Friday, August 20, 2010

King For A Day

Thanks to Micky's publicist David Salidor, we received an early pressing of the brand new Micky Dolenz / Carole King Tribute CD called "King For A Day". (It's being released to the public later this month.)

With so many GREAT songs to choose from, I couldn't help but wonder what the song selection process was like ... Micky covers some of the obvious Carole King classics ... but also digs out a few of the obscure ones that Carole sometimes doesn't always get the credit and recognition for.

The CD kicks off in GREAT fashion with an absolutely KILLER version of the old Animals hit "Don't Bring Me Down". Dolenz and the band REALLY rock out on this one ... and I wish there were a few more tracks recorded in this spirit on the CD ... Micky literally GROWLS the lyrics and sounds as good as I've ever heard him ... the track is SO strong that it makes a few of the other cuts sound tepid in comparison.

Next up is a remake of one of MY all-time favorite Monkees songs, "Sometime In The Morning". In what I can only describe as an arrangement that successfully blends country, bluegrass and jug-band music,
it brings a whole new feel to what I believe to be an otherwise much under-rated song ... and it works PERFECTLY! (Perhaps Micky's stint on "Gone Country" a couple of years ago helped to fuel this new arrangement ... the song manages to retain all of its original beauty yet still makes one wonder if Ernest T. Bass and The Darlings will eventually be coming in on the background vocals!)

"Hey Girl" is one of the more interesting selections on the album. Already covered by Freddie Scott, Bobby Vee, Donny Osmond and Billy Joel (amongst others), Dolenz doesn't really bring anything new to the track ... but here is where producer Jeffrey Foskett shines. The opening takes on an almost "Pet Sounds" / "Smile" feel ... in fact, I cannot help but wonder if maybe some of The Wondermints (Brian Wilson's back-up band and Foskett's bandmates) were in some way involved ... but then sadly it just drops off to more of the standard, traditional arrangement. I couldn't help but wonder where this song might have gone had they kept this "feel" going a while longer. Had Foskett carried his vision throughout the track ... and the tempo been sped up by even half a beat ... I believe this could have been one of the stand-out tracks on the CD ... instead, it's just kinda "average" ... and, by my fourth play-through of the CD, I found that I was skipping this track all-together. Too bad ... I believe there is some unrealized potential here to make this one a stand-out track.

Speaking of Jeff Foskett, I wondered how he was selected to produce Micky's new CD. Quite honestly, I was expecting a few more vocal gymnastics, knowing Jeff's background. This isn't to say that the background vocals aren't strong throughout ... they certainly are ... in fact, the musicianship is stellar throughout the entire CD. Credit that to fine players like Jeff "Skunk" Baxter on guitar and pedal steel, Bobby Gothar, Probyn Gregory and Nicki Walusko on "all sorts of cool lead and rhythm guitars", Robby Scharf and Dave Stone on bass (and double bass), Jason Brewer and Gary Griffin on keyboards and Dennis Diken and Rolo Sandoval on drums and percussion.
I just figured that with Foskett behind the board we'd be treated to a few more vocal surprises.

The arrangement of "Up On The Roof" is especially intriguing ... kicking off with a bit of an homage to "Spanish Harlem" (another song tied to The Drifters' legacy, thanks to Ben E. King's solo recording ... but a track NOT written by Carole King), I couldn't help but wonder what a full-blown medley might have sounded like. Don't get me wrong ... Micky does a KILLER job with "Up On The Roof" just as it is ... but once I was teased by the intro, I was curious as to what might have been had they chosen to proceed down that path. Which leads me to another point ... with SO many great Carole King tunes to choose from in her catalog, it would seem that a couple of "medleys" might have worked out well in a tribute package like this ... and it also would have provided the means to cover a bit more material. (In all fairness, the best "medley" of all appears later on the CD when Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers duets with Dolenz on a remake of Bill's earlier hit "Just Once In My Life"!!! Medley is in OUTSTANDING vocal form here, sounding JUST like he did on the original recording ... and Micky plays it smart by NOT trying to imitate Bobby Hatfield on this track, instead, bringing his OWN vocal chops to the session and filling in some GREAT harmonies and background ad-libs ... while "Just Once In My Life" has never been one of my favorite Righteous Brothers tunes, it sounds GREAT in the context of this CD ... and we've never really been treated to any Micky Dolenz "celebrity duets" before ... this one works just fine.)

