Despite her background in folk music and her popular emergence as "Mama Cass" in the folk-rock group the Mamas & the Papas, Cass Elliot was really a traditional pop entertainer in the pre-rock tradition, and she gradually turned to that field in her solo career of the late '60s and early '70s, putting together a Las Vegas cabaret act and appearing frequently on television. On this live album, recorded at Mister Kelly's, the prestigious Chicago nightclub, in the summer of 1973, she performed her act, which she was polishing in preparation for its adaptation into a television special in the fall. The album was released concurrently with the broadcast of the special, and the album cover describes it as "recreating selected highlights from her CBS television special," which isn't exactly accurate, but never mind. She sings several songs that were written for her and for this act, among them the title song, Earl Brown's extrapolation of her desire to escape the "Mama Cass" moniker. "Extraordinary," borrowed from the Broadway musical Pippin, is given special lyrics to relate to Elliot, and "I'm Coming to the Best Part of My Life" is an optimistic statement of her view of the future. The heart of the show is "The Torch Song Medley," which allows her to exercise her pipes on standards like "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" and "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good," demonstrating her abilities with such material for anyone who might have missed her treatments of "Glad to Be Unhappy" and "Dream a Little Dream of Me." Unfortunately, Elliot's successful transition into being a middle-of-the-road entertainer meant that she had to suffer the fate of her fellow pop singers, banishment from the charts. More tragically, this turned out to be her final album before her death.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
The Torch Song Medley: I Came Here to Sing a Torch Song/I Got a Right to Sing the Blues/I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good/Mean to Me/Why Was I Born/I Came Here to Sing a Torch Song (Reprise)