Friday, March 30, 2012

Nine Types of Light - TV On The Radio



Nine Types of Light
TV On The Radio
Interscope  B0015455-01
2011

When I first started hearing TV On the Radio on college radio, I liked them but they didn't knock my socks off.  Then "Dear Science" came out and I was impressed enough to buy the CD which I really liked.  But it was seeing the band live for the first time last summer at the Hollywood Bowl that finally knocked my socks off.  Not only did they rock with style and power, but I was particularly impressed with Tunde Adebimpe's charisma, a quality that doesn't always translate to their records.  They played about half of this album at the concert and I was impressed by the anthemic quality these songs acquired live.  As you can tell from the title the prevalent theme on this record is light.  Within the electromagnetic spectrum there are eight types of light, but this record is about a different sort of light, the ninth type of light is the light of enlightenment and love.  This is evident in the first song of the album which is the amusingly titled "Second Song."  The song is ambiguous, at first I thought it was a drug song, but then I realized that "the light" in the song refers to love and positive thinking.  The song begins slowly but gradually swells in strength and sonic punch and then Adebimpe goes into his falsetto and the song takes off.  It is my favorite song on the record. “When the night comes, I’m fiending like a pyrale” is one of my favorite lines of the past year, even if I had to look up what a pyrale means (it’s a moth.)  “Keep Your Heart” is about the redemptive power of love against the harshness of the world.  It sounds like a more restrained version of 80s synth pop and features a soulful vocal from Kyp Malone.  “You” poignantly examines the wreckage of a relationship which the singer wishes hadn’t ended.  “No Future Shock” describes the sorry state of the world and advises the listener to dance and live for today as if there were no tomorrow.  “Killer Crane” is a gorgeous elegiac song that sets up a sustained feeling of loss and melancholy until it abruptly cuts off, that is a technique I’ve always hated. The Beatles did the same thing with “I Want You (She’s So Heavy) on "Abbey Road," it usually makes me think something is wrong with my turntable.  That ends side one.  Side two kicks off with "Will Do" in which a lover woos a partner reluctant to take a chance on a new relationship.  It is a very seductive song, there is a slinky rhythm track layered with multiple synthesizers over which Adebimpe croons sweetly.  He is pretty persuasive, it would take a really strong will to resist his blandishments.  "New Cannonball Blues" abruptly shifts direction with a powerful funky tune embellished by a horn section and a smoking duet between Adebimpe and Malone.  It is an inspirational song in which love helps overcome adversity.  "Repetition" is the most frenetic song on the album, guaranteed to get you hopping.  It has a catchy riff, buzzing synths, and a propulsive beat that never quits.  It seems to be about a successful, driven capitalist who has qualms about his lifestyle and the people he has hurt.  "Forgotten" starts slow, supported by a pretty string arrangement and then gradually builds in strength until it becomes almost cacophonous by the end.  The song critiques the artificiality of the good life in Southern California.  The noise continues with the booming beginning to "Caffinated Consciousness" which features a heavy, almost metallic riff.  It is another inspirational song in which the narrator's "heart shines through" in the "cause of light."  It gives the album a strong finish.  This is a powerful and emotional record brimming with intelligence and compassion.  I really admire the uplifting spirit behind so much of the music which is all the more remarkable considering that bassist Gerard Smith was dying as they were making it.  Recommended for Prince fans who wish his lyrics were a little smarter.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Beatles' Story - The Beatles