The world really doesn't need another remake of the Carole King classic "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" ... but Dolenz does such a good job with this track, we can't help but forgive him. (Hmmm ... speaking of potential medleys, I wonder what a medley of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "It's Too Late" might have sounded like ... talk about bringing the whole "love thing" full cycle!!! lol)

I especially like the "Sweet Seasons" piano intro that kicks off this track. Unfortunately, it leads into the REAL version of "Sweet Seasons", one of the weakest tracks on the album. (For whatever reason, after borrowing the piano intro for the previous track, this one starts off with what sounds like the opening guitar chords of The Bee Gees' hit "Edge Of The Universe"!!!)

While the album is far from perfect, three tracks in particular stand out as "dogs" ... the aforementioned "Sweet Seasons", the totally unnecessary "It Might As Well Rain Until September" (it just wasn't that great a song the first time around!) and an out-and-out boring rendition of "Take Good Care Of My Baby". (I kept wondering who would fall asleep first during that song ... me while listening to it or Micky while singing it!)

That being said, the REST of the CD is flat-out fantastic. Dueting with his sister Coco on "Crying In The Rain", ANOTHER great track not often associated with Carole King, the siblings do a great job on this Everly Brothers classic. (I played this one again and again ... and then even dug out the ORIGINAL version!!!) There's also a hidden musical treat for long-time Monkees fans ... listen closely near the end of the song and you'll notice what I can only describe as a little bit of Micky's "Shades Of Gray" vocal dynamic ... it comes right near the end of the song ... and trust me ... if you're a Monkees fan like me, you'll recognize it IMMEDIATELY on first listen ... and it works just as well now as it did back then. My only criticisms of this track is that I wish they would have built that ending into a little more of a powerful crescendo ... it would have COMPLETELY pushed this track over the top ... and that Micky had done less of his "staccato" phrasing in favor of a smooth, silky vocal that would have better complimented Coco's take on this track. (And, of course, in my dream world, it would have been REALLY cool to hear Micky duet with Carole King herself on this track, especially since it's not one of the songs that typically springs to mind when listing Carole's song-writing credits. Imagine Carole coming on board and handling the harmony vocal, thus giving the tribute her blessing ... not to mention the added "street cred" in doing so. With King back on the road performing again herself, this would have been the ULTIMATE touch to this track.)

A couple of songs that COULD have come off as "creepy" ... (the thought of a 65 year old Micky Dolenz singing "Go Away Little Girl" ... and a duet with Disney Teen Princess Emily Osment from the "Hannah Montana" television series singing "I Feel The Earth Move" ... especially when he sings "I've just got to have you baby"!!!) ... DON'T, thanks to the beauty and the sincerity of the vocals and the arrangements. Dolenz's slowed down, stripped down acoustic take on "Go Away Little Girl" is one of his best vocal performances on the CD ... and one of the best arrangements of this song that I've ever heard. And the "I Feel The Earth Move" duet is the album's lead-off single ... and it really works. Osment and Dolenz play off each other vocally and it's a totally believable, fun track to listen to ... and apparently is already climbing the charts in Great Britain (where their love for anything to do with The Monkees has never waned!)

Finally, one of my favorite tracks on the LP is Micky's version of the long-forgotten Gene McDaniel hit "Point Of No Return". (I'm skipping over the album-ending reprise of "Sometime In The Morning" as it's TOTALLY unnecessary ... and it doesn't hold a candle to the arrangement previously covered above. I would have much preferred a brand new reworking of "Pleasant Valley Sunday", another great Carole King track long associated with Micky Dolenz and The Monkees, to a retread of this one, especially since the previous version completely blows this arrangement away.)

Micky's new arrangement on "Point Of No Return" is one the CD's highlights ... even the growl is back in Micky's voice! And the "teenage Stevie Wonder" harmonica riff that carries the song from start to finish is nothing short of pure genius! (Credit Jim "Hoke" Hocanadle for the excellent mouth-harp work ... it's outstanding!) I've already listened to this one about ten times ... and it just keeps getting better and better!

All-in-all, a pretty good CD ... VERY listenable ... very enjoyable ... and the high points FAR outweigh the low points. (Honestly, I much prefer Micky's tribute to Carole King over Brian Wilson's tribute to The Gershwin Brothers ... this CD is MUCH more accessible to the general public and while it may not have the meticulous orchestral flair of Brian's CD, it has the FEEL of a fun, pop album ... and you can sense that they all had fun making it.)

You can pick it up on Micky's website: ...
or at ...