Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees

I got my copy of "The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees" today. I was very nervous that I might not receive it, because Rhino's ordering process wasn't the best. At last check at their site, you could at least see you ordered it. But before that, for quite a while, it just said, "AAARGH! We ran into a technical issue that prevented us from loading the page you requested." Just last night it said that. And probably still today. But I don't need to check again, because I got it!

Fortunately they make better albums than they do websites. It came and it's a beautiful set. This is a very good reason for everyone to keep the CD around. You don't get a digital download with the terrific stuff they have in the way of packaging and extras.

One of the extras is the 45 rpm record pictured, acoustic versions of a couple of songs. Apparently there are enough takes of "Lady's Baby" that everyone in the world can have his own, so I might claim this one for myself. It's a nice acoustic version, called "Alternate Acoustic Version." I do like the one with the little kid though. "St. Matthew" sounds like a demo version of this Mike song. In terms of putting songs out on 45, these two of course would've never made it originally, but they make a nice collectible these days. They are on Rhino, PR7 522250. Both were previously unissued. "St. Matthew" is marked side 1 and the other side 2. Both are "produced by The Monkees," the (meaningless) credit line they insisted on at that time.

There's a bunch of information in the accompanying booklet. I went through some of it but still haven't read most of it. It's a lot of insider information about who wrote things and who really wrote them, who played on the tracks, etc. Whether there's still anything left to discover after the five deluxe issues out plus Andrew Sandoval's great book, I don't know. There's an amazing amount of detail out there about the tracks. A lot more than years ago when they left it all to your imagination.

For example, I never knew Keith Allison had anything to do with any of the tracks. I read in the booklet that he was involved in "Auntie's Municipal Court," I believe co-writing it and playing on it. Or that Mike called Micky who was somewhere up in the mountains and he came down to sing the song and they finished it up just like that. The way I always pictured it as a kid was a lot more orderly. They were standing there doing the songs, no calling up to the mountains!

The package comes with three discs. First is the original stereo album plus a bunch of extras, alternate tracks, different mixes, etc. Second is the original mono album, again with a bunch of extras. I listened to it first since I'd never heard the mono album. It was more rare. I don't know if we had an option of getting it where I got records in 1968. I wasn't so discerning at the time. I was just lucky to get anything.

The third disc is called "The Birds, The Bees & The Rarities." The only I heard on it so far is the "Monkees Adult Stereo 8 Spot," an advertisement for the Monkees albums on 8 track tape. Davy is heard commending the 8 track tape as like being right in the studio, how well you can hear the instruments. The 8 track tape is greatly ridiculed now, but he's kind of right, when I heard 8 track tapes the first time they sounded as nice as anything. I never heard them sound as great as they did that first time. But they did sound very good when they were brand new on a brand new player.

The box is bigger than a CD box. What you see in the picture is its true dimensions. And thicker, probably slightly over an inch. It has a "lenticular" version of the main cover graphic, which is one of those 3D things that you can move back and forth. That's cool. How they managed that I don't know. Unless it'd be from multiple images of the original cover artwork taken from slightly different angles. Or maybe a computer can do that separation, although I've never heard of it.

Inside are the three CD sleeves, cardboard, the booklet, a button relating to the album ("Tell somebody you love about The Birds, The Bees, and The Monkees"), a facsimile of an advertisement for the record and 8 track tape, plus one of the inner sleeves they used to have with Colgems LP releases, advertising the first five Monkee LPs. I always wondered why the first album and "Headquarters" were designated "Special," so that's a detail I'd like to know about.

A great looking (and sounding) set.

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