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Tantamount to Treason, Vol. 1

Michael Nesmith

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Album Review

This is Michael "Papa Nez" Nesmith's first LP backed by the Second National Band, which like its predecessor, is a loose aggregate of studio musicians. This "next generation" was only featured on this disc and heralds the return of former First National Bandmates O.J. "Red" Rhodes (pedal steel) and Michael Cohen (keyboards). The most notable variation between the two units lies in the ethereal style which Nesmith delivers his earthy Southwestern-flavored lyrics and melodies. From right out of the starting gate, Papa Nez unleashes the atypically heavy "Mama Rocker" — which would not have sounded out of place on an early MC5 record. Even compared to his edgier material like "Mama Nantucket," this track is on the verge of early-'70s electric heavy metal. Nez also dips into the avant-garde juxtaposition of jarring sound effects on the introduction to the idiosyncratic tongue-in-cheek narrative "Highway 99 With Melange." These anomalies aside, however, the rest of the album consists of a decidedly more pastoral pastiche of songs. "In the Afternoon" is particularly appealing, and features a blend of folkie-tinged psychedelia with Nesmith's trademark winsome lyrics. Similarly, the other originals — such as the tranquilly trippy "Lazy Lady" or the straight ballad "You Are My One" — reveal the artist's depth as an equally engaging singer and songwriter. This disc is likewise notable for including the Richard Stekol-penned "Wax Minute" — which became both a treasured favorite for artist and enthusiast alike — resulting in its revival during Nesmith's brief return to the concert stage in the early '90s. In 2001, the U.K.-based Camden label paired the long-players Nevada Fighter and Tantamount to Treason in their series of two-fer releases. Included on this title are three previously unissued tracks from the early '70s — the original instrumental "Cantata & Fugue in C&W," as well as a cover version of "Rose City Chimes" and the anti-tobacco anthem "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)."


Born: 30 December 1942 in Houston, TX

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The comparatively level-headed member of '60s teen sensation the Monkees, Michael Nesmith was the most proficient instrumentalist in the group and wrote their best in-house songs, rootsy pop numbers like "Papa Gene's Blues," "You Told Me," "You Just May Be the One," and "Tapioca Tundra." In fact, he had written many songs before even joining the group, and one of his compositions, "Different Drum," was a hit for Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys in 1968. After he left the Monkees one year later,...
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