The Beatles' Story
The Beatles
Capitol STBO 2222
1964

I sometimes wonder how I became such a big Beatles fan and why I continue to love them.  My father told me that my family watched them on "The Ed Sullivan Show" but I have no memory of it since I was just a toddler at the time.  I was barely aware of them during the 1960s and mostly because of the Saturday morning cartoon show about them.  When I became a real fan, the group had been defunct for several years.  I didn't know anyone among my peers who liked them.  I wasn't particularly interested in music, my cultural heroes were professional athletes and astronauts.  Then when I was 12 I saw "Help!" on television and I was mesmerized.  After that I would never be the same, I was a Beatlemaniac.  I grew my hair and combed it over my forehead trying to achieve a moptop.  That was when I started collecting records and spending my time at home around a turntable rather than a television set.  If I had had any money and if Beatles fan paraphernalia were still easily available, I would have filled my room with it.  Instead I had to settle for records and I bought this one quite early much to my subsequent embarrassment - well before I bought "Revolver," "Abbey Road" or the "White Album," yikes.  Once I saw it advertised on the back of "Beatles '65", I was obsessed with having it.  Finally it turned up in the bin at my local record store and I pounced on it.  I loved it and played it until I had memorized it.  Given the paucity of books in print about the Beatles at the time, I learned a lot about the early Beatles from this record.  As I got older, my adolescent fandom changed and became more music-based than personality oriented and I lost interest in this record.  I don't think I've played it at all in the last 15 years.  The album is a bit of a rip-off.  It is a double album but the sides are extremely short, all under 15 minutes long and side three is less than 10 minutes long.  The Beatles are hardly on the album at all, mostly heard in brief snippets taken from press conferences.  There are also some excerpts from their songs.  Most of the album's content is provided by three narrators, Roger Christian, John Babcock and Al Wiman, who take turns telling the Beatles' story and reciting various quotes from the Fabs.  Christian will be familiar to Jan and Dean and Beach Boys fans as the lyricist for many of their early hits and he was also a well-known Top-40 DJ in Los Angeles in the 1960s.  Christian also co-produced this album along with Gary Usher who will be familiar to 1960s rock fans from his work with the Byrds and Sagittarius.  The rock backgrounds of the producers insure sympathetic treatment of the group and their fans although it is still condescending in spots and the narrators sound more like they are selling soap than describing one of the most exciting events in the history of rock and roll.  For all its faults, the album is informative and comprehensive.  Side one opens with a recording of the screams at a Beatles concert (although no music is heard) which is followed by a discussion of Beatlemania and its origins with some amusing recordings of hysterical girls gushing about the boys.  The narrators then pay tribute to Brian Epstein and discuss his background.  John Lennon gets profiled next.  Much to my amusement there is a lengthy bit about Lennon's refusal to discuss politics or make public expressions about his beliefs.  We all know that didn't last long.  The side ends with the Beatles' early history prior to stardom and then a discussion of their finances which is a subject that crops up quite a bit on the record.  I think the narrators were more interested in the band's money than their music.  Side two returns to the early history of the Beatles with a discussion of the Quarrymen and the origin of the Beatles' name.  One of the more glaring mistakes on the record comes when the narrator notes that Ringo came from a group called Rory Storm and The Texans whereas all Beatlemaniacs know that Storm's group was called the Hurricanes when Ringo was in the band.  The narration next praises George Martin and Capitol Records for their role in the Beatles' success while somehow neglecting to mention Capitol's rejection of the Beatles' debut album.  This is followed by a profile of George Harrison, "blasé with a beat" is their description of him.  They falsely give him credit for inventing the Beatle haircut which the group actually learned about in Hamburg from Astrid Kirchherr and her friends and it is well-known that Stu Sutcliffe was the first Beatle to adopt it.  The narration notes how much Harrison enjoys the attention of screaming fans which is pretty funny considering how vocal he was later about his hatred of touring and the trappings of fame.  Side three discusses their movie, "A Hard Day's Night" and then profiles Paul McCartney.  Side four opens with a live excerpt of a performance of "Twist and Shout" which was the earliest legitimate release of a Beatles live track although unfortunately it is only a few bars long.  There is further discussion of Beatlemania with some more soundbites from fans and detractors including some idiot who calls them a bunch of "monkeys."  Up next is a medley of Beatles songs segueing together in 30 second segments.  Finally it is Ringo's turn to be profiled where he is described as the "quiet Beatle" a sobriquet normally given to Harrison.  The album ends with a brief discussion of Liverpool.  Much of this album is devoted to the narrators explaining the mysteries of Beatlemania, but their answers are simplistic and unconvincing to me.  I'm not sure there is a satisfying answer as to why so many people love them.  Anyway there is nothing on this album that Beatlemaniacs don't already know and there isn't enough actual Beatle talk to make the album worthwhile.  I'm not sorry I have it though, it is an interesting artifact.  Recommended for casual Beatles fans who hate to read.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Watermark - Enya



