Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd.

The Monkees

Colgems Records, 1967

http://www.monkees.net

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/06/2008

By 1967, the Monkees were finally able to seize control over the music they were going to record. No longer would they allow other musicians to do what they were supposed to be doing from the very beginning. Yes, long before Milli Vanilli was stripped of their Best New Artist Grammy for not singing one word on “Girl You Know It’s True,” the Monkees were being savaged by critics who accused them of being imposters. Initially hired as a comedy troupe for a TV show, the four actors had to learn how to play instruments the hard way. When they were finally deemed competent enough musicians, they put their newfound knowledge and abilities to the test on their third album, Headquarters. Though the album didn’t yield any big hit songs, the boys did a solid job in proving the naysayers wrong. The fact that the album went to #1 (just as their previous releases did) was all the encouragement they needed. Perhaps they were ready to give the Beatles a run for their money after all.

Case in point was their simply amazing follow-up, cleverly titled Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. While Capricorns Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones have never been my two favorite Monkees, they do carry the entire first half of this album. Nesmith is particularly strong here, maybe because his material is decidedly less country-flavored as before. He is virtually unrecognizable on the jaunty opening cut “Salesman,” as he is also in donning the persona of a lounge singer/crooner on “Don’t Call On Me.” nbtc__dv_250

Still, even Nesmith couldn’t resist the temptation to include at least one country tune, and this time he picked a perfect one for audiences to sing along to: “What Am I Doing Hanging Around?” Monkee heartthrob Davy Jones fleshes out his own repertoire with a couple of crowd pleasers of his own: the groovy “She Hangs Out” and the trippy “Star Collector.” And yes, Davy also shows off his swanky, syrupy side on the Burt Bacharach-like, lovelorn ballad “Hard To Believe.”

Not to be completely outdone, Piscean Micky Dolenz and Aquarian Peter Tork both have their opportunity to shine on this record, especially when they tag-team on “Words.” I like to describe this standout track as the musical equivalent to entering a New Age shop with a strobe light. In showing just how much the Monkees knocked “Words” out of the park, it was only appropriate for the execs to make it a double A-sided single with “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” Tork’s comedic skills are put to good use for a very funny intro to the album version of “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” which was dubbed “Peter Percival’s Pet Pig Porky.”

Dolenz also deserves a lot of credit for purchasing the new, cutting-edge Moog synthesizer and bringing it into the studio for the first two pop songs ever to feature this “instrument of the future,” namely “Daily Nightly” and “Star Collector.”

On the Rhino CD re-release, you will find “Goin’ Down,” which was a song that was initially left off of the album (along with the number one single “Daydream Believer”) in favor of the inferior “Love Is Only Sleeping.” With its impossibly frenetic pace, Dolenz handles the tricky tune with impressive ease. In fact, his performance was so striking that “Goin’ Down” would be included on all Greatest Hits compilations of the band from then on.

Producer Chip Douglas certainly got the best out of his boys for this album, even if critics still dismissed the Monkees for being “too commercial.” Fans like myself appreciated the fact that they were so determined to become a real rock band that could compete with the best that the industry had to offer. The same could not be said for the Partridge Family, however, which was essentially David Cassidy, Shirley Jones and faceless studio musicians. Purists may forever want to keep actors out of the music business, and to some degree they have every right to feel that way. However, a strong album like Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. is bound to have them second guessing themselves.

Rating: A

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© 2008 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Colgems Records, and is used for informational purposes only.