The Minus 5: Of Monkees and Men

Minus5_OfMonkeesAndMenA songwriter’s tribute to Mike, Micky, Davy, Peter and more

The Monkees legacy is complicated. At the peak of their fame they were celebrated and reviled in nearly equal measure. Their transformation from actor-musicians playing the part of a pop group to musician-actors forming a real pop group is well documented, but lingers oddly in listeners’ consciousnesses. Scott McCaughey, whose early work with the Dynette Set and Young Fresh Fellows captured the sweetness and adventure of ‘50s and ‘60s pop, leads his latest edition of the Minus 5 in an unabashed tribute to the men who were the Monkees, though interestingly, other than “Boyce and Hart” and the rhythm opening “Micky’s a Cool Drummer,” not in their musical style.

Originally released as part of the five LP Record Store Day set, Scott the Hoople in the Dungeon of Horror, “Side 1” includes individual songs for each member of the Monkees, plus a bonus fifth track dedicated to the group’s songwriters, Boyce & Hart. Threaded throughout each are musical and lyrical references, starting with the country tinge to an epic “Michael Nesmith,” a song filled with clever references to Nesmith’s many career highlights. Davy Jones is remembered as the group’s heartthrob, but also as a thrice-married father of four daughters. “Song for Peter Tork” and “Boyce and Hart” include McCaughey’s personal remembrances, and “Micky’s a Cool Drummer” defends Micky Dolenz as a musician and the Monkees as a band.

“Side 2” essays the “Men” half of the title, paying tribute to McCaughey’s late musical associates and friends, Jimmy Silva (“Blue Rickenbacker”) and John Weymer (“Weymer Never Dies”). The latter is even more epic than the opening “Michael Nesmith,” clocking in at nearly eleven minutes, and venturing into a Beatles-esque experimental jam. Filling out the side is McCaughey’s ode to the omnipotence of film tough guy Robert Ryan, and an appreciation of the Portland band Richmond Fontaine. One might be inclined to call this collection idiosyncratic, if idiosyncratic was at all unusual for the Minus 5; but it is more personal in its undisguised affection. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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