Today, Andrew Sandoval announced on Facebook that Michael Nesmith will perform the songs from his 1972 album And The Hits Just Keep On Comin' with pedal steel guitarist Pete Finney for a series of shows on the West Coast throughout January 2019. Here is the text of Andrew's announcement:
"I am pleased to announce that in a few weeks, Michael Nesmith will return to the concert stage to perform his classic 1972 album, And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ for a series of West Coast shows. Accompanied by just his trusty pedal steel guitarist, Pete Finney, these performances will mark the first time Nez has toured in a duo format since 1975. Tickets will go on sale Wednesday, November 21, 2018. VIP Meet & Greet packages will also be available in limited numbers.
"Although his recent performances have focused on his legendary 1970s albums recorded for RCA, this is the first time he will perform any of his albums in its entirety. And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ is significant in Nesmith’s catalog, because it returned him to his roots as a singer-songwriter where his career began before The Monkees. Featuring just the accompaniment of Red Rhodes on pedal steel, his music and message achieved real purity on the album’s ten original songs.
"Hits served as the truest songbook that Michael would ever issue on record and it remains among his most satisfying albums. In addition to the album’s ten songs, you can expect to hear many of Nesmith’s other key tracks of the era, such as “Joanne,” “Silver Moon,” “Some Of Shelley’s Blues” and “Propinquity.” If I don't see you in January for these shows, I hope to catch up with you for the Mike & Micky Show, which is hitting the Northeast & Midwest in March!"
A complete list of venues and cities appears below, and tickets go on sale this Wednesday, November 21:
January 17: Neptune Theatre / Seattle, Washington
January 19: The Rogue Theater / Grants Pass, Oregon
January 20: Sofia Center For The Arts / Sacramento, California
January 22: Troubadour / West Hollywood, California
January 24: The Coach House / San Juan Capistrano, California
January 26: Sweetwater Music Hall / Mill Valley, California
A look inside the vinyl edition of "Live at The Troubadour" by Michael Nesmith & The First National Band Redux
This August, the ever-prolific 7a Records issued Live at The Troubadour by Michael Nesmith & The First National Band Redux as a limited edition 2LP gatefold on 180g opaque gold vinyl. The set also happens to feature a special bonus performance of the song "Rio." A compact disc version was also released.
And now, thanks (as always) to Ben Belmares, you can take a look at the LP version of Live at The Troubadour below. Thanks, Ben!
Before you do, don't forget to order your copy of Live at The Troubadour on Amazon US or Amazon UK!
Earlier this month, Michael Nesmith's 1970s-era albums for RCA Records appeared suddenly on various platforms, and more surprisingly, each album was chock-full of bonus tracks. As we all send our best wishes to Nez, take a look at Brian Marchese's brand new essay that examines the bonus content on these latest issues of Michael's RCA output.
The Best of the Previously Unreleased Michael Nesmith 1970-73 Tracks That Were Recently Released Without Any Announcement...
EXCLUSIVE! 7a Records announces the release of "Michael Nesmith and The First National Band Redux Live at the Troubadour" deluxe CD and 2-LP gatefold vinyl
The Monkees Live Almanac is happy to share the official press releases from 7a Records announcing their latest project: a live recording documenting Michael Nesmith's historic return to the Troubadour in Los Angeles with the First National Band Redux! Thank you very much to 7a co-founders Glenn Gretlund and Iain Lee for passing along all of the details. Don't forget to follow 7a Records on Facebook and Twitter. And you can read more about 7a's past releases in the archives of the Live Almanac.
THE PRESS RELEASE
2-LP GATEFOLD VINYL DETAILS
COMPACT DISC DETAILS
OFFICIAL PREVIEW VIDEO
The influential trilogy of First National Band albums are now available on colored vinyl from Sundazed Music. As always, I'd like to say thank you to Ben Belmares for his fantastic scans that can't be beat. Great job, Ben!
With no official announcement or fanfare, Michael Nesmith's six early 1970s albums for RCA Records appeared on various platforms today, and even more surprisingly, each album was chock-full of bonus tracks.
