If you ever want proof that The Monkees were one of the biggest musical artists of the 1960s, consider this: their first four albums all went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and it was with Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. that the boys in the band concluded that aforementioned foursome.
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Like Headquarters before it, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. found the members of The Monkees playing their own instruments, if not quite to the same extent as they had on the previous album. But there was a notable shift in the material, with Michael Nesmith taking lead vocals on five tracks and Mickey Dolenz only singing on three tracks. Dolenz certainly wasn’t being left out in the cold, though: in addition to his vocals, he also made history by making The Monkees’ album one of the first ever to feature a Moog synthesizer. Indeed, as most Monkees fans know, it was Micky’s personal Moog - one of the first 20 ever sold!
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Although only one single was released from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., it was one of the group’s most memorable efforts: “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” a No. 3 hit written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. There were plenty of other viable contenders in the mix, however, including Jeff Barry’s “She Hangs Out,” Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “Love is Only Sleeping,” Harry Nilsson’s “Cuddly Toy,” Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart’s “Words,” and Michael Martin Murphey’s “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round?” And that’s not even mentioning Nesmith’s songwriting contributions, “Daily Nightly” and “Don’t Call on Me,” or “Star Collector,” the Goffin/King composition which closes out the album and features some serious Moog action.
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The Monkees were no more The Beatles than The Beatles were The Monkees, but if you wanted to force a comparison between the two, then it’s easy to view Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. as their Sgt. Pepper. It’s all over the place stylistically, but the results are among the best of the band’s career. It’s a bit more underrated than it ought to be, however, so if you’re finding this premise difficult to accept, this would be perfect time to give it another spin. Trust us: it’s better than you remember…unless you remember it as being great, in which case it’s just as good as it’s always been.
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