Matt Carmichael
mattc@rocknroll.net
Random old record reviews
The Monkees: catalog -ap
Various artists: The Crow Soundtrack -ap
The Grateful Dead: Hundred Year Hall -cs
Duran Duran: Thank You -cs
The Highwaymen: The Road Goes on Forever -cs
The Velvet Underground: Peel Slowly and See -cs
Various Artists: 'Til the Night is Gone: A Tribute to Doc Pomus" -cs

The Monkees: catalog

"Hey, Hey, we're the..."

Yeah, Yeah, we know already.

You thought the Monkees were cool. You have adolescent memories of the band that wasn't quite the Beatles. Watching reruns of their show on channel 20, or USA when you finally got cable in the third grade.

Now, take a listen to them again. Go to Chicago Compact Disc where you can listen to CD's before you buy them. You know what you'll find? They suck. They are just bad.

Rhino records is in the process of re-releasing the entire Monkees collection, including rare glimpses into the studio life of the band ([7 years later, i'm correcting this, but i still don't really care too much] Michael Nesmith: I can't stand here, this is the short mic.) They are rereleasing the Monkees' movie, "Head" the soundtrack to which is probably one of the better albums. It's random, it rambles, it has surreal outtakes from the flick. Again, they weren't quite the Beatles, but you have to give them credit for getting as far as they did.

It is good not to have to search to find Monkees on CD anymore. It's all there now, with a big commercial push behind it. But don't be tempted by the repackaged crap. When you open it, it is still vile.

Even if you do like the Monkees, stay way away from "Changes." This is the album made after Peter and Michael got smart and bailed. The quasi-country song, "Midnight Train", is just terrible.

"The Monkees" and "More of the Monkees" each have a couple of good songs. But the Monkees were certainly not a band who had good songs that you just never heard. You don't pick up the album and enjoy the non-radio songs. In this case, there was a reason that no one has heard the other songs. They're bad.

And, yeah, if you like playful music, that is happy, that has horrid harmonies, and that has no lyrical value:
"She's my lady
She's my girl
She's my woman
She is my world
She's what I want
She's what I need
She what I got
She's just my speed."

Well, then, here you go. Six new disc's. I bet you can find them used if you look hard enough I sold mine back...

Various artists: The Crow Soundtrack

Name a band. They are here. NIN, the Cure, Violent Femmes, Medicine (who performs live during the movie) Rollins Band, and Helmet just to name a few. During the past couple of years there have been soundtracks with some bands this good. Most notably would be that Wim Wenders film "Until the End of the World," and the grunge-laden "Singles" soundtrack. The major difference, besides an arguably better line-up for the Crow, is that this movie was incredible as well as the soundtrack.

These are not necessarily the best songs that any of these bands have ever done. However, as a package, this disc is packed full of 14 intense songs. There is hardly a bad song on here. Highlights include NIN doing Dead Souls, an old Joy Division song.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, go see it. Then buy the soundtrack because you won't be able to help it after you get a taste of it during the film. Or, if for some reason the movie doesn't look that great to you, go buy the soundtrack anyway. You can't regret it.

The Grateful Dead: Hundred Year Hall

If ever a band deserved to have those tapes in the "vaults" dusted off and put forth, it was the Grateful Dead. The Dead are the most taped band in history, every show in the last decades was recorded by somebody, preserving the legacy of the concerts that made them not just a band, but a movement. Now Arista, in a deal that was cemented before the death of Jerry Garcia, is going to be re-releasing part of the Dead's catalog as well as introducing new material from the vaults. Hundred Year Hall is the first installment. The album, which was recorded live in '72, presents versions of some of the Dead's classic like Truckin', One More Saturday Night and Sugar Magnolia, from a time when they were fresh both to the audience and the band.

This disc is certainly a gem for Deadhead, but could serve as a good entry point (like Skeletons in the Closet) for the uninitiated as well.

