Thursday, February 12, 2015

Music (Fan) Review – Around the Sun, by Michael Nesmith (MP3 download at

While this isn’t Michael Nesmith’s latest recording (that would be the live CD of his 2013 Movies of the Mind tour), this is his most recent original studio material.

The set consists of six songs – four vocal tracks and two instrumentals – many of which sound like further explorations of the whimsical muse behind his 2006 album Rays and all of which I would describe as new age folk pop.

Just like Rays, the songs are heavy on synthesizers, which I assume are played by Nesmith, as they are on that previous album.

But several tunes also feature plenty of acoustic and especially electric guitar, along with bass and drums and percussion. I don’t know who Nesmith’s rhythm section consists of, and I don’t know if Nesmith plays any or all of the guitars. I can say this, though: Nesmith can easily play the acoustic and electric guitar rhythms that provide the core of many of these songs, and the electric guitar leads are similar to Nesmith’s electric guitar playing on the Rays track “Zip Ribbon” and The Monkees' 1996 album Justus, which proves that Nesmith can hold his own as a lead and rhythm guitarist.

Of the six songs, I highly recommend “Only Understanding Love” and “I Know What I Know.” These are the best of the bunch – they are the most organic and feature some of Nesmith’s most heartfelt lyrics and vocals. I would dare even say that they’re better than all of the songs on Tropical Campfires and Rays. In fact, I’m surprised Nesmith didn’t include them on his Movies of the Mind tour. They would have been welcome additions.

These two songs are somewhat similar in style and vibe to the music of George Harrison. Although Nesmith was supposed to be the John Lennon of The Monkees – “the Smart One” – I’ve always felt that Nesmith is more similar to Harrison in terms of musical tone. Nesmith and Harrison were the official and real guitarists of their respective groups, and, not surprisingly, their individual music is predominantly guitar-based. Their singing and songwriting also share elements of folk and transcendentalism.

If Nesmith continues to record in the future, I hope he makes more songs like “Only Understanding Love” and “I Know What I Know.” This is a good musical direction for him.

(Note: The MP3 sample for “Helen’s Eternal Birthday” doesn’t seem to be in the actual download of the song, or in any of the Around the Sun downloads. I wanted to hear more of what was in that clip. Nevertheless, the songs are still enjoyable.)

--Raj Manoharan

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