ON THIS DATE (44 YEARS AGO)
May 28, 1968 – The Mamas & The Papas: The Papas & The Mamas is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 3.5/5
# Allmusic 3/5 stars
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
The Papas & The Mamas is an album by The Mamas & the Papas, released in May, 1968. It was their final album together before the group temporarily broke up before a brief 1971 reunion.
Unlike previous studio-recorded albums, The Papas and The Mamas was recorded at the home of John and Michelle Phillips, although with the same production team as on previous albums.
With the exception of the very successful cover version of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (which is not representative of the rest of the album), the album’s subject matter is often downbeat and world-weary, most notably in the lyrical content of “Safe in My Garden”, “Mansions”, “Too Late” and “Rooms”.
There are few love songs, and it is also more experimental, the Hendrix-like guitar textures of “Gemini Childe” being one example.
All the material was new upon release with the exception of “Twelve Thirty”, which had been released as a single the previous year, in 1967.
The track “Meditation Mama” featured the first lead vocal ever on a Mamas and Papas track by John Phillips. All four members of the band contribute lead as well as backing vocals on this album.
The vocals for “For the Love of Ivy” reportedly took one month to record.
Although it was the first album from the group not to peak in the top ten, it was a commercial success upon its release, becoming the band’s fourth and last top 20 album in America and producing two hit singles (one of which, “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, would begin Cass Elliot’s solo career).
ORIGINAL ROLLING STONE REVIEW
First was the abortive recording session last summer and the rumors that the Mamas and the Papas were splitting up. Then came the announcement that they were not splitting but touring Europe to escape bad vibrations and recoup creative energies. The Papas and the Mamas/Presented by the Mamas and the Papas is the inheritor both of the abortive session and the European tour. A meager heritage at first glance, but one made rich by mature vocal stylings and the best material Papa John has yet written.
Gone is the strident excitement of their first album. Its absence is to be lamented, but the richer harmonics of the present album are more substantial, and the cuts are more of a joy to listen to repeatedly. Gone are the sometime histrionic “California Dreamin'” and “String Man.” Gone, too, are the yeah’s and no’s. In their place is a more controlled performance: they no longer have to reach for effects; they have them at hand.
The demands of the recording industry have always been at odds with the creative instinct of all but the most commercial groups and individual writers. Original voices are always echoed commercially without a concommitant development of the possibilities of their ideas. And amid the clamor of imitators the original voice is forced to explore new ideas without sounding the depths of the others. This is why second albums are usually disappointments: they are too often tangential. The second Mamas and Papas album was disappointing for this reason. John Phillips has always seemed to have a great deal more to say than he has said, and his ideas have never gotten their full development. They do in this album. The songs are a further development, in style and feeling, of the earlier songs, though they have little in common with the earlier material except craftsmanship.
“Twelve Thirty,” the last recording of the self-proclaimed “Golden Era,” is included here, its more classical lines almost lost amid the vocal opulence that abounds. It’s probably the best realized song the group has recorded, though John’s “Safe in My Garden” has strong claim to that distinction. “Garden” is a beautiful thing, the clarity of the lyric and the Beardsleyian imagery of the refrain forming a tension with the effortlessly complex vocal textures. “Mansions” and “Too Late” are much the same thing, but the marvelously intricate vocal treatment of the latter rises above the easily forgotten lyrics.
This is also the problem with “Rooms” and Lou Adler and John’s “Meditation Mama”: the lyrics are not memorable. John and Denny’s “For the Love of Ivy” is the title tune from the Sidney Poitier movie, and in that genre is competent and not much more. “Gemini Childe” is seriously marred by its lack of strong direction and its muddled conception. It is easily the album’s weakest cut. “Midnight Voyage” is a delight. At its end is a brief reprise Cass gives a reading.
“Dream a Little Dream with Me” is Cass’s obligatory solo. It’s beautiful. But then what more can you say about someone you love? (RS 13)
~ JIM WARD (July 6, 1968)
All songs by John Phillips, unless otherwise noted.
“The Right Somebody to Love” (Jack Yellen, Lew Pollack)
“Safe in My Garden”
“Meditation Mama (Transcendental Woman Travels)” (J. Phillips, Lou Adler)
“For the Love of Ivy” (J. Phillips, Denny Doherty)
“Dream a Little Dream of Me” (Fabian Andre, Wilbur Schwandt, Gus Kahn)
“Nothing’s Too Good for My Little Girl” (Ned Wynn)
“Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon)”