Released three months after their debut album, More of the Monkees continues the band’s trend of crafting catchy pop tunes written by a host of great songwriters and… wait, doesn’t that album cover just REEK of being a photo from a Sears catalog? Well, you’d be close. It was taken from a J.C. Penney clothing ad.
Therein lies the rub, emblematic of the albatross that would continually be laid around the necks of The Monkees throughout their entire existence: that they were prefabricated, product, manufactured (to that we all agree… see what I did there?), a corporate construct used to move merchandise, etc. That’s all as may be, but the best thing you can say about Messrs. Dolenz, Jones, Nesmith, and Tork is that they fought against it almost every step of the way.
The aforementioned gentlemen wanted to have a say in the creation of the music. They wanted to write and perform their own songs, as well as having input into the packaging, sequencing, and production of the album. Michael Nesmith was able to contribute two of his songs on the previous The Monkees album and was looking to expand their artistic canvas, both as songwriters and musicians. Producer Don Kirshner had other ideas, wanting to control the entire album creation from soup to nuts; the four band “members” were basically required to lay down vocal tracks and little more.
Knowing this album’s history, it’s therefore real easy to be cynical about More Of The Monkees, but no matter how you slice it the album is just as solid as the previous one, a great slice of 60s pop. From the keyboard driven stomp of “She”, the cacophonous madness of “Your Auntie Grizelda”, the catchy, soulful drive of “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)”, to the tried-n-true oldies classics of “Steppin’ Stone” and “I’m A Believer”, this is a quality album through and through.
The latter cut was penned by Neil Diamond (who also wrote “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) and was a smash single. Released in November of 1966, it hit #1 on the Billboard 100 and stayed there for seven weeks. And, as he will remind you every time you see him live, Micky sang it before Shrek. Even though Shrek himself actually never sang it. Go figure…
As much as I enjoy the album, one track keeps the album truly flawed. And it isn’t just a filler song. I’m talking about the spoken word idiocy of “The Day We Fall In Love”. It’s putrid. In fact, let’s pretend it doesn’t exist.
But that said, I also really like “Hold On Girl”, with its harpsichord-driven beat and lounge-lizard chorus. “The Kind Of Girl I Could Love” is sort oddly enjoyable, a mix of Motown and Mike’s awesome cornpone vocals. “Sometime in the Morning” has a sweet beauty to it, rich vocals mixed with jangling 60s guitars. “Laugh” I don’t particularly care for, but compared to “The Day We Fall In Love” it’s practically The Porpoise Song. And future Run DMC cover “Mary, Mary” (the sole Michael Nesmith composition on the album) is a strong, uptempo rocker anchored by strong bluesy riffs and a driving beat.
The Rhino Deluxe Edition is a must-have for fans, if only for the outtake track “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow) (with Peters Narration)”. Peter’s narration is hilarious, and even without it I like this version of the song better than the album track (there’s no whispering of “Mary… I love you… Sondra… I love you…”) It also features alternate takes, TV mixes, the first recorded versions of the awesome “Mr. Webster”, “Valleri”, and “Words”, and of course the entire mono mix of the album to go along with the standard stereo tracks.