Wednesday, March 24, 2010

423. The Mamas and the Papas greatest hits- Their truly great song, and some other stuff.


Album: Greatest hits

Artist: The Mamas and the Papas.

Genre: Pop.

Tracks


1. California Dreamin'
2. Go Where You Wanna Go
3. Monday, Monday
4. I Call Your Name
5. Do You Wanna Dance
6. I Saw Her Again
7. You Baby
8. Dancing Bear
9. Words Of Love
10. No Salt On Her Tail
11. Look Through My Window
12. Dancing In The Street
13. Dedicated To The One I Love
14. Creeque Alley
15. Glad To Be Unhappy
16. Twist And Shout
17. Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon)
18. My Girl
19. Safe In My Garden
20. Dream A Little Dream Of Me

Tell me honestly- who doesn’t love California dreaming? Go on, put your hand up if you don’t feel like smiling when you hear: “All the leaves are brown, and the skies are grey.” I can’t think of another song not recorded by a muppet that's as universally loved and admired by all humans. Die-hard rock fans, gangsta rappers, the elderly and lost tribes in the amazon basin would all be hard pressed to find something bad to say about Dreamin. It’s the best use of harmony vocals in pop and the ultimate feel-good tune. It somehow captured all that was right and good with the hippy ideology without alienating those who thought the children of the age of Aquarius were little more than spoiled, unwashed brats. If the rest of this album were anywhere near as good as the opening track then this would sit happily at the top of this list by a universal vote.

Sadly California Dreaming is definitely the Mamas and the Papas greatest hit and the rest of the album is a let down in comparison. That’s not to say that it’s a painful listen- it’s just nowhere near the heights achieved by track one. There aren’t any songs written by John Phillips that approach Dreamin and their covers are all fairly pale when compared to better known versions by other people. Things probably aren’t helped by the decision to open the album with Dreamin and then follow it up with Go where you wanna go and Monday Monday, which means the three greatest songs are out of the way ten minutes into the album. But then that was pretty much the story of their career. Those three songs appear on If You Can Believe Your Ears, their debut album and a height they never approached again.

For the most part the Mamas and the Papas seemed to have an unerring knack for taking a great tune and turning into something tedious. Do you wanna dance, I call your name, Twist and Shout and Dancing in the streets are great songs when other people do them but when arranged by Phillips they become a bit bland and mushy. They sound like successful attempts to turn great pop songs into something accessible to the middle-of-the-road audience. The exception to this mushifying of great songs is Mama Cass’s solo version of Dream a little Dream of me which is a great number and shows she was a huge talent in more than just dress size.

While the middle of the album becomes a bit dull there are other great moments to be dug out in amongst the more tedious covers. Creeque alley is a rollicking account of the band’s history and is a lot of fun. Less enjoyable but still interesting is I saw her again last night, a song about how the band briefly broke up. When they started Michelle Phillips (the amazingly attractive one and the only surviving member) was married to John Phillips but was booted from the group when she decided to have an affair with band member Denny Doherty. Michelle spent a brief period of time being radiantly beautiful on her own somewhere and the band continued with a 25% drop in their level of vocal talented and a 250% decrease in sex appeal. Eventually she returned and the band continued for a few years in a state of animosity. I saw her again last night is a song recorded all about the affair. Phillips harmonises with the guy she was married to and the man she cheated on him with. How’s that for an interesting dynamic? And what does it say about the band when after their first album the only good songs they wrote were about themselves?

Mamas and the Papas greatest hits has twenty tracks, at least ten of which could be culled to make a much better listen. There are some forgettable songs here but they’re more than outweighed by the unforgettable opener.

Influenced by: The Beatles, living in California
Influenced: The bangles and pop groups in general.

Highlight: California dreaming.
Lowlight: Twist and shout. It just makes you want to hear John sing it.

Favourite Amazon Customer review quote: A REVIEWER CAN "ONLY" GIVE 5 STARS OR MORE TO THIS GROUP...THEY ARE THE BEACH BOYS BUT ON MORE AND BETTER DRUGS........THEY CAPTURE SADNESS YET RECKLESSNESS (WE'RE TALKIN' ABOUT A GUY HERE WHO KEPT DRINKIN AFTER A LIVER TRANSPLANT)...THE PAIN IN THIS GROUP IS ONLY MATCHED AND CHANNELED MAYBE BY THE SUFFERING OF THE DOORS (AND I DON'T JUST MEAN JIM)...THE HARMONYS ARE EVERYWHERE AND BRUTALLY ABUNDANT...THE MAMAS AND PAPAS DECLARE THEY ARE THE BEST NOT WITH THE BRASHNESS OF THE ROLLING STONES BUT WITH SUBTLETY...ALL THESE SONGS ARE GREAT...THESE ARE POPULAR PEOPLE YET THEY DREAM AND WANT TO BE NERDS THEY CAN NEVER BE....AND THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER GROUP LIKE THIS !

-RANDOM THOUGHTS....IN CAPITALS...WITH EXCLAMATION MARKS!

So do you partake in some California Dreamin or is it all some kind of nightmare? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks David, I agree, I've got this on vinyl. A version of Twist and Shout, that doesn't twist or shout is just wrong. I agree 10 songs would have almost convinced an outsider to go an buy at least one album, but with the other stuff, they've got all they need... and then some.
    Brad.

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