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The Mamas & the Papas: Complete Anthology

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Album Review

What's in a name? If you love mid-'60s folk-rockers the Mamas & the Papas, this four-volume U.K. Complete Anthology (2004) speaks for itself. The 101 selections run in excess of five hours centering on the vintage long-players If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (1966), The Mamas & the Papas (1966), The Mamas & the Papas Deliver (1967), The Papas & the Mamas (1968), People Like Us (1971), and The Monterey International Pop Festival (1971). For many, that gracious plenty would be sufficient. But the real icing (or cake for the hardcore fan) comes in the form of the nearly 90 minutes of hard-to-find material ranging from the quartet's debut as support vocalists for Barry McGuire, to rare singles, audio from a pair of television appearances, and a bevy of post-Mamas & the Papas entries from John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliot, and Denny Doherty as solo artists. The contents of the first four LPs sound uniformly excellent, on par with the domestic North American All the Leaves Are Brown: The Golden Era Collection (2001) anthology. They seemingly share the same source — an actual 45 rpm platter — for the monaural versions of both "Words of Love" and the autobiographical "Creeque Alley." The latter title is of special mention as the original mix is conspicuously different from the more familiar one that turned up on The Mamas & the Papas Deliver. The 7" contained considerably less reverb throughout, but the most obvious disparity comes during the line "And California Dreamin' is becoming a reality," which is repeated. On the one folks are probably most accustomed to hearing, only the last syllable in the word "reality" is audible. Earnest collector-types should note that a higher-fidelity rendering was incorporated into the D.A. Pennebaker documentary Monterey Pop (1968). Additional extras worth citing are the brief dialogue segments by John Phillips and Cass Elliot that surfaced on A Gathering of Flowers (1971) and were merely excerpted on the two-CD Creeque Alley (1991) package. Similarly, the studio chatter and rehearsals of "Once Was a Time I Thought" and "I Can't Wait" at the end of disc two are also holdouts from A Gathering of Flowers. John Phillips' "Revolution on Vacation," "Cup of Tea," Elliot's "Costume Ball" — from the Doctors' Wives (1970) motion picture soundtrack — Doherty's "To Claudia on Thursday" — off of Jimmie Haskell's California 99 (1971) concept album — "Indian Girl," and "Baby, Catch the Moon," as well as the majority of the Michelle Phillips sides all make their digital debut here. Complete Anthology (2004) concludes with seven cuts from Barry McGuire's This Precious Time (1966). It was during these fall of 1965 recording dates that producer Lou Adler gave the Mamas & the Papas their initial opportunity behind the microphone. Listeners will instantly recognize McGuire's rendering of "California Dreamin'" as it boasts the very same instrumental backing with a few minor alterations. Producer Adler simply replaced McGuire's voice and harmonica. Well sort of, as traces of his foghorn-like pipes are on the Mamas & the Papas hit. The 74-page liner tome is a great read, although arguably revisionist. The reams of rarely published photos, complete American discography, and chronological time line of key events make it as thorough a work of prose as exists on the foursome. Completists will want to hold onto copies of All the Leaves Are Brown if for no other reason than the mono "I Saw Her Again," the sole Mamas & the Papas-related release absent from Complete Anthology.


Formed: 1965 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s

The leading California-based vocal group of the '60s, the Mamas & the Papas epitomized the ethos of the mid- to late-'60s pop culture: live free, play free, and love free. Their music, built around radiant harmonies and a solid electric folk foundation, was gorgeous on its own terms, but a major part of its appeal lay in the easygoing southern California lifestyle it endorsed. The group's success was as extraordinary as it was brief, and onlookers may well wonder what went wrong with a performing...
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