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Classic of the Week

Michael Nesmith & the First National Band "Complete" Pacific Arts Audio

January 20, 1994|RANDY LEWIS

The first LP I ever bought was a Monkees album. I ran down to Sears' record department and plunked down my $3.33 (plus tax) strictly because I'd heard a new Mike Nesmith song on the group's weekly TV show and simply had to have it that night. When Nesmith quit in 1969, I was anxious to hear what he would do next, even though I had no clue what direction he'd head. That debut solo album, "Magnetic South" (1970), was a revelation to me--as it must have been for Nesmith. He sounded like a man who had traded in a straitjacket for a favorite old flannel shirt and a pair of blue jeans. Yes, it contained his only solo Top 40 single, "Joanne." But creating hits seems to have been the furthest thing from his mind as he made "Magnetic South" and its two successors--"Loose Salute" (1971) and "Nevada Fighter" (1971), a loose trilogy brought together in this two-CD set.

Elements of the folk and country Nesmith was surrounded by as he grew up in Texas were prominent, but so was the rock he had embraced in his teens. And in covers of such standards as "Beyond the Blue Horizon" as well as in his own erudite numbers such as "The Crippled Lion" and "Tengo Amor," he displayed a gift for urbane lyrics, delightfully meandering melodies and glassy vocals revealing his affection for the American popular songbooks of Cole Porter and the Gershwins.

His First National Band included steel guitarist O.J. (Red) Rhodes--the first steel player I ever truly enjoyed--drummer John Ware, bassist John London and pianist Glen D. Hardin (Earl P. Ball on "Magnetic South").

While they didn't invent country-rock, they did create an invigorating pre-Eagles hybrid that sounds as inspired and unforced today as it did more than two decades ago.

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