Retro Spins: The Monkees - The Monkees


It was because my dad was such a tech nut, that we were that family on the block with the giant satellite dish in our back yard. There's something to be said about the unique television in the 80's that came with this sort of luxury. You could get any channel, see any show, and enjoy a ton of content, most of which you just had to stumble upon by "scanning". It was with this dish, and the aid of my sister, that I was introduced to The Monkees.

Being a young child, and several decades late, I wasn't hip to the knowledge that the group was manufactured by and for Hollywood. To me, The Monkees were a real rock group with their own comedy show, which I suppose by the 80's they were.

My young mind had no knowledge on their complete history. In fact, it wouldn't be until much later - fifteen to twenty years, that I would finally be tuned into that fact with the biopic, Daydream Believers: The Monkees' Story (an excellent movie you can watch in very low quality on Youtube). It was fascinating to see the, possible skewed, history of how Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones were hand picked from a lineup of hundreds of young men to become America's comedic opposites of The Beatles.

Manufactured or not, the quartet worked hard, in Micky's case, actually learning to play the drums while singing, to finally get creative control of their music. For their prior two albums, The Monkees and More Of The Monkees, the band had limited input, often times being relegated only to vocals for songs which had already been written and music which had already been recorded. It was with their 1967 record, Headquarters, that they were finally able to record by themselves, to a degree.

While the band ultimately were able to show the world that they were indeed the musicians they claimed to be, the sacrifice came at the loss of the television series, which ended after two seasons. This wasn't at all helped by their panned film, Head, written by Bob Rafelson and none other than Jack Nicholson himself.

Though the band was already rife with internal strife, the film damaged the bands clean reputation with younger kids and parents, while the hippy generation they were reaching for with the obscure movie, rejected them. This left the group in a position they never quite recovered from. Peter Tork left the band shortly there after, and though he continued on with the group for a little longer, Michael Nesmith exited in 1969. Micky and Davy would release one final album together in 1970 as The Monkees before calling it quits. It seemed The Monkees had come to an end.

August 1, 1981. The dawn of MTV. It was an era that took a generation by storm. A station dedicated at first to nothing but music videos. However, by 1986, the station would look for other ways to branch out. Among them was running a back to back marathon of the original The Monkees television series. Popularity was rekindled to all new fans, and the band's popularity began to skyrocket. The Monkees responded in kind with their first album in over a decade, 1987's Pool It!. Sadly, Michael Nesmith opted to not reunite with his band mates, leaving just the trio of Dolenz, Tork and Jones Though the only album for almost another decade, all four would finally return to record together for the album, Justus in 1996. This too would be short lived, as it wouldn't be until after Davey Jones' death that the remaining members would reunite again for their 2016 album, Good Times! and 2018's Christmas Party. Sadly, in 2019, Peter Tork would be the next member of The Monkees to pass away.

What the future holds for the remaining two members is yet to be known. However, until that time comes (or not), we can go all the way back to day one with their 1966 debut album, which is exactly what we're going to do today.

The album starts with their iconic television theme song, which is the full two minute twenty-one second version. Though there are several classic hits on the record, including Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day and Last Train To Clarksville, I personally find the album shines the most when Nesmith steps to the front line with his tracks, Papa Gene's Blues and Sweet Young Thing. As a natural guitarist and singer, his songs always felt more professional and personal. This would make sense, considering he was the one who penned them (that's that limited input aspect I mentioned above).

That's not to say the rest of the album is terrible. Far from it. Songs such as, Saturday's Child, Take A Giant Step, Let's Dance On and This Just Doesn't Seem To Be My Day, showcase the group at their best. Meanwhile, the soft spoken Davey Jones ballad, I Wanna Be Free, shapes the teen heartthrob he would soon become. Lastly, Gonna Buy Me A Dog, brings that bit of humor and fun that the television series would soon be known for.

Look, call it manufactured all you want. The debut album is solid. It's well worth listening to, and definitely a staple in your collection if your an audiophile of any kind.

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Retro Spins: Pat Benatar - Crimes Of Passion

It wasn't her first studio album, but Pat Benatar's first entry into the 80's, Crimes Of Passion, solidified her as a female rocker force to be reckoned with. Her compilation album, Best Shots, was a regular for me, dating all the way back to its original cassette release in 1987. However, I never really took the time to broaden my horizons with her beyond that.

Fast forward to September 2017. I'm big time into buying CD's at this point, building what would become my massive 80's collection. The mood suddenly hits me. I need Pat Benatar. It must have been the perfect time for this decision because I stumbled across a listing on ebay which had all but two of her studio albums (1997's Innamorata and 2003's Go). This didn't really matter much to me because all the ones I did want were present and accounted for. Best of all, it was really cheap for what I was getting. A quick buy it now, and my Pat Benatar collection was complete.

