Michael Nesmith

Hey Hey He's A Pompous Ass
*special introductory paragraph!
*The New Recruit 7"
*Until It's Time For You To Go 7"
*The Wichita Train Whistle Sings
*Magnetic South
*Loose Salute
*Nevada Fighter
*Tantamount To Treason Volume One
*And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'
*Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash
*The Prison
*From A Radio Engine To The Photon Wing
*Live At The Palais
*Infinite Rider On The Big Dogma
*...tropical campfire's...
*The Garden

There's only one word for a man who impregnates a woman while his wife is eight months pregnant -- and that word is CLASSY! While a part of the seminal fake rock band The Monkees in the `60s, Michael Nesmith always displayed a certain attitude - part cockiness, part just pissedoffness that he wasn't a huge star on the merits of his music rather than his silly TV show. It's actually amazing how long he stayed with the band considering his bitterness about the whole experience. Quite frankly, it's a bit disgusting reading old interviews and listening to him bitch and complain about not being able to create the music he WANTED to create. It was a damn TV show and it made him a millionaire and recognized public figure - what's to complain about? But he did. And, as it turns out, he had good reason to complain. So never mind all that stuff I just said. In addition to impregnating a woman while his wife was eight months pregnant, Nesmith was a great country/western-style songwriter! This was shown over and over again in the killer tunes he penned for The Monkees. So it should have come as no surprise that when he went out on his own, he put out a series of critically acclaimed records. Maybe he's not as important and brilliant as he believes himself to be, but he is good, and he's given us lots of delightful music to enjoy if you take the time to seek it. So ignore the man's evidently self-obsessed nature if you must, and just dig his twangy music!

The New Recruit 7" (as "Michael Blessing") - Colpix 1965
Rating = 7

I'm not saying you gotta have a gigantic ego to change your last name to "Blessing" (as in "I bestow the blessing of my music onto you, inferior listener), but it certainly doesn't hurt. Regardless, the a-side of this debut is a real humdinger! A melodic uptempo slice of jangle-garage bubblegum, it could easily be mistaken for a Monkees tune proper if not for Michael's ridiculousy hicky accent. Then it doubles the ante (?) by pairing its innocuous goodtime beat music with gruesome anti-war lyrics, creating one of the sing-songiest protest songs alive.

"Now there are several lessons that I haven't mastered yet
I haven't got the hang of how to use the bayonet
If he doesn't die at once, should I stick him just once more?
Oh please be patient Sergeant, for I've never killed before"

Unfortunately, side two is filler. You'd think that "A Journey with Michael Blessing" would be a delightful cover of "Don't Stop Believin'," but it's just a Ventures In Space-style instrumental with grim menacing tone, amateurish guitar solo and no real melody to speak of. It's not awful, but surely he could've written an actual *song* to put on this side.

Interesting piece of trivia: See that hole in the middle of the record? Michael Nesmith PUNCHED that hole there during an argument with Don Kirschner!!!!

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Until It's Time For You To Go 7" (as "Michael Blessing") - Colpix 1966
Rating = 3

Side A is not to my liking at all; the strings-enhanced acoustic ballad reminds me of something from my childhood that I can't quite place. It's very "'60s folky" like the Beau Brummels or Peter, Paul & Mary, but it specifically reminds me of boring adults drinking wine in a bachelor pad or something. I can't place the memory, but it's not a good one. Considering you probably didn't live my childhood, the song will affect you differently, if at all. But you know that sorta sad Latin folk mood of The Beatles' "And I Love Her"? It's like that -- but GROSS.

The B-side is fun in that who knew Michael Nesmith recorded a Dylan parody!? Unfortunately, it's not a particularly funny Dylan parody. Entitled "What Seems To Be The Trouble, Officer?," it features twankling electric guitar, intermittent harmonica blasts, and semi-witty lyrics like "You might think I'm young to be such a powerful protester, but I'm durn near 19/I'd like to tell ya about all my hard times I've seen!" I'll stick with The Race Marbles' "Like A Dribbling Fram," THANKS.

I'll also stick with National Lampoon's "Positively Wall Street," THANKS.

Furthermore, I'll stick with "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Bob," THANKS.

On a related note, I'll stick with Frank Zappa's "Flakes," THANKS.

While we're on the topic, I'll stick with Mad Magazine's "Well, It Ain't," THANKS.

In conclusion, I'll stick with that 'Bob Dylan' version of "Friday" on YouTube, THANKS.

Honestly I'll stick with pretty much anything; my skin is made of tape.

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The Wichita Train Whistle Sings - Dot 1968.
Rating = 7

While The Monkees were hot and hapnin', Colgems Publishing owned Mike's soul - his songwriting, his singing, his playing - he couldn't do jack pepsi without their consent. So what did he do? Going along with his rebellious nature, he found a LOOPHOLE! They didn't own his ARRANGING. So he released this album - a collection of brass-performed instrumental versions of ten great C/W tunes he penned himself. Some ended up in full rock band performance on Monkees albums, others found their way onto Rhino's excellent Missing Links rarities collection and "Don't Cry Now" seems to have disappeared altogether! But no matter, matter. The important thing here is that if you know these songs ("Sweet Young Thing," "Nine Times Blue," "You Told Me," etc), you're gonna relish hearing them in this crazyass presentation. If you don't know them? Well, you won't get anywhere near as much out of them as the true Papa Ness fan, because presented like this, they all kinda sound the same. I think he was trying to create a Dixieland Jazz feel with the songs, but it sounds more like a poorly trained high school marching band (and banjo) demolishing a bunch of previously recognizable tunes. Rollicking, blowy, fun, usually out of tune and occasionally meandering so far away from interestingness, you wonder if Mike left the studio to take a poop or something.

