfriend      (2:57 )  
7. Your Auntie Grizelda      (2:57 )  
8. Forget That Girl      (2:40 )  
9. Sweet Young Thing      (3:27 )  
10. Mary, Mary      (6:58 )  
11. Cripple Creek      (1:25 )  
12. You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover     (5:30 )  
13. Gonna Build A Mountain      (4:58 )  
14. I Got A Woman      (3:57 )  
15. I'm A Believer      (3:22 )  
16. Randy Scouse Git      (2:34)  
17. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone      (4:50 )  
18. Introduction      (6:44 )  
19. Last Train To Clarksville      (3:20)  
20. You Just May Be The One      (2:54 )  
21. The Girl I Knew Somewhere      (2:49 )  
22. I Wanna Be Free      (3:27 )  
23. Sunny Girlfriend      (3:10 )  
24. Your Auntie Grizelda      (2:53 )  
25. Forget That Girl      (4:22 )  
26. Sweet Young Thing  (4:06 )  
27. Mary, Mary Includes "Singin' In The Rain (7:58)  
28. Cripple Creek  (1:34 )  
29. You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover  (5:13 )  
30. Gonna Build A Mountain      (4:49 )  
31. I Got A Woman      (9:52 )  
32. I'm A Believer      (3:13 )  
33. Randy Scouse Git      (2:44 )  
34. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone      (6:20 )  
35. Introduction      (1:45 )  
36. Last Train To Clarksville      (3:31)  
37. You Just May Be The One      (2:25 )  
38. The Girl I Knew Somewhere      (3:44 )  
39. I Wanna Be Free      (3:29 )  
40. Sunny Girlfriend      (3:28 )  
41. Your Auntie Grizelda      (3:09 )  
42. Forget That Girl      (3:01 )  
43. Sweet Young Thing      (4:26 )  
44. Mary, Mary      (7:09 )  
45. Cripple Creek      (1:45 )  
46. You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover      (6:05 )  
47. Gonna Build A Mountain      (6:11 )  
48. I Got A Woman      (12:17 )  
49. I'm A Believer      (3:24 )  
50. Randy Scouse Git      (2:43 )  
51. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone      (5:07 )  
52. Introduction      (3:11 )  
53. Last Train To Clarksville      (3:10 )  
54. You Just May Be The One      (3:25 )  
55. The Girl I Knew Somewhere      (2:51 )  
56. I Wanna Be Free      (3:02 )  
57. Sunny Girlfriend      (2:45 )  
58. Your Auntie Grizelda      (3:00 )  
59. Forget That Girl      (2:33 )  
60. Sweet Young Thing      (3:59 )  
61. Mary, Mary      (7:53 )  
62. Cripple Creek      (1:40 )  
63. You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover      (5:35 )  
64. Gonna Build A Mountain      (4:55 )  
65. I Got A Woman      (9:57 )  
66. I'm A Believer      (3:17 )  
67. Randy Scouse Git      (2:56 )  
68. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone      (5:54 )

Rhino Handmade, who put out the wondeful "Headquarters Sessions" in a limited edition 3-CD box set, had such success with it that they decided to go ahead and release ALL of the Monkees live recordings from the final three shows of an extended U.S. & U.K tour.  These were the August 25, 1967 in Seattle, Washington, August 26, 1967 in Portland, Oregon, and August 27, 1967 in Spokane, Washington - which were recorded by RCA Records, presumably for eventual release.  Rhino has gone ahead and remixed the original master tapes on CD's two, three and four into Stereo, but that doesn't really help much, it's still over four hours of the Monkees banging away at their hits, and for this box set, it's banging away OVER and OVER and OVER again.  Completists may rejoice at the presence of so much Monkees history being made available, but there are so many recording gaffs, microphone bumps, off-key notes, and sheer noise that listening to the whole box set in one sitting may well produce a hangover of immense proportions.  I mean, you have to ask yourself: does anyone really need four live takes of "Auntie Grizelda?"  I would've much preferred to have Rhino do another sessions box of say, "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd." than this monster.  The booklet is also unfortunately skimpy on information, inserting black and white photographs of the pre-Fab four instead.  For sale in a limited edition run of 3500 from Rhino Handmade.

Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart: Concert In Japan (1981) 
Varese Sarabande VSD 5625 [CD] 

1. Last Train To Clarksville
2. Medley: Valleri/Daydream Believer/A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
3. I Wonder What She's Doin Tonight?
4. (I'm Not Your) Steppin Stone
5. I Wanna Be Free
6. Saving My Love For You
7. Pleasant Valley Sunday
8. I Remember The Feeling
9. Teenager In Love
10. Cuddly Toy
11. Medley: Come A Little Bit Closer/Pretty Little Angel Eyes/Hurt So Bad/Peaches and Cream/ Something's Wrong With Me
12. Keep On Singing
13. I Love You (And I'm Glad That I Said It)
14. Action (Bonus CD Track)

The critical success of their joint album together made a tour sound very appealing, and on paper it looks very good: have the two prominent lead singers of the Monkees join the two prominent songwriters for the Monkees and voila!  You have the closest thing to a Monkees reunion concert you can get!  Unfortunately, this particular recording is a mess, with thin instrumention, lackluster performances, and an overall air of exhaustion setting into the procedings that's palpable.  Sure, they're all smiling in the cover picture, but Micky and Davy weren't on speaking terms by the time they rolled into Japan after a long, grueling tour, and despite the good vibes that the music should have presented, it sounds cheap, somewhat sloppy, and on the verge of an implosion.  Still, there's some good to be had on the disc, with a propulsive medley of Monkees hits (Valleri/Daydream Believer/A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You), and an always welcome "Pleasant Valley Sunday."  On the other hand, the Boyce and Hart songs don't have the same snap for me, and Micky seems to be slurring his way through some songs, and other songs, like "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight" the group almost seem to be choking on their own machismo.  I would suggest buying this only if you've already listened to all the Monkees albums and are searching for something more.

Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork 20th Anniversary Tour 1986 
FSH 71110

1. Last Train to Clarksville
2. A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
3. (I'm Not Your) Steppin Stone
4. Cuddly Toy
5. Goin' Down
6. Pleasant Valley Sunday
7. I Wanna Be Free
8. Your Auntie Grizelda
9. She
10. For Pete's Sake
11. That Was Then, This Is Now
12. Shades of Gray
13. Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)
14. No Time
15. Daydream Believer
16. Listen to the Band
17. Randy Scouse Git
18. I'll Love You Forever
20. Valleri
21. I'm A Believer
22. (Theme From) The Monkees

For sheer enjoyment, this double-album commemorating the Monkees 20th anniversary in 1986 simply can't be beat.  The concert, which was available only for a limited time on LP and CD, is wonderful, with an energetic, varied track selection containing many songs recorded live for the first time, including "Cuddly Toy," "For Pete's Sake," "She," "Shades of Gray," "Valleri" and much more.  The band is tight and polished, a far cry from the first shows the Monkees every played, and if it sounds a bit "sythesized" well, this IS 1986 when the recording took place, and although it dates the sound on some numbers, it also creates a fresh take on the old standards, and that's a good thing in my opinion.   Listeners would never guess at the tensions that were erupting in the group during this tour, since the mood on stage is always polished and professional.  I for one, would like to call on Rhino, who currently owns the Monkees catalog, to acquire the tapes for this concert and reissue it as a double-CD on their handmade label, since it's a rare album to find, and I'm sure it would be snapped up by many fans.

The Monkees Live Summer Tour 2002 (Nov. 12. 2002)  
Win Media Corp. 90002 [CD]

1. Intro/Last Train to Clarksville (Boyce/Hart) - 4:03
2. Valleri (Boyce/Hart) - 2:55

3. Randy Scouse Git (Dolenz) - 2:12

4. Mary, Mary (Nesmith) - 2:59
(Boyce/Hart) - 3:00
5. Girl (Fox/Gimbel) - 2:35

6. Can You Dig It? (Tork) - 2:14

7. Goin' Down (Dolenz/Hildebrand/Jones/Nesmith/Tork) -    2:57

8. Daydream Believer (Stewart) - 3:47
9. I'm a Believer (Diamond) - 3:02

10. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone (Boyce/Hart) - 2:53

11. For Pete's Sake (Richards/Tork) - 2:17

12. That Was Then, This Is Now (Brescia) - 2:41

13. Porpoise Song (Goffin/King) -      3:34

14. It's Nice to Be With You (Goldstein) - 3:24

15. Pleasant Valley Sunday (Goffin/King) - 5:36

Am I the only one who's surprised that this tour was the first ever professionally filmed concert the Monkees have ever had?  Although a lot of people criticized the releasing of this truncated CD from a concert that was around two hours long, I find it as enjoyable a greatest hits live document as you're likely to find.  It begins with a Vegas style fanfare of the Monkees theme, which doesn't bode well, but then the band fires up and the show really gets into high gear.  The Monkees, who at the time were all in the mid-fifties, still sound great, with Micky's voice still able to soar and pop with the best singers out there, he sounds amazing on every song, with the pleasant surprise of "Porpoise Song" [Theme from HEAD"] added to the play list.  Peter Tork really gets to shine here, with a first ever live recording of "Can You Dig It?" while Davy gets to shine in his Brady Bunch hit "Girl."  It's a tight, high-energy show, giving fans exactly what they want, a warm, professional reunion of old friends.  Unfortunately, unknown to those same fans, according to reports Peter Tork was fired by Micky and Davy shortly after this concert was filmed due to disagreements about future commitments, which leads us to... 

MonkeeMania: Starring Mickey Dolenz & Davy Jones 2002 Live In Toronto

1. Intro/Last train to clarksville
2. Look out (here comes tomorrow)
3. The girl i knew somewhere
4. A little bit me, a little bit you
5. I'll love you forever
6. Randy scouse git
7. Nice to be with you
8. Goin' Down
9. Girl
10. That was then, This is now
11. Oliver medley (Consider yourself, I'd do anything, Who will buy?)
12. She hangs out
13. Since I fell for you
14. Valleri
15. Porpoise song/Listen to the band
16. Daydream believer
17. Pleasant valley sunday
18. (I'm not your) Steppin' stone
19. I'm a Believer

This CD, which was only available through booths at the concerts is almost identical to the Live Summer Tour above in both sound and performance, with one notable exception: Peter Tork is no longer part of the tour.  Fired just after the concert recorded above, Davy and Micky go it alone here for the first time since "Changes" in 1970.  Substituted for Peter's songs are the "Oliver Medley" "Since I Fell For You," "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)," which Davy performs, and "Goin' Down" and "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" for Micky.  It's a sad commentary on the personalities of the Monkees that despite their greatest professional sucesses coming when they band together, their personalities always seem to get in the way of working for extended periods of time.  But for an interesting bit of Monkee history, and otherwise a fine, fun concert document.  This CD can still be found on eBay occasionally, or at collector shows. 

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