7a Records, hot off its recent reissue of Macy Gray's jazz/R&B gem Stripped, has returned to the milieu of The Monkees with the latest in its series of expanded and remastered 50th anniversary reissues from the catalogue of Michael Nesmith. Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash is out now in CD and 180-gram gray vinyl formats, both of which add the alternate RCA version of "Marie's Theme" as a bonus track.
As detailed in the always-compelling liner notes by Andrew Sandoval, Nesmith's sixth and final RCA album captured the artist in a period of transition. He had launched the Countryside imprint for Elektra Records, focusing in the second half of 1972 on nurturing its artists including Garland Frady, Tom Holbrook, and J.G. O'Rafferty. Countryside's first releases arrived in early 1973, but by March, Nesmith was once again making his own music. (When all was said and done, the short-lived venture would issue singles from those three artists plus Nez's frequent collaborator Orville "Red" Rhodes and Steve Fromholz, plus one LP apiece from Rhodes and Frady.)
A brief five days of sessions would commence on March 12, 1973 at RCA's Studio B in Hollywood for the album that became Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash. Despite the cheeky title (and cover artwork - look closely at Nesmith's hair!), there was nothing standard about Ranch Stash. After the spare, intimate And the Hits Just Keep on Comin', the artist returned to a band setting. Leading the proceedings on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, he was joined in the studio by his Countryside house band: Dr. Robert "Bobby" K. Warford on acoustic guitar and banjo, Jay Lacy on electric guitar, Billy Graham on bass and fiddle, David Barry on keyboards, Danny Lane on drums, and the inevitable Red Rhodes on his heavenly pedal steel.
Under its striking Norman Seeff photograph of Cowboy Nez, one found a lean, mean seven tunes including a reworking of "Some of Shelly's Blues," recorded but not issued by The Monkees and subsequently cut by both The Stone Poneys and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Nesmith also contributed the affecting story of "Winonah" (co-written by Linda Hargrove and James Miner) with its classic country imagery and two songs with titles not actually contained in their lyrics: the opening "Continuing" (a coming-to-terms with a breakup, rendered with a laconic twang) and the reflective but rollicking and even funky (dig those drums!) "Release." Stash also features a medley of the traditional folk song "The F.F.V." and Bill Monroe's bluegrass standard "Uncle Pen," along with fine covers of Cindy Walker's "Born to Love You" and Billy Hill's "Prairie Lullaby."
Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash ended Nesmith's RCA career on a strong, understated note. Following the sessions, he and the same band recorded Ian Matthew' Valley Hi album as well as the Countryside LPs for Frady and Rhodes, but by summer 1973, the imprint was done. The studio closed, too, by the end of the year, but Nesmith was ready to move into the next chapter of his career with the founding of his own Pacific Arts.
7a's reissue of this Nesmith gem is beautifully housed within a 6-panel digipak which includes a thick 36-page booklet boasting Sandoval's comprehensive notes as well as full lyrics, credits for each song, and numerous photos and memorabilia images. Dave Blackman has remastered the audio. Both the CD and vinyl editions add the bonus track "Marie's Theme" which would be heard in final form on Nesmith's Pacific Arts debut, The Prison, in 1974.
The 50th anniversary edition of Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash is available now at the links below.
Michael Nesmith, Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash (RCA Victor LP APL1-0164, 1973 - reissued 7a Records 7A052, 2023)
- Some of Shelly's Blues
- Born to Love You
- Medley: The Back Porch and a Fruit Jar Full of Iced Tea: A) The FFV B) Uncle Pen
- Prairie Lullaby
- Marie's Theme (Alternate Version) (first released physically on Different Drum: The Lost RCA Victor Recordings, Real Gone Music/Second Disc Records RGM-1044, 2021)