So now we step even further into the future - January 2019. This is when I finally get around to spinning my first album for her - The one I'm writing about today.

Crimes Of Passion is packed full of her hits, such as, Treat Me Right, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Hell Is For Children and (to an extent) Wuthering Heights. But how does the rest of the album stand up? Does it pack as big a punch as the hits? Are the hits the hits for a reason? What's on the disc?

Little Paradise, I'm Gonna Follow You stood out as solid tracks, but not as refined, so to speak, as the above mentioned hits. I wonder if this was because I've heard the hits so much that's its hard not to hold anything else to such a high level of expectation.

Overall, enjoying six out of ten tracks for a fairly good album in my book. I definitely heard some great tracks which made it to my 80's mixes on the ol' iTunes and iPod. I'm looking forward to hearing some more from Pat Benatar in the near future.

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G.I. Joe Classified Wave 3


Cases of wave three are showing up in the mail and locally at select Walgreeens. I say "select", because as we all know, finding these at retail stores is often futile. Ugh...I hope none of these ever become exclusive to that store. You think Target is bad?

Six figures are packed to each case, and inside you'll find (2) Zartan, (2) Cobra Infantry, (1) Scarlet (Repaint) and (1) Roadblock (Repaint). As I've mentioned in a prior post, it's interesting even though Hasbro is releasing refreshed wave one cases, that as of now, this is the only case that you will find the repaints of Scarlet and Roadblock. I'm sure this will change at some point down the road.

While my figures arrived neatly packed within the case, I actually only ordered one of each. Sorry to my fellow collectors, I don't currently have any extras to share. Having the box is certainly a bonus, as it gives me somewhere to store all my empty figure packs...Which for some reason I am holding on to. I should just throw these away.

Until I break down and do so, let's dive into the figures, going in numeric order.

First up is the repainted Roadblock (01). Since there's nothing new going on with the package, I'll cut to the chase and just show you a quick shot of the figure within.

At this point, I think many collectors are a bit sick of Roadblock. Or maybe I'm just wanting to project my own opinion out on the world. But yeah, I'm definitely over this character.

In general, I'm not a fan of repaints. Playmates did this with the Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line, and completely killed it in the process. I just don't see the point.

We all know that these figures are hard to find. So just release more. The only thing ushering out repaints does is start the craze all over again for 100% fanatics that need EVERY figure, and there are a lot of us out there. This is not helping the problem of distribution.

Maybe that's their plan. Get suckers to buy the same figure twice, three times or more. I mean, I did.

I know it's not the best side by side comparison, but here are the two figures together. The original on the left, and the repaint on the right.

Which leads us into the repaint of Scarlet (05).

She rounds out the repaints of wave one with the above noted Roadblock and the prior posted Duke and Snake Eyes. That is until Destro gets a repaint. He's already got a circle head variant.

It's difficult for me to say which one is my favorite here. In a side by side comparison of the original (left) compared to the repaint (right), I really don't see enough change to make me sway one way or the other.

With repaints out of the way, let's jump to figure number twenty-three in the series. The highly anticipated, Zartan!

Zartan was actually one of those figures that fans thought was coming out last year. With each new wave that was announced, you know, wave two and wave one of the Cobra Island Figures, many thought he was going to be among them. Alas, he was not. But he's here now, and I suppose that's what counts.

Eagle eyed fans will notice that the artwork behind Zartan is also Dreadnok specific. That's a nice added touch, and stays in line with how the vintage packaging always differentiated the band of punks from your standard Cobra team member. Hasbro's distribution may stink, but their attention to detail has always been top tier.

I also want to take a moment, and draw your attention to the card back. It's been updated to incorporate some of the new faces.

Now present are Beach Head, Zartan, a couple Cobra Vipers and Firefly. Looking at the package, I also can't help but focus in on those ever present Cobra Flight Pods (Trouble Bubbles). That was my all time favorite mini vehicle from the vintage line, and I so want them to make these for the six inch series.

Beyond that, there's nothing much more to note about the packaging.

Zartan comes with some nice accessories that pay homage to the vintage 1984 figure. Though I will admit that the monkey's paw and severed snake head are very out of place. These are accessories that feel like they would be more so in line with Crystal Ball.

I especially like that the backpack splits in two to put the false face inside, another nice touch transferred over from the vintage figure. Interestingly, the vintage versions face does have a bit more detail, but this larger six inch scale one isn't terrible. If nothing else, it's fun.