Watermark
Enya
WEA Records  WX 199 243875-1
1988

If you have seen David Fincher’s version of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” you may have noticed his little musical joke.  No I’m not referring to Karen O’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” in the opening credits (although that is kind of funny) but rather the scene where the serial killer is getting ready to get down to business and turns on his stereo (a reel to reel tape machine oddly enough) for a little mood music.  Out of the speakers comes Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” (supposedly a suggestion from Daniel Craig.)  I interpret this as a comment on the banality of evil or a not so subtle dig at bourgeois cultural values, but it is also a cheap shot at Enya (I’ll bet real serial killers prefer Fincher’s buddy Trent Reznor to Enya by a wide margin.)  It reminds me of the crude way that Bret Easton Ellis used his killer in “American Psycho” to mock Whitney Houston, Phil Collins and Huey Lewis (although they kind of deserved it.)  I’m not sure what Enya ever did to deserve becoming a punchline for hipsters and cultural snobs besides sell a lot of records, but I’m not embarrassed to admit that I like this record and I have from the moment I first heard “Orinoco Flow” on the radio back in 1988.  This record is commonly described as "New Age," a genre I don't care for, although I do like some of the world music variety in particular the mystical, trance-type stuff from Asia and the Middle East and the Celtic-style music of Loreena McKennitt and Enya.  I have some appreciation for New Age culture having grown up in what is arguably its birthplace, the San Francisco Bay Area.  We had transcendental meditation lessons at my high school.  My father and stepmother were both involved with est Training for awhile.  My sister became a homeopathic doctor and acupuncture practitioner.  I've had friends who were deeply engaged in New Age thinking and I'm not unsympathetic to their views.  Enya herself apparently disapproves of being categorized as "New Age" and she has a point.  This doesn't sound much like the contemplative instrumental music you hear from labels like Windham Hill.  It is more like a highly polished extension of traditional music as well as religious music.  The album begins with the title song which is a sedate instrumental with Enya tinkling the ivories over a soothing synthesizer backdrop.  It is the song that sounds most like "New Age" music on the record.  According to the lyric sheet on the album, the next song "Cursum Perficio" was inspired by an inscription at the entrance to Marilyn Monroe's last home.  It translates roughly as "end of my course" and the entire song is chanted in Latin lyrics composed by Enya's lyricist, Roma Ryan.  It is a little creepy, sounds like something in a gothic horror film although the lyrics are actually a benign advisory to avoid materialism and greed.  "On Your Shore" is a gorgeous song although it is so vague that I'm not sure if she is singing about holding a lover or embracing some sort of spiritual enlightenment.  "Storms In Africa" is one of the best known songs on the album.  It is a majestic song with lyrics in Gaelic.  Enya later recorded an English version that is on most American pressings of this album, but I have a European import copy that doesn't have it.  The lyrics offer encouragement to people as they endure life's storms.  The prominent percussion in the song gives it power and sonically evokes Africa in a world music sort of way.  "Exile" seems like a companion song to "On Your Shore."  The songs sound very similar with Enya's evocative crooning and a slow synth driven melody.  The lyrics discuss the situation prior to her arrival "on the shore" with the song describing insecurity and the journey homeward.  Side one concludes with another pretty piano instrumental, "Miss Clare Remembers."  The reverse side opens with "Orinoco Flow," a song I will always like no matter how many people make fun of it.  Like so many of the songs on this aptly named album, water imagery dominates the song as well as the theme of traveling as a representation of a spiritual quest.  Of course the Orinoco is not only a river, it is also the name of the studio where this album was recorded and I think the song is about the power of music to carry one away as well.  The song is dominated by a catchy riff and expressive multi-tracked vocals from Enya.  It is easily the most propulsive tune on the record, although there is not much competition in that regard.  "Evening Falls" slows the record back down.  It is a dreamy song about yet another quest although this one seems almost supernatural with its references to other worlds.  The instrumentation is quite sparse, the song is carried by Enya's gorgeous vocal.   "River" is another instrumental that resembles a more subdued "Orinoco Flow" in its motif and instrumental sound.  "The Longships" is in Gaelic but despite the nautical title, it is apparently about eternal life.  The album closes with "Na Laetha Geal M'óige" which is my other favorite song on the record.  It sounds like a traditional folk song and it has Gaelic lyrics that recount how youthful hope and idealism has been replaced by sorrow and regret as the songwriter has aged.  This record is full of exquisitely lovely music that is soothing and peaceful to listen to while retaining just enough pop flavor to keep me from getting bored.  Recommended for people looking for a little shelter from the storm.                

