Hey y’all, I’ve been meaning to post this for the last couple weeks, but it got bumped by my Raj Rant and, well, real life. Better late than never, I suppose!
And before I get started on discussing Remember, the new album from by Micky Dolenz, a word about how I evaluate music in general. The first thing you need to know is that first and foremost I’m a writer. Not a terribly good writer, mind you, but a writer nonetheless. Therefore, most of my focus when reviewing an album like this is on the lyrics and delivery of same. I enjoy music, have reasonably diverse tastes, and am fairly well-educated for a non-musician. That said, the umpteen years of choir, 4 years of school band and 3 years of piano lessons notwithstanding, I am NOT a musician. My keyboard prodigy brother Daniel would probably have a completely different take on this album.This is just Camille’s take at this point in time, and if it goes well I may take a crack at reviewing other Albums, shows, books, etc. in a similar format.
So with that disclaimer about my POV out of the way, on with the show! The simplest way to tackle this album, it seemed, was with a track-by-track analysis, so I’ll just cut to the chase. If you want to follow along you can buy Remember here—this is an Affiliate link so I get about 3 cents from your purchase to defray the costs (essentially the domain name and a couple cups of tea on “blog post evening”) involved in bringing you Fandom Lenses.
- Good Morning, Good morning: Smooth take of one of those songs that was constantly playing when I was a kid (Children of the 80s though we were, my brother and I were raised on Beatles and Motown, which probably explains a lot), and I got a kick out of the time signature changes. Solid 4 stars. Prefer the original, but in this case that’s praise via very faint damnation.
- Old Fashioned Love Song: An interesting interpretation, more laid back version of the original—which I think I still prefer, but my toe did get tapping on the chorus…And the Vintage Micky Scat in the middle made me grin (it’s one of those pubescent Pavlovian phenomena 😉 ), and pushed this up to 4 stars.
- Diary: I started this one out at 3 stars, which puts it in my “see if I can learn to love it” playlist on my MP3 Player. However…I gave the album a second start-to-end play last weekend while I was out walking. 45 minutes later I found myself with the thing stuck in my head. That’s the mark of a true 4-star for me.
- Many Years: Another “okay” one, 3 stars as of now.
- Sometime in the Morning: I Anticipated/dreaded (Anticidreaded?) this one as soon as I saw it on the track list, because it’s so tied up in memories of the Frodis Femmes and what their friendship and sisterhood has meant to me over the years. I needn’t have worried. Love the more mellow/delicate countrified take on the tune. The original’s still my favorite, but this is a very worthy remake. 4 stars.
- Quiet Desperation: Again, I’m discovering I love it when Micky goes a little twangy! Which is odd for me, as there are only about 3 ½ country acts I can stand as a general rule. Hadn’t known he wrote this until I saw another review, which explains more of why I liked it so. (Over the years I’ve enjoyed just about all Micky lyrics that don’t involve his cat…) This song made me want to go see if I could dig up that reality show he was on a while back that I missed while I was off Being Mature and doing More Important Stuff. *sigh*. 4 stars.
- Randy Scouse Git: I’d mentioned this earlier on Micky’s facebook page when this track was first released, but I’ll reiterate—I love, love, love the overhaul on this! Nostalgic, Regretful, Affectionate, Angry, Wistful, Haunting—not only the song itself, but the way the tune lingers in the brain. When I heard it on Soundcloud, it was stuck in my head for the next day and it was what convinced me I NEEDED this album. Tied with the original (which itself is probably one of my top 5 favorite Monkee Tunes), as I said elsewhere it’s like comparing strawberry ice cream and a spicy tuna roll with extra wasabi. 5 stars, and now I’m hungry.
- Johnny B Goode: Hmmm. I don’t dislike it, but something about this one feels a bit too laid back. The urgency of the original’s what I always loved, and that’s a bit lost in this version. It’s growing on me though. Another initial 3 stars that I bumped up to 4 on the second play.
- Sugar Sugar: OK, I can’t speak for any other Monkee Nerds, but I ‘bout splorted my coffee on the computer screen when I saw this on the track list! That said, this version takes a tune that would give Willy Wonka diabetes and turns it into one of the sweet tart standouts of the album. If nothing else, this track is proof that Micky Dolenz is a sick, twisted man (and he knows we love him for it). I certainly never thought one could impart the words “dextrose” or “granulated” so…er…seductively. I hated the original as WAY too treacly even as a kid, well before I knew the history behind it, so this is now my definitive snark-a-licious version. 5 stars, and I never thought I’d say that about ANY version of this song.