Magnetic South (1970), Loose Salute (1970), Nevada Fighter (1971), Tantamount To Treason (1972), And the Hits Just Keep On Comin' (1972), and Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash (1973) have seen various reissues over the years on both compact disc and vinyl. Most recently, Sundazed Music issued the trilogy of First National Band albums on colored vinyl. And since the CD re-releases featured scant bonus tracks, this is the first time that the vaults have truly been opened to reveal a plethora of previously unheard recordings by Nesmith and the First and Second National Band line-ups (including new versions of Monkees songs like "Circle Sky," and instrumental renditions of both "Magnolia Simms" and "Tapioca Tundra").
In hindsight, fans were given something of an advance notice when Nez appeared live on Facebook in late April. During that event, Michael's assistant at Videoranch answered a question about whether or not the First National Band's albums would ever be remastered. She responded, saying "I think that Sony is doing that as we speak." And now as of today, those First National Band albums and the rest of Michael's RCA solo work are available on iTunes in the "Mastered for iTunes" format.
You can purchase or stream all six expanded RCA albums on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play, and HDtracks, but no physical compact discs are available at this time. Below you'll find each LP with a list of their respective bonus tracks, along with a few samples courtesy of YouTube.
Thank you to Justin Rakowski for tipping off the Live Almanac about these new releases!
In 2000, after issuing Michael Nesmith & The First National Band's first two RCA albums on compact disc, BMG/Camden continued to highlight Michael's solo career when they released both Nevada Fighter and Tantamount To Treason as a two-in-one CD package:
The BMG/Camden reissues of Michael's RCA albums are readily available on Amazon:
Magnetic South / Loose Salute
Nevada Fighter / Tantamount to Treason
And the Hits Just Keep on Comin' / Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash
Michael Nesmith's 11th studio album, The Garden, was issued in 1994 by Rio Records and is meant to act as a companion release to 1974's The Prison. Both The Garden and The Prison are written to have the music complement a novel included with the release (written by Nez) and to read the novel simultaneously while listening to the recording. In their review, AllMusic delved into the inner workings of the album:
The Garden (1994) is Michael Nesmith's companion release to The Prison (1974). Both works are a departure from his more traditional releases, as the music is specifically designed to aurally complement an equally engaging written novella/short story -- included in the extended liner notes booklet. The idea is for consumers to commence reading Nesmith's prose while simultaneously listening to the recording. The concept may at first seem unusual, although the results are nothing short of profound. No special speed-reading skills are required. Rather, the most useful thing that a potential enthusiast can bring to the multimedia project is an open mind, sense of adventure, and respect for the infinite possibilities inherent within such an subtly demanding correlation . As Nesmith is quick to point out in his preface, The Garden is not a sequel in the strictest sense of the term -- meaning that there isn't a true continuation of the narrative which began in The Prison. Instead, they are correlated thematically and stylistically as both are presented in a linear and consecutive approach. Each of The Garden's seven chapters are also visually enhanced, if not somewhat inspired by a series of Claude Monet paintings. There is a much more subtle connection between the prose and these unqualified masterworks, yet he is able to relate them in a contextual sense. The music retains Nesmith's inimitable and signature sound, yet compared to his most concurrent effort, Tropical Campfires (1992), The Garden is exceedingly ethereal and more often than not instrumental. There are vocals that feature not only the artist, but also his children Jason -- who is likewise the central character in the short story -- Christian, and Jessica. The backing band also includes Christian Nesmith as well as most of the musicians the senior Nez had collaborated with on the aforementioned Tropical Campfires, most notably Desert Rose Band string man John Jorgenson (guitar/sax/bassoon/mandolin/oboe/bandurila/mandocello), Joe Chemay (bass), and John Hobbs (keyboards), as well as studio maven Sid Page (violin).
Earlier today, it was announced that The Garden is once again available on compact disc courtesy of Videoranch, packaged as a 2-CD set with accompanying booklet.
In September 2017, 7a Records released Michael Nesmith at the BBC Paris Theatre on compact disc and as a limited edition picture disc LP. And now, the album is available on orange vinyl in limited quantities. A big thanks to Ben Belmares for sharing his scans of the orange vinyl issue with the Live Almanac!
In the latest Live Almanac poll, fans have selected Magnetic South as their favorite album by the First National Band.
