Sunday, April 11, 2010

On my turntable: Mamas & the Papas - People Like Us

Even though I consider myself a longtime fan of The Mamas & The Papas, I avoided buying People Like Us (1971) for years, based mostly on reviews that deemed it, for the most part, uninspired. If you think about it though, 1971 in itself was pretty uninspired, especially if you compare it with 1967, the year the sun shone most brightly on the Mamas & Papas. This is my second or third listen of People Like Us, and I admit I consider it a rather pleasant record; It's more of a cozy sunset than a sunny hot afternoon.

Many of the tunes are a bit lackluster (especially on side 2), but they still manage to shine because of the vocal blend of Cass, Michelle, John & Denny. Stylistically the LP sounds like much of the bubblebum that was happening in the early 70's, stuff like The Hardy Boys or even the Brady Kids' records. One possible explanation for the similarity is that many of the records created during this era, especially those that came out of L.A., shared the same studio musicians (Louie Shelton, Ed Greene, Jim Horn, etc).

People Like Us was a reunion of a legendary and much-loved group, so the expectations for this music were probably unrealistically high. The fact that the reunion happened at all was probably no small miracle; John was already a junkie at this point (even on the cover he looks as high as a space shuttle), and Cass was a bonafide superstar on her own as a solo artist. The album was truly a last gasp for the group -- Cass died in July '74, and John continued a downword drug spiral that lasted for at least the rest of the decade.

1 comment:

Mark said...

a long-time favorite of mine. You're right, side two is a little less stellar than side one, but the whole thing grows on you. My favorites are Shooting Star & Step Out. The drug references are so rife, one feels one could snort the album cover and get high. Hello, Snow Queen!!