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-- Roni Sarig

The Monkees
Justus
Rhino

If new Monkees product -- the first to include all four original band members since their '60s heyday -- isn't the ultimate "alternative," what is? Such a bad idea couldn't be anything but cool, and come now, it was inevitable, wasn't it?

While the whole premise may seem a bit of a lark, the silly thing is, Justus is actually pretty good -- in fact, it's pretty excellent. Written, produced and played by Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz, Justus might be seen as a reminder that the Monkees ended up being more than the Prefab Four they were in the beginning; they ended up as an actual band. Nesmith's brusque, gritty "Circle Sky" (from 1968's Head), is Justus' lone remake; the remaining songs sound as if they were written by guys pushing 50 and recorded by guys pushing 15. And yet somehow the contrast works. Jones, whose singing rests a vocal notch behind Ringo Starr on the ladder of warbling '60s survivors, comes off surprisingly juiced and inspired; Dolenz's mildly cynical ebullience remains intact; and Tork's guitar playing bristles with tense energy throughout.

Can Justus dwarf the image of Robert Plant screeching over Jimmy Page's strummed Moroccan guitar as the epitome of '90s reunions? Probably not, but it doesn't hurt to dream. (****)

-- Gerard Choucroun

CDs are rated on a one to five star scale.

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