The Mamas & the Papas

Monterey International Pop Festival

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With the lengthy title of Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival, this 1971 release was recorded at the event held at Monterey, CA, between June 16-18 in 1967. Six of the eight tunes appear on the box set Rhino released of the mega concert, excluding "Somebody Groovy" and "Spanish Harlem." John Phillips' arranging and songwriting genius has never been properly recognized as the inspiring force that it was and continues to be, and though this Wally Heider remote recording (mixed in the studio by Erick Weinberg) is deficient, the performance by the original group at this important point in time is enthusiastic and worthwhile. As this writer put it in the liner notes requested by Dinky Dawson for his production of the latter-day version of the band's Sold Out: Live at the Savoy 3/12/82 on Rykodisc, "The highly influential group has not had the luxury of each and every live cassette and studio outtake traded the way Lou Reed, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones get studied, sought after, and talked about." At Monterey the band included many of the musicians from the Deliver album -- future Bread keyboard player Larry Knechtel was utilized along with Joe Osborne on bass and Dr. Eric Hord on guitar. Replacing Captain & Tennille drummer Hal Blaine was Chicago area percussionist Fast Eddie. The disc is vocal-heavy, as it should be for a harmony quartet, and the bootleg quality actually adds a sort of charm. Dunhill/ABC was desperate for more Mamas & Papas product and the drive of the live version of "Got a Feeling" didn't deny the label something substantial to offer the fans. A band so slick in the studio is fun heard letting it all hang out at this monumental event, and the bottom line is that for fans this is a wonderful, if all too brief, glimpse of the four in performance at the height of their fame. It's 33 minutes and 29 seconds -- including on-stage chatter -- that becomes more valuable as time goes by. Listen to the band cook on "California Dreamin'" and John Phillips belt it out with Mama Cass countering his moves. As credible as any garage rock group churning out "Pushin' Too Hard" and hoping for stardom, these stars shine perhaps because the performance is somewhat ragged. Who wants a clone of the studio stuff anyway?

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