Sessions for the album began on February 10, 1970 at RCA Hollywood. Felton Jarvis (Elvis Presley, etc.) was credited as producer, but in reality he rarely attended the sessions, which lasted through late March. Jarvis, however, did sign Michael to RCA Records, and Magnetic South became a showcase for Michael's unique blending of country and rock. Magnetic South was the first in a trilogy of albums by the First National Band. Loose Salute (1970) and Nevada Fighter (1971) would follow.
Thanks for voting!
This past January during a 5-concert jaunt throughout California, Michael Nesmith brought new life to his initial post-Monkees outfit, The First National Band. Originally consisting of Nez, Red Rhodes, John London, and John Ware, the group released three albums between 1970 and 1971, but their live performance history was fairly limited. Ignored and almost shunned by audiences and peers during their heyday, the music of the First National Band has since been cited by critics and contemporaries as a pioneering influence in the country rock genre.
In one of the more unexpected moves of Michael Nesmith's career, a reconstituted First National Band hit the road in early 2018 with Christian Nesmith (guitar), Jonathan Nesmith (piano/guitar/vocals), Circe Link (vocals), Christopher Allis (drums), Jason Chesney (bass), Amy Spear (vocals), and Pete Finney (pedal steel). Sadly, original members Rhodes and London have passed away, but Ware gave his blessing to the project and wished everyone well.
The concerts by the First National Band Redux, as they were dubbed, were ultimately a critical and commercial triumph. And now, The Monkees Live Almanac is proud to be the first to share the details about a forthcoming live album from 7a Records that will document this unique event in Nesmith/First National Band history.
Since 2015, 7a Records and its proprietors Glenn Gretlund and Iain Lee have been producing Monkees-related releases, including a collection of Micky Dolenz's 1970s MGM singles, Bobby Hart's first solo album, various limited edition vinyl 45s (Dolenz/Davy Jones/Dolenz with Circe Link & Christian Nesmith), and more recently, vintage and new live recordings by both Nesmith and Dolenz. And now 7a has made an agreement with Michael Nesmith and the members of the First National Band to release a live album documenting their January 2018 performances.
"We are extremely proud and excited to be able to work with Michael Nesmith and the First National Band on this album," Glenn told the Live Almanac. "What I have heard so far literally gave me goose bumps. It's that good. By all accounts this will be a superb album and one of 7a Records' biggest releases to date."
Iain was just as enthused. "If you’d have told 15-year-old me I’d be releasing a brand new First National Band live album on my own record label I’d have laughed in your face. This is a dream come true and is the culmination of years of hard work and dreaming from both myself and my business partner Glenn. We make it our business to only release records that we would buy and man, I’d buy a dozen copies of this. It’s a thrill and an honor to be working with Michael and the band on this. And you wait until you hear what Christian [Nesmith] has done with the production. Stunning."
As Iain said, Christian Nesmith is currently in the process of mixing and mastering the recordings, but at this moment, it has not yet been decided whether the album will consist of one full show or a compilation of the best performances from the various stops on the tour. Nez will have the final vote once everything has been mixed.
The following songs are very likely to be included on the album:
Be sure to check back with The Monkees Live Almanac as Glenn and Iain have promised more details about the upcoming First National Band live album release as they become available.
I would also like to take a moment to thank both Glenn Gretlund and Iain Lee for sharing this news with the Live Almanac and its readers, and for their constant support of the site.
UPDATE 4/22/2018: Iain Lee is reporting on Facebook that 7a hopes to release the First National Band live album in July 2018. It will be available on compact disc and as a 2-LP set.
UPDATE 6/18/2018: 7a Records announces the release of "Michael Nesmith and The First National Band Redux Live at the Troubadour" deluxe CD and 2-LP gatefold vinyl
Ever since Michael Nesmith reconstituted the First National Band for a series of exclusive concerts last month, I have received many inquiries asking where to find the music of the First National Band, and in particular, which releases were best to seek out. For my money, the late 1990s/early 2000s compact discs by BMG/Camden are the superior representations of Michael's RCA work. The label released the albums as two-in-one reissues. Below are scans of the Magnetic South/Loose Salute CD from 1999.
