With its latest project, 7a Records has invited Monkees fans to Listen to the Bands – yes, plural. This recent 25-track collection features modern, independent artists all tackling Davy, Micky, Mike, and Peter’s classic songbook – and making it even more special, all profits from the limited edition album will be donated by the label to the Davy Jones Equine Memorial Foundation.
Appropriately, curators Glenn Gretlund and Iain Lee of 7a have made sure that many of the famous songwriting names that dot the band’s discography are here, too, including Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and Neil Diamond. Many of the group’s hits are here, though far from all – you won’t find “Daydream Believer” or “I’m A Believer” or “Last Train to Clarksville” among these 25 tunes – and there are many unexpected “deep cuts” as well. The selections on Listen to the Bands touch on pop, rock, country and beyond, highlighting the eclectic nature of the Monkees’ catalogue.
Attesting to the timeless nature of the songs recorded by The Monkees, many of the renditions on this set are largely faithful to the original versions including The Characters’ “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow),” singer/multi-instrumentalist Michael Lynch’s darkly-tinted “Love to Love,” and Glowbox’s “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” The latter isn’t the only Carole King/Gerry Goffin song here, however. The Lazy Flies embrace the pop-psychedelia of Head‘s “Porpoise Song,” while John Montagna takes a lo-fi approach to King and Toni Stern’s laconic “As We Go Along,” also from The Monkees’ trippy film opus.
Naturally, a number of artists chose to take on songs from the pens of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. In addition to The Flashcubes’ “She” (featuring Mark Hudson), Listen includes “P.O. Box 9847” from the wonderfully-named, Sid and Marty Krofft-inspired Sleestacks. Rich and Nico’s fast and furious run through Boyce and Hart’s garage-rock staple “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” excites, while Joe Kane’s Radiophonic Tuck Shop and The Martial Arts bring a Beatle-esque feel to “Through the Looking Glass.”
All four Monkees are also represented as songwriters. The prolific Mike Nesmith gave The Monkees many of their most memorable songs, and the same goes for the selections here. Gary Owen’s buoyant, retro-flavored “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” is a delight, as is The Roundups’ twangy take on Nesmith’s solo country-and-western melody “The Crippled Lion.” The jangly tones of a Rickenbacker feature on The Unswept’s “Listen to the Band,” one of two renditions of the song; Nude Furniture’s fine version is also featured. Nesmith didn’t write “Me and Magdalena” from The Monkees’ acclaimed 2016 album Good Times, but he did sing the Ben Gibbard tune; here, Lynsey Moon and the Somethings does the honors for this collection’s newest song.
A true hidden gem is Davy Jones’ “You and I,” given a glam, Bowie-esque sheen by WORDS. Peter Tork’s “For Pete’s Sake” is dramatically made over by the four-piece Wayne Avers Group as a Latin instrumental groover, with George Benson-style guitar lines and an insinuating rhythm; Tork’s “Lady’s Baby” is also covered, by Scott Erickson. Micky Dolenz’s rowdy, enduring “Alternate Title” (perhaps better known as “Randy Scouse Git” to American fans) is in good hands via The Balcony Shirts Band.
All 25 tracks on this collection seem to come from a place of genuine affection for the band and its too-often-underrated oeuvre. Bradley James Skistimas, who is reissuing his enjoyable retro-flavored 2013 EP Where Did I Go? On vinyl, refreshingly reinvents “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round?” as a low-key, tender, acoustic lament in the intimate singer-songwriter mold. Scott Parker is appropriately wistful on the atmospheric “If I Ever Get to Saginaw Again.” Dan and Nadine Carasco are effervescent on Neil Diamond’s bouncy “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.” One participant on Listen to the Bands has a deep connection to The Monkees: producer Chip Douglas. He has contributed a recording of his song “The Door Into Summer” (performed with the band Deep End) as recorded in 1994 and remixed for inclusion here.
Listen to the Bands is not only a rip-roaring good listen, but a valuable eye-opener as to not only the legacy of The Monkees, but that of Davy Jones, whose Equine Memorial Foundation this collection benefits. Listen to the Bands is already sold out from most retailers, but it’s worth seeking out a copy to both celebrate The Monkees’ legacy in fresh fashion and to support a great cause.
- Listen to the Bands – The Unswept
- She – The Flashcubes
- Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) – The Characters
- (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone – Rich & Nico
- The Girl I Knew Somewhere – Gary Owen
- You and I – WORDS
- If I Ever Get to Saginaw Again – Scott Parker
- What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round? – Bradley James Skistimas
- For Pete’s Sake – The Wayne Avers Group
- Love to Love – Michael Lynch
- Me and Magdalena – Lynsey Moon & The Somethings
- Gotta Give It Time – Freddy & The Four-Gone Conclusions
- Porpoise Song (Theme From Head) – Lazy Flies
- As We Go Along – John Montagna
- The Door Into Summer – Deep End with Chip Douglas
- Pleasant Valley Sunday – Glowbox
- The Crippled Lion – The Roundups feat. Joe Alterio
- Lady’s Baby (Live) – Scott Erickson
- Through the Looking Glass – Joe Kane’s Radiophonic Tuck Shop & The Martial Arts
- Alternate Title – The Balcony Shirts Band
- P.O. Box 9847 – The Sleestacks
- Auntie’s Municipal Court – What Is Kind
- A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You – Dan Carasco
- The Day We Gall in Love – The Dredge/Hibbett Conunundrum
- Listen to the Band – Nude Furniture