Yes, perhaps it's just a curiosity at this point - sort of an unintentional demonstration of the levels of dentist office squareness a formerly respected "head" can sink to when given too much artistic control. But buried way underneath all the ridiculous brass blow-em-ups, true music fans will find a heaping helping of catchy hooks. You just, like a fish, have to eat a lot of worms to get to those tasty hooks.

Isn't that what fish do? Eat tasty hooks? And flop around in happiness and excitement when they are finally freed from their watery prison by a caring fisherman?

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Magnetic South - BMG 1970.
Rating = 8

I know you can see right through me, even without them fancyass prescription X-ray glasses. You know I don't like country music and I'm totally lying just to give the impression that I'm slightly more well-rounded than I actually am. But see, and I'm holding my finger up in the air now because that's what Bill Clinton does when he wants it to be clear that he's telling the truth: Yes, I may hate rednecky rollicking country bumpkin music, but the slower, ballad-type western sundown picking can move me sometimes. Your Patsy Cline. Your Johnny Cash on occasion. And this CD is full to bustin' with that kind of C/W - sorrowful coyote cries of lonesome boot spurs around the campfire. With lovely pedal steel guitar work from "Red" Rhodes (so called because he likes to read, but only misspelled books) and another smatchaloo of Mr. Nesmith original compositions (+ 2 like covers), the debut recording by The First National Band is a sleeper and a keeper. You can take your high-speed redneck tripe like "The Whatever Lion" and "Miss Or Lady Something" and shove 'em down the dirtscoop of monkeyshines, but the porch-sitting lemonade-drinking relaxed atmosphere of the other songs is, in the words of Shakespearean-trained actor Samuel Hagar, "Good enough to uh."

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Loose Salute - BMG 1970.
Rating = 7

A companion piece to Magnetic South, but with a few too many of those hi-falutin' hick country songs for my tastes. Maybe I wouldn't mind them if they seemed to have any discernible melody at all, but they don't. Crap like "Thanx For The Ride" and "Dedicated Friend" are all country attitude, no substance (except weed). The highlights are pretty hi-lit though, especially the darling Monkees tunes "Conversations" and "Listen To The Band," as well as a handy-dandy cover of "I Fall To Pieces" (which I personally know by Patsy Cline - who do you know it by? Winger, I hope?). It's a solid listen, but not as strong as its predecessor, with only one interesting surprise: the album closer "Hello Lady" is an almost discoey funk-esque rock tune of the sort you totally wouldn't associate with Mr. Nesmith (until at least another four years at least).

I just noticed I used "at least" twice there. Is there any way to get this fucking Paper Clip guy off of my Microsoft Word?

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Nevada Fighter - BMG 1971.
Rating = 8

Much to my chaglee, Mike and The First National Band returned to the classic sound of lazy porch swinging drunk guys on this one. Whether acoustic or full electrical-band with steel guitar, they create a mood of soft reflection on haystacks, dirt roads, cows and other things you might find on a farm, including but not limited to a horse. Only half of the songs are the Loch Nes Mithster originals this time though, with side B turned over to covers of not just country standards but works by modern songwriters like Harry Nilsson and the worthless, overrated Eric Clapton (represented here with "I Looked Away," which is not surprisingly about fifty trillion times inferior to every other song on the record). There's also a cover of the Meat Puppets' "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds," which some might argue was recorded nearly a decade before the Meat Puppets even formed, but I haven't drawn a time line in quite a while and don't really remember much how they operate. Anyway, I prefer to think of history as a series of events taking place alphabetically.

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Tantamount To Treason Volume One - BMG 1972.
Rating = 8

The SECOND National Band? How would that differ from a FIRST National Band? Well, Mr. "Red" Rhodes is still around, but the new guys have helped Mike transform his music into more of an Eaglesy country/rock sound than the traditional-sounding C/W you may have enjoyed in his previous solo work. There are a couple of points where he actually hits the repulsive lows of that popular West Coast outfit (the leadoff track "Mama Rocker" is monstrous, as is the confusing psychedelic/avant/joke track "Highway 99 With Melange"), but most of it is as soothing as always, but with a bit more of a backbeat and full band feel. The Second National Band is also much more likely to pull weird instrumental extrapolations out of their coattails in the middle of songs, honing and droning with keyboards or light guitar or whatever else floats their hat at the moment. These breaks are an interesting addition to the Nesmith canon, as well as helping to "artiste" and "summer of love" up the southern rock feel that permeates through the majority of the record. Sort of like what CCR did to their sound on Pendulum.

