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The MonkeesThe Monkees
Album: Good Times!
Label: Rhino
Tracks: 13

Of all the records I might have thought I'd hear this year, something new by The Monkees would be a long, long way from the top of the list. Something new that's also really pretty good would be even further from the summit.

And yet, here we are - the first new Monkees album in 20 years and the first good one in almost 50. Just goes to show you never know what's coming round the bend.

The clue's in the title - these are predominately upbeat tunes, celebrating the fact that Messrs Dolenz, Tork and Nesmith are still around, lamenting their late mate Davy Jones, but able to get along well enough to make music that will matter to some and merit the attention of many more.

The title track is something that Harry Nilsson and Mike Nesmith demo-ed for the band in 1968 and completed now as Micky Dolenz duets with his friend Nilsson's original guide vocal. That it sounds at home and in keeping with the new songs is testament to producer Adam (Fountain of Wayne) Schlesinger's skill and feeling for the material. His songwriting contribution, Our Own World, digs deep in the mine of sixties sound and comes up with some real sunshine pop nuggets - a trick that isn't quite repeated on the more pedestrian album closer, I Was There (And I'm Told I Had A Good Time), a co-write with Dolenz.

There's a sterling cover of the Carole King/Gerry Goffin classic I Wasn't Born To Follow, the retro romp of She Makes Me Laugh from the pen of Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, the unmistakable voice of Davy Jones on a version of Neil Diamond's Love To Love and the three-way harmonies between Dolenz, Tork and Nesmith on the folk-pop gem Me & Magdalena (written by Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard) are just sublime.

There's even a new song, Whatever's Right, by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart who wrote most of The Monkees' original hits.

For many fans that would be enough, but what's this…? Can it be? Oh yes. Andy Partridge, he of XTC fame, has contributed the bewitching power pop bounce of You Bring the Summer, which will have fans lamenting the passing of the Dukes of Stratosphear, but even better is the woozy Birth of an Accidental Hipster from top mod bods Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher in their first co-write.

It's actually where the album stakes its strongest claim for contemporary currency as the haze of vocal harmony invokes fifty years of freakbeat to swoop and soar and bang on the doors of perception as firmly as anything that once escaped the mind of Brian Wilson.

A more fitting summation of The Monkees' freequently under-rated output it's difficult to imagine. Nice work all round then.

Nick Churchill