The Complete Singles: The 50th Anniversary Edition (CD) By The Mamas & Papas

February 16, 2016

BB surf's up

If Brian Wilson was the king of mid-to late 1960’s producers, then John Phillips was the crown prince. He had the knack of taking his own voice, plus those of Mama Cass Elliot, Michelle Phillips, and Denny Doherty and creating a virtual choir of sound. The result was some of the best vocal pop music of the 20th century. Real Gone Music has now issued the two-disc set, The Complete Singles: 50th Anniversary Collection.

The 53 tracks include all the singles released by the Mamas and Papas, plus solo releases by Elliot, Phillips, and Doherty on the Dunhill label. Not included are Mama Cass’ releases on RCA and Michelle Phillips singles for the A&M label.

As the title announces, it has been a half-century since “California Dreamin’” entered the American charts, January 8, 1966. Songs such as “Monday Monday,” “I Saw Her Again,” ” “Look Through Any Window,” Words Of Love,” and the quirky “Creeque Alley” soon followed setting the standard for smooth west coast pop. The vocals are impeccable and Philips was able to create textures that remain amazing today.

The first disc contains 27 songs in chronological order and is an essential listening experience. Even what is considered the second tier of their single releases, “Dedicated To The One I Love,” “Twelve Thirty (The Girls Are Coming),” “Safe In My Garden,” “Glad To Be Unhappy,” and “For The Love of Ivy” are outstanding. At this point, there may not be many surprises as the songs have been ingrained into the American musical consciousness but they are like old friends who have come for a visit,

The second disc roams a little out of the ordinary as many of their single releases quickly disappeared with Mama Cass’ “New World Coming” and John Phillips “Mississippi” being the exceptions. The disc begins with the group cover singles of “Do You Wanna Dance” and “My Girl,” which are brilliant in their somplicity. The other singles by Elliot, Phillips, and Doherty are solid, if not spectacular and quickly establish that the whole was better than the individual parts. Still, if you are a fan of the group, there are tracks that have not seen the light of day in decades.

The sound is clean, which is important for the material. The liner notes center around producer Lou Adler and Michelle Phillips, who is the only member of the quartet still living.

The lifespan of the original group was short and Mama Cass’ death in 1974 at the age of 32 prevented any complete reunions. Left behind is a wonderful collection of material that spans the decades as some of the best pop on record.

Dancing bear 45 by The Mamas And The Papas

March 26, 2013

dancingbear mamas

The Mamas & The Papas were a pure pop vocal group that caught the fancy of the flower power and hippie generation of the mid to late 1960s. John Phillips was a talented producer who had the ability to transform their four voices into a virtual choir.

They placed 11 singles on the BILLBOPARD MAGAZINE Hot 100 during 1966-1967, four more in 1968, and a fianl reunion hit in 1972. Five of their singles reached the top five. “California Dreamin'” and “Monday Monday” are songs that helped define the era.

Their last single of 1967 was “Dancing Bear.” Ir was their usual brand of smooth pop with impecabble vocals. By this time however, their career was on the down side. “Dancing Bear” stalled at number 51 on the Hot 100.

Today, all members of the group are deceased except for Michelle Phillips.

I Saw Her Again by The Mamas And Papas

August 23, 2012

The Mamas and Papas first two hits, “California Dreamin'” and “Monday Monday” were two of the memorable and classic songs of the 1960s. Their third release may not be as well known but it was another smooth pop creation curtesy of producer John Phillips.

“I Saw Her Again” was released during the summer of 1966 and reached number five on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. By this time John Phillips had the groups’s formular down pat. He would mix the background vocals into a vitual sonic choir and have his or Mama Cass’ vocal float over the top. Even nearly a half century later, the music still stand fresh and production rarely equaled.

Mississippi 45 by John Phillips

July 16, 2011

John Phillips was the genius behind The Mamas and The Papas, who were one of the classic vocal groups of the rock ‘n’ roll era. He wrote “Monday Monday,” California Dreamin'” and dozens more that rank as some of the best songs of their era.

He was equally adept in the studio as his production gave the group’s four voices a choir sound. He was one of the few producers who came close to Brian Wilson in his ability to put a song together.

Despite his genius, he was never able to establish himself as a commercially succssful solo singer. His only chart success was the song “Mississippi,” which was issued May 16, 1970. It wqould reach number 32 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

It was a catchy uptempo song with layers of vocals. One can only guesss why he could not duplicate this sound and the sound of the Mamas & Papas on his own.

Christmas In Harmony by Wilson Phillips

December 16, 2010

Wilson Phillips burst upon the music scene in 1990 with their self-titled debut album. Not only did it reach number two on the United States album charts, it also produced five top twelve singles, three of which reached number one.

They certainly had the right pedigree for stardom. Carnie and Wendy Wilson are the daughters of Brian Wilson and Chynna is the daughter of Michelle and John Phillips.