My dog appears to be eating his bed again. Do you want me to have him save some for you?

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And The Hits Just Keep On Comin' - RCA 1972.
Rating = 7

A duet album! No band! Just Mike and OJ "Red" Rhodes playing gentle little acoustic songs about women leaving and finding the strength to carry on. Most of it is really pretty what with that steel guitar whinging, bending, careening and sliding all over Shantytown, but occasionally you find yourself dozing off a bit at the non-rhythm-sectionness (and occasional hooklessness) of it all. I get the same feeling when I try to sit through the Blue Jays album by Justin Hayward and John Lodge. Certainly they are the two highlights of the Moody Blues songwriting combo, but for some reason without the rest of the band, they're just BLAND. Still, it's a darn treat to be able to enjoy an entire Nike Mesmith album without happening across one of those atrocious bebop bouncy fast-moving dirtcrap chuggers. This is all nice folksy strummy stuff for drinking tea and exchanging closed-minded racial epithets.

Reader Comments

GJTROMP1952@wmconnect.com (Gregg J Trompeter, Richmond Maine)
To Whomever You Are Or Think You Are Or Yearn To Be:

Michael Nesmith's "And the Hits Just Come On Comin'" is one of the finest records I've ever heard & perhaps Nesmith's personal best. If you didn't "get" it, as so many others failed to get it, then I suggest you silence your appalling imbecility & permit intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive "critics" to fairly judge an exquisite album you are evidently too stupid to appreciate. You seem to know as much about terrific music & poetic lyricism as Sean Hannity knows about compassion & valid dissent. Time for you, oh foolish, useless blowhard, to shut up & go away.

I don't know about racial epithets. Michael Nesmith, for as long as he's been in the country game, still seems like an outsider playing at it, so I doubt he'd be into playing redneck games. Doesn't mean the songs aren't great -- Gram Parsons music seems city-boy-ish to me too.

All that being said, you're right about one thing: this is a drowsy album. I'm not sure what Mr. Trompeter hopes the rest of us get that "so many others failed" to, but really it's not that complicated. It's a pretty snoozy collection of not-bad songs, "Different Drum" being one of the few that sticks. I'd personally rather hear Magnetic South any day of the week. Now that's a killer record.

And as for your appalling imbecility... I don't know you, but I'm entertained by the writing even when I disagree, and anyone with Michael Nesmith, Swans, and Rudimentary Peni in his collection can't be too terribly dumb (until you read the Mark E Smith interview). Irreverence is a quality that "real" critics just can't seem to see the value in. So keep up the imbecility.

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Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash - Rio 1973.
Rating = 8

This album is pretty much your standard ranch stash, with stinky, juicy buds a-ready for the smokin' by any and all who enjoy purposely giving themselves sore throats. How come nobody warned me about the sore throat thing before I smoked pot that one time? Man, that fuckin blew. Never again. I'll stick to injecting speedballs into my penis, thanks. This album features a full band again, with only FOUR Nesmith originals this time (one of which, "Some Of Shelley's Blues," dates back to his Monkees days!), and boy he really does write the same song over and over again, doesn't he? Oh well. It's an emotional little western tune nonetheless. Some very nice mellow down home country pickin' time yeehoo! on this one. As always. Pretty straightforward album really - great slow tunes, but only seven of them so don't be thinking you're buying Unhindered By Talent by Sore Throat. Oh many a man have made that mistake. How come nobody warned me about that Sore Throat album before I smoked sausage that time?

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The Prison - Pacific Arts 1974.
Rating = 8

This is where Mike Nesmith entered his thirties, kicked "Red" Rhodes in the ass and issued a press release declaring that country music is for wops and rug munchers.

Okay he didn't really do that, but can you imagine if he had? Oh I totally would have called up my pal Merle Haggard and he would've had a field day! I mean literally! He would have invited over a bunch of little kids to compete in various contests of physical skill, including a sack race and three-legged relay. As for this album, it's not country music. The guitar lines are still occasionally westernish-ish, but mostly it's just very meditative, repetitive acoustic w/ keys music to relax and read to. In particular, you're supposed to read the stupid little booklet that comes with the CD. In fact, the CD is billed as "a book with a soundtrack." I skimmed the book - it appears to be some dipshit little allegory about escaping from prison and realizing that freedom is scarier than imprisonment or some such puerile De La Vega-esque crap. But the music is nice! Soothing as a balm without being nearly as greasy. It's simplistic as all pooty, with basically one little bit being played over and over with for seven minutes in each song, but that's an approach too. And an effective one, if the mood you're setting out to create involves sitting comfortably in a chair or other ass-resting device. Besides, not everybody reads at the same speed, so all the extra repetitions give the slow, stupid people time to catch up with all the normal people.

In summation, let The Prison lock your soul in its iron grasp of beauty, and you won't even WANT to make that phone call or have a conjugal visit with Joe Pesci!

Reader Comments

hixsonsmith@peoplepc.com (Parker Smith)
All I can tell you is I was in a drug rehab in Alabama for 29 days and The Prison Lyrics got me through it.

