The year 1969 was a tough one for The Monkees. Their TV show was long canceled, their special 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee was kind of a disaster (running up against the Academy Awards), and Peter Tork left the band. Despite all this, Instant Replay, the album they released in February of 1969, is actually quite good. Made up of a couple older songs they dug out of the vaults and newly recorded tracks done separately by each member, there are moments of pop brilliance sprinkled throughout and each of the remaining Monkees truly shines (some more brightly or oddly than the others). The old songs are perfectly Monkees-sounding; “Tear Drop City” was written by old friends Boyce & Hart and rocks like the "Last Train to Clarksville" knockoff it is, and "I Won’t Be the Same Without Her" is the kind of melancholy Goffin & King ballad Nesmith was always able to knock out of the park. Of the songs done by individual Monkees, they break down along more or less predictable lines. Nesmith’s two songs are strong country-rock ballads; “Don’t Wait for Me” gently rollicks along and “While I Cry” has one of Mike’s tenderest vocals. Micky’s two are weird and musically scattered, but impressive all the same; “Just a Game” is a tightly wound song that sounds like one of Davy’s showstoppers with its guts ripped out, while "Shorty Blackwell" is harder to describe and hearing it makes you wish Micky had really dedicated himself to music after the Monkees split. If he could have cranked out a whole album as "Broadway on acid" as this, it would have been amazing. Davy’s songs played to his strengths but showed some artistic growth too. Yeah, he was reliably sappy (“Don’t Listen to Linda”) and happily bouncy (“Me Without You"), but he also showed an impressively adult side on Goffin & King’s sophisticated ballad “Man Without a Dream” and, with the help of Neil Young (!) on guitar, rocked very hard on a very tough-sounding “You and I.” When you add up the catchy pop tunes, the weirdness, the heartfelt emotion, and the overall sound of the record, it stands with the group’s best work. Too bad it was ignored at the time and the band quickly splintered afterwards. [The bonus tracks added to Rhino's 1995 reissue make the album even more impressive. The non-album single "Someday Man" is one of Davy's best songs; he gives the Paul Williams-penned track a healthy dose of bravado and style. The rest are outtakes and alternate versions, including a spare take of Nesmith's classic psych-country "Carlisle Wheeling."]
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