If Monkees fans weren't already enticed by the impending release of a limited edition Blu-ray box set of the group's 1966-1968 television series this spring (along with the 1968 feature film Head and a bevy of other bonus features), they were certainly delighted by this week's news that The Monkees, more specifically Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, will embark on a sprawling concert tour to celebrate the group's 50th Anniversary. On top of all these developments, a brand new studio album, Good Times!, has been announced with a release date of June 10, 2016.
Good Times! is already monumental as it marks the first time The Monkees have entered the recording studio since Justus, the 1996 LP that brought together Micky, Davy, Michael, and Peter for the first time since 1968. Considered a mix bag by most fans, Justus remains notable in the group's canon as the final collective effort put to tape by all four Monkees. Recorded in Hollywood at NRG Studios in the summer of '96, the album was written, produced, and performed entirely by The Monkees. Good Times! promises a different approach.
An exclusive article published online by Rolling Stone magazine on Friday, February 5, revealed that the songbook for Good Times! will feature contributions from both Michael Nesmith ("I Know What I Know") and Peter Tork, The Monkees' contemporaries (Neil Diamond, Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, Harry Nilsson), and a bevy of notable rock stars, including Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Andy Partridge (XTC), Zach Rogue (Rogue Wave), and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie). The album's producer, Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) will also contribute material. Micky talked about the all-call to songwriters as the album initially began to take shape. "I began doing research and I realized that the whole indie rock scene is all about recapturing that 1960s jangly guitar sound of The Monkees, amongst many other groups, of course," Dolenz explained to Rolling Stone. One reason we don't have a final track listing yet is because once we put the word out all these people said they wanted to get involved." When speaking specifically about two finished songs, Gibbard's "Me and Magdalena" and Rogue's "Terrifying," Micky was pleased that they were consistent with The Monkees' brand. "They're all keeping with our sensibility," said Dolenz. Cuomo's "She Makes Me Laugh" has also been confirmed for the album. Andy Partridge of XTC, a lifelong fan of The Monkees, took to Twitter to show his excitement for Good Times! "The Monkees gave me SO MUCH joy as a kid, it's all I can do to repay it. They are liking 3 of my tunes so far, and I hope they dig the latest?" Partridge's "You Bring the Summer" is another lock for the album.
Details remain hazy, but the track lineup is shaping up to consist of unfinished vintage material along with the brand new compositions. Davy Jones, who passed away suddenly on February 29, 2012, will be represented vocally on the album by Neil Diamond's "Love to Love," which Micky informed Rolling Stone that he hopes to add a harmony vocal to the track. "Love to Love" was recorded in early 1967 and never saw official release in the 1960s. It later emerged on a 1979 Australian compilation and was collected on the third volume of the Missing Links series, which showcased previously unreleased Monkees songs. The title track, Harry Nilsson's "Good Times," was originally attempted in January 1968 by Nesmith and Nilsson (featuring Michael on electric guitar) and will be fleshed out to become a duet of sorts between the late Nilsson and his longtime friend Dolenz. At least two other songs written for The Monkees in the 1960s but never released are also slated to be a part of the project. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who contributed to every 1960s Monkees LP outside of the Head soundtrack, could be represented on Good Times! by "Whatever's Right," described as a "laidback country-like number" by Andrew Sandoval in his book, The Monkees: The Day-by-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation. A backing track for the song was completed in August 1966 by Boyce & Hart with no other Monkee involvement. Another vault find, Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "Wasn't Born to Follow," whose backing track was completed in March 1968 by Lester Sill and Shorty Rogers, was never given any treatment by The Monkees.
Despite the fact that nothing has been officially recorded, Good Times! is scheduled to be released by Rhino Records, The Monkees' longtime label, early this summer. Various changes at Rhino through the years has resulted in The Monkees being a high priority for the label and other times less so, but Rhino is seemingly very enthusiastic about a brand new Monkees studio album. "There have been some recent personnel changes at Rhino and the incoming personnel were very, very pro and positive about the Monkees," Micky told Rolling Stone. "[Rhino executives] John Hughes and Mark Pinkus both said they wanted us to make a new album, and they spelled out the exact kind of album that would go down well with the 50th anniversary and with our fans." Within 24 hours, publicity generated by the announcement of Good Times! resulted in the album placing as high as #12 on Amazon's best selling music list (due to pre-order sales) and caused The Monkees to trend on Facebook.
The reaction within the Monkees fan community regarding the arrival of Good Times! was largely positive, but lots of questions about the project remain. Rolling Stone reported that Peter will likely be adding vocals, guitar, and possibly some banjo to the album. Nesmith's advertised songwriting contribution, "I Know What I Know," is the only certainty when it comes to his involvement, but despite online conjecture, The Monkees Live Almanac can report that the door is not closed on a more active role for Michael. (UPDATE 2/9/2016: Rhino Records executive John Hughes has now confirmed that Michael will be a full participant in the making of the album.) The Live Almanac can also exclusively share that Monkees archivist and live concert producer Andrew Sandoval is part of the proceedings, and that Micky will indeed be drumming on parts of the album.
Micky isn't hiding his enthusiasm for Good Times!, telling Rhino Records that "This is one of the most exciting Monkee projects I’ve been involved in for decades!" Keep checking back with the Live Almanac for more updates and information about The Monkees' brand new album.