Other than "Michael Nesmith.....The Older Stuff", this is my favorite Nez album. I totally agree that it's definitely for relaxation! It's very soothing and along with his vocals, one could do Yoga while it's playing while forgetting the stresses of the day.......I highly recommend it!

As far as Papa Nez goes, he's in a genre that can only be described as Progressive-Psychedelic-Acoustic-Folk-Country/Rock. OK, a better description would be as if Bob Dylan, The Moody Blues, Frank Zappa, John Phillips (of the Mamas and Papas), Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, and Brian Wilson all decided to get together and record an album. That's Michael Nesmith. And I absolutely LOVE that! The man is a freakin' musical genuis!!

As you said Mark, it's not cool how Nez seems to be embarrassed by his affiliation with The Monkees because afterall, that IS what introduced him to millions. If it weren't for that TV show (and he wouldn't haven't inherited a fortune because his mom invented Liquid Paper), he might be playing at clubs in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, eeking out a living. But then again, with his musical talent, determination and business sensibility, he perhaps would've have been discovered and successful anyway, maybe. Who knows. I'm glad, at least he participated in the audio commentary on the DVD releases of the The Monkees TV show.

Wonderful talent that he is, I hope to see him perform live someday.

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From A Radio Engine To The Photon Wing - Pacific Arts 1977.
Rating = 2

Turning his back on good music, Mr. Nesmith herein embraces discofied country-rock along the lines of John Stewart's classic "(There's People Out There Turning Music Into) Gold," but without that song's gritty, hard-hitting, driving riff. Apparently the leadoff track "Rio" was Mike's biggest solo hit ever, which I guess says a little something about the American conscience circa 1977 (cocaine use). These songs are completely lacking in all of the components that mark timeless or even, in fact, passable music -- interesting hooks, pretty vocal lines, instrumentation that doesn't sound like a Steely Dan/Eagles hybrid borne in Hell - leaving the listener with nothing but a collection of atrocious Jimmy Buffett-gone-funky tropical bad vibes for alcoholics. It's unclear exactly where his melodic sense disappeared to as he attempted in vain to catch up to the weird, wild party atmosphere of the late 70s, but chances are good that it didn't end up anywhere near Davy Jones.

Reader Comments

richard@buyersguide.co.uk (Richard Savill)
This was the album that introduced me to Michael Nesmith without the Monkees. I liked it very much and it made me want hear more Nesmith. So a lowly 2 in my books is far off the mark. The reviewer probably listened to it once or prefers the country style of the early years. In any event, he doesn't like it - but I do.

This album, along with many of his other songs of this era tend to be satiric. Not the same kind of blatant satire like The Tubes for example, but in Nesmith's own subtle way he concocts this 'tongue-in-cheek' atmosphere. Thus you never really know if he's serious about the subjects in his compositions. Never mind - the songs at least sound good.

A friend of mine came to my apartment one day and I had this Nesmith album playing. He thought it was Eric Clapton stuff he never heard before. Until he mentioned it, I had not noticed that some of the tracks seem curiously Clapton influenced - especially on 'We are awake'.

Because of the emasculating artistic experience with The Monkees, Nesmith soured on the music business. Showing disdain for large record companies by creating his own Pacific Arts, which eventually turned out to be one of the big entertainment companies of the day.

Nowadays, he's much less abrasive about his Monkees years - but any talk of reunion or touring is still O - U - T. (thank goodness!)

tonyh@springertech.co.uk (Anthony Harland)
People are strange.

“From a Radio Engine to a Photon Wing” is in my opinion the BEST album he ever did, and I’m a big Nesmith fan, with most of his albums up to “Live At The Palais”. How you can only give this two amazes me. The music on it is so beautiful and “Rio” just makes me want to get up and dance. Oh well different strokes for different folks. I like your website by the way.

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Live At The Palais - Killroy 1978.
Rating = 5

Bah humbug! Nesmith pulls a Dylan and reworks all his classic uptempo country-rockin' tunes into slothful, half-speed Clapton-style blues rock. Only one of the eight songs is under five and a half minutes! Perfectly pleasant rollicking classics like "The Grand Ennui," "Propinquity" and "Some Of Shelly's Blues" are sucked of both their fun energy and their melodic catchiness all in the name of just making crappy boring non-rocking "rock" music. Like The Who would. I'd rather sit the bench at Fenway than let somebody do this to MY classic songs. Like "I Ching."

That's one of my "classic" songs that everybody "knows."

I ching! You ching! We all ching for I ching!

Perhaps you've heard the cover version by Tool? It's fifteen years long.

Reader Comments

i was there and after all the years of waiting for the first national band and mike i was rapt even though it was years ago i pull out the album and listen to it i wih o j was there though

Don't know how old this review is but just wanted to say from the UK that in my view tracks like Propinquity, Some of Shellys Blues etc are some of the best songs written by anybody. So there!!