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Etta James Sings - Etta James



Etta James Sings
Etta James
United-Superior Records US 7712
1969

Here's my belated tribute to Etta James who died earlier this year.  I think most people feel that James recorded her best material for Chess Records, but I also like her early singles for Modern Records in the 1950s, which is the focus of this album.  I presume it was issued to capitalize on the resurgence of interest in her following the success of her hit 1967 single "Tell Mama."  This album is actually a re-issue of her 1963 album on Crown Records called "Etta James," you can still see the matrix number for that album on the trail-off vinyl of this record.  I imagine many collectors would prefer the original issue, but I'm happy with this one.  It has better cover art (the original has a cheesy looking painting) and it has sturdier cardboard construction.  I hate those cheap, flimsy Crown sleeves.  James' recordings for Modern were mostly straight forward 1950s-style rhythm and blues, with a steady propulsive beat and lots of honking sax.  There are none of the big pop ballads or sensuous soul tunes she recorded for Chess that allowed her to show-off her vocal prowess.  These songs are too tight and compact to allow her to stretch out as much as she did with Chess, but there is no denying that she delivers them with verve and power.  The most famous song on here is "Dance With Me Henry" which is also known as "The Wallflower" and "Roll With Me Henry."  It was a response to Hank Ballard's classic hit "Work With Me Annie" and the two tunes share the same melody.  It was conceived by Johnny Otis who discovered James and who by a curious coincidence died just three days prior to her death back in January.  This was her first hit in 1955.  It is a fun song, pretty racy for the time.  She sings it with Richard Berry and the Peaches, the girl group she was in when she signed with Modern.  She followed it up with a sequel "Hey Henry" which is a jumping tune that she delivers with typical zest.  Her only other big hit for Modern was "Good Rockin' Daddy" also from 1955.  It is a classic sounding rock and roll number punctuated by some sassy sax work.  It is easy to see why it was a hit and it is my favorite song on this album.  This album also contains "Crazy Feeling" (listed as "Do Something Crazy") which was the flip side of "Good Rockin' Daddy."  It is a doo-wop type song with a sultry sax solo.  "W-O-M-A-N" is a bluesy torch song that she released as a single in 1955.  It is similar enough to Leiber and Stoller's later song "I'm a Woman" that it makes me wonder if they might have been "inspired" by it.  From 1956 comes the swinging "Number One" (listed as "My One and Only" on the album).  "I Hope You're Satisfied" is a duet with Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows.  He was her boyfriend and you can tell there is some chemistry between them in this smouldering song.  It was released on the Modern subsidiary Kent Records in 1959 under the name Betty & Dupree.  "Strange Things Happening Every Day" was adapted from the classic recording by Sister Rosetta Tharpe from 1944 that is often cited as being one of the earliest rock and roll recordings.  The lyrics have been changed from the original's spiritual theme to a song about a cheating lover, but the song retains its vibrant gospel feel and boasts a passionate vocal from James harkening back to her roots as a gospel singer in church.  It is another one of my favorites on the album.  "That's All" was the b-side of "W-O-M-A-N" but I prefer it to the a-side.  It is another rocking number with a nice guitar solo and more smoking sax action.  "I'm A Fool" (listed as "How Big A Fool") was the b-side to "Number One."  It is a not particularly memorable generic rhythm and blues song but it does get me bopping.  This album is pretty skimpy with just ten tracks, there would be plenty of room for some of the other Modern Records cuts she recorded if the owners of the record company weren't such cheapskates.  There is a terrific CD compilation on Ace Records that has all of her tracks for Modern plus alternate takes, which is a lot better option for Etta James fans than this, but if all you want is a taste, this is pretty tasty.  Recommended for people who prefer Ray Charles' music on Atlantic Records over his work for ABC-Paramount.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mesopotamia - The B-52's



