Sunday, July 12, 2009

228. The Monkees: Changes (1970)

Really? That was my reaction when I first learned that Mickey and Davy made a Monkees album as a duo. Really?

Changes, the final Monkees album of the initial run, was recorded with Jeff Barry. Barry was a producer and songwriter who had previously worked with the group on More of the Monkees. Singer/songwriter Andy Kim (who later went to number 1 with Rock Me Gently) also helped out.

It's also worth noting that Barry and Kim were the writers behind a little song called Sugar, Sugar, by nonexistant band The Archies. It's hard to see this as anything but desperate. Afterall, the Monkees made such a valiant effort to be seen as credible artists on Headquarters. Hiring the men responsible for a bubblegum hit by a cartoon group seems to undo that work. Even though the group spirit of that album disappated, all four Monkees continued to write or co-write significant amounts of their own material on subsequent albums. Not so on Changes. Davy and Mickey are back to the way it was in the beginning, just voices.

Even so, considering that the band still contained my favorite Monkee (Dolenz) and my least favorite Monkee (Jones), the album has to be at least half good, right? Well, consider that Davy himself, who often has a tenuous grasp on what makes quality material, disowns the album. That should tell you something. It's not the band's rock bottom (believe it or not, that was still to come), but it's definitely the most generic and dated of their initial nine albums.

In fact, I'm not sure it's even worth writing in the usual categorical format I've used for this review series. There are zero classics
on the album, and only one pleasant surprise, Midnight Train. Is it a coincidence that it's also the only song on the album not written or co-written by Jeff Berry? Probably not. Mickey sang and wrote the harmonica-heavy travelin' tune.

The rest of the album is just sort of there, not terribly offensive, nor terribly memorable. There are minor pleasures, such as the melodic shifts of Ticket On a Ferry Ride, the spirited bridge of All Alone In the Dark, the shared vocals of I Love You Better, and the swampy acoustic guitar lick of Oh My My. But overall the songs are a mishmash of sixties popisms: Doorsish organ, handclaps, electric fuzz guitar, and kazoo solos (!).

Mickey actually dominates the album, taking lead vocals on eight of the 12 songs. Normally this would be a good thing, but late-sixties Mickey had proven himself to be a bit erratic. On songs like It's Got To Be Love and Acapulco Sun, he sounds bored and disengaged. What happened to the Mickey who absolutely sold any song he took on?

Davy, by comparison, actually does okay. Two of his songs You're So Good To Me and Do You Feel It Too are passable pop, and the old showtuney Davy reappears on album closer I Never Thought It Peculilar. He only fails somewhat with his shouty vocal on 99 Pounds. The song itself, about an underweight girl who toys with men, manages to squeeze every sixties pop cliche into just two and a half minutes.

The bonus tracks are basically more of the same. The melodic soft rock tune Time and Time Again, originally intended to be on this album but later cut, previously appeared on the Missing Links compilation. The final two songs are Do It In the Name of Love and Lady Jane, the A and B side of Mickey and Davy's first (and only?) post Monkees single. Both feature the pleasure of hearing the boys sing together, something that didn't happen nearly enough on other Monkees songs. Otherwise, they are more of the same dated pop of the rest of the album.

Changes, while not the complete embarrassment that it could have been, is an album for Monkees completionists, those fans who need to own every note the band ever recorded. The rest of you can safely forget that the album exists.

Grade: C
Fave Song: Midnight Train

And thus ends the first chapter of the Monkees saga. Like the ghosts in a Dickens tale, the band would appear three more times. Keep reading!


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Anonymous said...

i thought it was a good album. it had awesome music.... not that bad... probably an a- or an a.

Glennda said...

Whoa, got to check this two out and see what they can do.

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