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Infinite Rider On The Big Dogma - Rio 1979.
Rating = 7

Mike tries the "modern `70s music" thing again, with much more entertaining results the second time round. First of all, most of these songs actually have melodies and GOOD ones. Odd, quirky bass lines, slick but catchy electric guitar and piano instrumentation - the sorts of things that really shouldn't work in the hands of a former country rock singer, but somehow do. It's partly just the novelty of it - this is an eccentric, bizarre collection of unrelated one-word-title songs that range from funky disco to Bob Seger boogie rock to `50s-style doowop balladry to Talking Heads-esque minimalist new wave-isms. A lot of the songs, in fact, don't even sound like Mike Nesmith at all (I suspect that he has a different guy singing some of these songs - a crazy yelling guy), but that just increases the interest and curiosity tenfold. Still, none of this diversity and oddness would count for a thing if it weren't for Mike's sudden resurgence of interest in creating actually CATCHY songs that you want to hear over and over again. And maybe even again after that.

Did I mention how much I like Mike's voice? He sounds like he's from Texas (which I think he is, come to think of it) - his voice has a friendly country-esque twang to it without sounding gross and rednecky like a Lynyrd Skynyrd or Garth Brooks or something. I like that in a car muffler.

Having proven that he had the wherewithall to keep up with the modern-day sounds of the late `70s, Mike carried on by, as far as I can tell, completely retiring from music to concentrate on film projects for the next thirteen years.

Reader Comments

TwinVirgos@aol.com (Jocelyn Potter)
Howdy! I wanted to put in my 3 cents (darn inflation)on Michael Nesmith's Infinite Rider On The Big Dogma album.

I instantly fell in love with this album. This is definitely not your standard cookie-cut, "follow the crowd" type album. It truly shows how much of an influence and pioneer he was and still is in the music industry. Just listen to the bass in Cruisin' (do I hear the beginnings of VERY early Rap?) Although I don't agree with your opinion about him or his music, we all (as Nez would put it) travel to the beat of a different drum.

"All I wanna do..is dance and have a good time" - Dance

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...tropical campfire's... - Pacific Arts 1992.
Rating = 6

Of course it's nice to have "Papa Nes" back in the studio after all these years, along with pedal steel demon "Red" Rhodes. But the music is kind of corny. A lot of the melodies are pretty and soothing in a "band that's playing in Hawaiian shirts poolside at the beach" way, but the production is so slick and grotesque that it makes the project sound like a bunch of session musicians with no hearts just throwing together some music for yuppies to meditate to if their Ray Lynch Deep Breakfast CD is on the fritz. Plus it contains the two most pathetic "good time" tunes that Mike has ever written; "Laugh Kills Lonesome" and "I Am Not That" are so absolutely atrocious on any scale, the level of their unquestionable shittiness actually defies description.

I mean, besides "pathetic," "absolutely atrocious" and "unquestionable shittiness." But besides that, I can't imagine any possible description. Except for variations on the phrase "assfuckingly rotten," I suppose.

But aside from those two horrendous, stupid, asinine garbage novelty songs, most of this is pretty much what you'd expect from an ex-Monkee pushing 50 -- very, very gentle and fakey-sounding music that's perfect for old people. Complete with production that sounds like something your out-of-touch Dad would have done.

Which could very well be the case actually, especially if your last name is "Nesmith."

Reader Comments

Yeah....EXACTLY what you said, Mark.

All I can add is, as much I love Nez, "Tropical Campfires" is the only album that I bought of his, that when I listened to it, I cringed. Well, it being way back in the good ol' days of 1992 or 1993, that particular record store where I made the purchase, had a policy that if you didn't like something you bought, you could bring it back and exchange it.

I brought it back and exchanged it for "Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma".

While not as dynamic and energized "The Magnetic South/Loose Salute/Nevada Frighter" trilogy or trying to be as comtemporary as "Infinite Rider On The Big Dogma" (that's one seriously pretentious title), it's worthier than your critique would lead one to believe but not one to use to introduce Nesmith to someone.

For me this album in many places has kinda of late 1940's Southwestern feel, some of the songs sound like they could be part of a movie soundtrack. It's probably his most laid back album which doesn't make it immediately engaging but it does reward repeated listenings during quiet moments.

With 12 or 13 years between albums the songs, while not terrible, should have been stronger and better written, particular with three outside songs.

"Yellow Butterfly" with it's psychedelic lyrics, and it's soft country backing track comes off a little wacked out and I could see the casual listen would question proceeding further. It's probably the song I'd cut from the album as it is one song I usually bypass it.

"Rising in Love" would have been my choice of a single to promote the album, the lyrics are best of the Nes written songs and has a fairly energized performance.

"Laughter Kills Lonesome" & "I Am Not That" aren't asinine. "Laughter Kills Lonesome" does come off rather loud, clownish and out of place. "I Am Not That" I've always found amusing.

"Brazil", and the two Cole Porter songs, "In the Still of the Night" & "Begin the Beguine" are from the 30's, which I enjoy. "Brazil" is one of times the band sounds like their really having fun. Michael's vocal for "Begin the Beguine" I believe to be one of his best and really nails it. He makes it a singer's song unlike Artie Shaw and his Orchestra performance (a hit), which probably arranged with dancing in mind and The Andrew Sisters, whose tendency to entertain brought too much good cheer to their recording, kind of undermining the lyrics.

