If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears

The Mamas And The Papas

Dunhill/MCA Records, 1966


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Ba da, ba da da da…” So begins the one album that everybody seemed to own on both sides of my family, If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears by the ‘60s folk/pop foursome known as the Mamas & The Papas. The first thing you can’t help but notice is the great cover shot of the group in a bathtub (which also features an “obscene” toilet covered up by a placard that announces the many hits to be found on the record). The immediate impression is that the Mamas & The Papas are a motley bunch who have a penchant for fun times and tomfoolery. Producer Lou Adler must have had his hands full.

As with most debut albums of the period, nearly half of Eyes And Ears consists of cover tunes, though the group makes each one their own. Among the familiar songs to be found within are the Beatles’ “I Call Your Name,” Phil Spector’s “Spanish Harlem,” and a slow version of Bobby Freeman’s “Do You Wanna Dance.” Straight out of a bordello in the Wild West, Mama Cass Elliot tries “I Call Your Name” on for size and continues to strut her stuff on “In Crowd,” a track that is quite similar to Petula Clark’s “Downtown.”  Though I could have done without hearing “Do You Wanna Dance” again, I was pleasantly surprised by what was done with “Spanish Harlem,” which was given an Asian spin despite its title.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

However, the John Phillips originals are what really put this album on the map. With the number one hit “Monday, Monday” as the opener, you are immediately struck by the sweet harmonies of these four disparate characters. Helping to kick things into an even higher gear are the rockin’ “Straight Shooter,” the sexy “Got A Feelin” and the totally swingin’ “Somebody Groovy.” These tracks are sure to keep the hippie kids dancing, swaying and movin’ to the groovin’. And then there are the other two hit singles. As one of my earliest favorites, “Go Where You Wanna Go” has a dynamic string section, while “California Dreamin” is an ironic song if ever there was one. In 1991, my own “dream” came true when I went out to California and got an entry level job at my favorite television network, CBS. Little did I know at the time that my dream would eventually turn into a nightmare. Now, whenever I hear “California Dreamin’,” a feeling of dread and regret come over me. I guess you really do have to watch what you wish for…

Like the Beatles, the Mamas & The Papas faded out as soon as the tumultuous ‘60s were over. In representing the flower child generation, they helped to prove that folk music didn’t have to be dull. After going their separate ways, Cass accidentally choked to death in July 1974, former couple John and Michelle wanted nothing more to do with one another, and Denny Doherty moved back to Canada, where he would perform solo until the day he died (in January 2007). Previously, John and Denny had briefly reunited for a tour in the ‘80s, but without Michelle or Cass, it just wasn’t the same. John’s extreme drug abuse had taken its toll by then and his health deteriorated quickly as a result. Papa John Phillips died in March of 2001. Today, Michelle Phillips is the final surviving member of the Mamas & The Papas and has fond memories of those days, as chronicled in her autobiography, California Dreamin’. Even though I didn’t get to experience the ‘60s myself, discovering the Mamas & The Papas’ warm first album was the next best thing.       

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


What a wonderful debut album by the M&P!!! "Straight Shooter" is a pleasant surprise and the harmonies are absolutely wonderful..."Hey Girl" is also a surprise, mainly because the world was just realizing that John Phillips could write a song..."California" and "Monday" are also wonderful songs, and we have all heard them...the hidden gems are the original songs written by Phillips..."Got A Feelin'" is a beautiful ditty, with the subtle ticking of a clock in the background...

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