The BMG/Camden reissues of Michael's RCA albums are readily available on Amazon:
Earlier this week, The Monkees Live Almanac announced that Sundazed Music was reissuing all three studio efforts by Michael Nesmith & The First National Band on colored vinyl. Aside from offering each LP for sale individually, Sundazed has collected the trilogy in one package. Pre-order directly from their website.
The upcoming First National Band reissues are also available to pre-order at Amazon. The Live Almanac has had a lot of questions about who was responsible for the mastering of these releases. Amazon pre-order links and mastering information can be found in an update of the original blog post.
A big thank you to Gina from Sundazed Music for sharing their upcoming press release announcing vinyl reissues of all three seminal albums by Michael Nesmith & The First National Band! Complete details can be found below. (UPDATE 1/27/2018: The Live Almanac can now report via Sundazed Music the following information about the mastering of these LPs: "Bob Irwin Mastering + Kevin Gray Cut + RTI Pressing = Audible Perfection." The description originally read "Bob Irwin Mastered Mono" but that has been amended.)
UPDATE #2 on 3/23/2018: Customers who have ordered from Sundazed are receiving the following notification: "Thanks for the order! Unfortunately, the Nesmith LPs are delayed in manufacturing and will not be available to ship for another few weeks. Please let us know if we should continue to hold your order or cancel. We are sorry for the inconvenience!"
UPDATE #3 on 5/21/2018: Those who ordered directly from Sundazed are beginning to receive their LPs. However, customers who purchased through Amazon are still waiting for a shipping notice, and Deep Discount currently shows a June 22 release date.
Sundazed Press Release
Sundazed is proud to present three country-rock cornerstones from Michael Nesmith & The First National Band! Recorded and released in a span of less than 12 months(!!!), these three longplayers feature the matchless rural rock of Nesmith and his First National Band. Long out of print, this trilogy from the Nez make their return on colored vinyl with beautifully restored artwork on March 23rd!
The heralded solo debut of Michael Nesmith, Magnetic South features the artist’s hybrid of cowboy-’n’-western country music and rock sensibilities on eleven country-rock classics. Recorded at RCA’s Hollywood Studios in February 1970 directly after his departure from The Monkees, Magnetic South is brimming with songs Nesmith stockpiled during The Monkees’ heyday, highlighted by “Joanne,” one of the earliest singles with the California-country sound to become a major hit record. (Pre-order "Magnetic South" from Amazon)
The second LP from Michael Nesmith and the First National Band features the country-rock pioneer’s hit single “Silver Moon” alongside dreamy, near-psychedelic studies on western motifs and melodies, funky swamp sounds, and straight-up country readings in the inimitable Nesmith style. Loose Salute continues on the country-rock road of Magnetic South, rocking even harder in places, while adding a tinge of Latin rhythm. Recorded from April through July of 1970, the album catches Nesmith in his transition from honky-tonk hitmaker to studio born perfectionist across ten tracks. (Pre-order "Loose Salute" from Amazon)
The third LP from a Nudie-suit wearing father of country-rock, Nevada Fighter completes the trilogy of LPs by Michael Nesmith and the First National Band, augmented by members of Elvis’ ‘70s touring band and other Wrecking Crew heroes. Recorded from August 1970 through January of 1971, Nevada Fighter revisits one of Nesmith’s earliest compositions “Propinquity (I’ve Just Begun To Care),” which was penned back in 1965 prior to Nesmith becoming a Monkee, ultimately producing Nesmith’s fourth and final post-Monkees chart hit. The album’s first side is all Nesmith originals, while side two features covers of Harry Nilsson, Bob Wills, and others. (Pre-order "Nevada Fighter" from Amazon)
In advance of Michael Nesmith's string of concerts with his reconstituted First National Band, Andrew Sandoval has been sharing some wonderful essays about Michael's RCA albums through his Instagram account. They appear in full below, and be sure to click on the album covers for a look around each LP.
