The new Dolenz Sings Nesmith album is one of the best and most perfectly produced solo albums recorded by any individual member of ’60s TV show and later band, The Monkees.
When you think about it, this album has been a long time coming. Yet, this album is an idea whose time has come.
Monkee Micky Dolenz, who has one of the most distinctive voices in rock, has been singing lead vocals on songs written by his bandmate Michael Nesmith for over 50 years.
As the co-author of the Micky Dolenz memoir “I’m A Believer,” I have a long history of being a Monkees follower and aficionado. Actually I have been listening to the band since I was in junior high school.
Back then, I insisted my mother take me to J.C. Penney’s so I could buy a Carnaby Street shirt like the ones worn on the cover of More of The Monkees.
As a songwriter, Nesmith—or “Nez” as his friends call him—has had quite a prolific career. His compositions have graced The Monkees’ million-selling albums, his own albums and occasionally he has been covered by other artists.
Other than the version of “Different Drum,” by The Stone Poneys folk trio, Linda Ronstadt (vocals), Bobby Kimmel (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Kenny Edwards (lead guitar) Nesmith’s often-quirky songs never became Top 20 hits.
However, that is not necessarily the gauge to judge their validity.
When you think about it, the past year’s COVID-19 shut-down of the world has forced artists and musicians to look inside of themselves to stay creatively active.
Speaking for myself, I have spent a year locked in my house co-writing Freda Payne’s forthcoming memoir by “long distance.”
And, as witnessed by the release of Dolenz Sings Nesmith, Micky has turned his “vacation from reality” pandemic time into creating one of the best and most pleasing albums of his vast solo career.
Mike’s compositions were never used as Monkees singles because they were not made of the stuff that “Top 40” radio is made of. But they are unusually witty and introspective songs.
Mike’s solo albums and his recordings with his First National Band, were always very countrified, in an Eagles sort of vein. And, his lyrics often look for answers within, like Joni Mitchell’s highly-personal songs.
With that in mind, although the song selections are a quirky mélange of Nesmith compositions, they are held together by Micky’s consistently engaging singing, and producer Christian Nesmith’s amazingly intricate musical tracks.
“Tomorrow and Me” is among the true classics on this highly-entertaining album. Charlie Bisharat’s beautiful violin solo buoys Micky’s sensitive singing on that track, making it one of the albums’ many high points.
When I first saw that “Circle Sky” was on this album, my first thought was, ‘Oh God, not that overdone song for the 12th time!
Different versions of that song—originally from The Monkees’ Head soundtrack album—have appeared in several incarnations, including a version on The Monkees’ 1996 reunion album, JustUs.
Imagine my surprise when I found that this new Dolenz recording of “Circle Sky” was a whole new envisioning of a song.
Much to my delight, “Circle Sky” has been completely re-invented as a “Indian raga” with inspiringly beautiful sitars and sweeping orchestrations.
This exciting new interpretation of the song begs for a Bollywood-style musical video with Micky dancing in the middle of it. This is by far my favorite track on the whole album.
My hat is off to Micky and to Christian Nesmith—who is Mike’s son.
Dolenz Sings Nesmith is far from a rehash of old material written by his bandmate. It is a musical re-envisioning of classic tunes, and some new surprises.
Micky, you sound better than ever!
Check out the videos below: