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- As a member of the first-ever manufactured group, Michael Nesmith needs little introduction. Aside from his ground-breaking projects in the field of music video and film production, he has enjoyed a solo career since he left the Monkees that has encompassed many styles of music, but has always been supported by his wonderful songwriting.
- “Tropical Campfires” was released in 1992, and was Nesmith’s first album since 1979’s “Infinite Rider…” (he spent the 80’s inventing MTV, making videos and producing the films “Repo Man” and “Tape Heads”). It represented a return to the musical stylings of his first albums after leaving the Monkees, fusing pop and country with some Caribbean and Latin American influences, as well as including covers of two Cole Porter songs, and was a great critical hit.
- The albums was recorded and mixed in Dolby Surround™ sound, and the booklet features photos from Nesmith’s collection as well as extensive and revealing newly-written annotation by Nez himself, the first time that he has ever written sleevenotes for his albums!
|| ||Yellow Butterfly|
|| ||Laugh Kills Lonesome|
|| ||Moon Over The Rio Grande|
|| ||In The Still Of The Night|
|| ||Rising In Love|
|| ||Begin The Beguine|
|| ||I Am Not That|
|| ||...For The Island|
|| ||Twilight On The Trail|
Uncut, June 2008
“Articulate country pop”
Having taken charge of his career when he formed his Pacific Arts communication company in 1975, Nesmith spent the 1980s focusing on video and film production, funding Repo Man and even trailblazing the concept of MTV. Tropical Campfires saw him return to music after more than a decade with an ambitious, calculated… mix of pop, Caribbean, Latin and country styles. That same year he also recorded a simpler and more pleasing live set, exquisitely underpinned by Red Rhodes’ pedal steel, rounding up his best loved songs across 25 years, The Monkees’ “Papa Gene’s Blues” included.
Retro Music Review, March 08
Edsel’s next reissue in the series, 1992’s Tropical Campfires, is a much more laid back affair. Nesmith strums his guitar tenderly in the flickering firelight, inviting the listener to join him beneath the stars. His renditions of Cole Porter’s Begin The Beguine and In The Still Of The Night are positively breathtaking. He delivers the iconic Latin classic Brazil gently, gloriously, magnificently. His voice has never sounded better. Nesmith’s originals blend perfectly with these standards. His admiration for the natural wonders of the world is evident in the poetic lyrics of “Yellow Butterfly” and “Moon Over The Rio Grande.” The cowboy imagery that is a recurring motif in Nesmith’s work is used to great effect on “Laugh Kills Lonesome,” a catchy little grinner about the power of a good joke. “Twilight On The Trail” is another fine frontier number, featuring excellent pedal steel guitar courtesy of Red Rhodes. Nesmith’s “Juliana” is an exquisite love song, like a dream transferred directly from his mind to tape. “For The Island” is awesome in its simplicity, with lyrics that change only slightly from verse to verse. The changes are small but significant, weaving an ironic and compelling tapestry. “I Am Not That” takes irony to the wall, with hilarious lyrical passages such as, “I am not a poet/I cannot make a rhyme/I do not know the big words/like shpritz and paradigm.” If this record has a definitive track, it might very well be “Rising In Love.” Combining his love of the prairie with his love of love, Nesmith speaks of the American West and of Paris, in a way that would have no doubt appealed to the abovementioned Cole Porter. “Oh, give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above…”
Michael Nesmith Facts
- He had already released two singles under the name Michael Blessing before he auditioned successfully for The Monkees.
- He was the first Monkee to have his compositions recorded for the group’s albums.
- He is the only Monkee to have a solo hit in the UK, with “Rio”.
- He has written several songs that do not feature the title anywhere in the song: Papa Gene’s Blues, Good Clean Fun, Some Of Shelly’s Blues, Propinquity, Carlisle Wheeling.
- Linda Ronstadt recorded “Different Drum” and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band recorded “Mary Mary” while he was still in the Monkees.
- His mother invented Liquid Paper, the correcting fluid. Figures vary as to how much he inherited when she died…
- He is considered to be one of the pioneers of country rock (along with Gram Parsons), a style adopted by The Eagles and many others.
- He invented the notion of making pop videos with a storyboard. He misunderstood Island Records’ boss Chris Blackwell’s request for a “film of ‘Rio’” in 1977, when the single climbed into the UK Top 30. Blackwell simply wanted a film of Nesmith singing the song, but Nez interpreted it as a request for a film dramatising the lyrics.
- He invented the concept of MTV. After making several films for songs from the “From A Radio Engine” and “Infinite Rider” albums, he noticed that there were very few outlets for these films to get shown more than once. He also noticed that the growth in record companies making increasingly more expensive promo videos coincided with the growth in cable TV channels in the US, with hours of airtime to fill. The promo videos represented hours and hours of content, already created and sitting on a shelf. Nesmith created a programme called “Pop Clips” for Nickelodeon – the concept was then sold to Time Warner who developed it into MTV.
- He won the first video Grammy for his programme “Elephant Parts”.
- He spent much of the 80s in TV and film production – notable films include “Repo Man” and “Tape Heads”.
- He has written and recorded two “books with soundtracks” (“The Prison” and “The Garden”). The listener plays the record while reading the book.
- He was a good friend of “Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy” author Douglas Adams.
- His website (www.videoranch.com) is home to his current project Videoranch 3D, a virtual environment on the internet that hosts live performances at various virtual venues inside the Ranch.