The Monkees

The Monkees 50

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Various record company folks have been trying to assemble the ideal Monkees collection since their first "Greatest Hits" album came out in 1969. With the greatest rock band in television history celebrating the 50th anniversary of their debut in 2016, it seemed only fitting that Rhino Records, who owns the group's back catalog, would take another stab at the definitive overview of the band's catalog. The Monkees 50 celebrates the band's Golden Anniversary in appropriate fashion, featuring 50 songs that run the gamut of the band's history. In some ways, the desire to encompass the breadth of the Monkees' body of work proves to be Monkees 50's Achilles heel. While all of the band's familiar hits are included here, so are some lesser moments -- from the bitter end of their original run, Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork's duo singles from the group's mid-'80s comeback, and tracks from the well-meaning but disappointing 1987 Pool It! (It's worth noting the set also includes representative tracks from 1996's not-bad Justus and the frequently splendid Good Times!, which appeared only three months before 50.) While there isn't an out-and-out bad song on 50, the desire to cover all bases means disc three is sometimes rough sledding, even though it ends with two of Good Times!' best tracks, "You Bring the Summer" and "She Makes Me Laugh." And while the Monkees' tale has been told at length many times, that doesn't excuse 50's lack of liner notes (though there is detailed session information for each track). 50's first two discs feature the songs Monkees fans know best, along with a few worthy obscurities, and are a marvelous reminder of just how great their work was, representing some of the finest pop record making of the '60s. Disc three is for the truly committed, and while there are certainly songs worth hearing there (especially "Listen to the Band" and "Mommy and Daddy"), this is mostly for completists -- who probably have everything on this set already. 50 is better than the average Monkees collection, but if you're looking for the hits, you're better off with the 2003 set The Best of the Monkees, and the more detail-oriented should seek out Rhino's many value-added reissues of the group's albums. That said, though, any album with "Last Train from Clarksville," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "Daydream Believer," and "Porpoise Song" is an album that's a rewarding listen.

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