Thursday, March 24, 2011
If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears - The Mamas and the Papas
The Mamas and the Papas
When I started this blog, I thought I would just blog about whatever I was randomly listening to, but I find myself increasingly selecting records on the basis of whether I want to blog about them or not. Sometimes I pick a record and realize I don't have anything to say about it and put it back. Other times I pick a record that I don't particularly want to listen to, but which I want to write about, like this one. I don't play it very much but I have a long history with it. I discovered it through my Dad. My Dad was not a rock and roll guy, his taste ran more Streisand/Sinatra and mariachi music when I was a kid. For some reason though he got this album a few years after it came out. He played it all the time for awhile, it seemed like every Saturday morning I would wake up to him blasting it on the stereo. It was the first real rock album I ever heard and I loved it. My sisters and I used to stare at the cover and speculate about the people squished into the bathtub. They made hippies seem attractive and glamorous at least until I encountered my two uncles who had become hippies and then I decided they were kind of ugly and scary. This record and in particular "California Dreamin'" took on a special poignancy for me when my parents divorced and I was exiled to cold, snowy Salt Lake City. When I returned to California to live with my Dad, he no longer played this record and neither did I. It reminded me of the happier days of my childhood and I didn't want to be reminded of what I had lost. After I left home I came across this in the record store and decided to buy it and see if it was as good as I remembered. Not really, but I do like it. It is a well-produced mix of folk-rock and sunshine pop, a bit dated but still fun. John Phillips' lyrics are not very original, but he is good with language and even when the words seem trite I find them engaging. Everyone knows the two hits "California Dreamin'" and "Monday, Monday" and very little on this record can match them aside from "Straight Shooter," "Somebody Groovy" and "Go Where You Wanna Go" all of which probably should have been hits. "Got A Feelin'" is a nice slower tempo song with pretty instrumental backing and their trademark beautiful vocal harmonies. They approach most of their covers by slowing them down as well. They come up with interesting and sophisticated arrangements but I prefer the faster tempos originals of "You Baby" (Turtles), "I Call Your Name" (Beatles) "Spanish Harlem" (Ben E. King) and "Do You Wanna Dance" (Bobby Freeman/Beach Boys.) The slow versions do allow for more elaborate vocalizing but generally, propulsion means more to me than harmonies when it comes to silly love songs, otherwise I'd be listening to the Lettermen or the Sandpipers. Nonetheless this is a consistently enjoyable record that sounds wonderful. It is not very substantial but it is very tasty, kind of like a cake that is mostly frosting. Recommended for anyone who ever wanted to be a hippie but didn't want to get dirty.