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The Mamas & The Papas - California Dreamin'
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California Dreamin' reminds us that '60s pop paragons The Mamas & The Papas had an appealing new sound, made some terrific records, and left behind a legacy that lives on more than 35 years after they called it quits. This hour-long documentary, originally aired on PBS, has all the standard elements of the genre: interviews (including some from 2004 and '05 with surviving members Michelle Phillips and Denny Doherty, as well as 1986 recollections by John Phillips, who died in '01, and a few brief words from Cass Elliot, who passed away in '74), photos, home movies, and a generous helping of music clips. The latter come from both television (Shindig!, Hollywood Palace, The Ed Sullivan Show) and concerts (Monterey Pop); some are totally lip-synced, some find the group singing to a pre-recorded track, and some are completely live. Almost all of the clips manage to convey the magic of a quartet that had a unique charm, both visually (the beautiful blonde Michelle, the corpulent Mama Cass) and musically (Doherty had perhaps the best singing voice, while John Phillips' songs and vocal arrangements were nearly the equal of, say, Brian Wilson's); and all highlight their remarkable vocal blend, described by Lou Adler, their producer and label owner, as the sound of the Four Freshmen or the Hi-Lo's updated with a rock beat. The hits keep on coming, not only the familiar "California Dreamin'" and "Monday, Monday" but also "Creeque Alley," "Words of Love," their covers of the Beatles' "I Call Your Name" and the Shirelles' "Dedicated to the One I Love," and at least a dozen more, including three bonus tunes not part of the original broadcast. All in all, this has to be the definitive Mamas & Papas video collection. --Sam Graham
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They were absolutely on top of their game in the '60s - nobody could touch them, because their music was so different, and so listenable and enjoyable.
Their voices jelled perfectly together, and the arrangements were nothing short of brilliant - sort of like a modernized or contemporary barbershop harmony, but using jazz-type chording.
In retrospect, it sounds simple, but that was the genius of it.
And it was all due to John Phillips. Even the people in the group were together because those were the voices he wanted, and it all worked beautifully.
And not just on one or two songs, but a whole litany of tunes, every one of which was a runaway winner. They all just sound so exuberant and enthusiastic and happy.
This DVD is an absolute gem.
It's too bad that we all have to get old and die. To see and hear some of our musical heroes when they are old and hardly look anything at all like they did in their heyday is sort of a shock.
Anyway, with this DVD we see four singers who were truly monumental in their time. It's great to actually be able to own something like this, and to be able to watch it whenever the mood strikes, and remember how great it all was.
With this DVD, the Mamas and Papas will live forever, and will always be just as amazing as they once were - once upon a time.
With the recent passing of singer Denny Doherty this collection becomes even more poignant. He was one of the greatest and yet most under-rated singers of all time. His smooth tenor is what carries their greatest hits like "California Dreamin" and their number 1 hit "Monday, Monday". The late Mama Cass Elliot, the vocal powerhouse of the group provides amazing lead vocals on songs like "Words of Love", "Dancing in the Streets" and the campy "Sing For Your Supper". The late John Phillips who was the leader and wrote many of the groups hits along with his beautiful then wife Michelle Phillips round out this award-winning quartet.
I think the best part of this documentary is the fun and sheer joy these four people display when they are onstage singing their hearts out. No other pop group has ever captured the amazing harmony that the Mamas and Papas had during their brief reign. If you are a fan this DVD is an absolute MUST for your collection!
from a time and place that can never be replicated but lives on through the
wonderful recordings that still resonate decades later, reaching new generations.
Rare footage and interviews combine to tell the story of this unique and unusual
quartet without dwelling on the drama.
Like most documentaries the song clips are not usually full-length here, but they are
generous and one can always listen to the CDs for the complete songs.
The DVD does come with special bonus songs in their entirety and it's all available
for a very reasonable price. This program first appeared on PBS and is the definitive
and fully authorized documentary of The Mamas & The Papas. Get your copy now!