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Another Spin
A blog by Scott E. Shepherd · A continuing look at popular music, past, present and future.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Papa Nez Shines New "Rays"

Though he will be forever linked to the Monkees, Michael Nesmith should standout as one of the true pioneers of the Rock world. When he quit the Monkees in 1969, Nesmith became one of the greatest yet overlooked talents of the burgeoning "Country-Rock" movement. He also penned some great tunes for other people, including "Different Drum" for a young Linda Ronstandt.

When his contract for RCA expired, Nesmith created his own music company, Pacific Arts, and created some of the first music videos. He also re-entered television briefly, bringing his odd sketch-driven series "Elephant Parts" to the small screen. And he even occasionally reunited with his old bandmates for a limited tour. Through it all, Nesmith continued to release solo material.

Nesmith's latest album, Rays, was recorded and released near the end of 2005, but the way it was released is unique, and, like many of Nesmith's ventures, quite possibly the wave of the future.

Nesmith produced 100 limited edition advance copies in 2005, then produced another 100 advance copies, and finally released it on iTunes. While a physical copy of the CD will become commercially available in April, the only way the majority of his fans can get this CD now is to download it off iTunes. Nesmith is not the first artist to promote "exclusive" tracks on iTunes, but he is one of the first to release a whole album this way.

As of my writing, Rays is still not available through online retailers, such as Amazon.com (in fact it's not even listed on their site) - only iTunes carries it. Rays even has a digital booklet - much like a CD booklet - so it is conceivable to construct your own CD, if you really need the physical CD.

But Rays does point the way artists and record companies alike can and most likely will market their music from now on - no more actual physical discs, just downloads. This is an advantage especially to unknown bands, who can now skip the expense of burning CDs, if they can afford the expense of making their music digital.

As for Rays itself, the music is quite a departure from what both the Monkees and Nesmith have done before. The album is primarily instrumental, dominated by synthesizers and jazzy calypso-style guitar. There are only four tracks with a proper vocal, but for those who love Nesmith and his willingness to expand into new genres, Rays is a good pick-up.

Who knew a guy from the Monkees would be so savvy?
Posted at 2:43 pm ET