That’s really not much of a title is it? I suppose I could have been far more clever in titling this week’s column, but the truth of the matter is my excitement is such that the title above is the only one that truly suits the text of this week’s discussion. Let me bring everyone up to speed. If you have been a longtime reader of this column, if you know me in real life, if you have ever interacted with me in anyway in which music has come up, then you know that I am a huge fan of The Monkees.
The Monkees are one of my favorite bands, and this year marks their fiftieth anniversary! So many cool and wonderful things are happening to mark this, in addition to the new album there’s a tour, and a super awesome deluxe blu-ray box set of the TV show that also has their film “Head” as a bonus feature. As I sit here thinking about it, I’ve bonded with more friends over love of The Monkees than any other band. Seriously. Right, onto the new album!
“Good Times!” is the name of the new Monkees album, their first in twenty years, and the first Monkees album since the untimely passing of Davy Jones in 2012--but Jones is present on the album thanks to an unreleased track from 1967 that was culled from the vault and polished up for the album. Everyone is back too, Micky, Peter, and Mike. All playing, singing, and writing. Produced by Adam Schlesinger, the album is, simply put, their finest since “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd.” (An album that is their best, and one of my top ten favorites.)
Here’s what makes “Good Times!” so very special, and so very perfect. “Good Times!” is an album of 2016, that sounds like an album of 2016, but also sounds like a 1967/68 Monkees album. The album takes the classic model of surrounding the band’s own songs, with works from some of the best songwriters around, both of the 60s and of today. Some of the best from the world of Indie Rock--who grew up on the show when MTV caused the second wave of Monkeemania in the ‘80s--have written songs just for the album.
If you only went by the songwriting credits, the album is a knock out. Monkees aside the album features songs by Harry Nilsson, Neil Diamond, Carole King & Gerry Goffin, and the two who wrote most of The Monkees’ early hits, Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart. From the world of indie rock, we have songs from Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, XTC’s Andy Partridge, Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, and a tune from Noel Gallagher & Paul Weller (of Oasis and The Jam respectively). Seriously, this album is an amazing stack of tunes. I don’t dislike a single one.
The songs from Nilsson, Goffin & King, Boyce & Hart, and Diamond all come from demos found in the vault that the boys never recorded during the 60s--some of which were long forgotten about. The title track, Nilsson’s “Good Times” was found as a multi-track demo recording, sung by the man himself. Harry was one of Micky’s good friends, so he asked if the Nilsson vocal could be pulled off the tapes so he could duet with his old friend (Nilsson passed in 1994-- the world hasn’t recovered). As someone who also adores Nilsson, the fact the new Monkees album opens with both a new Nilsson tune, AND a new Nilsson vocal, made me tear up just a bit.
There is so much to this record that I love, not even as a Monkees fan, but as a music lover who wants albums to make me feel the way “Good Times!” makes me feel. The Ben Gibbard track “Me and Magdalena” is stunning, the harmony between Mike and Micky will make you feel like your body is being healed. There’s not reason for you to not go out and buy this album. “Good Times!” is an album to be cherished, and played on repeat all Summer long. I’ve been doing that since it came out. It gets my highest of recommendations. For Monkees Maniacs like myself, young and old--and everyone in-between.