Well, well, well. How timely to review The Mamas & The Papas, as one papa in particular has his name smeared across the tabloids. How easy it would be to jump on the bandwagon and criticize their music, while the reputation of founder and lead songwriter John Phillips is hanging out to dry.
But that’s what I’m going to do. In retrospect, The Mamas & The Papas look more like a marketing coup, with a couple of decent songs and one very good singer.
My mom liked them, and we had a few of their albums. We were Californians, and “California Dreamin'” is a fine song with a unique feel. But really, it’s more of a mood piece, a nice melody with lyrics that only possess modest weight. The autobiographical “Creeque Alley” is their other best original song, but suffers from being a bit precious and cute. With the exception of leader Phillips, nobody could play an instrument, and much of their music has an antiseptic, polished studio sound.
Besides “California Dreamin'”, John Phillips made one great contribution to music, by organizing the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. More than Woodstock, it remains the single best document of the late 1970s music scene.
I removed a couple songs from my original list. Their contribution does not deserve the same recognition as artists like Smokey Robinson; the comparison seems ludicrous. Cass Elliott was a fine singer and a compelling performer. Here’s the list:
California Dreamin’, The Mamas & the Papas ✭✭✭✭
Dedicated To The One I Love, The Mamas & the Papas ✭✭✭
Creeque Alley, The Mamas & the Papas ✭✭
Dream A Little Dream Of Me, The Mamas & the Papas ✭✭
Monday, Monday, The Mamas & the Papas ✭✭
I Saw Her Again, The Mamas & the Papas ✭✭
Go Where You Wanna Go, The Mamas & the Papas ✭✭
Twelve Thirty, The Mamas & the Papas ✭