1968 was a turbulent year for the Monkees. Their television series, which had debuted as a huge hit two years earlier, was cancelled in February. The Birds, The Bees & the Monkees, released after the cancellation in April 1968, was their first album not to reach #1 on the Billboard chart. Internally, their group dynamic was changing, too. While they had previously collaborated on recording sessions as a unit, increasingly each Monkee took to working in a separate studio, away from the other band members (shades of the White Album, coincidentally also released in 1968). Yet, as the White Album proved, group members working individually could still deliver a brilliant album and such was the case with The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees.
The album was preceded by a #1 single, the melancholy "Daydream Believer," written by former Kingston Trio member John Stewart. Recorded during the sessions for their previous album, it was selected as a single after a manufacturing delay caused Colgems to scrap their initial plan of releasing "Love Is Only Sleeping" as a 45. Featuring Davy Jones on lead vocal, it has since become one the songs most associated with him from the Monkees' catalog. Jones also sang lead on The Birds other hit single, the million-selling "Valleri," written by the stalwart team of Boyce & Hart. Interestingly, "Valleri," like "Daydream Believer," had also been in the band's repertoire for a while, originally airing on the show during the first season. It was re-recorded for the album and single release, adding a brass section at the insistence of Colgems. Once again, the stellar Louie Shelton is showcased in the arrangement, playing a lightning-fast flamenco style guitar lead.
The B-side of the "Valleri" single, Mike Nesmith's "Tapioca Tundra," was one of the album's more exotic moments. Nesmith also contributed the psych-tinged "Writing Wrongs," continuing his efforts to expand the band's musical vocabulary. On a similarly adventurous note, Mickey Dolenz took the lead on "Zor and Zam," an anti-war allegory that was right in line with the growing movement against the Vietnam War. Dolenz also brought his Moog back for "P.O. Box 9847," another Boyce & Hart composition. Taking yet another stylistic departure, "Magnolia Sims" was recorded in the style of a jaunty '20s tune, complete with dubbed 78 RPM pops and surface noise.
Though Jones, Nesmith and Dolenz are all prominent on The Birds, Peter Tork's sole contribution to album was playing piano on "Daydream Believer." Tork, frustrated by the splintering of the members into individual camps, left the group in December 1968. (Always one for wry humor, Nesmith commemorated Tork's departure by giving him a gold watch with the inscription, "From the guys down at work.") While the group would carry on for a time, this album would be the last to capture their initial exuberance. Fortunately, through this Sundazed reissue, we have that moment in time forever preserved on dynamic high-definition vinyl. It was sourced from the original analog Colgems master tapes and is packaged in an authentic recreation of the LP cover artwork. All smiles, sleepy Jean!