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.