What is interesting is you've rated as I would but your review would lead one to wonder why. "Radio Engine" is a better, more accessible album and you've rated it much lower.

"Magnetic South" produced by Elvis Presley's favored producer Felton Javis, is like George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass". Both recorded and released after leaving their previous band when they had years of back logged & demoed songs and none of their future albums had as consistantly strong line up of songs.

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The Garden - Pacific Arts 1994.
Rating = 6

Oh yay! It's another book from the literary genius who penned "Papa Gene's Blues"! This one doesn't even have lyrics. You're just supposed to treat the instrumental music as a soundtrack to the little book that comes with it. Well, I for one sold the original on ebay and made myself a CDR of the "soundtrack," never having read the book. So I have no clue what this is supposed to be about. All I know is that it is a very, very deep artistic statement. You can just tell by how "serious" the music is.

Lots of piano on this one. Some guitar flourishes and runs here and there, but mostly the peaceful tones of God's beloved stringed ivory instrument. It's a mood thing. If you want to spend $18 or whatever on a mood thing, go for it. You get a free book and some very pretty elevator muzak to enjoy on a rainy day while you dust the commode.

Reader Comments

Excellent reviews, my friend. But please, you anti-country-ism is not unlike knee-jerk racist generalizations. You're knocking an entire culture and way of life just because you either grew up in the South and were made to feel guilty, or you did not grow up there and you don't understand.

Garth Brooks? Well, yes, he has become a caricature of himself by selling out country. But some of the best music of any genre comes from the likes of Vince Gill (no less a west coaster than Bill Champlin likes him), Marty Stuart (the underappreciated hillbilly), and Mark Chesnutt (pure blue-collar south).

Give yourself some time to learn to appreciate country, and you might find you like Nez's music on a whole new level!

Best Regards - keep the good stuff coming!

with any hope in the years to come you will hopfull contract some sort of viral infection and spend the remander of your days pissing all over yourself.

todchy@openaccess.org (Todd Lee)
Mike Nesmith solo albums are to the Monkees what Bob Weir solos are to the Greatful Dead. Nuff said.

raif51@cox.net (Kathy Coleman)
Dude! You know, even though I pretty much disagree with you on almost every point, I gotta say your reviews just made me grin with fiendish glee. As someone who loves the nasal redneck twang of real country music, I'm happy to find guys like you who know that's what country music IS (and not that pablum Trashville's been feeding us for the last decade) even though you don't like it much (at all). Besides, you have a wicked cool sense of humor. If you wanna see what a reviewer who DOES like country music thinks of some of these albums, check mine out: http://www.takecountryback.com/features/nesmith.htm Enjoy. And look around the site. You'll probably hate it. ;)


I am going to have to take some time to digest. I find your cynicism interesting, as I am a cynic myself. But I have to say I like Nesmith's music a great deal.

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Rays - Videoranch 2005
Rating = 5

Say, does anybody have any anecdotes about Michael Nesmith behaving in a cordial, non-selfish manner? I'm sure that he's most likely at least 90% a decent man, but the only anecdotes I ever hear are about times he's acted like a complete prick (trashing the show that made him who he is; selling his autograph for $100 even though he's a bajillionaire by inheritance; refusing to let the other Monkees play guitar on Justus because 'I'm the Monkees' guitar player'). I would like to hear some good things for once. So come on, come all -- share your positive Michael Nesmith stories! I realize I'll probably have to pay for additional web space because so many of you are going to respond, but that's a sacrifice I'll happily make in order to ease my mind re: the outlandish past actions of 'Nez,' who probably started calling himself that because he got sick of people pronouncing his name "NEE-smith."

As for his first CD in 11 years, it's a mixed whirligig grab bag of

It's not actually a mixed whirligig grab bag of anything. That was just an awesome description I had to use before forgetting it. At a later date, if I run across a record that actually DOES boast a wide variety of sounds and influences, I'll know to refer back to this page, wherein I have tastefully preserved the perfect descriptor for such a work.

As for this one, it's a bunch of keyboard-drenched songs with Latin percussion. The overall tone is cool and groovy, led by an overwhelming blue wash/wall of synthesized string-sounding chords topped with the jazzy groove-tones of a B3 organ. Occasionally, Mike will pick up his guitar but the piano and keyboards definitely have the run of the castle. Synth strings, synth horns, synth bass, even synth drums in some of the songs! The Latin percussion is 'analog' though. Or 'acoustic' or WHATEVER FUCK YOU LUDDITE PIECES A SHIT CALL

But moving on. Seven of these tracks are instrumentals; five feature the loving vocals of Mike Nesmith (occasionally buried or plugged through crazy effects). Most of them seem awfully underwritten or at least uncreative -- at one point during my first listen, I exclaimed, "Christ! This sounds just like a pre-set 'sample' song on a Yamaha keyboard!" Christ agreed and added, "When I said I'd die for mankind's sins, I didn't mean this shit!"

