Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart (1976)
Having recently examined the 20th anniversary reunion of the Monkees, we now turn our attention to another Monkees reunion of sorts, dating from the mid-1970's. This took place in or around their 10th anniversary year, but it was not exactly sold as a 10th anniversary tour by the Monkees. Instead, the band that coalesced came to be known as Dolenz, Jones, Boyce, & Hart. The tagline for their tour was "The Golden Hits of The Monkees: The Guys Who Sang 'Em and The Guys Who Wrote 'Em".
Why was this? Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones were the only original Monkees who took part in the reunion. Michael Nesmith was invited to join, but (as usual) declined, while Peter Tork could not be contacted at the time. They were replaced by two "Guys Who Wrote 'Em" -- namely Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Boyce and Hart had written and produced many of the Monkees' songs, including their TV show theme and the #1 hit "Last Train To Clarksville". This songwriting duo also recorded three of their own albums in the late '60's.
This quartet was legally prohibited from using the Monkees name, so they instead chose to simply call themselves Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. In 1975 and 1976, the quartet performed shows at major American amusement parks, including Disneyland and Six Flags. They next went on tour in Asia, and had the distinction of being the first American band to perform in Thailand.
The recorded output of Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart consists of one studio album from 1976, and one live album recorded in 1976 and released in Japan in 1981. Both albums are out of print in most countries. Both will probably only be of interest to Monkees lovers.
The self-titled 1976 album Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart succeeds only partially at recapturing the Monkees' sound and spirit, updating it in some ways for the soft-rock-and-disco-dominated landscape of the mid-'70's. Boyce and Hart produced the album, and wrote five of the songs. The album's first two tracks unfortunately make a very bad first impression. "Right Now" seemingly introduces the quartet as a straight-faced clone of the Bee Gees, with Davy Jones doing a not-so-great impression of Barry Gibb. Worse yet, "I Love You (And I'm Glad That I Said It)" is a simply awful soft-rock ballad sung by Hart. But the album gets better after those two near-fatal missteps. The entire first side is unwisely front-loaded with ballads, but “You And I” – written by Dolenz and Jones – is a darn good one, recalling the original Monkees. (In fact, the Monkees re-recorded this song for the Justus album 20 years later, but this version is arguably better). Dolenz is in good form on that song, as well as on his co-composition “It Always Hurts The Most In The Morning”, and on Dion and the Belmonts’ “Teenager In Love”. “Sail On Sailor” is not the Beach Boys song, but it sounds something like a Beach Boys song from that time period, when they had become a nostalgia act; Jones, Boyce, and Hart each take lead vocal turns on this song.
The second side is a bit livelier, reminding the listener that these guys were once involved with a TV comedy series. (It's funny to imagine how their cover of the Coasters' comedy song "Along Came Jones" could have been used in a Monkees episode). Two odd up-tempo rockers (“Moonfire” and “You Didn’t Feel That Way Last Night”) help to pick up the album’s pace. Another Dolenz and Jones composition, “Savin’ My Love For You”, proves to be another standout track, as well as another good showcase for Dolenz. Both ex-Monkees sing lead vocals on the easily likable “I Remember The Feeling”, which could withstand comparison to the original Monkees’ recordings.
Ultimately, Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart has too many flaws to recommend it, yet too many good points to dismiss it.
(Note: Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart is currently available on CD in the U.K., with different cover art. If you do purchase this album on CD, I recommend programming your player to skip the first two tracks).
Concert In Japan was recorded at Yubin Chokin Hall in Tokyo on July 20, 1976. It was first released in Japan in 1981 to coincide with a Monkees revival in that country; it was later released on CD in the U.S. in 1996 by the Varese Sarabande label, catalog no. VSD-5625. For this concert, the quartet was backed by four musicians: Keith Allison (a guitarist who frequently played on Monkees recordings), Rick Tierny (bass), Steve Johnson (keyboards), and Jerry Summers (drums). Besides playing songs from the self-titled DJB&H album, the ensemble also performed several songs by the Monkees, as well as Boyce & Hart’s 1968 top ten hit “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight”. (Their Monkees repertoire was not limited to the songs written by Boyce and Hart, as evidenced by the inclusion of Goffin/King's "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and Harry Nilsson's "Cuddly Toy", among others). Their performances of those familiar songs are adequate and pleasant, but not great or exciting. On a brighter note, the four selections from the 1976 album do sound fresh in this setting. Even the live version of the Hart-sung “I Love You (And I’m Glad That I Said It)” comes off slightly better than the studio version – although the song is still an undeniable low point of any album it appears on. The most surprising selection comes in the form of a medley of songs which Boyce and/or Hart had a hand in writing for other artists (i.e. Jay and the Americans, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Austin Roberts). The show's finale is a rendition of the Boyce-written theme song from the mid-'60's TV music show Where The Action Is; for this number, guitarist Keith Allison takes the lead vocal and the ensemble shows plenty of enthusiasm. As nostalgia concerts go, this Concert In Japan is not the worst one you’ll ever hear, nor is it the best. This disc is mainly an item for fanatical collectors.
Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart "Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart" (Capitol ST-11513) 1976
1. Right Now -- (Boyce/Hart)
2. I Love You (And I'm Glad That I Said It) -- (Boyce/Hart)
3. You And I -- (Dolenz/Jones)
4. Teenager In Love -- (Pomus/Shuman)
5. Sail On Sailor -- (Trevor)
6. It Always Hurts The Most In The Morning -- (Boyce/Dolenz)
7. Moonfire -- (Martin)
8. You Didn't Feel That Way Last Night (Don't You Remember) -- (Boyce/Hart)
9. Along Came Jones -- (Lieber/Stoller)
10. Savin' My Love For You -- (Dolenz/Jones)
11. I Remember The Feeling -- (Boyce/Hart)
12. Sweet Heart Attack -- (Boyce/Hart)
Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart "Concert In Japan" (Toshiba-EMI ECS-91018) 1981
1. Last Train To Clarksville
-- a. Valleri
-- b. Daydream Believer
-- c. A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
3. I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight?
4. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone
5. I Wanna Be Free
6. Savin' My Love For You
7. Pleasant Valley Sunday
8. I Remember The Feeling
9. A Teenager In Love
10. Cuddly Toy
-- a. Come A Little Bit Closer
-- b. Pretty Little Angel Eyes
-- c. Hurt So Bad
-- d. Peaches 'N' Cream
-- e. Something's Wrong With Me
-- f. Keep On Singing
12. I Love You (And I'm Glad That I Said It)