Duran Duran: Thank You

More bands should do this. Duran Duran has put a new twist on the recent tribute album trend. Instead of many bands paying homage to one, the Brits who brought you "The reflex" and "Rio" have put forth an entire album of songs they love.

"Thank You," which is named after a Led Zeppelin track covered on the album, is the culmination of more than two years of recording, much of it while the band was touring for their last album, "Duran Duran (the wedding album)."

The songs run the musical gamut. From Public Enemy's "911 is a Joke," to Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay," to Grand Master Flash & Mele Mel's "White Lines," who even appear on the album. Yes, one of the bands that defined New Wave in the '80s is covering rap and funk.

Duran frontman Simon LeBon credits "vague and half-remembered teen-age dementia" and "the desire to alienate music purists," as inspiration to undertake this project. Versions of some songs such as the Temptations "Ball of Confusion," stray from the original, but in many ways that is the nature of the cover beast.

The Highwaymen: The Road Goes on Forever

These men are country music's biggest and baddest: Johnny Cash. Willie Nelson. Waylon Jennings. Kris Kristofferson. All that's missing is Hank Williams; but don't worry, he's here in spirit.

Yet this is not just a country album. The grooves here are just as powerful as on any rock album. This is just quality music for fans of any type of music that makes you think as hard as your feet are tapping.

Overall, this third offering from the Highwaymen lives up to their formidable legends. "It Is What It Is" sums up the ideals of the album both lyrically and musically and provides a great centerpiece for a great disc.

The Velvet Underground: Peel Slowly and See

The saddest thing about the Velvet Underground, who are so much more than Lou Reed's old band, is that you may never have heard of them. You've felt their influence if you've ever turned on the radio though. Now is your chance to hear the music that changed rock forever, started the rise of punk, and eventually came into its own 25 years after the band dissolved.

This brilliantly produced box showcases the talent of the band referred to as the second most influential band of the sixties. The five discs contain all four studio albums in their entirety, including oft-covered songs like "Pale Blue Eyes," "Sweet Jane," "Rock and Roll," and "Heroin," plus tons of rarities. Perhaps the greatest gem, however, is the first disc which consists of demo tapes that band member John Cale recently found in his basement of some of the Velvet's first Dylan-esque recordings.

Wouldn't it be ironic if a box set finally landed them the success they deserved when they started?

Various Artists: 'Til the Night is Gone: A Tribute to Doc Pomus"

I know what you're thinking. "Oh, great. Now they're doing tributes to people I've never even heard of." But don't think that quite yet. Look again. The songs look familiar: "This Magic Moment," "Save the Last Dance for Me," "Viva Las Vegas."

The artists look familiar: Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Aaron Neville, Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys (who appears on every tribute album made these days)

So who was this Doc Pomus guy, then? In short, he was a polio-stricken Jewish blues singer from New York. Seem a little incongruous? Well, granted, it was. But at some point he realized that perhaps singing wasn't the best career (not that many people took his singing seriously, you see) [editor's note: Actually, Doc Pomus was a rather accomplished blues singer in his own right. See http://www.felderpomus.com/docpomus.html. for more information --01.04]

But, man, could he write. For decades he wrote some of the best known pop songs, recorded by the best known artists. When someone got stuck writing a song of their own, it was Pomus they turned to. His phone was always ringing. And he was always there to answer it and offer a line, or a bit of advice. In fact, some artists wished that his answering machine had been left on after he died in 1991 because it was too painful not being able to call him anymore.

Many called him a mentor, many a friend, all called him a genius.

As for the album itself, it has some definite high points. I'll admit that this isn't the best record ever. Reed's "This Magic Moment," is well, just what you'd expect if Lou were to play this (he did it on Letterman a week or so ago.) "Save the Last Dance for Me" is another fine example of Neville's voice.

The liner notes are a great testimonial to Pomus' influence both professionally and personally as all his contemporaries voice their support for his legend.

c1994-1996 art&performance and Thompson Target Media, as noted