On a related note, I googled myself for the four billionth time today and discovered a forum entitled 'Right Wing Music Critics,' wherein somebody had pegged me - ME!!!! - as a 'right-wing twit'!!! Now I have no problem with the 'twit' designation, but where on Earth did this guy get the impression that I'm 'right-wing'?! Did he somehow miss the 400 metric tons of anti-Bush and anti-religion rants strewn throughout every page on the site? Or does he just not know what 'right-wing' means? Because I admit that when I go flying around, I tend to rely more on my right wing than my left, but this was clearly a politically-focused forum having nothing to do with radioactive Birdmen!

Now see, that wasn't funny. This is a sad day for comedy and those who like to laugh. Fuck! I just realized what the problem is! I'm listening to Mike Nesmith's Rays CD! One second....

Ahh much better. Urge Overkill. Remember them? Boy, they sure disappeared off the face of the pop culture, didn't they? Back to Michael Nesmith's Rays CD now. As opposed to the new Ray Davies CD Michaels - HA HA HA HA AHAHH!!!!! HA AH AHA AHAHAHAHAH!

Hey, somebody had to laugh. YOU sure weren't (asshole).

Rays is more grooves than hooks, I'm afraid. Many of the songs seem extremely underwritten, with simple chord changes and sorta cliched melodies. It's all perfectly pleasant on the ears of time, but not exactly what you might call 'great, husky music that will be remembered forever.' Although the lyrics are pretty minimal, it appears to be a concept album about cruising through the road of life, always hungry for greater success, until finally realizing that it's far more worthwhile to stop hurrying, stop worrying and just rest and enjoy life.

Car references abound; song titles include "Dynaflow" (the trademark name for an automatic transmission developed and built by General Motors Buick Division from the late 1940s to the mid 1960s), "Carhop" (a waiter or waitress on rollerskates who brings food to people in their cars), "Boomcar" (a loud, annoying car driven by attention-deprived scum who insist on broadcasting low-frequency pulsating noise into our homes and businesses) and "Friedrider" (a song from the new Michael Nesmith album), and the cover artwork depicts Mike at various stages of his life driving around in ever-more fancy cars.

You know what we need? More full-fledged Nesmith compositions with vocals and melodies and things. The title track of this record falls into this category and is a wonderful song. With different instrumentation, it could be mistaken for one of his classic Missing Links compositions! But I guess that's not where his head's at at this late date, because it's pretty much the only song on here that you're likely to get stuck in your head. Elsewhere, there's some Santana-y Latin guitar noodling, "Lady Madonna"-style piano fluff, soul-style groove, Italian wedding music, Seinfeldy synth-bass filler, and semi-classical what-have-you -- pretty much all set against an insular, homemade-sounding coat of modern keyboard fullness.

But dude, check out who Nez's drummer is! GREG BISONETTE! Of David Lee Roth's Eat 'Em And Smile! fame! Jesus, can you imagine agreeing to work with both David Lee Roth AND Michael Nesmith? Either Greg is a glutton for punishment or he just loves the fact that you can spell "EGOTIST" out of the letters in his name.

Still, I have to take issue with Mike's front-cover 'peace of mind' revelation that he's 'not as hungry as (he'd) thought.' It's nice to think that perhaps he HAS finally realized the error of his ways (such as it is, if press reports are to be believed), but it all kinda falls down into a lumpy pile of horseshit when you visit his web site and run across this 'fantastic bargain':

Limited Edition "Rays" CD

The new Michael Nesmith album "Rays" will be commercially available in April of 2006. However, a special Limited Edition run of 100 CDs will be available beginning November 28th, 2005 only at Videoranch.

Each Limited Edition Rays CD package will include:

* A CD that is signed and numbered by Nez

* Unique Jewel Case and CD Artwork by Michael Nesmith

* Display case to display your signed CD on a desk or table.

* An 8 1/2 "by 11" print of the Drew Friedman album cover art that will be on the commercial copy of the CD that's coming out in April

* Certificate of Authenticity

* The price for the Limited Edition will be $100.00

It's like I've always said -- the true mark of a modest artist is his ability to offer you a display case to display your signed CD on a desk or table.

Reader Comments

Hey, I'm listening to 101 Strings play "Wichita Lineman" as I write this; I'm sure it's waaaaay better than Rays. (Bummer 101 never did any Monkees; that distinction goes to the Living Strings, who did an entire album of Monkees tunes.)

Anyway, another ace review! Infotainment!

And, er, don't worry about 'a mixed whirligig grab bag,' 'cause I just stole it for one of my reviews.

snakes@net1plus.com (Steve Blake)
Mike had/has some super cool friends. Everything that I have ever heard about Red or about Doug Adams is that they were nice folk. And they were friends of the Nez. So I assume he must have some redeeming qualities as a friend or he is a great put-on artist. Yeah, I read Total Control. The gal had an ax to grind. And yeah, he may have been a prick during the Monkees. But I think the actuality may have been that they were all dickheads to some degree. Fame, at that age, can do that i/e make you pissed off and arrogant without realizing it. It has to do with being young and clueless. It may be that Mike just doesn't handle the fame real well. Everything I have ever read from him seems clear and well spoken. I assume it is directed towards me, as a member of his audience and I accept it on those terms.