Mesopotamia
The B-52's
Warner Bros.  MINI 3641
1982

I was at a Key Losers show in January and at the end of the set, Katy Davidson plugged her Ipod into her amplifier and started blasting "Mesopotamia" while dancing and singing along with it.  That was a lot of fun.  I hadn't heard the song in many years and had forgotten how good it was.  I don't really listen to any of my B-52's albums much any more, but there was a time when they were one of my favorite bands.  When I was at Cal, you couldn't go to a party without hearing them at some point on the stereo.  There was even an elaborately stupid dance that was created for "Rock Lobster."  They always were a great dance band, but I mostly dug them for their twangy guitar sound, vocal harmonies and sense of humor.  I don't recall anyone ever playing this album at a party though and I even remember some of my acquaintances complaining about it.  I never understood that because I thought it was wonderful, as good as anything they had ever done.  It was produced by David Byrne and reportedly the band clashed with him over the direction of the album which is why it is a mini-album rather than a full length.  Despite the friction, I think the collaboration is a big success, the surf/retro dance music of the group is augmented by an emphasis on percussion and funkiness with stunning results.  The driving beat of "Loveland" with its powerful rhythm section anchoring Cindy Wilson's soaring vocal gets me hopping.  "Deep Sleep" goes exotica even featuring a sample from Martin Denny.  Kate Pierson delivers the dreamy lyrics over a hypnotic beat.  Side one ends with the title track where Fred Schneider finally makes his appearance at the mike.  It is classic B-52's with its hilarious lyrics, Schneider's mannered vocal supported by some creative background singing from Pierson and Wilson, and a relentless dance groove.  One of my all time favorite B-52's songs.  Side two starts with "Cake," another classic.  The ladies lasciviously croon about making cakes while the horns and rhythm section deliver another funky foundation for their verbal hijinks.  It is great fun and more than a little sexy.  "Throw That Beat In The Garbage Can" is about an irresistible beat that is driving Schneider crazy.  I can see why as the music backs him up with another powerful dance groove driven by some great bass riffs.  I just can't sit still while it is playing.  The album ends all too soon with Cindy Wilson belting out "Nip It In the Bud" over more kinetic funk.  It is another hyper-propulsive song that gets me twitching and shaking like I'm having a seizure.  It is really a shame that this project was cut short.  Judging from the six outstanding songs it produced, it had the potential to be the best B-52's album ever.  Despite it's brevity it is among my favorites of all their albums.  Recommended to people whose favorite Talking Heads album is "Remain In Light."    

