Audio Remasterer: Aaron Kannowski.
Liner Note Author: Ed Osborne.
As the teen culture of the early to mid-'60s began to give way to the stylistic upheaval of the hippie revolution, the Mamas & the Papas were the musical group that best bridged the gap between the two eras. Their songs offered a gentle, sun-dappled vision of the California counterculture -- part pop, part folk-rock -- that avoided the heavier aspects of psychedelic tumult, much as the Beach Boys presented a well-scrubbed depiction of West Coast surf culture that soft-peddled the hedonism, and their music was similarly based in superb pop craftsmanship, coupling John Phillips' songs and the glorious vocal blend of Phillips, Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, and Michelle Phillips with the studio savvy of producer Lou Adler and engineer Bones Howe and the gifts of L.A.'s first-call session musicians (many of whom had also played on the Beach Boys' hits). The Mamas & the Papas enjoyed a splendid run of hit singles during their heyday from 1966 to 1968, and The Complete Singles: 50th Anniversary Collection includes the A- and B-sides from the 16 singles the foursome released on Dunhill Records between 1966 (when they scored their first smash with "California Dreamin'") and 1972 (when the group briefly reunited to cut the contractual obligation set People Like Us). The collection presents the tunes in the mixes that appeared on 45-rpm singles (often in mono, as was typical when AM radio and portable record players dominated the teenage audio environment), and the sizable majority of this material recalls a golden era of record-making. The production and arrangements are inventive and accessible at once, the songs speak of a new era of freedom and possibility while also keeping one foot in the time-tested traditions of West Coast pop, and the group's harmonies are still dazzling (and beguiling) a half-century later. Along with the complete run of the Mamas & the Papas' singles, this package also features both sides of the eight solo singles Cass Elliot cut for Dunhill, as well as two 45s from Denny Doherty and one from John Phillips. Most of Elliot's solo tracks here were produced by Steve Barri and bear a glossier pop sheen than her work with the group, but benefit from the warmth and sincerity of her vocal style, while Doherty's "Watcha Gonna Do" better re-creates the sound of the Mamas & the Papas than any of the solo tracks. The Complete Singles: 50th Anniversary Collection is not the best Mamas & the Papas retrospective you can buy (2001's All the Leaves Are Brown: The Golden Era Collection brings together their first four albums in excellent remastered form and is a must for serious fans), but if you want to relive the sound of this group as it poured out of car radios and bedroom phonographs when the group first appeared on the scene, this set is invaluable. ~ Mark Deming
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- Dedicated (Wilson Phillips)