I saw Mike on the last tour, just after Red had died. It was mixed. The music was great, the comedy kind of lame. A girl rushed the stage and Nez went from annoyed to bemused and back to trying to focus on the performance. After the show, we waited in the club. His manager (or assistant or whatever) came out and said "Mike will be out in a second, please line up here." And then Mike came out. I never assumed he would do autographs, but there he was. He was quiet and cordial. When it came to my turn, I had him sign my ticket. As he was signing, I told him that when my son was young, he had violent colic and his album, "A The Hits Just Keep on Coming" was the only thing that would help keep my son from screaming in pain. He looked at me startled for a second and then said a quiet "Thank you" and shook my hand. My impression was not of an arrogant man at all, but of someone who may have been humbled. For granted this was just after Red's passing, but we are who we are, especially in grief.

M. Prindle, I've read what you wrote on Michael and I want you to know that there are alot of things that I want to say about him. For one thing, he was a part of a very successful TV show that turned out to have a very successful band. To top all other things off, he went into that scene already a successful solo artist and pulled-together businessman because of what he had learned about the industry like how he learned business through the Liquid Paper Company that his mother established. So, when he got into having to deal with Don Kirshner, he didn't have his soul owned by anybody. Early on, Kirshner knew that Michael was already an established artist and businessman,so, he let him have equal say-so in the production matters of the records like him writing what he did,too. That happened and it worked. That's why you saw in the first season when they gave the song credits things like "Sweet Young Thing" written by Michael Nesmith, musical arrangement by Michael Nesmith and Carole King, production by Michael Nesmith and Don Kirshner because that's how it was-whatever he wrote, then, he was allowed and given the right to work on it without Don or with him. After that arrangement, Don had gone behind their backs to sell "A Little Bit Me,A Little Bit You" his way. Side A of the record was that song but, the flipside wasn't the next song that they wanted to have on it. This is where all hell broke loose for all of them-especially Mike: they found out what happened when Don had not only agreed to sell the song here, but, he didn't sell it here because only a small number of copies sold because the title on Side B was "Davy Jones Sings The Monkees" but, the rest of the copies, he had sold in Canada. Mike had been doing the right thing all along but, at this time, it was time to fight fire with fire- if this was the way that Don wanted it to be,then, Mike was going to make sure that it happened that way-it was time for a showdown. Mike and the guys met Don and Moelis at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Mike had confronted both gentleman with everything. Don had tried to deny the allegations but, he failed. Mike had told Moelis that if things didn't get any better to where they could play and sing on their own, then, he was quitting. Moelis had told Mike that there was no way that he could terminate his contract unless it was by legal suspension. Mike's attitude was just like Don's of "whatever it takes". Moelis had argued with him and Mike just lost it for a few seconds by slamming his fist through the wall of the hotel conference room but, he didn't get hurt because of the wall being plasterboard. So, really, after all this, the band got to be a landmark band in making real music, writing and singing their own songs and producing them with Chip Douglas and from "Headquarters" they proved not only the world wrong but, the powers-at-be because that happened when Don Kirshner got fired at the hotel and he lost control over the production matters- all of this thanks to Mike who's a gentleman with a heart of gold and he believes in doing things right because he sure did then like how it never hurts to have attitude to let your voice be heard like how your actions sometimes speak louder than words and Mike's were damn good with the band. As a fan of his I know this for a fact.

Good god, man! I just laughed my fucking ass right off. I'm a Michael Nesmith fan and I was just reading your reviews of his albums and you're spot-on. He was a total prick, wasn't he? But you know...(I hope I don't get struck down for this), don't you think he was a little punk rock back then? I mean, most punk rockers are pricks, too. It's the same shit on a different day--punks want publicity until they go "too mainstream". They all want to be appreciated by *everyone*, but only for their art. Wah. You're a millionaire. Whatever. Maybe he should hang out with Johnny Rotten.

Still... Nesmith had something in him though(yes, part COCK-iness, part arrogance....but he had some sort of "fuck the man" quality to him. Naturally he sold out Liquid Paper for $50 million, but ah...). Either way, I like piss and vinegar. Nesmith is one big bag of piss...and vinegar.

So, screw it. I'm still gonna love me some drunk-ass porch music, "Nez" style. I have to say that the songs he wrote for the Monkees...well, they made the Monkees seem *good*. He's talented and I love his stuff. I would have nailed him back then if I could.

Great reviews. You could review fucking John Mayer discs and I'd be amused.

David B. Guerrero
All the Garth and other pro- and anti- country discussions on the Nes albums reminded me what I was thinking last time I listened to the excellent Nevada Fighter album – who said this was country, period? More like ‘Progressive Western’ Music (Tumbling Tumbleweeds and all) – in sense that Floyd and Rush are Progressive Rock. Nes was sometimes called Progressive Country but I think its more Progressive Western (but then again I come from an Alternate universe where they never even dreamed of releasing ‘new coke’ to the masses (even though it did serve as an excellent evil plan to distract people from switching from sugar to corn syrup when ‘classic coke’ came out. My Favorite Nes albums: Magnetic South, Loose Salute, Nevada Fighter, Radio Engine To.., and Infinite Rider on the big Dogmas. Loved your comments and laughed my ass off though some I disagree with much but that’s half the fun.

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