I had, and I suppose I still do have some mixed feelings about the figure. It's a great representation of Zartan, but when I look at it, something just feels like it's missing. Worst of all, I can't put my finger on it. Something feels off, and I don't know what it is.

While I continue to ponder that, I will add to my thoughts what all of these pegs and holes in the backpack are for. Were several more accessories intended to be packed in? Are these just optional slots for placing his current accessories on? What's the deal? It's driving my OCD mad!

It appears I have a lot to think about with this figure. Until I sort this all out, here's Zartan all decked out.

Last up in wave three is a figure that quite honestly just annoys me.

I hate this figure. I hate it for so many reasons. Before I launch fully into that, let's first whirl around the package.

Alright, let's take the gloves off.

...This is lazy! How are you going to slap a new name and number on the package, take off paint applications and release the same figure? This is not a new character! Not by any stretch of the imagination.

The appropriate thing to do here would have been to release more of the Cobra Island figures. Not lackadaisically slap a new coat on it and call it new. Not only that, but this doesn't resolve the problem. Fans want the original. They want the goggles. They want the paint apps. They want the arm band. This just isn't right.

Further, it glosses over the other problem of where are the other three figures from the wave that people couldn't get? Are these too going to be dumb downed, renumbered and re-released?  This is not the way to do it. As I said above, it only cause the collectors who want every figure to buy them again. This is not helping supply and demand.

I now have three variations of this figure on my shelf, and I can only imagine how many more times Hasbro is going to throw this out there with slight changes or no changes at all, but packed in with vehicles or multi packs. They've done it to death with Stormtroopers in Star Wars, so I have no reason to believe they will do anything different here.

This line is very love / hate for me. The figures are amazing...Well...The ones that aren't silly repaints, and they come with a slew of fantastic accessories. However, the continuous distribution debacles and overall lazy repainted re-releases, especially those touted as new figures with new numbers, is annoying.

I really want this line to succeed and grow. But, I'm also realistic. People want to enjoy their hobbies, and when problems like this exist, especially the distribution ones, people throw in the towel. Say what you will about Star Wars, while supply issues are still a problem, people aren't buying these in droves like they used to. So many fans have gotten fed up and walked away. It would be a shame to see this happen with G.I. Joe Classified.

(left to right / front to back): Deluxe Snake Eyes (00)*Roadblock (01)*Roadblock (01) [Repaint]*Snake Eyes (02)*Snake Eyes (02) [Repaint]*Destro (03) [Circle Head Variant]*Destro (03) [2nd Production Run - No Circle]*Duke (04)*Duke (04) [Repaint]*Scarlet (05)*Scarlet (05) [Repaint]*Cobra Commander (06)*Cobra Commander (06) [Regal Variant]*Gung Ho (07)

(left to right / front to back): Red Ninja (08)*Snake Supreme Cobra Commander (09)*Beach Head (10) [Brown Eyes Variant]*Beach Head (10) [Blue Eyes Variant]*Roadblock (11)*Cobra Trooper (12) [Black Collar Variant]*Cobra Trooper (12) [Blue Collar Variant]*Baroness [13]*Arctic Mission Storm Shadow (14)*Profit Director Destro (15)*Firefly (21)

(left to right / front to back): Cobra Viper (22)*Zartan (23)*Cobra Infantry (24)

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Ghostbusters II Coca-Cola (The Coca-Cola Company)

Movie tie-ins. They're big business, and everyone wants to take a slice of the pie when it's a highly anticipated blockbuster film.

The year was 1989. The Ghostbusters were back on the big screen for the first time since 1984 and Coca-Cola was there to be a part of the event. Enter the limited ghost in a can Coca-Cola.

What set the soda apart from all the rest was its shtick. While the label stated a real ghost was inside, it warned that opening it would cause the ghost to immediately escape and disappear into thin air. However, it didn't stop there. When exposed to strong light for a few minutes, then taken into a dark room, a ghostly green afterglow appears inside the can.

The Coca-Cola Company didn't just stop at the can either. They made a a little glass cup / jar, which was also available as part of the Ghostbusters II promotional tie in. It's worth noting that while the sample shown here has a white lid, they have also been found with red ones.

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Retro Spins: Pink Floyd - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn


As I continue to listen to the music of the late sixties, I can't help but think that Elvis Presley was on to something. This music is weird. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure if you're blitzed out of your mind on some form of conscious altering medicinal that the music makes perfect sense. However, for those of us not riding white dragons, it's just odd.

