Everyone from Rod Stewart to Paul McCartney has dabbled in the ‘songbook’ strategy, so why not the drummer from the Monkees? I have been a fan of the Prefab Four from day one, gleefully trying to track the needle in my close-and-play record player in synch with the song on the TV when each weekly Monkees episode came on.
In this new set, Micky does not go as far back as did Rod in terms of song selection. The opening cut is the Beatles’ “Good Morning,” which Micky first heard when invited by Lennon to Abbey Road Studios. Given that the Monkees outsold the Beatles and the Stones in 1967, Lennon undoubtedly wondered what these Yanks were all about. As with most of the cuts on Remember, Micky comes close to over-emoting. But the songs do require more than a modicum of sensitivity. Hence Bread’s “Diary” and a reworking of the Monkees’ “Sometime in the Morning” become pleasant ballads. Toward the end of Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song” he scats in music hall fashion, evoking his late bandmate Davy Jones’ English roots.
“Johnny B. Goode” is given a skiffle treatment, which is clever in that skiffle was the format beloved by the likes of the Beatles early on. The song is important to Micky, as it was his audition for the producers of the Monkees. Another Monkees cut is slowed down from its original manic frenzy; back in the day the racy title of “Randy Scouse Git” slipped past teenyboppers and record executives. Facing head on the perennial charge that his band was completely manufactured and incapable of original musical talent, Micky covers “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies. Recast as a jazzy production, Micky envisions himself in a Nat King Cole motif. And it sorta actually works. The most ambitious song is “Do Not Ask For Love,” with lyrics in iambic pentameter, or at least in some olde English style.
Guitar pyrotechnics save the title song, which is otherwise a bit overwrought. All in, Remember continues in the vein of his last release which also assayed songs from the formative 1960s.
For the first time in 15 years, the surviving members of The Monkees will be touring together. It will be a poignant gathering, given the recent death of Davy Jones. But Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz will provide an evening of nostalgia, rare film clips and memorable songs. The dozen date tour kicks off in the lovely California Center for the Arts in Escondido on 11/18, wends its way up the coast and then heads east with a stop in Buffalo (where I first became enamored of the band) before concluding in NYC.
In that the band always fought hard to establish itself as a legitimate stand-alone band, the concert will feature a section with only the three Monkees onstage. I was lucky enough in the mid-1990s to see the long-absent Nesmith join the other three Monkees at the Greek Theatre for an encore, which had been the first time all four had been onstage together in eons. It was a delight, and I am looking forward to similarly warm backward nostalgic glances in November.