The Prison (CD + Book)
Please note, territorial restrictions may apply to this product.
- 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.
- In 1974 Nesmith broke entirely new ground by issuing this “book with a soundtrack”. The idea is simply to read the book whilst listening to the record, both elements complementing the other.
- Michael has revised the text of the story and for this release has also completely remixed and remastered the album from the original multi-track tapes. As a listening experience it is now quite different from the original 1974 album release.
- The book will be packaged alongside the CD in a slipcase. This is the first time this album has been released in Europe.
|| ||Opening Theme (Life, The Unsuspecting Captive) |
|| ||Dance Between The Raindrops |
|| ||Elusive Ragings|
|| ||Waking Mystery |
|| ||Hear Me, Calling |
|| ||Marie’s Theme |
|| ||Closing Theme (Lamp Post) |
The Word, May 08
“Everyone’s favourite Monkee makes a soft-rock self-help book”
Nesmith is already a man of many parts: the Monkee with the hat to most people; inventor of MTV to a few, country-rock pioneer to even fewer; and, to trivial buffs, heir to the Tippex empire. Another Russian doll is revealed by this release of 1974 US-only album-and-book package, specifically designed to be ingested at the same time. It’s another weird one. Nesmith has always seemed detached and ironic, but this is all too sincere, a mix of born-again Christianity and New Age philosophy (plot spoiler alert: the prison is in your mind). That’s the book, though – the music is really rather lovely – gentle, spacey LA country-rock with soul-soothing vocals. The conclusion is simple – don’t read the book! Though it should be said that Nesmith has, slightly scarily, revised the text for this reissue, so he clearly doesn’t agree.
Retro Music Review, May 08
With The Prison and The Garden, Michael Nesmith takes the book and record concept to an entirely new level. As an artist, Nesmith has always been a big thinker, dealing with grand ideas and philosophical questions. On these two works, originally released in 1974 and 1994, respectively, he allows his penchant for soul searching to roam unfettered. Here is Nesmith at his finest, blending music and narrative in a way that is entirely unique. Opening the book to The Prison, one is immediately struck by the beauty of the writing. Nesmith’s style is exquisite in its simplicity. He tells his grand and moving tale as a story of man and woman, of people living from day to day. The sometimes visible, sometimes invisible walls of the prison fade in and out at his command, moving with the music. The bursts of lyrical poetry from the disc are the perfect companion to the words on the page. Much the same could be said of The Garden. The major difference is that Nesmith chooses to use fewer lyrics, leaving the story to be told through the accompanying book. The soundtrack also stands on its own, calling up independent images, beside and beyond the narrative. Nesmith shapes his garden through sound and story, creating a positively breathtaking piece of art. Taken together, The Prison and The Garden address the notion of freedom from every angle. Freedom of the body, freedom of the mind, and freedom of the spirit are all given equal time. Not many pop artists would dare to approach such ideas. Bravo to Nesmith, for assuming his audience has the intelligence to grasp and enjoy work of such depth.
Record Collector, August 08
"A long way from Clarksville"
The former Monkee may have sanctioned the reissue of these concept pieces, originally released 20 years apart, but is still so burned by the critical mauling The Prison received when it first appeared in 1974 that he still dodges journalists’ requests to talk about it. Subtitled A Book With A Soundtrack, The Prison is an often meandering existential stream of consciousness meant to be played while reading the accompanying text. A radical departure from his pioneering country-rock records, let alone his manufactured pop past, it is small wonder that the album was so “misunderstood”. Its uneasy mix of Tin Pan Alley melodies and experimental synth passages throw a few too many curveballs, as do impenetrable lyrics such as “Inside the stillness is consciously formed/ As false goals and egos relax” (Elusive Ragings). Filter The Little Book Of Calm through several foreign language phrase books and this is most likely what you’ll end up with. The Garden is a loose sequel, the book/album conceit augmented by reproductions of Claude Monet paintings. Musically more organic, thanks largely to multi-instrumental John Jorgeson’s mandolins and oboes, it fares better as an atmospheric accompaniment to the story, but still suffers from a ponderous hippy-dippy central theme, making it an obvious candidate for Private Eye’s Pseuds Corner.
Mojo, December 08
Mike Nesmith bought himself out of The Monkees to form groundbreaking country rockers The First National Band, also on RCA. Much of his solo work since has had a country flavour and those albums have cropped up in various guises. They’re out again on Edsel, including his “novellas with accompanying soundtracks”, The Prison and The Garden. For a generous sampling of his wares, try Rio, a budget 2-disc, 36-track affair including a bunch of live cuts.
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.