Wilson Phillips has split and reunited a couple of times and not been prolific in the studio. Their latest release is only their fourth studio album as a trio in the last 20 years.

Wendy and Carnie Wilson released their own holiday album in 1993. Now the three members of Wilson Phillips have entered the studio together and produced a new Christmas album.

Christmas In Harmony is a Christmas release that works. It combines several original compositions with a group of lighter secular tunesand a few traditional hymns to create a nice mix. Their famous harmonies are still present, providing the foundation for their music. They wisely brought back producer Glen Ballard, who had worked with them during their most popular period.

“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”and “Sleigh Ride” are reminiscent of the best of the sixties girl groups. They even manage to pull off the over-recorded “Little Drummer Boy” and “Silent Night.”

“Warm Lovin’ Christmastime,” written by Ron Bonfiglio, who is Carnie Wilson’s husband, and “Christmastime,” written by Chynna Phillips and Ballard, are both fine additions to the holiday season catalogue of songs. The best of the original compositions is “Joy.” It was a group effort written by Wilson Phillips, Bonfiglio, Ballard, Danny Knutson, and Scott Campbell. The vocals soar and come together in perfect harmony.

The album ends with the short Brian Wilson composition (he also arranged the track) “Our Prayer.” It presents the beauty of their voices a cappella style.

The only miss is the first track. “I Wish It Could Be Christmas” was written by Roy Wood for his group Wizzard, which was a style about as different from Wilson Phillips as can be. They just could not make the song completely fit their style.

Wilson Phillips is not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They have wisely created an excellent and sophisticated pop-type holiday album which reflects the strengths of their vocals, both individually and together. Christmas In Harmony is a nice light listen and a fine addition to the season.

Article first published as Music Review: Wilson Phillips – Christmas In Harmony on Blogcritics.

Man On The Moon by John Phillips

October 3, 2009

Let me say that this was one heck of a time to release a new John Phillips album. His daughter, Mackenzie, has just published a tell all book and whether it is accurate of not, it has certainly put Phillips back in the public eye eight years after his death.

John Phillips is best remembered for his work with The Mamas & The Papas. His songwriting ability and his expertise as a producer would help them release a string of classic albums and singles in the mid to late 1960’s leading to their induction into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

Shortly after the group’s first breakup he began working on his grand project. Five years of his life would be spent developing the play Man On The Moon. The idea for the space themed production was initiated by the first moon landing in 1969. When a bomb is left on the moon by an Apollo space mission, a human astronaut leads a group of spacemen to diffuse it which ultimately forces humanity to abandon their destructive ways. The part of the astronaut was originally written with Elvis Presley in mind. I’m not kidding!

The play went through a number of producers, backers, and directors. Andy Warhol finally stepped in as a producer and helped Phillips find funding for the project. One of his personal actresses, Monique van Vooren, was given the female lead opposite Denny Doherty.

Man On The Moon debuted off Broadway with such luminaries as Warhol, Warren Beatty, Yoko Ono, Rex Harrison, and Geraldo Rivera in the audience. It lasted for a grand total of five performances and quietly disappeared into the mists of time.

The producers of this CD have done an outstanding job assembling all the material from this project. While a few of the songs have appeared in various forms over the years; for the most part it is seeing the light of day for the first time in three plus decades.

The heart of the release is the 22 songs that comprise the play. Most are in demo form as they feature Phillips on vocals supporting himself on acoustic guitar or piano. They take on an intimate feel but are not representative of their final form. Only a few of the songs have backup singers which demonstrate more of what he was trying to create.

Tracks 23 through 28 were recorded by Andy Warhol from the audience. Given his primitive recording equipment the sound is pretty good and remains the only extended recording of an actual performance. They also catch Denny Doherty at his vocal best.Tracks 29 to 33 are performances by his then third wife Genevieve Waite. Three of these songs would be released on her solo album, Romance Is On The Rise.

The album draws to a close with some very raw video footage plus assorted clippings, scripts and more.

California Dreamin’ 45 by The Mama’s and The Papa’s

June 15, 2009

841eThe Mama’s and The Papa’s were a pure pop group that appealed to the rock ‘n’ roll crowd of the mid-1960’s. John Phillips, Denny Doherty, Mama Cass and Michelle Phillips combined their voices to create some of the best harmonies this side of The Beach Boys.

John Phillips was the leader of the group. He wrote most of their original material but it was as a producer that he would leave his mark. He was able to create a near perfect sound that very few vocal groups have ever able to duplicate.

“California Dreamin'” was their debut single and it would quickly shoot to the top of The American charts. It remains a signature song from the 1960’s.

It’s hard to believe that all the group members except for Michelle Phillips have died. What we are left with here is one of the best and most beautiful creations of the era.