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Many Mamas, Many Papas

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Album Review

The liner essay in Many Mamas, Many Papas, a double-disc collection of unreleased material by latter-day incarnations of songwriter John Phillips' "re-formed" legendary band, states it best: "...few people are aware that John Phillips was as musically active and productive then as was in fact the case." In the '70s, legendary songwriter and dope fiend Phillips recorded solo albums of mixed quality, downright strange soundtracks, and an outrageous theatrical/cinematic conceptual work throughout the '70s. In the '80s, he had the idea to re-form the Mamas and The Papas, and contacted former Papa Denny Doherty, who signed on; he also employed actress/daughter Mackenzie Phillips in the role vacated by her mother, Michele Phillips, and replaced the late Mama Cass Elliot with Spanky McFarlane of Spanky and Our Gang. The backing band was formed by no less than Mick Ronson, who bowed out shortly thereafter and was replaced by Mackenzie's future husband (and future Bruce Springsteen sideman) Shane Fontayne, among others. They cut a four-song demo that included a fine version of the Moody Blues "Go Now!" and three originals. They lived and worked together, and recorded more songs in New York. They toured while trying to score a record deal that never materialized. In 1983, they began playing nothing but Mamas and the Papas hits in Vegas, which ended disastrously with everybody leaving the act. In 1986, Phillips tried again with Scott McKenzie replacing Doherty. It was short-lived, but there were further recordings. Disc one contains all new, previously unreleased material. Highlights include the original demo, a Phillips' tune called "Kokomo" that the Beach Boys completely revamped into a number one hit, the MacKenzie Phillips' vehicle "Love Song," "Frankie," "Yachts," and the truly bizarre "Chinaman." The songwriting is all over the map, but Phillips was onto something. The live second disc reprises the original Mamas and Papas hits, a Spanky and Our Gang medley, "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)," and rough versions of new songs.


Born: 30 August 1935 in Parris Island, SC

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

John Phillips may easily be called one of the best pop songwriters of the later 20th century. He honed his songwriting and arranging skills with singing groups that gained a modicum of success. But his crowning musical achievement was the work he did with his '60s group the Mamas and the Papas. Their popularity helped to stem the tide of the "British Invasion" of the 1960s, and bring attention back to American popular music. After a stunningly successful three-year run, the band collapsed under the...
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Many Mamas, Many Papas, John Phillips
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