Listen/Download -Mama Cass – California Earthquake Listen/Download -Mama Cass – Talkin’ To Your Toothbrush
When I was rummaging in the Iron Leg/Funky16Corners record vault, pawing through the huge stacks of vinyl, trying to decide what to whip on you good people this week, letting myself be led by inspirado, as is often the case, I happened upon just the right record.
Cass Elliot is without a doubt one of my all-time favorite singers. I grew up loving (and continue to love) the Mamas and Papas and have fond memories of my Mother’s well-worn copy of Elliot’s greatest hits album ‘Mama’s Big Ones’ which was in heavy rotation on our old console stereo.
The Mamas and Papas managed to create more than their fair share of musical magic in their short time together, weaving their voices into some of the most brilliant harmonies ever to grace a pop record. Alongside John Phillips considerable songwriting talent, they also had exquisite taste in cover material, often reworking older songs in such a unique way as to make it their own.
When the group broke up in 1968, it was Mama Cass that took off as a solo act.
Her solo debut ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’ (with the hit single that had in fact been recorded with the group) is an unjustly forgotten piece of the late-60s LA puzzle. It sees Elliot wrapping her voice around some very interesting material that provided a slightly more serious bridge between the Mamas and Papas sound and her pop hits of the early 70s.
There’s a wonderful, laid back (but never dull) Laurel Canyon feel to the whole album, laced with bits of mainstream pop, country rock and a kind of melancholic stoner vibe that makes it a kind of lost treasure.
I first heard today’s selection via a thread on a funk and soul board I frequent where someone had solicited suggestions for funky rock records.
While I wouldn’t say that ‘California Earthquake’ is terribly funky in the conventional sense, I can imagine a field full of buckskin clad, stoned hippies swaying aggressively to it, in a kind of Dead concert parking lot, nitrous style.
Written by John Hartford (his recording of the tune is in a conventional country rock vein), ‘California Earthquake’ is a not so vaguely apocalyptic tale in the ‘California breaks off and falls into the sea’ tradition, with the addition of a rising Atlantis to the story.
It almost sounds like a soundtrack to Rudolph Wurlitzers ‘Quake’, run past ‘The Day of the Locust’. Considering what was about to transpire in the coming years, with Manson, and man on the moon, the vibe was not without merit.
The flipside, ‘Talkin’ To Your Toothbrush’ (written by the album’s producer, John Simon) is one of those songs, like Spirit’s ‘Topanga Windows’ that seems be a blissful high writ large. It has in its grooves a dusty California sunset, hot wind, and pot smoke blowing past a reclaimed stained glass window in a Laurel Canyon crash pad. It’s one of those records I feel like listening to over and over again, letting the vibe wash over me.
Elliot’s career would take off in another direction before being cut cruelly short by her premature demise. Though I dig her poppier stuff, I wish she’d been able to make more albums like this one.
I hope you dig it, and I’ll see you next week.