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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Mamas and the Papas

The Mamas and the Papas represented the sappiest of the Flower Power ethos. But John Phillips, their songwriter, came up with some beautiful tunes before he got totally washed out on drugs. To this day their plaintive music evokes all sorts of emotions for me. Some of their work:

Boys and girls together. Somehow they make the Latin brass mix well with the rest of ballad. One of my favorites; I'm surprised the Youtube video has only had 176 viewings:

I Saw Her Again Last Night. Usually a good piece of music can make you feel either euphoric or plaintive. This song manages to do both:

California Dreamin', one of their biggest hits. It made me feel homesick for California even though I wasn't from there:

Dream a Little Dream of Me, not an original Mamas and Papas song, but a tour de force by Cass Eliot:

To make this song work for you, it helps to imagine the words coming out of Michelle Phillips' mouth. Cass and Michelle are living proof of the rule that a female pop star's singing ability is almost always in inverse proportion to her looks. (Think of Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, and Ella Fitzgerald. Then think of Olivia Newton John and The Spice Girls.)

Michelle Phillips had a voice that would put you in mind of a passable high school glee club member. Cass Elliott had a voice that could make you dream of....Michelle Phillips.

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