- Do not Ask for Love: Another one that made me quirk an eyebrow on the track list. This tune, Naked Persimmon, and the first couple minutes of Listen to the Band before it crossed the event horizon from Psychedelic to “um…yeah…” are just about the only bits of 33 1/3 that I actually like. * (Sorry!) Plus, the number’s just so, well, Peter to me that I had my doubts. Were they overcome? Well…sort of. I love the choral plainsong-esque re-arrangement of it and my mind boggles at the editing that was involved, but it’s almost too well done technically. The lyrics proper are closer to okay than great as emo breakup songs go, really borders on overwrought or whiny if you just read the words on the page. For me, In order to pull this song off, the performance needs to be more emotional, even at the expense of precision. It may also be one of those numbers that can best be carried off by a singer in his/her twenties, when everything is Profound and Earth-shattering and Artistically Significant. So great performance (and Micky should TOTALLY do more a capella stuff), but I think the other version’s still my favorite. 4 stars. That said, I’m inspired to hit iTunes and hunt up Micky’s ’66 take on the song, in order to do a proper “Pepsi Challenge” with all three versions. Because, folks, I am just that nerdy.
- I’m a Believer: Me likey! Edges out the Shrek rendition as my second favorite version of this one. ** Love how he cuts loose on this track too. 4 stars.
- Remember: Oh. My. God. Now, Randy Scouse Git’s my favorite track of the album, but this is second by a razor-thin margin. Somehow it evoked a lot of the complicated timey-wimey emotions of my personal journey this year, as event after event twisted through and complicated my all-too-structured, intellectual, and completely UN-childlike life. There are certain tunes that call up moments in my life, like Meatloaf’s I Would Do Anything for Love and my first boyfriend (now that’s a man who can still sell an overly emo song in middle age—perhaps because he’s still essentially an emo 20 year old?), I could see this one sort of becoming my theme song to 2012. For better and worse, I am NOT the same person that I was on January 1st, 2012. Suppose that’s true of a lot of us, really. Best version of this song, and 5 stars, obviously.
So given all that, how does the album hang together as a whole? I’ll consider the question from a couple of different angles.
Remember as a cover album: Solid, not a classic, especially when you consider that my unique “positionality” is probably good for at least half a star. One (or at least I) can’t totally bracket out one’s past emotions when you checked the tuning on your tympani in junior high band with the original Randy Scouse Git riff. Before you accuse me of being some moony-eyed fangirl, I am clear-eyed enough to see that none of these tracks are exactly going to give Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” a run for their money. (For the record, the Best. Cover. Ever.) That said, cover albums are one of those things that seem to be deceptively hard to pull off without descending into schmaltz or slavish imitation. To his credit, Micky avoided both.
Remember as a former*** Monkee Album: Tropical Campfires is my undisputed favorite solo album, Cambria Hotel 2nd (but not by much), and this is a solid if slightly more distant third, at the head of a pack that includes Two Man Band, Saved By the Blues, Most of Nez’s solo stuff (precise order varying on my mood that week) and Stranger Things have Happened (A very love/hate album for me which I may dissect another time) in roughly that order. I didn’t get lost in it the way I can/do with Campfires or Cambria, nor do I see myself often calling it up to play from end to end like I’ll sometimes do with those, but it’s still got some great tunes, and while some are better than others, there’s not really a dud in the track list.
Remember as a whole: 4 stars. Between the, er, timing and the overall quality, I wouldn’t be surprised if this winds up Micky’s best-selling solo effort to date. In any case, thanks for the memories, Mick. I look forward to bumping into many of these tracks on my ipod.
** As a recent returnee to the fandom after a 10-ish year sabbatical it seems to be trendy to slag off the Shrek version(s) of I’m a Believer, but this is another one where my positionality comes into play. The first Shrek is one of my favorite movies of all time, and the story parallels a lot of the dynamic between my then-fiancee Kevin and I. So imagine the two of us sitting in a dark theater, snuggling close during the climax of the movie, when all of the sudden Donkey and the Three Little Pigs kick off That Lick. This Mature, Upstanding Adult nearly squealed like an eleven-year-old fangirl in the middle of the theater. One of the best surprises of a lifetime of moviegoing.
*** Not sure “former” is the right word here—in fact I’m sure it’s not. Is there a right word here? It calls for a term that somehow encapsulates the essence and past/present relationship of both Frat Brother and Combat Platoon buddy, methinks. I guess I could pull a Nez and invent something, but my Nosplainocuris language muse is on strike at the moment.