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Nevada Fighter kicks off with the witty and loose-limbed “The Grand Ennui,” and for a moment it sounds like the album will pick up where Michael Nesmith’s previous album with the First National Band, Loose Salute, left off. But before long, the album shifts gears, and it becomes obvious that Nesmith had something different in mind this time. Except for the rollicking side-closer, “Nevada Fighter,” most of the material on side one suggests the more introspective moments of Magnetic South but without the same balance of charm and dry humor that made that album so appealing (though “Propinquity (I’ve Just Begun to Care)” is a fine love song that’s a good bit more approachable than its title would lead you to expect). Side two is turned over to material by other songwriters, and while this shifts the album’s lyrical tone rather dramatically, Nesmith reveals himself to be a fine interpretive vocalist, and “Texas Morning” and “The Rainmaker” are splendid songs that would merit anyone’s attention. The First National Band were also augmented by a number of session musicians on Nevada Fighter (including James Burton and Ronn Tutt from Elvis Presley’s band), and the arrangements have a decidedly different flavor than on Nesmith’s previous two albums, especially in the second half (though Red Rhodes’ pedal steel is predictably splendid throughout). Nevada Fighter is a fine album, but it’s also the weakest of the three Nesmith would cut with the First National Band, and it’s not hard to imagine that Nesmith was starting to look for new pastures while he was recording this set.

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).”

-Mark Deming, Lindsay Planer,

Michael Nesmith-NEVADA FIGHTER / TANTAMOUNT TO TREASON (1971 / 1972)


One Comment

  1. Thank you. I have the first three Nez First National BAnd LPs on a two disc set from the early 90s. I've never seen these two on CD at all; thanks for their posting. you are My One is one VERY trippy country psychedelic song with red Dhodes going into phase shifting heavens alomng with Nez's voice, Very Nice. Both Highly underrated LPs from agreat artist.

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