Mike Nesmith and the First National Band
Released: January 1971
Chart Peak: #159
Weeks Charted: 4
Mike Nesmith? Well, hang onto your "wool hat" cats and kitties, because this album is good.
Mike Nesmith, you will remember, was one of the plastic Beatles, the Monkees, who can still be seen on Saturday morning TV, somewhere between The Archies and Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. Besides being a Monkee, Mike was a composer of some talents -- "Different Drum" was strong enough to bear the weight of Linda Ronstadt's entire career, and (though I've never been completely sure), Mike is often credited as composer of "Mary, Mary," first recorded by Paul Butterfield.
Well, no Monkeeshines here. Loose Salute shows that Mike is firmly planted in country-rock territory with his group, the First National Band, which features Red Rhodes on steel guitar, one of the better technicians of the instrument. The production is flawless (remember when Frank Zappa said that Monkees albums were put together better than most San Francisco acid-rock records?), the music is nice to listen to, and the boys all play their own instruments.
The album features a beautiful "hit single" that never was played on the radio, "Silver Moon," a flashy rendition of Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard's classic, "I Fall to Pieces," a catchy rocker, "Dedicated Friend," and some pretty acoustic folk songs, "Conversations" and "Thanx For the Ride." "Listen to the Band," which features Red Rhodes, deserves to become a country and western standard, and the rest is good Hollywood cowboy music, fun to dance to, or eat enchiladas to.
Mike's straightforward, no-bullshit vocals are a welcome change from the usual Byrds-y, constipated singing style generally preferred by country hippie bands, and the nine Nesmith originals on Loose Salute radiate, if not genius, then a good, solid versatility. The flavor of the songs go from country to Latin ("Tengo Amore,") to big band ("Hello Lady").
- Charlie Burton, Rolling Stone, 4/15/71.
In which Nesmith continues his transmutation into Gram Parsons for television fans, or the Jimmie Rodgers of the Sunset Strip. I'm beginning to suspect that he takes his meandering thoughts and marble columns in the sky more seriously than they deserve. But his songwriting gifts are at a peak on this amalgam of gimmicks and mannerisms, long-vowel articles and near-yodels and electronic excursions and alien rhythms. At its best, sublime schlock; at its worst, downhome kitsch. B+
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
With this record, Nesmith's momentum builds as this album is even better than the first. While the single from this album didn't do as well as his previous hit, it was a better song and kicks off the album nicely. Also, steel player extraordinaire, "Red" Rhodes, is beginning to take a more dominant role in the sound of the band. Of special interest are Nesmith's third go at recording "Listen to the Band," a fine cover of Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces," and his renewed interest in Latin rhythms. * * *
- Jim Worbois, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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