The Monkees, the original "boy band" and trailblazer for Menudo, Boyz to Men, and a host of other manufactured bubble gum music makers, could not have realized what the producers of the television show and the music must have sensed: they had a pretty good thing going. When Davie Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Mike Nesmith set off to make a social commentary with the feature film, "Head" after experiencing incredible success with the television show, record sales, and concert dates, the quartet did not understand that their popularity was the direct result of the public's need to forget about the problems of the day, including assassinations, segregation, and Vietnam. Their success was also due in large part to incredible music and lyrics written by such now prolific songwriters and performers as Neil Diamond and Carol King who stopped working for The Monkees when The Monkees stopped working for Don Kirshner.
'The Best of the Monkees' is a great review and collection of all The Monkees hits and non-hits, from Neil Diamond's "I'm A Believer," "Look Out," and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," to Carol King's and Gerry Goffin's "Sometime In The Morning," and "Pleasant Valley Sunday," to all of the great Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart tunes like "Last Train to Clarksville," "Steppin' Stone," "Words," and "Valeri." (I guess Neil Diamond and Carol King did all right for themselves, huh?)
What is interesting for The Monkees neophyte is the songwriting talent of Mike Nesmith, who along with Peter Tork, were the only true musicians in the group. Because it was not teen-pop, Nesmith's songs in retrospect did not get the attention they really deserve. Nesmith wrote country/rock/pop songs recorded by The Monkees including "Mary, Mary," "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," "You Just May Be The One," and "What Am I Doing Hanging 'Round." Nonetheless, Nesmith created nice melodies and enjoyable "story songs" in his The Monkees writing days. I would be less surprised to hear a country cross-over act like Tim McGraw or Vince Gill record one of Nesmith's songs for a hit than I would hearing another cover of "I'm A Believer."
For the Baby-Boomer and early GenX-er, 'The Best of the Monkees' is a fun and carefree trip to revisit some old friends. For newer The Monkees fans, this CD gives a "retro" look (and listen) at the manufactured band phenomenon that has become somewhat commonplace in contemporaty popular music.
Don Kirshner was a genius, and it was too bad for The Monkees (and for us) that Davie, Mickey, Peter, and Mike did not stick with bubble gum.