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Flip Your Wig - Husker Du



Flip Your Wig
Husker Du 
SST  SST 055
1985

I went to the Bob Mould tribute show at Disney Hall last November and was really impressed.  I was a fan of Husker Du back in the 1980s but I never caught them live.  I didn't follow Mould's solo career very closely and I was lukewarm about his next band Sugar.  Hearing the full scope of his career at the show opened my eyes to the depth and quality of his work through the years.  There is no denying the man has his own distinctive and instantly recognizable style.  Half the show consisted of guest artists interpreting his work and then Mould took the stage and rocked the house, much of the time accompanied by Dave Grohl.  The two of them played some of the most sizzling rock I've heard in a long time.  At one point Grohl set his guitar down and sat at the drum kit.  I was sitting fairly close to him and I could practically feel the concussive waves of sound reverberating from him pounding the skins, he is such a great drummer.  Of course Grant Hart was a talented drummer too and though I have a new appreciation for Mould's solo work, it is his partnership with Hart in Husker Du that still appeals to me the most.  This was their final album for SST.  It is not the best, but I still like it a lot.  In Husker Du I tend to prefer Hart's songs from a musical standpoint, they seem more dynamic and less formulaic and I prefer Mould's in terms of lyrics, his songs have a deeper vision and more creative use of language.  I think Mould came up with the best song on this album, the classic "Makes No Sense At All."  This was the only song from this album that he did at the tribute show.   The song dissects a conceited acquaintance.  With its mixture of a strong melody and a pounding beat, the loud, ringing guitar chords and the steady driving rhythm as well as Mould's raspy almost ragged vocals, it is an archetypal Mould song.  I never get tired of it.  Other Mould songs that I like on the album include "Flip Your Wig" which finds Mould trying to adjust to the band's growing fame.  The contrapuntal vocal at the end is really exciting.  "Games" is another good song in which Mould examines the price of trying to fit in and to accommodate other people's expectations at the cost of one's individuality.  It blends a pop sensibility and a hard rock attack admirably.  "Divide and Conquer" tackles themes of alienation, paranoia and social isolation.  It is slower than hardcore, but its simple chord structure and relentless riffing remind me of Husker Du's punk-rock roots.  Mould's vocal is more urgent than is typical with him.  "Hate Paper Doll" has a very catchy hook and relatively simple lyrics although I still have trouble figuring out what he's complaining about.  I'm not sure what "Find Me" is about either, but it sounds like Mould had a real bad vacation.  It is delivered at a slower tempo than most of the songs on the album, which I find refreshing and it gives him more room to showcase his guitar playing.  "Private Plane" is also enigmatic but I guess that it is endorsing the power of imagination and self-reliance.  Musically it rocks out fiercely and its soaring melody is exhilarating to listen to.  Lots of great guitar work on this one as well.  The album concludes with a couple of  instrumentals by Mould, "The Wit and Wisdom" and "Don't Know Yet."  The former is kind of prog-rock meets punk-rock, lots of crazed guitar soloing against a heavy bass riff.  It doesn't really go anywhere, but it is kind of fun.  The latter sounds more like a backing track waiting for some vocals, but I like the psychedelic guitar noodling.  If I heard it isolated from the rest of the album I'd never guess it was Husker Du.  The instrumentals are decent enough but I think they weaken the finish of an otherwise strong album.  Hart has fewer songs but they are among the album's best.  Whereas Mould's songs seem consumed by angst, Hart embraces simple pleasures and expresses a lot of warmth.  Hart's "Flexible Flyer" is my second favorite song on the album.  It has wonderful lyrics about the magic of childhood and trying to retain that magic as you get older.  It also has one of Hart's best pop melodies, it makes me happy when I hear it just like a sunshine pop song.  "Keep Hanging On" is a charming romantic song.  Despite its soothing portrait of domestic bliss, the song is a powerful rocker with a throat shredding, passionate vocal from Hart.  This track is another highlight of the album.  Hart's "Every Everything" is a simple love song, it seems trite compared to Mould's compositions, but it rocks out ferociously, it is a tremendously energetic song.   Hart does have a couple of duds though.  "Green Eyes" is another love song, but musically it is lackluster and monotonous.  "The Baby Song" is pure self-indulgence and should have been left off the album.  To my mind Husker Du and the Replacements were the best hard rock bands of the 1980s.  All of Husker Du's mature albums are an essential part of rock history that every rock fan should own.  I wish they had a longer run, but boy they sure did burn bright while they lasted.  Recommended for people who are bored by the simplicity of hardcore punk but like the energy.

Friday, March 2, 2012

33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee - The Monkees



33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee
The Monkees 
Zilch  MDPM 102
1984

I was at work when a web-surfing colleague announced that Davy Jones had died.  It hit me really hard much to my surprise.  Part of it was just shock.  I saw Jones performing with Dolenz and Tork at the Greek last summer and Jones had looked great.  He was vibrant and energetic and seemed at least 10 or 15 years younger than he actually was.  But it was more than just surprise, I felt a deep sense of grief, like I had lost a family member.  It seemed irrational, but as I thought about it, it started to make sense.  I've been a Monkees fan as long as I can remember.  I was too young to catch them when they were on the air in prime-time but my sisters and I watched them religiously on Saturday mornings.  My sisters adored Jones and we all loved the music.  Their cereal box records were the first rock records that I can recall playing.  Eventually I discovered the Beatles and they became my favorite group, but I never stopped liking the Monkees and I collected all their records.  The Monkees were a big part of my musical life, they introduced me to rock and roll.  They were the musical equivalent of a first love.  When Jones died, it felt like part of me died with him.  It reminded me of how I felt when John Lennon died.  Lennon was of course a greater talent and a bigger part of my life, but his death was an act of madness, cruel fate as it were.  Jones' death was a reminder of my own mortality, of old age and decline.  Ouch.  So to honor my childhood idol, I'm writing about this odd little record.  It is a bootleg of the soundtrack to the final Monkees television program, their 1969 special "33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee."  Peter Tork left the band afterward so it was the final work of the original band until they reunited in the 1980s.  It is perhaps the weirdest show ever to air on American network television.  The special has been released on DVD as part of the second season release of "The Monkees" program and it is well worth seeing, especially if you like "Head."  This record is another story.  When it was released in the mid-1980s it was mildly useful, since the show was unavailable.  Now you are probably better off just popping in the DVD.  The sound quality on this record is awful.  It was probably just recorded off someone playing the video, it sounds flat and a little distorted at times.  Like so many bootleg LPs it is poorly mastered, you have to crank up the amplifier just to hear it, which amplifies the surface noise as well.  The record proceeds chronologically through the special but omits the guest musical performers unfortunately, who include Brian Auger, Julie Driscoll and the Trinity, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino.  It includes all the Monkees' musical performances as well some bits of dialogue mostly featuring Brian Auger doing his bit as the mad scientist type character he plays in the show.   The first musical number features Dolenz doing a soul-style version of "I'm A Believer" with Julie Driscoll.  I've never cared much for Driscoll, her stiff singing here makes Dolenz's soul man shtick sound more convincing than usual.  Next up is Tork doing the Middle Eastern/Indian influenced "(I Prithee) Do Not Ask For Love."  If anyone else was singing it, I'd think it was a parody, but Tork sounds like he really means it.  It could be perceived as ridiculous, but I like it.  Nesmith delivers "Naked Persimmon (The Only Thing I Believe That's True)" which is my favorite song on the record.  In the show the song is performed as a duet between country Mike and rocker Mike and the song similarly veers between the two styles.  Jones has "Goldilocks Sometime" (listed as "Smile" on this album) for his number which is a music hall type number which suits him well.  The group tackles "Wind-Up Man" which reminds me of the Mothers of Invention particularly in the cheesy vocal.  The song parodies the image of the Monkees as an artificial, manipulated band.  "Darwin" (listed as "In The Beginning") is a slight number they do with Brian Auger.  The fifties-style "I Go Ape" is a comic number with silly monkey noises and clownish vocals.  Side two opens with the big rock and roll production number in the special which they perform with Little Richard, Lewis, Domino and the Clara Ward Singers.  It has been edited to include only the Monkees' numbers which are "At The Hop," "Shake A Tail Feather" and "Little Darlin.'"  The arrangements are basically faithful to the originals although the vocals are a bit over the top.  It is a shame that the guest performances aren't here because they are really good, especially the Ward Singers' performance of "Dem Bones."  "A String For My Kite" features Jones singing the sort of wistful ballad that he was so adept at.  It could have been a really good song with a little fleshing out.  It is followed by Tork playing C. P. E. Bach on an electric keyboard and then comes the grand finale, an epic version of "Listen To the Band" featuring a bunch of guests including the Buddy Miles Express and Brian Auger and the Trinity.  It is self-indulgent, but occasionally spectacular.  The performance degenerates into a noisy free-form freakout that is probably the wildest music the Monkees ever made.  The album ends with Tork warbling "California Here It Comes" with the "it" being Armageddon apparently as the song is accompanied by images of dancers writhing in front of psychedelic footage of atomic bombs and erupting volcanos.  As he croons "this is the end" he is referring to the end of California, but I think about the end of the Monkees since this is the end of original quartet (for a long while anyway).  This is hardly essential Monkees music, but I would value this record if it sounded better.  Unless you are a hardcore fan, you can easily get by with a DVD of the show itself or if you've got deep pockets, the best songs on here were released on Rhino's fancy CD box set of "Instant Replay."  I'm happy to have this record, but I got it absurdly cheap and it is definitely not worth its normal price.  I guess I could have picked a better record to honor Davy Jones, but at least I'm honoring him.  That is more than the bozos at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can say.  Rest in peace David Thomas Jones and thank you for all that you've given to me and daydream believers everywhere.  Recommended for Monkees fans who don't have DVD players.