What I think is really interesting about this particular era of music is how influential Indian music is. You hear a lot of sitars and in general a very Hindu style intertwined with the psychedelic sounds. Pink Floyd captures this perfectly, if you could call it perfect, in their debut album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.

My exposure thus far to the band has been to their album, The Wall, which I think everyone should listen to at least once, and a slight dabble in their album The Dark Side Of The Moon. Essentially, their two most popular recordings.

Though all of the members of Pink Floyd were crucial in their success, original guitarist, Syd Barrett, may have been the driving force of the band during its early years. Barrett not only developed the sound of the band, but was also the major contributing writer of all of their material. Sadly, the guitarist / vocalist had a deeper issue, one which would see the decline of his mental health over the course of 1965 - 1968. This would lead to issues with other band members, and the decision was made to let him go. Unfortunately, this also resulted in the band being fired from their label, who felt Barrett was the creative talent among them. The label retained Barrett, who sporadically continued on with a solo career until 1972. However, his declining mental health ultimately led to him stepping out of the spotlight. Despite this, the band ensured he continued to receive royalties for his work up until his death in 2006.

As for the remaining members, and the band itself, Pink Floyd is regarded as one of the most influential group of the 60's and 70's, helping to shape the era known these days as Classic Rock. In 1996, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Rick Wright, Roger Waters and even Syd Barrett, as Pink Floyd, were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Interestingly, neither Roger Waters nor Syd Barrett attended the ceremony.

Listening to A Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, I immediately could tell this was going to be on par with the sounds of the era, odd lyrics and all, such as:

Lazing in the foggy dew
Sitting on a unicorn
No fair, you can't hear me
But I can you

Watching buttercups cup the light
Sleeping on a dandelion
Too much
I won't touch you But then I might

Yeah, true lyrics to the song, Flaming. In hindsight, it's so cliche to the 60's. It's the kind of words that would be used in a Dewy Cox song. Knowing the history of Syd Barrett, it also paints a clear picture of a man who was on the edge of a mental collapse.

The album was both intriguing and unimpressive at the same time. Some songs really sucked me in, while others I shrugged off as your typical fare of the era. I did enjoy it enough that I felt it was an album I would want to add to my collection, but not necessarily as any sort of priority. So instead, I purchased an original pressing of Culture Club's Kissing To Be Clever, to replace my remastered edition. Still, I enjoyed it enough that I wouldn't mind hearing more from the band.

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Retro Spins: Salt 'N Pepa - Hot Cool Vicious

You know how you feel when you have to go to your kid's recital at school? You know they're doing the best they can, but class act rock stars they are not - Nor would you be there if they weren't your own child. Chances are, you're cringing every minute of the show, checking your watch waiting for it to end.

That's how this album felt. Salt 'N Pepa may have been one of the first all girl rap groups, but good, they are not.

Being fair, rap is not my number one music style of choice. I've only recently started getting into 80's rap albums, so my knowledge of them is also very limited. However, I know what I like, and I know what I don't like. This, I definitely don't like. The beats are weak, the rhymes are lame and the excitement just wasn't there. Honestly, it was more annoying than anything.

The only saving grace to this albums massive thud it makes is the first track, Push It, which is not only the song I bought it for, but  I don't feel so bad that this is the only track I liked from it because it's also the only song which charted from the album. Clearly I'm not alone in my dislike for Hot Cool Vicious. To add more irony to the mix, Push It wasn't even originally included on the first pressings of the album. It wasn't until the re-release in 1987 that it was added.

Oh well. Overall, I'll file this one under, "No thanks."

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The Karate Kid (NECA)

The Karate Kid

HIYA! KA-POW! ZIPPAZIPPA SHA POOF!...and all those other karate like sounds.

It's surprising with how Cobra Kai has taken off that NECA has all but abandoned the concept of Karate Kid related figures. Such a missed opportunity to have figures not only form the show, but also the two sequel films.

Why does Daniel look like a linebacker with his shoulder pads on? Overall, not the best work I've seen from the likes of NECA.

While the figures look all right, and I would have loved to see more, they'll honestly never hold a candle to the original Remco line - which seems to be skyrocketing once again on secondary markets.

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G.I. Joe Classified Duke Repaint


Duke is coming at you with an all new paint deco, and some say it's better than the original! 

I have to agree. I'm not sure why Hasbro chose the original color scheme, but the red on the original figure always stood out like a sore thumb. Especially the wrist watch. I've never understood adults who wear bulky plastic colorful watches. Of course, I also don't get Apple watches, so maybe it's just me.

Regardless, this toned down version definitely stands out as the better option between the two. At least in my opinion it does.

