Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Mamas and the Papas (C.I. guesting for Kat)

C.I. here. Aiding Mike and Cedric in filling in for Kat while she's in Ireland. Kat didn't want anyone to guest post but she said, "If you're going to do it, include the snapshot." So I'll do that in a moment.

But first . . .

It was very nice of Mike and Cedric to offer to post here. They're very busy. Back in January 2005, I prepared some entries ahead of time and only did one new entry each day (at The Common Ills). Kat posted like crazy to make sure there was enough new content up. (She did three entries at least.) So while it's nice on the part of Mike and Cedric, it's more than owed on my part. She's always willing to help out in any way she can and, I think we all agree on this, her musical coverage at The Common Ills has really aided the community.

So this isn't me being generous, this is more than owed to Kat. (And I'm happy to do it.)

Let me do the snapshot:

Iraq today? Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) sums it up as follows: "A civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims is spreading rapidly through central Iraq, with each community seeking revenge for the latest massacre." That pretty much describes life on the ground. There's also more news in the inquiry to the death of Jake Kovco as well as news on Medea Benjamin and Cindy Sheehan.


Outside Baghdad's Technology Institute, three bombs went off.
AFP notes that a "police patrol" had just passed by and that the interior ministry of Iraq is saying that police were the targets of the bombings. Reuters reports five dead and 22 wounded in the three bombs -- first came the car bomb, then two others went off "apparently targeting a crowd that gathered at the scene."

The other single event getting the most press attention at this time is the kidnapping of at least 19 people.
Al Jazeera explains that fourteen were kidnapped on Tuesday "by gunmen in civilian clothes" and that an additional five were traveling in a vehicle, forced off the road, and then kidnapped. The Associated Press reports that the twenty (they go with the figure of 20) were all employees of the Sunni Endowment and that the agency's response has been to announce they "would stop working effective immediately and that its chairman, Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samaraie, would give more details later." (Reuters also goes with the figure of 19 kidnapped and it taking place yesterday and today.)

Reuters reports that mortar rounds have claimed the life of a two-month-old child and left another child and one adult wounded and that a bombing in Kirkuk has left at least four dead and at least 16 wounded. CBS and the AP note a roadside bombing in Kirkuk that took the lives of two.


AFP reports that Major General Fakhr Abdel Hussein was killed in Baghdad ("in front of his home"). AFP notes that he was "[t]he head of the interior ministry's justice office". In Najaf, Reuters covers the death of the owner of "a women's hair salon" and notes that 3 are dead and 11 wounded after a market was stormed by assailants. AFP also notes: "Gunmen in the eastern suburb of Baghdad Jadida opened fir on a store selling vegetables, killing four people inside. They then planted explosives inside the store and blew it to pieces." Also in Balad, AFP reports, a home invasion has left a child dead and a woman wounded.


Reuters notes a corpse ("gunshot wounds") discovered in Mosul as well as 18 corpses discovered in Mahmudiya ("gunshot wounds . . . signs of torture"). Meanwhile the AFP reports that six corpses were discovered in Baghdad and one in Karbala.

the UN report that found almost 6,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the months of May and June on The KPFA Evening News yesterday, Max Pringle noted that: "In the first six months of the year it said 14,338 people had been killed. The UN report also details the rise in kidnappings particularly of large groups of people. In addition women report that their rights have been rolled back by religious muslim groups both Shi and Sunni. They say that their social freedoms have decreased since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and they are now barred from going to the market alone, wearing pants and driving cars."

Brian Edwards-Tiekert also addressed the report today on
KPFA's The Morning Show , noting that it indicates that "violence is claiming more lives in Iraq now than at any time since the US invasion of that country. The UN estimates 100 Iraqis are dying a day"

Speaking of the report yesterday, UN Secretary-General spokesperson
Farhan Haq noted that "the report raises alarm at the growing number of casualities among the civilian population killed or wounded" and that's a thought echoing in today's press with some noting occupation puppet Nouri al-Maliki's statement from last week that Iraq was getting it's "last chance" or Hoshiyar Zebari's assertion that "months" remain before "all-out civil war" breaks out.

