The Monkees – Good Times: The Official Nerfed Llamas Review @theMonkees

The Monkees – Good Times: The Official Nerfed Llamas Review – Still Monkee-ing Around After 50 Years

If you had told me on January 1st 2016 that not only would the Monkees release a brand new album (their first new album in 20 years) but that it would be a serious contender for my album of the year, I would have told you that you were crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Monkees. Their brand of jangle-bubblegum-pop from the sixties is a tremendous list of amazing songs. Daydream Believer, Last Train To Clarksville, Pleasant Valley Sunday, Listen To The Band, and many more are as good to listen to today as they were nearly 50 years ago. Released today, May 27 2016, Good Times by the Monkees is a seriously great rock album that you should add to your collection ASAP.

The Monkees are celebrating their 50th Anniversary this year, and as such they have put together a variety of goodies for fans to enjoy above and beyond a new album release. Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork have embarked on a sizable tour throughout the end of Spring and all through the summer. Michael Nesmith may (huge emphasis on may) book a few dates to play with them as well. For all of the information on the tour, click this link. The fellows have also seen fit to release every episode of their original TV series, remastered in high definition, on Blu-Ray, along with a ton of extras including their feature film Head and ton of other onus material, click here for info on ordering the Blu-Ray box set. Check out this comparison trailer to see how much they’ve cleaned the original video from the TV series up for the Blu-Ray release:

Good Times is produced by Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne, Ivy), and features songs written by and performed by surviving Monkees: Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith (whom you may recall I did a post earlier this year highlighting 30 of his songs throughout various stages of his career). Davy Jones, who passed away in 2012 due to a severe heart attack, also appears on the album through an archival track that has his vocals over newly recorded accompaniment (similar to how the Beatles recorded the John Lennon led track Real Love for their Anthology project in 2000). Good Times also features tracks written by a variety of popular singer/song writers including: Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Andy Partridge (XTC), Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Paul Weller (The Jam), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Neil Diamond, and Harry Nilsson. Classic cuts by original Monkees composers Carole King & Gerry Goffin, and Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart were recorded as well.

The album starts off raucously with an upbeat duet with Micky Dolenz and Harry Nilsson (using guide vocals that he had recorded before his death in 1994). What strikes you immediately is how authentically retro the song feels. It sounds like a song that could have been recorded during the late sixties. This a theme that is interwoven through the entire album, and is a testament to how much dedication Adam Schlesinger put into making this the best representation of the Monkees that it could be. Other latter day Monkees albums (Pool It, Justus) have been slaves to the studio sound of the time, and although they were good listens, they were missing that classic Monkees feel. Good Times has that feel in spades.

After Good Times we move into a couple of true gems, You Bring The Summer (penned by Andy Partridge) and She Makes Me Laugh (penned by Rivers Cuomo). Both play out like love letters to sixties pop music. On top of that, they are richly layered in different ways. You Bring The Summer has rich vocal harmonies throughout the track as well as sweeping keyboard and xylophone work. She Makes Me Laugh uses Peter’s excellent banjo skills to the test. The banjo matched up perfectly with the Beatles-esque jangly guitar riff that drives the song, and Micky’s vocals are pop perfection. Both songs feature charming and engaging lyrics that are equal measures of tender and complex.

Micky rocks a couple more playful tracks with the harpsichord fueled Our Own World (penned by Adam Schlesinger) and the blues infused Gotta Give It Time (co-written by Jeff Barry & Joey Levine). Again, these are just fantastic pop rock cuts that make you feel good.

Michael Nesmith gets to lead the slower and more intimate Me & Magdalena (penned by Ben Gibbard), while Micky harmonizes. This track has a fierce intensity to it, as it conveys a message of love beyond measure. The lyrics are a maze and tell a multi-faceted story of love and serenity, which is exactly the kind of magic you would expect from a Nesmith fronted cut. Again, there is a sincerity in the way that the track is recorded that makes it feel less like a 50th Anniversary album and more like a group in the prime of their career.

Micky gets in a quick little sixties style dance number in Whatever’s Right (co-written by Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart), which sounds like it would be right at home on their debut album. It can not be stated enough times that Micky’s voice is as good as ever on this album. Next up is the Davy Jones cut Love to Love (penned by Neil Diamond) which prolongs the sixties magic and ensures that all 4 Monkees have an opportunity to contribute to the 50th Anniversary celebration. The song is classic Neil Diamond, so it’s very romantic, a touch introspective, and a perfect match for Jones’ vocal style.

Peter Tork gets a good chance to shine with his self written track Little Girl. What’s unusually unique about this song is how it seems like more of a track you’d hear on a Doors album. Bluesy and guitar led, Tork croons smoothly. It’s more soulful than what you might expect from the singer of the classic Monkees cut Auntie Grizelda, but certainly more in line with his lesser known recording Lady’s Baby.

Birth of an Accidental Hipster (co-written by Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller) is a haughty bit of psychedelic pop/rock. Masterfully led with trippy vocals by Nesmith, it harkens back to a time when they Monkees sang songs like Love Is Only Sleeping. Micky also contributes lead vocals to the connecting sections of this track, and it allows him to be more irreverent and playful than his usual power pop vocal delivery allows for. Birth of an Accidental Hipster is one of the best cuts on the album, if only purely for how complex and diverse it ultimately is.

Tork, Nesmith, and Dolenz close out the album with one more track respectively. Wasn’t Born To Follow (co-written by Carole King & Gerry Goffin) finds Tork back in pop mode with a more upbeat track than his previous cut on the album. Nesmith sings the poignant and deeply personal I Know What I Know, which he also wrote as well. It is often touching, a bit tongue in cheek, and features a wonderful lead vocal by Papa Nez. Dolenz closes the album out with the driven rocker I Was There (And I’m Told I Had A Good Time) (penned by Micky Dolenz & Adam Schlesinger). Sounding ominously like an outtake from the Beatles “Let It Be” sessions, it powerfully ends the album on a similar note as it begun. The album starts with the promise of Good Times and ends with a Good Time being had by all in perfect bookend fashion.

There is also 2 bonus songs on the “Deluxe” edition of Good Times! A Dolenz led pop ditty titled Terrifying (penned by Zach Rogue) and an alternate take of Me & Magdalena that has a slightly faster tempo and different instumentation. Both bonus tracks are a welcome edition and well worth the extra $2 to have the complete experience.

Bottom Line: If you are a Monkees fan, this album is a must. If you are a fan of bubblegum pop, this album is a must. If you are a fan of good music in general, this album is a must. If I haven’t made it clear enough, Good Times! is a tremendous achievement by the Monkees and a better celebration of their classic sound than we could have ever expected. This album does not sound like the work of 70 year old men relieving their glory days, it sounds like a collaboration between a group of friends who wanted to come together to record the best music that they possibly could. Good Times! is akin to Paul Simon’s Graceland or Paul McCartney’s Flaming Pie in that it shows that the Monkees still have the magic after all these years. I highly recommend this album to music lovers of all different shades and dimensions. Good Times! can be purchased on CD or Digital right now, and will be available on Vinyl later this year in July.

Take a peak at the video below for a bit of extra insight into the making of the Monkees latest album Good Times!

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