George Starostin's Reviews



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Kevin Baker <> (10.03.2001)

I quite like the Mamas and the Papas. Can you say harmony? I can. These guys take the Beach Boy's harmonies and kick them out the window. Their music, poppy as it is, is simultaneously energizing and relaxing. Very gorgeous and very smooth. If I want a serious listen, I go elsewhere, but if I just want a fun listen, these guys (and gals) are where it's at.

Kerist Wood <> (19.08.2001)

This band sure did have their shining numbers and worked well as a unit. Nothing much will ever equal 'California Dreamin' ...but, things after that never really met the same standard. How unfortunate that they never outdid their first single... I believe the reason why is because the rest of what they did (bar 'Creeque Alley') never transcended the pop barrier. It's just got no substance...'Monday Monday' is good, as is 'I Saw her Again Last Night'. But there's just too much frigging around with orchestrations and brass interludes that just detract from the folk beauty they had. I'd love to love all they did...but, I just can't. They won't let me.

Glenn Wiener <> (26.02.2002)

A good compilation seems to fit my bill. Nice vocal harmonies although Mama Cass could sure belt out her tunes really well. Somehow I don't take them seriously enough to delve further into their individual records. But I love that 'California Dreamin' tune and 'Creeque Alley' is kind of fun.

Andy Slater <> (26.05.2003)

If you don't think the Jefferson Airplane or the Grateful Dead are hippie bands, thenI think you need to go back to the book to learn the definition of hippie. The Mamas and the Papas represent the periphery of the hippie movement - laid back Californians who smoked some grass and sang of peace in a nonconfrontational manner. At the core of the hippie movement, in San Francisco, where I live, were bands like the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead playing for free on Haight Street. Both those bands dropped acid frequently, in fact the Dead were the house band at Ken Kesey's Acid Tests (the ultimate hippie event). These bands lived in the Haight-Ashbury, the epicenter, with the hippies and fit right in. They were hippies before they were big rock bands.

But about the Mamas and the Papas: not a great band by any stretch, but 'California Dreamin' is about as good as it gets. If I didn't already live here, I'd pack my bags for the Left Coast.

Steve Potocin <> (09.11.2003)

Great Harmony arrangements, but everyone knows that, the secret weapon here was the songwriting of John Phillips, checking in with a half dozen of the 60s finest pop songs! As for Kevin Bakers claim that The M&Ps kicked the Beach Boys harmonis out the window, well your forgiven Kevin ,you were very young when you wrote that.

Mary Kelly <> (24.11.2005)

Brilliant group, great harmonies and the wonderful creative talent of John Phillips that set them apart from the rest. California Dreamin' has to be the greatest record of all time.


BILL SLOCUM <> (23.12.2003)

Pretty amazing to listen to even because of the primitive stereo mix on my CD, which groups all the background vox on one speaker and the key singer (usually John Philips) on the other. It actually enhanced the sense you get for the sophisticated arrangements, such as how each background singer finishes the verse "Every other day of the week is fiiii-inne" a beat after the last on "Monday, Monday." It took me 34 listens to notice that one, but it was worth it.

One of pop music's great moments, from the 1960s or any other period. This album was solidly hippie, like you say, but it managed to bridge the generation gap nicely. You could hear the parents putting on songs like "Straight Shooter" and "I Call Your Name" almost as easily as their kids circa 1967, and that was pretty special when it was Herb Alpert for the folks and the Stones for the kids otherwise.

But IYCBYEAE (maybe I should just write it out, it will take less time) is no mere time capsule, but an accomplished artistic statement that hasn't lost any power for all the time that passed since it was made. John Philips had a sense of vocal arrangements that radiated simple joy but never sounded goofy or trite for it. He understood his team, and the strengths and weaknesses of each player, Denny Doherty's sweet tenor, Cass Elliott's bone-rattling Ma Rainey soprano, and wife Michelle's way of complimenting the others with strategic oohs and ahhs. What you get as a result is a 35-minute demonstration on the powers of the instrument of the human voice in harmony.