There are a few of changes to the figure, but rather than list them all out, it's best to have a side by side comparison as a point of reference.

Featured on the left is the original release, which obviously means the repaint is on the right. Also obviously is that there is no red present on the repaint. Not on the gloves, jacket or wrist watch. Also gone is the gold shin guards and blue highlights. This is actually a bit of a lose to the figure.

What's interesting is that Hasbro left the gold paint detail on the pistol, but removed it completely from the rifle. Why keep one and not the other? Does this mean we'll get another variant down the road where the pistol is all black?

Overall, I do prefer the repaint over the original, but I suppose I said that already. But, what about you? Which one do you favor?

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Retro Spins: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced


As the guitar riff for the opening to Purple Haze fired things up, I could feel a sense of energy. I had heard this song countless times before, but as I looked to hear the whole album from start to finish, things felt very different. Perhaps it was because I was delving deep into artists of the past, and as such, was hearing an evolution of music that perhaps I hadn't noticed before. Maybe it was because it was hot on the heals of my last Retro Spin of Elvis Presley that this evolution was all the more prevalent. Whatever it was, The Jimi Hendrix Experience had power behind it that was making me take notice.

Now before I go any further, it's worth noting, and something similar to what I failed to mention on my review of The Rolling Stones debut album, is that there are two versions of this particular album. The original UK release features not only a different cover, but the tracks between it and the US version are very different.

For example, the UK edition doesn't contain the tracks, Purple Haze, Hey Joe and The Wind Cries Mary. Meanwhile, the US edition doesn't contain the tracks, Red House, Can You See Me, This May Be Love and Remember. I don't know what the reasoning is behind the two different versions of the album, but it's a common occurrence with albums from this era. Especially during the earlier years of the artists. Especially as it pertains to UK artists who release albums in the US either consecutively or later in their careers. It's kind of annoying. I shouldn't have to buy two albums to get the full experience, no pun intended.

The album cover shown above is the UK version, while the one below is the US released version. In comparing the full track listing on each album, I think the UK definitely got the short end of the stick, missing out on several of Hendrix's more popular songs.

I have to be honest. I made it to about track six of this album, and it started to feel like a wall of noise. This baffled me, as I was really into it at first. I dare say that Manic Depression is my new favorite song from Hendrix, a song I had never heard until today. But it just kept getting louder and louder as the album progressed, actually giving me a bit of a headache. Mind you, this wasn't a volume issue either. I keep my music relatively low in that regard.

Ultimately, the take away from this was that there were definitely good tracks to be found on the debut album of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but for me, it wore thin. No, not wore thin. Perhaps, became overwhelming, is a better explanation.

There's no denying that Jimi Hendrix was an amazing musician, but I don't think I'll be personally calling myself a fan. I actually got about half way through fire, AKA, track eight of eleven before saying to myself, "I just don't think I want to hear anymore." I then popped two Advil.

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Retro Spins: Rush - Permanent Waves

Permanent Waves was the very first Rush album I ever purchased, and it was completely by accident.  I had gone to the record store with a Rush song in my head, but didn't know what it was - It was Nobody's Hero, for the record. The store clerk tried his best to help me, but couldn't figure out the song. He pulled out a copy of this particular album and said, "A lot of people like this one, if you want to get into Rush. The song may be on there." A crap shoot, and one, that while it didn't have the song I was looking for on it, busted a door wide open for me into the world of Rush.

The album throttles into high gear with its opening track, The Spirit Of Radio, which grabs you by the arm and shouts, "Come with me!" As you run down the high adrenaline street with the track, you're greeted by Freewill - An anthem for those who choose to make their own decisions as opposed to follow.

From there, for those new to Rush as I was back in the day, you're treated to your first real taste of what the band stands for - Epic jam sessions spreading across seven to twelve minutes with lyrics which don't necessarily make sense to the average listener, but riffs and deep instrumentation which keeps you hooked. This comes in the form of Jacob's Ladder.

The album then drops you into two more radio friendly tracks in the delivery of Entre Nous and Different Strings. Granted, they still have that undertone of confusion that is accustomed to most Rush lyrical arrangements.

As a final sendoff, the album delivers the ten minute masterpiece, Natural Science. It was with this track that I actually first took notice of the drumming of Neil Peart. As an aspiring drummer back in those days, his beats and style hooked me big time.

These days, the album hasn't lost its luster for me. It's still one of my all time favorites from the band, and one I enjoy listening to it frequently. For me, it's second only to that of their 1993 album, Counterparts - The album which ironically has the song Nobody's Hero, AKA the album which I initially wanted all those years ago when I first got this particular CD.

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