The Monkees – Good Times! (2016)

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Baseball fans of a certain age will remember the 1988 World Series where, in the bottom of the ninth with his team down by a single run and only one out remaining, veteran fielder Kirk Gibson got inserted as a pinch hitter and, despite having been sidelined with two different leg injuries, hit a two-run game-winning homer on a full count pitch. A fairy tale ending, but it really did happen.

Fans of rock ‘n’ roll, like fans of most sports, wish that all their heroes could have similarly perfect, yet perfectly unreal moments in the twilight of their careers. The perfect arc could easily be described as that of the young and talented amateur growing into the mature artist who, if less inspired, has acquired the knowledge and skill to craft a good performance, right up to the very end.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen. As they hit their golden years, it’s become the norm for artists to put together reunion tours and recording projects that are at best pale imitations of their glory days, and at worst, embarrassments to their legacies, leaving fans with their same unfulfilled dreams: “If only they could hit one more out of the park …”

Which brings us to Good Times! by the Monkees, released to commemorate the 50th year since they first hit the small screen and the big time. They’ve actually released a couple of reunion albums before (in 1987 and 1996), but both were considered to be of little consequence. Good Times! is different: it contains a lot of the elements that went into the original run of successful hit singles and albums.

First, there are top-notch songwriters involved here, as well as the individual Monkees themselves. Because some of these tracks date back to the late 1960s, names like Neil Diamond, Jeff Barry, Goffin & King, and Boyce & Hart appear in the credits. But it’s not just an oldies album: modern power pop artists like Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and XTC’s Andy Partridge contributed as well. In other words, like all good Monkees’ albums, this one utilizes the work of some of the best pop songwriters in the business.

Second, the production is overseen by Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne. The sound is clean and modern, but clearly retains the style of classic Monkees’ tracks. If nothing else, it’s indicative of the influence the Monkees have had and continue to have in some segments of popular music.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, the Monkees still sing like the Monkees. They don’t sound like the youngsters they were, but they don’t sound like men who are well into their 70s. Mickey Dolenz in particular doesn’t sound a day past thirty, so it’s good he takes the bulk of the lead vocals, including the pre-release track “You Bring the Summer.” Even the late Davy Jones makes an appearance on “Love to Love,” a track left unfinished back in the day, now completed. Another highlight is Mike Nesmith’s vocal on “Me & Magdalena,” written by Gibbard.

Back when Kirk Gibson hit that home run, the hope was that at the minimum, he could draw a walk or maybe knock in a single to advance the runner at first. In a musical sense, the Monkees have often been at the mercy of similarly lowered expectations. And even though Good Times! doesn’t really qualify as a home run, it’s good enough to be a triple, which is still a pretty fine way for heroes to cap off a career – if they ever decide to retire.

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito spends most of his day keeping the wolves from the door. When he's not occupied with this pastime, he's interested in all things rock and roll -- which may or may not have died back in the late 1950s, the late 1970s, or the early '90s, depending on who you believe. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
JC Mosquito
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