Musician: Mickey Dolenz

Audio CD (October 2, 2012)

Label: XENON



For some time now, Mickey Dolenz has been issuing albums of covers of old songs he digs. He released 2 such collections on the Kid Rhino label, Mickey Dolenz Puts You to Sleep (1992) and Broadway Mickey (1994). Fifteen years later, he produced King for a Day, a collection of Carole King hits. Now, he’s put out Remember, a batch of 14 melodies he chose for very personal reasons.

In his liner notes, Dolenz wrote that the songs on Remember are an "audio scrapbook of the important songs in my life that had meant something to me for one reason or another.” Most of these songs are more than just tunes he first heard on the radio. For example, the set opens with The Beatles’ “Good Morning Good Morning.” According to Dolenz, Paul McCartney invited him to stop by Abbey Road to see a recording session of the Fabs. There, John Lennon called out “Hey, Monkee man” and played him a track destined for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. All these years later, “Good Morning Good Morning” becomes a folk ballad in the mold of Donovan Leitch. “Good Morning Good Morning” is a good signal of what is to come on Remember—well-known songs will be given fresh twists and unexpected interpretations along with a few tracks that will be new to most listeners.

Some of the choices also have their own interesting histories. Over 40 years after he rejected the song for The Monkees in one of the most famous revolts between producer Don Kirshner and the group, Dolenz finally sings the song he now wishes he hadn’t thrown away—“Sugar Sugar.” This time, it was a different producer, David Harris, who came up with an arrangement that swings with finger-snapping cool. Other overt Monkees connections include “Johnny B. Goode” which was Dolenz’s audition piece for the band—a song he says changed his life forever. In 1972, he put out one version of the Chuck Berry classic as a single; here, it gets a percussive, acoustic treatment. On the other end of the musical scale, Dolenz offers the moody, hard-edged Randy Scouse Git,” the first song he wrote for The Monkees in 1967. Then and now, it’s full of psychedelic imagery. It was inspired by a party thrown by the Beatles and is full of allusions to the then current pop star scene.  Then, there’s a very surprising a cappella choral arrangement of “Do Not Ask For Love,” an obscure Monkees track originally sung by Peter Tork in 1969. Obviously, you don’t have to know Monkee rarities to remember Neil Diamond’s “I’m A Believer.” This time around, Mike Nesmith would be proud as Dolenz gives the song a country groove.

Other musical settings help give the album variety as with the Dixieland flavored  re-imagining  of Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song” and the gentle  ballad, Bread’s “Diary.” But perhaps the final song of the set, the title track, is the one that will earn the most attention.

Dolenz has special fondness for Harry Nilsson’s “Remember, “a song he sang earlier on his Mickey Dolenz Puts You to Sleep, a version recorded just two years before Nilsson’s death.  Dolenz remembers Nilsson composing the tune when the two close friends were spending time together in 1972. (The Monkees recorded several Nilsson tunes, you know.) The new ethereal, lengthy version of “Remember” was just completed earlier this year when Dolenz learned about the death of another close friend, Davy Jones. Sadly, this news gave the song and the theme of the entire album added poignancy.

Clearly, Remember is a nugget for Monkees fans, but it’s also a set for those who’d enjoy some nicely re-imagined songs nicely arranged by producer David Harris. This isn’t a collection that’s going to set the world on fire, but it’s hard to resist hearing these new versions of old familiar melodies. Even better, you may think you know what to expect, but Remember has more than its share of pleasant valley surprises. Some teen idols still have it.  

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