“Row upon row of man after man. Let this music be their music” – original liner notes to Magnetic South, 1970
In his solo debut as a recording artist, Michael Nesmith broke new ground with his new band, the First National Band. Taped at RCA’s Hollywood Studios in February 1970 directly after his departure from The Monkees, the album thematically opens Nesmith’s American trilogy of blue, red and white albums (with a trademark needle point sleeve designed by Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean). Magentic South brims with songs Nesmith stockpiled during The Monkees’ heyday. Five of the album’s songs had previously been taped in versions for The Monkees – “Calico Girlfriend,” “Nine Times Blue,” “Little Red Rider,” “The Crippled Lion,” and “Hollywood” – while “The Keys To The Car,” “Mama Nantucket,” and the Top 40 hit single, “Joanne,” reflected Nesmith’s most recent songcraft. Covers of “One Rose” and “Beyond The Blue Horizon” topped off this spirited and infectious long player.
As Nesmith reflected in the original liner notes for Magnetic South: “When Johnny Ware, now the drummer of the First National Band, first suggested I start a band my reaction was distant and a little negative. But he continued to talk and through the conversation I sensed some of the same spirit of the men who so profoundly influenced me. So, two days later Red Rhodes [pedal steel], John London [bass], Johnny and myself got together for a trial run and it all seemed to fall into place. Effortlessly and freely the music poured forth. And it was fun. Great fun. We played and sang and laughed for two weeks.” Issued in July 1970, Magnetic South was the first of two albums issued by The First National Band that year to critical accolades: "The music feels so good that you can just tell the musicians were smiling when they recorded it" - The San Diego Underground.
Michael Nesmith’s sophomore solo release, Loose Salute, continues along the country-rock road, rocking even harder in places than the First National debut, while adding a tinge of Latin rhythm. Taped from April through July of 1970, the album catches Nesmith in transition from honky-tonk hitmaker to studio born perfectionist. Side two of the album continues what was later tagged as the “saga of the Old West” that runs through the second half of all three First National Band long players.
Featuring ten songs, Nesmith revisits “Listen To The Band” and “Conversations” (originally titled “Carlisle Wheeling”) from his days in The Monkees, and explores proto-outlaw attitude on tracks like “Bye, Bye, Bye” and “Dedicated Friend.” His remarkable voice truly shines on the transcendent “Lady Of The Valley” and the unexpected “Tengo Amore.” Meanwhile, the album opens with his second hit single, “Silver Moon,” a winning and upbeat follow-up to “Joanne.” The song was actually a late addition to the album, being recorded in September specifically for the singles market. It ultimately found favor in both the Pop and Easy Listening charts.
Featuring guest musician Glen D. Hardin on “side” piano, Loose Salute is notably the first fully-produced album by Michael Nesmith since his 1968 experimental instrumental project on Dot, The Wichita Train Whistle Sings. Released in October 1970, hot on the heels of Magentic South, it drew a rave review from Rolling Stone (who called it, “…one of the hippest country rock albums in some time, certainly the most listenable”).
The final installment in Michael Nesmith’s American Trilogy, Nevada Fighter, chronicles not only our great nation, but the fragmentation of his First National Band. Recorded from August 1970 through January of 1971, the album augments the original band’s line-up (Red Rhodes, John London & John Ware – who had disbanded before release) with guest musicians such as James Burton, Ron Tutt, Joe Osborn & Glen D. Hardin (all Elvis Presley alums). Packaged in a sleeve designed by Dean Torrence, the album opens with the brooding “Grand Ennui” and revisits one of Nesmith’s earliest compositions, “Propinquity (I’ve Just Begun To Care).” This track was penned back in 1965 prior to Nesmith becoming a Monkee, and ultimately produced Nesmith’s fourth and final post-Monkees chart hit (issued in October 1971). The album’s title track, “Nevada Fighter,” was also a charting single in April 1971, reaching #70.
The album’s first side is all Nesmith originals, while side two features all cover songs that Michael made his own. These included Harry Nilsson’s “Rainmaker,” Bob Wills’ “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” and Derek & The Dominoes’ “I Looked Away.” “Texas Morning,” a true standout, was penned by Michael Martin Murphey and Owen Castleman, who previously endowed Nesmith with the classic “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round?” for The Monkees (when they were in a group featuring First National Band bassist, John London, The Lewis And Clarke Expedition). Despite a rave review in Record World (“His albums, always beautifully produced, just get better and better”) and two charting 45’s, Nevada Fighter (issued in May 1971) quickly faded with no band to tour behind the release. The First National Band were no more.
