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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the three THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Monkees' GOOD TIMES! The Bonus Tracks, The Second Guesses


 http://images.mentalfloss.com/sites/default/files/styles/article_640x430/public/monkees_lead.jpg

As a quick addendum to my recent review of The Monkees' cool new album Good Times!, let's also mention the bonus tracks available in different editions of the album.

The standard 13-track CD of Good Times! is as widely available as that great radio hero Chickenman:  It's everywhere!  It's everywhere!  The digital download album adds two exclusive bonus tracks, "Terrifying" and "Me & Magdalena [Version 2]," to create a 15-track digital album.  The FYE-exclusive CD is 14 tracks, adding one exclusive track called "A Better World."  There is also a 14-track Japanese pressing of the CD, which includes the exclusive track "Love's What I Want."  There is no single version that collects all 17 tracks in one place.  Dag. Nab. It.  A forthcoming Barnes & Noble vinyl package will come the closest, with the 13-track album on LP and an exclusive 7" 45 rpm single of "Love's What I Want" and "A Better World," but still skipping the two digital-only tracks.  Monkees is the root of all evil.

So.  Bonus tracks.  Any good?

LOVE'S WHAT I WANT:  A relative few have heard it thus far, but this is just terrific, a surefire pop single in search of a sympathetic AM radio. It was written by XTC's Andy Partridge (who also wrote the impossibly bubbly 'n' beguiling "You Bring The Summer" for the standard Good Times!), it was produced by Andrew Sandoval (who served with nonpareil distinction as the majority and minority whip on the whole Good Times! project), and it features former Monkees producer-songwriter Bobby Hart (of Tommy Boyce and...) among the studio players.  But I agree with the decision to leave it off the album itself; it doesn't quite fit in.  It is, however, a simply incredible non-album track that's gonna see significant playtime on the Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) music-blastin' contraption (and on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio!)

A BETTER WORLD:  Trying not to let my anger with the local FYE (who refused to let me reserve the damned thing, which was sold out the morning of its official release) affect my objectivity.  Soulless bastards.  Screw 'em.  The song sucks.

Pause.  Breathe.

Okay, that was cathartic.  But honestly, this is the weakest track we've heard in the whole project.  Written by Peter Tork's brother Nick Thorkelson, and sung by Nick Thorkelson's brother Peter Tork, it's an earnest but bland song with good intentions.  Tork's voice has improved over the years--no, really--but this just doesn't move.  And it's not bad, but it's not nearly the equal of either of the Tork-sung tracks on the standard-issue Good Times!

TERRIFYING:  On the other hand, the Zach Rogue-penned "Terrifying" is really good, and it should have been on the regular album.  Not sure what I'd sub out from the standard 13 tracks, but this is just so nice and easygoing, from its casual Beach Boys vibe and characteristically charismatic Micky Dolenz vocal to the sympathetic backing from Monkees 2.0:  Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork, with Adam Schlesinger, Mike Viola, and Brian Young.  Given Michael and Peter's instrumental contributions, this would have been the closest to a Headquarters-style band number on Good Times!

ME & MAGDALENA [VERSION 2]:  This faster-paced version of the Good Times! album track suffers only in comparison to the now-familiar contemplative majesty of the version we heard first.  Some have pointed out (correctly, I think) that Version 2 is more akin to what we know as The Monkees Sound, but Version 1 imbedded itself deep into my brain on first listen, and that makes it tougher to embrace this more sprightly reading.  This is a very rare case of me preferring a slower rendition to a faster one.  Version 2's case isn't helped by the fact that I've pretty much convinced myself the song isn't an understated love story, but a sad chronicle of an older couple about to be separated by illness and mortality:  Tell me, Magdalena/What do you see in the depths of your night?/Do you see a long-lost father?/Does he hold you in the hands you remember as a child?...Me and Magdalena/Always leaving early, and sleeping late...But know everything lost will be recovered/When you slip into the arms of the undiscoveredYep; better start buying sympathy cards in bulk. And Version 2 is too peppy to support this theory (though it earns bonus points for sharing some musical DNA with The Velvet Underground, as my This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio co-host Dana Bonn pointed out to me).  Let there be no doubt that we're fortunate to have both versions!

Some of my Monkee Fan brethren and sistren have been eager to second-guess the choices made in assembling Good Times! (particularly, it seems, regarding the Davy Jones track); that's their prerogative, the evil Wizard Glick be darned.  I'm not all that interested in messing too much with an album I already love as is.

But I'm human; henceforth, "Terrifying" is part of the album as I see it--much like "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" and "All Of Your Toys" are added to my custom version of the Headquarters album--while "Love's What I Want" is the one I'll spin over 'n' over again as if it were a fave 45 in my ol' vintage Close-N-Play.  I'll play the other bonus tracks, too--I already like "A Better World" more than I did last week, and "Me & Magdalena" is like the hot First Runner Up everyone wants to sleep with. I'll continue to let Good Times! provide the soundtrack to what it promises: good times, with The Monkees.

A bit later this summer, after my initial rush of gushing enthusiasm for Good Times! has an opportunity to stabilize, I'm going to attempt to see where I think its best tracks stand in the Monkees canon.  Toward that end, I'm going to compile a hypothetical two-disc Monkees anthology--with the working title Walking Down The Street--as a summary of The Monkees' recording career.  My only ground rule will be that the collection must include at least one track from each Monkees album--yes, even Pool It! and Justus--and that it would have to fit on two CDs.  It will be unburdened by any specific need to cover all the hits, or all the singles, or this, or that, or the other.  It may wind up having the hits, and the singles, and the yadda, and the yadda, but I won't know that until I'm done.  Oughtta be fun, and I hope it inspires a zillion playlists!  And I wonder how much of Good Times! will be represented. 

C'mon--who hasn't slept with Magdalena?