Harmony. Yeah, right, as anyone knows from watching VH1's "Behind the Music," the Mamas and Papas imploded and couldn't keep it together long enough to build on the momentum created here. If the group had done anything sustained after this (and not merely on some of the great singles like "Creeque Alley," "I Saw Her Again," or "Dedicated To The One I Love" that they still managed to release now and again in what was a ridiculously short career), we would be calling this one of the 1960s ten greatest albums, up there with Sgt. Pepper and Let It Bleed (though I'd say Rubber Soul and Beggars Banquet).

I still treasure this disc for what it is, and it's nice you do, too. "I Call Your Name" is right there with Earth Wind & Fire's "Got To Get You Into My Life" for my favorite Beatles cover, with those clever Morse-code "doot-doot-doot"s sprinkled liberally under the main vocal, and the barely audible sexy whispers of "John" from then-wife Michelle. (You think John Lennon was inspired by this when he went on to make "Number Nine Dream"? I do.)

Hearing "Go Where You Wanna Go" is guaranteed goose pimples for me, a great album's finest moment. The way the tempo surges even as the singers go from major to minor key, is so assured and anthematic, it's impossible for to resist, and I know I'm not alone. Is that a balaliaka ringing out near the fade? George, you know Russian instruments better than me.

I don't even like "California Dreaming" that much, just admire it, but listening to the rest of Eyes And Ears is a pleasure that only grows with repeat listens. The mixture of then-standards like 'Spanish Harlem' and 'The In Crowd', reconfigured and transformed with subtly rocking orchestration, alongside a set of sparkling originals, performed by a folk band developing some formidable pop chops, all feels oddly inspiring, as if it was the sort of miracle others could perform today. And it was the one album hippies and their parents could stand being in the same room for when it played on the hi-fi. Okay, that and the early Beatles. But that ain't bad company.


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Richard C. Dickison <> (14.12.99)

Ahhh, I like these guys. It's hard not to, this is a soundtrack from my childhood during the 60's. My parents loved these guy's. Of course then my mom went on a Neil Diamond kick, well... we won't talk about that, oh the humanity. Anyway, this was the last of their great albums and boy did it pack a wallop. Side one is beautiful to say the least. Vocals are perfect and Mama Cass was prime. She really was all that. So, if your looking for the female versions of CSNY, go here. I'd have loved to have seen Mama Cass take on that wailing Neil Young, he would have been one whining pitiful pancake. And no matter how fat she got, she had more talent and class than any of those scrawny hippy dippy guys. Take that Mr. Crosby and stick it up your pipe.


Bob Josef <> (25.11.2002)

Most M&P anthologies (like the excellent one I have, Creeque Alley), draw mostly from their first album, for good reason. But this album contains what I think is their ultimate single -- not "Monday, Monday" or "California Dreaming", but the absolutely gorgeous, hymnlike "12:30". The absolute peak of Phillips' psychedelic visons (is that a Mellotron in the background?) I don't get why it was overlooked.

But it's surrounded by stuff that sounds like it, which sounds like the previous three albums. Nothing wrong with that, but it proves that they absolutely had nowhere else to go artistically (as the sad People Like Us also proved). It's no coincedence that the "Dream a Little Dream"/"Midnight Voyage" single was credited to Cass alone as opposed to the group. The real end of the line.


Bob Josef <> (14.02.2000)

The band actually wasn't assembled in one place! They, as you said, had broken up and scattered to the four winds. So, in order to meet the contractual requirement, Phillips overdubbed each member's vocal parts separately whenever they happened to be in town. They were never all together at any one time, except maybe for the photo shoot for the front cover. Combine that with the fact that Phillips's drug abuse was starting to overtake his talent, and you've got one depressing album. It was a regular occupant of cutout bins for years -- I'm amazed it even get re-released on CD.

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