Album Review:: The Monkees "Headquarters Deluxe" and "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones LTD. Deluxe"

It’s been over twenty years since I got my hands on the first reissue Rhino Records released of The Monkees’ third and fourth LP’s. Those reissues were made available on vinyl and cassette in 1986 during the Monkees 20th anniversary resurgence, courtesy of MTV. Rhino has just released deluxe editions of “Headquarters” and “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones LTD” in celebration of the LP’s 40th anniversary.

“Headquarters” has long been one of my favorite Monkees’ LP’s – the only album in their original catalogue to feature the self-contained band sound. Coming off the mega success of “More Of Monkees” and the exit of music supervisor Don KirshnerMike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Micky Dolenz got together to entertain with an extraordinary blend of folk, country, garage pop/rock and more all within the LP’s original 14 songs. The banjo fueled intro “You Told Me” shines in all of it’s two and a half minutes – while a reworking of Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart’s “I’ll Spend My Life With You” is given the stripped down folk treatment. “Forget That Girl” bubbles up with one of Davy Jones’ best vocal showings – a song that couldn’t have been sung by anyone else. Nesmith’s “You Just May Be The One” is the only true group performance – it features Peter Tork on double tracked Bass (producer Chip Douglas played most of the Bass guitar on the LP along with John London). The LP contains some of the Monkees best performances captured on magnetic tape – “Shade’s Of Gray”, “For Pete’s Sake”, and the cool breeze of “Early Morning Blues And Greens” – all classics. The album closer, Micky Dolenz’s “Randy Scouse Git” – about his trip to England – hanging out with the Beatles, Samantha Juste, and even a bit of social commentary – spotlights Micky’s newfound/short lived songwriting style. The Deluxe edition adds even more to this already timeless LP – featuring both the stereo and mono mixes – and adding some fine previously unreleased sonic candy.

With the 2000 release of Rhino Handmade’s exhaustive four CD set “The Headquarters Sessions” many would have assumed that would be the albums definitive CD release. The Headquarters Deluxe contains nine previously unreleased tracks, mostly featuring stereo remixes: “All Of Your Toys”, “The Girl I Knew Somewhere”, “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”, “She Hangs Out”, and “Love To Love” – all standouts for me – presented in sparkling pristine sound. The rest of the bonus material has been previously released. If you have this album on various formats already, it’s not quite essential – but it’s another one for the hardcore Monkee fans to pick up.

After their first successful release as a self-contained group, The Monkees decided the best route in making their latest LP (with time schedules, the show, concerts, etc) was to go back to the original formula – recording with studio musicians – but with The Monkees involvement musically and artistically. It would be the perfect mix, resulting in arguably the bands best LP: “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones LTD.” (released at the end of 1967 and produced once again by Chip Douglas). The album would be previewed by a single release – the double-sided hit “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Words”. Michael Nesmith again took a high profile on the LP with the excellent cuts: “The Door Into Summer”, “Love Is Only Sleeping”, “Don’t Call On Me”, and the Byrdsy “What Am I Doing Hang’in ‘Round?” Davy Jones shines on Nilsson’s “Cuddly Toy” and on the snazzy “Hard To Believe.” A second recorded version of “She Hangs Out” appears but never quite measures up to the far superior Jeff Berry produced version. Micky Dolenz resurfaces on Nesmith’s psychedelic “Daily Nightly” complete with moog synthesizer – one of the first to be used on a pop record – showing you just how experimental The Monkees could be. The albums 13 original tracks played from top to bottom are by far The Monkees at their best.

The bonus material on Pisces’ never really excites but the mono version of the LP is a treat to hear. Across the Deluxe edition, not much to offer – the 2 CD’s material are padded with Stereo mixes, Alternate Stereo Mixes, and Alternate Mono Mixes. “Goin’ Down” (stereo mix) adds an essential track to the album. The standout cuts to listen to: “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round” (with an alternate Nesmith vocal), the previously unreleased TV version of the Monkees Christmas show song “Riu Chiu”, and the nice “Cuddly Toy” (Alternate Mix). With the recent revisiting of the Monkees absence in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, the interest of the group continues to stand the test of time – the latest reissues are another testament to the groups importance in rock history.
Video:: “Forget That Girl” (Headquarters)

Video:: “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round”(Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones LTD.)

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