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The Mamas & The Papas

If You Can Believe Your Eyes & Ears  Hear it Now

RS: 4.5of 5 Stars Average User Rating: 4.5of 5 Stars


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The Mamas and the Papas celebrated all the sin and sleaze of Sixties L.A. with folksy harmonies, acoustic guitars and songs that told inquiring minds way more than they wanted to know. And on their January 1966 debut, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, they somehow made it all sound groovy. Cass Elliot was a true rock outlaw, swaggering in the kind of body that America usually tries to banish to the shadows. Denny Doherty oozed gallant Irish cool, John Phillips stood tall as the rogue prince with the big floppy hats, and Michelle Phillips played the nubile Cali bangle, fluttering eyelashes bigger than she was. Together, their four voices had an undeniable erotic flow, perhaps explaining why the band's love lives soon got as intricately tangled as their harmonies. Given producer Lou Adler's studio polish, the sound was all seductive fluff, a promise of free love and high times. But the songs really stung -- that preacher who likes the cold (or is that "lights the coals"?) in "California Dreamin' " might be the only nice guy on the album. With the already thirtysomething Papa John writing or co-writing most of the tunes, the group sang of junkie stars collecting groupies ("Straight Shooter"), hippie womanizers ("Got a Feelin'") and fickle lovers with boot heels a-wandering ("Go Where You Wanna Go"). Their L.A. was a hotbed of treachery and deceit where even the flower children were out to make a fast score, and the band felt right at home. Even before the Summer of Love, If You Can Believe dished the dirt on the hippie dream, though the gorgeous vocals captured the joy in the moment as well as the dread. There were more great hits to come -- "Creeque Alley," "Twelve Thirty" -- but If You Can Believe is where the Mamas and the Papas truly let it bleed, a lonely-hearts glee club suffering for sex, drugs and rock & roll in four-part harmony.


(Posted: Apr 15, 1999)


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