“The master of reverberation, sound effects & good humor strikes again. On Volume 1 (of another trilogy?) the Second National Band brings it all together.” – Billboard review of Tantamount To Treason
Issued in Jan ‘72 (and recorded during the back half of ’71), Michael Nesmith presents The Second National Band’s only long player: Tantamount To Treason, Vol. 1. An epic production that neatly bookends its predecessor, Nevada Fighter, it once again pairs a side of Nesmith originals with a contrasting side of covers.
Nesmith is backed on this “home brew” by the ever-faithful Red Rhodes on pedal steel, the one hold over from the First National Band (other than Papa Nes himself), in addition to Johnny Meeks on bass (of Gene Vincent’s Blue Caps), Michael Cohen on keyboards (a friend from Nesmith’s pre-Monkees past), Jack Panelli on drums, and RCA labelmate Jose Feliciano on congas. The results are more joyous than the wasteland of liberty depicted in Wilson McLean’s cover art, but it is once again an ever-changing American landscape on display.
The LP opens with “Mama Rocker,” a thunderous start to an often-languid album of mood music. “You Are My One” is Nesmith’s most succinct lyric, containing only a repetition of the title over a series of mindbending changes. Richard Stekol’s “Wax Minute” is a standout (& fan favorite), the writer having also contributed to country rock innovator Rick Nelson’s Garden Party album in this era. “Talking To The Wall” recalls Nesmith solo production for Bill Chadwick (another pre-Monkees performing partner) on Dot, but reimagines the song for electric 12-string, pedal steel, and Michael Cohen’s Rhodes. Cohen himself contributes to the sound collage/song “Highway 99 with Melange.” Though the LP failed to find a home at FM radio, it has become one of Michael's best-loved cult albums. Many of the faithful have wondered what became of Volume Two? Though several more songs were taped at these sessions, including new versions of “Listen To The Band,” “Circle Sky,” and the Dave Dudley country classic, “Six Days On the Road,” there wouldn't be any seconds for the Second National Band. Indeed, Papa Nes would never have a fixed band (in name) again.
“One of the great advantages of being an artist is that I am able to utilize my craft periodically to write messages to myself. Basically that is what this album is all about.” – Michael Nesmith in the original liner notes to And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’
Seen plaintively holding a copy of Dee Brown’s 1970 book, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (which chronicled the struggle of Native Americans during frontier times) while surrounded by four women, Nesmith depicts a Felliniesque portrait of his contemporary success in the gatefold spread for And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’. In reality, March 1972 found Nesmith back on the road as a performer albeit with just the accompaniment of Red Rhodes on pedal steel. Still, as his footprint got smaller, his music and message achieved real purity. The singularity and simplicity of his circumstances ultimately created one of Nesmith’s most satisfying works.
Stripped of an overarching concept, what remained was just the singer and his songs. And nowhere were they better showcased than on the ironically titled And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’. Featuring ten Nesmith originals, the most he would offer on any LP until 1979’s Infinite Rider On The Big Dogma, the music served as the truest songbook album that Michael would ever issue (and his first to feature printed lyrics). The earliest numbers – “Two Different Roads” and “Different Drum” (both written pre-Monkees) – had been covered by Mary McCaslin & The Stone Poneys respectively. Songs from the back half of 1971 – “Tomorrow & Me,” “Lady Love,” “Listening,” “Harmony Constant,” and “Roll With The Flow” – could be the philosophical messages to himself, that Nesmith hints at in the liner notes. However, there is something of a tongue in cheek edge to the entire package. Papa Nes' quip, “I did it for me,” could in fact be the voice of the character he portrays on the gatefold. Certainly, the front cover view of a mansion with a rented Mercedes convertible juxtaposes the real sensitivity contained in his compositions.
