Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Monkee Mayhem: Re-Focus On The Best Of The Monkees

Several versions of The Best Of The Monkees album (including the
original Re-Focus cover)
Amazing to think that when I first got into buying albums around 1983, I quickly gravitated towards Woolworths budget price spinning display stands. Been a big fan of 1960s music, I was drawn towards EMI's Music For Pleasure label which by then had gained a niche of compilations by 1950s/1960s singers and bands on both record and cassette.

For a bargain price of £1.99 (rising to £2.25 around 1983) it was easy to bag decent compilation albums from The Beatles, Cliff Richard, The Shadows, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and The Mamas and The Papas among others.

1970s Sounds Superb release of
The Best Of The Monkees
One such band that was a constant popular seller were The Monkees whose singular MFP release The Best Of The Monkees was reissued on several occasions.

The 11 track compilation kept The Monkees presence firmly in the UK high street record shops during the late 70s/early 80s as the bands original back catalogue of RCA Victor albums fell under the deletion axe. The Best of The Monkees consisted of a sprinkling of hits and album tracks including the obligatory Monkees Theme. 

The compilation served as an ideal introduction to the band and an overview of their musical output between 1966 and 1969. It was also an instant attraction to new generations of fans that had caught episodes of the TV series, which at the time were still regularly repeated on BBC1.

The compilation started life briefly on Bell Records titled as Re-Focus in 1972, before been repackaged a few years later as The Best Of The Monkees in the UK on Music For Pleasure¹s offspring label Sounds Superb.

It seems this particular compilation proved its worth flying off high street store shelves as it was reissued in several other countries with different sleeve artwork but retaining the same track listing. A quick Google brings up several variations of the cover art - a few of which I've featured here. (If you have a variation not featured please let me know and send me an image).

The original Re-Focus sleeve featured an early publicity shot of Micky, Davy, Peter and Mike superimposed onto a camera lens while the Sounds Superb release included a collage of images from the TV series.

Arista used the same track list for
their Monkees Greatest Hits 
release in 1976
Further to this, Arista records released the same compilation in 1976 as The Monkees Greatest Hits, featuring a group shot of the boys set against an orange-red background. 

The Arista release ultimately spearheaded three further compilations (one from Arista and two from Rhino Records including a picture

Music For Pleasure refreshed their Sounds Superb version around 1981 with a publicity shot of the boys from the TV series set against a blue wash background giving the album a modernistic feel. At the same time it was released on cassette.

MFP's 1980's reissue of The
Best Of The Monkees
- the very
version I bought in 1983!
Looking at it now, the release seems sparse compared to later CD compilations only featuring 30 minutes worth of music and 11 tracks. This didn't matter at the time as I loved the album and played it to death.

As this was the first Monkees album I bought I've recently come to ponder this compilation again.

It still resides in my record box even though Rachel and myself have since gone on to purchase several Monkees compilations and most of the original albums.

For fun, I compiled the Re-Focus / Best Of The Monkees / Monkees Greatest Hits playlist on my iPod and gave it a listen to re evaluate what I liked so much about it at the time.

The release featured a cross range of the Monkees styles including examples of rock (I'm Not Your Stepping Stone, She), pure pop (Last Train To Clarksville, Pleasant Valley Sunday), country rock (Listen To The Band) and ballads (I Wanna Be Free, Daydream Believer, Shades Of Gray).

An overseas version of
The Best Of The Monkees
At 30 minutes, The Best of The Monkees served as a perfect sampler for the bands music. It also served a function for at least a decade when Monkees compilations were not as frequent as they are now, giving fans  an instant starting point of acquiring several of The Monkees songs at a bargain price before seeking further moments of Monkee music mayhem.

The Best Of The Monkees
AKA Re-Focus / The Monkees Greatest Hits

Originally Released: 1972, 1976, 1981

Label: Bell Records, Music For Pleasure, Arista

Side 1:

1.    Theme From The Monkees
2.    Pleasant Valley Sunday
3.    She
4.    Daydream Believer
5.    Listen To The Band
6.    A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You

Side 2:

1.    I’m A Believer
2.    I Wanna Be Free
3.    Pleasant Valley Sunday
4.    (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone
5.    Shades Of Gray

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