First of all, I was a big Monkees fan. In 1966, aged 12, I bought the single I'm A Believer two weeks before I owned my first record player! I then bought each of the first five Monkees albums as soon as they were released and loved them all. I subscribed to Monkees Monthly magazine and corresponded with an American penpal found through that magazine, swapping letters with her about all things Monkee! They were not the coolest band in the world to my musically snobbish friends, but I loved them. I was cool as well, into the Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, Kinks, Small Faces etc. but, in the latter half of the sixties, no band had a place in my heart like Davey, Mike, Micky and Peter. In the early seventies, after Led Zeppelin had bludgeoned their way into my life, I finally threw out my childhood and flogged the lot for peanuts. Having still retained most of my vinyl albums, I now regret that decision but, two days ago, those fine albums once again were in my possession, courtesy of this budget priced box set from Rhino.
Now, as any music fan of a certain age will realise, buying an album based to a large degree on nostalgia is risky. The magical sounds of childhood and teenage years can sound dated and disappointing decades later. However, already being the owner of The Definitive Monkees compilation, I wasn't buying this set wholly on a whim but I did wonder whether some of the lesser known songs would stand the test of time. I'm therefore happy to report that, from the opening bars of their debut through to the closing notes of their final album as a four piece, the magic is very much intact. Whereas classic Beatles and Stones have been played incessantly on the radio, TV and in my own home and car for years, a lot of the songs on these five albums have not been heard by me since 1970. I was amazed, therefore, to be singing along and remembering a lot of the words immediately. Even the bonus tracks, which generally I am not a lover of, add to the enjoyment and quality of each album. The group's progression from "do as we're told" puppets who didn't play their instruments to proper band with a good deal of artistic control is palpable when listening to Headquarters and the final two albums. Yes, you can spot obvious influences left, right and centre and they were always at least two steps behind the Beatles, but the quality is there consistently throughout all five of these albums. The CD sound quality is also excellent.
For those Monkees diehards like myself, this set is an essential purchase and fantastic value for money. For any music fan who is interested in listening to a piece of genuine sixties musical history and some bloody good songs, this set is also highly recommended.