A song from 1972, the eerie “Candidate,” is a political commentary in the Nixon era. While it sounds more like his work on Tantamount To Treason, it carries Hits through line of direct messaging. Ultimately, RCA pulled two newer songs – “Roll With The Flow” and “Keep On” – as a single in August 1972 to accompany the release of the album. “RCA has been really good to me,” he told John Griffin in the Forest Park Review after a March 1972 performance. “I’ve put out four, no five albums, none of which have been commercial successes and RCA has stuck with me all the time. I’m talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Nevertheless, Nesmith and his label had indeed found by year's end that the “hits” had ebbed. In July 1972 it was announced that Nesmith had formed a new union with Elektra Records to produce other artists and form his first label, Countryside. His three-year odyssey with RCA would play out on one more album in 1973.
“This is my sixth album since the whole Monkees trip went down, and I think I’m beginning to finally understand that it doesn’t make any difference at all….Once the superstructure is built, it’s very difficult to get past it into substance.” Recorded over four days in 1973, Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash marked the end of Michael’s obligations to RCA. The joy that was his escape from The Monkees in 1970 and into the First National Band dispelled into the harder realities of standing on his own in the shadow of his past. Michael’s liner notes to the album reveal that it was music, rather than logic, that kept him in the game.
Ably backed by a solid combo featuring the ever-faithful Red Rhodes, Nesmith delivers a solid, albeit succinct, eight songs as his fade out from the Big Victor. Songs like “Continuing” and “Release” speak to his ongoing efforts to transcend without significant public support. As the Stanford Daily wrote quite seriously in their review of the album, “It’s about time we forgave him for his past mistakes and crimes against rock music.” The balance of the Stash was a perfect blend of covers and Nesmith originals like “Some Of Shelley’s Blues” (which itself had been successfully covered by the Stone Poneys and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band). Cindy Walker’s “Born To Love You” (a hit for Jimmy Newman in 1968) is brought down to earth in Nesmith’s rendition (when compared with the original). While “Prairie Lullaby” revives a 1932 recording by “the singing breakman,” Jimmie Rodgers. Nes also reimagines the bluegrass legend Bill Monroe’s “Uncle Pen” in a unique conceptual medley with “The F.F.V.” (or Fast Flying Virginian). A rare collaboration with writers Linda Hargrove and James Miner produced, “Winonah.” Michael would also write one of his most popular songs, “I’ve Never Loved Anyone,” with Linda Hargrove. Though he would never record it, it became a hit in 1975 for Lynn Anderson, reaching #14 on the Country charts. Instead, Nesmith’s focus during this period turned to producing artists for his newly minted Countryside label (his subliminal message on the cover - “BUY THIS RECORD” – notwithstanding).
Nesmith told Billboard that his goal was to “…learn to run a record company from [Elektra founder] Jac Holzman.” Michael put forth a model of making albums on Countryside with a house band (in a house provided by Elektra) for just $5k. “I’ve really become a habitué of the beer-bar and bowling alley circuit in L.A. and Orange County. And I’ve found there’s some excellent talent working these places because they can’t get jobs.” Ultimately, only two albums – Pure Country by Garland Frady & Velvet Hammer In A Cowboy Band by Red Rhodes – and six singles made it out before another kingpin, David Geffen, called time on the project post merging his Asylum label with Elektra. In 1974, Nesmith would in turn form his own independent label, Pacific Arts, and release The Prison, a book with a soundtrack.
The First National Band was Michael Nesmith's initial post-Monkees outfit that consisted of Red Rhodes, John London, and John Ware. The group released three acclaimed albums between 1970 and 1971, featuring the Nesmith classics "Joanne," "Silver Moon," "Nevada Fighter," and more.
The brand new Live Almanac poll is asking fans to choose their favorite First National Band LP, so be sure to vote below or in the blog sidebar to the right. You can also click each album cover above for more information about these stellar works.
And, don't forget that Nez is bringing a 21st century version of the First National Band to the concert stage in January 2018. Happy voting!
Michael Nesmith's memoir, Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff, arrived earlier this year with a companion compact disc from Rhino Records, which featured highlights of Michael's musical career. As always, a big thanks to Ben Belmares for providing scans of the CD to the Live Almanac!
In Memoriam: Michael Nesmith
Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart returns
Dolenz sings Nesmith - The E.P.
50th Anniversary Editions
Micky Dolenz Live!