Upon the 30th Anniversary of Michael Monroe’s debut Nights Are So Long, a long overdue Best Of is set to be released this month
I remember seeing Michael Monroe on That Metal Show. It did two things for me. One, it sparked a bunch of memories going back to my infatuation with Hanoi Rocks and the series of Hanoi Rocks CDs where, if put together, all of the inlay cards form a poster of the band. It was an amazing concept because you had to buy all four CDs just to make the poster work. Sounds like something Kiss would have done. Not only did you get all of Hanoi Rocks quintessential ‘80s glam band ferocity but the art and visuals were spectacular. I ended up wearing those CDs in the ground.
Second, the show was a reminder that Michael Monroe never stopped. I had his first two solo albums. Then for no reason on my part, I stopped paying attention. It was not for the lack in Monroe’s talent because his solo work was equally as riveting as Hanoi Rocks, albeit not as trashy. The musical climate was changing in the early ‘90s that created a diversion.
Michael Monroe – Stained Glass Heart Video
Finding all of these solo albums, collaborations and history on Michael Monroe spawned feelings that I felt when I first discovered Hanoi Rocks. It was excitement and personal beratement as to all of the music I missed from this underrated rock star. That is why Monroe’s first “best of” compilation is important. It shines a light on a seasoned career of incredible musicianship and a powerful presence to the genre.
The Best ignores much of Monroe’s covers, and he did a lot, but saves one for a special finale I will get to in a moment. Most of his debut Nights Are So Long was cover songs and the only thing pulled from that album was the title track, focusing on a Monroe track that led to him composing most of his material on the aptly titles Not Fakin’ It. “Dead Jail or Rock N Roll” is perfect to get this best of rock train rolling. High energy rock at its finest with a roaring harmonica feeding it all, Monroe had transitioned from the pretty boy image to a rough and tumble vocal growl with dirty rock blues as his foundation. The personnel on this album was immense—Jimmy Ripp and Anton Fig, for example.
One of the songs that stands out on this compilation is the b-side glam ballad “It’s A Lie.” The Dead Boys’ Stiv Bators had been friends with Monroe and did some writing with him along with Monroe doing the Dead Boys cover “Not Anymore” on Peace of Mind. “It’s A Lie” came out as an additional song in the 2002 release, but until then this song was a rarity. This song continues to prove his panache for ‘50s rock balladry and smooth-skinned vocal tongues of his youth. It’s a beautiful serenade to the rebels and outcasts.
Michael Monroe – Old King’s Road Video
Where Best Of dominates is with Monroe’s mid-to-later career work. And that is where the discovery begins. From here on out into his more recent albums Sensory Overdrive, Horns and Halos, and Blackout States. As Sunset Strip rock was a long-distant memory to pop culture, contained to the aging Strip scene, Monroe’s consistency and devotion to the elements that made his career a staple never veered or conformed to constantly changing rock environment. Then something happened. Rock bands began revisiting the stylings of the hair band era. The Faster Pussycats, the L.A. Guns and newly cropped bands influenced by the Whiskey scene jumping back into the limelight.
Not only does Best Of show where Monroe has been but also where he is going. A new song, “One Foot Outta The Grave.” It’s total rock and roll splendor and a flag of defiance and survival. And with that, rock and roll never feels so good.
The album leaves us with that one cover song. His relationship with Guns ‘n’ Roses date back to the late ‘80s and especially early ‘90s. It seemed like an obvious choice to team up with Slash to do a rendition of “Magic Carpet Ride.” The results are powerful.
There is a lot of songs to weed through in Monroe’s career. This two-disc series is a fine representation that defines one of rock’s greatest vocalists.