John Phillips

Brewster McCloud

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The Robert Altman-directed Brewster McCloud was a mighty odd film, and its rare soundtrack album was scarcely any less curious. Produced by Lou Adler, it was an uneasy mix of tepid folk-rock, mundane gospel-soul, instrumental incidental music, and a couple (presumably deliberate) comic-horrid vocal performances. Although the contributions of John Phillips (who had just left the Mamas & the Papas) are prominently billed on the cover, they are actually found on less than half the tracks, and it's not quite accurate to classify this as a Phillips LP. He did write most of side one, and sing three of the songs, with the brief "Promise Not to Tell" echoing his pre-Mamas & the Papas folky days; none of those tracks are outstanding. Phillips also wrote some odd, rather stilted gospel-flavored soul cuts that are sung by Merry Clayton, who also sings the black national hymn "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Side one is filled out by a half-minute version of "Rock-A-Bye Baby" by actress Sally Kellerman. Side two gets more fractured, kicking off with one of the most excruciating versions of "The Star Spangled Banner" ever waxed, by Margaret Hamilton with the Jack Yates High School Band. Gene Page's orchestra takes over most of the rest of the proceedings with unmemorable, if diverse, background music that flits between jazz, period funky rock, and other styles, though the five-minute "Two in the Bush" isn't bad chase music in a sub-Mission: Impossible theme mode. Not that many people saw the movie; how many copies could this scrambled egg of an LP possibly have sold?

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