The Mississippi River

“California Dreaming” was one of the first pop songs I ever heard on the radio when I was little, and it kind of blew my mind then, so lately I’ve been trying to track down solo albums from various members of The Mamas & The Papas — John Phillips (in photo, the dude with some sort of dead animal hat), Mama Cass (pointing her finger), and Denny Doherty (wearing what looks to be a turtleneck and a bathrobe).  As far as I can tell, Ms. Cass has the most post-M&P albums, but I haven’t checked them out yet. Denny Doherty, who sang lead on some of the biggest M&P tracks, participated in a love triangle involving Cass and John Phillips’ wife, and helped write a few songs when not involved in the previous two activities, put out an album in 1971 and another in 1974, both of which are fairly mediocre, country-inflected pop.  So that leaves me with Phillips, who released John Phillips (John, The Wolf King Of L.A.), in January of 1970.  He recorded this album with various members of the Wrecking Crew, a group of L.A. musicians who played on pretty much every big album recorded in L.A. in the 60s — most of the Beach Boys’ stuff, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, a lot of the Byrds’ albums, etc. (several members of the Wrecking Crew went on to successful solo careers, like Glen Campbell, Dr. John, and Leon Russell; there’s an interesting book that came out about the gang recently).Bob Dylan recorded Nashville Skyline with expert studio musicians in Nashville shortly before Phillips hunkered down in the studio, and Nashville Skyline shares a lot of similarities with The Wolf King Of L.A. — beautiful melodies that lean towards country, brevity, and consistency; Phillips can even sound the tiniest bit like Dylan at times.  The album’s most rollicking track (props for the Louisville references) cracked the U.S. top 40.  Too bad Phillips didn’t get into the studio much.

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