Turning to Australia and the case of Jake Kovco who died in Iraq on April 21st, the inquiry into the events of his final moments continue.
Dan Box (The Australian) reports that: "HOMICIDE detectives will trave to Baghdad to take DNA samples from soldiers who served with Private Jake Kovco after tests revealed unidentified DNA samples on the trigger of the gun that killed him." Speaking on The World Today (Australia's ABC) with host Eleanor Hall, Conor Duffy reported that Detective Inspector Wayne Hayes found "what . . . [he] called a gross amount of someone else's DNA, and that DNA was on the trigger of the gun, the slide and on the grip." Australia's ABC reports that: "As many as 30 Australian soldiers in Baghdad could be DNA tested." Dan Box also reports that the two roommates of Jake Kovco will testify to the board next week "by videolink" from Baghdad. Judy and Martin Kovco, Jake's parents, have been fighting to have soldiers serving with their late son called to testify before the inquiry -- though the testimony will be by "videolink," the 'win' on this is due to their persistence.

And in peace news,
Matthew Cardinale (Atlanta Progressive News) reports on Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin's visit to Atlanta to show their support for Cynthia McKinney in her primary bid (McKinney won the most vote but now faces Hank Johnson in a primary runoff). Medea Benjamin states: "The peace movement is aat a very critical juncture because on one hand, we have managed to capture public opinion. Most people think the Invasion of Iraq was a mistake and want the troops home at the end of the year. 72% of troops themselves say this. You can't continue to have politicians voting for the war. What's new on this is the Iraqi said, not just Iraqi people, but the [Iraqi] President, Vice President, and National Security Advisor".

Medea Benjamin and Cindy Sheehan continue their fast as part of the
Troops Home Fast protest. From CODEPINK:

TROOPS HOME FAST! On July 4, we launched an historic hunger strike called TROOPS HOME FAST in Washington, DC in front of the White House. While many Americans expressed their patriotism via barbeques and fireworks, we're fasting in memory of the dead and wounded, and calling for the troops to come home from Iraq. We're inviting people around the world to show their support for this open-ended fast by fasting for at least one day. Read an interview with Diane Wilson to learn more. Please sign here to to support us and encourage your friends to do the same. Click here to view photos, and read our blogs!

The fast is ongoing, anyone can join at any time, for a single day or more.

Finally, the
BBC reports that four more people kidnapped from the "meeting of the Iraqi Olympic Committee last week" have been released and that the number of those released is now nine.

Now, one of Kat's favorite CD boxed sets is the Mamas & the Papas' Complete Anthology. So I thought I'd write about that. Kat loves music and it's rare to visit her and not find her listening to some (or to speak to her on the phone and not here it in the background). She actually has everyone of the Mamas & the Papas albums on vinyl. (I think I'm missing the last one on vinyl, People Like Us.) She's also kept her cassette collection.

This collection is an import from England and was actually offered by PBS when they were airing their documentary on the Mamas and the Papas. (I'd love to offer a date on that but all my dates blur.) Like myself, Kat grabbed it at Tower.

So it's four CDs and it covers their career as a group by including every song from the four studio albums they recorded as well as the (I believe now out of print on CD) live album from the historic Monterey pop festival. In addition to that, you get a few solo tracks by each of the four members (Michelle & John Phillips, Cass Elliot and Denny Douherty). You also get two tracks they performed on TV: the Beatles' "Nowhere Man" and Rodgers & Hart's "Here In My Arms." What else? "Glad to Be Unhappy" (another Rodgers & Hart song that never appeared on a studio album).

This is a pricey collection (over seventy dollars) so if you're new to the group, you can probably find a cheaper introduction. What Complete Anthology does offer is "complete." It's all here, as well as outtakes, single versions (when they were different from the album tracks). So if you love their music (I do), this is a way to have all of it in one collection.

Who are the Mamas and the Papas? (In case anyone's asking.) They were a group that hit the charts in 1965. A folk-rock group, a vocal group. "Monday, Monday" and "California Dreamin'" are among their huge hits.

"Dedicated to the One I Love" (which was a hit in 1967) found a new life when Michelle Phillips was guesting (guesting at that point) on Knots Landing in the eighties. (The song was used in the show when she attempts to seduce the married Mac.) They were four White people with a visual look ("hippie" is the shorthand for the look -- freedom, considering what came before, is another view) and with gender integration which was a big deal in those days of boys on one side, girls on the other. You had the "girl groups" and you had the "boy groups" (but the latter's never called that, they're just called "groups"). So you had two women, two men.

They're voices could blend amazingly on many songs. One of Kat's favorites is "Safe in My Garden" (disc two, from the album The Papas & The Mamas). For a similar reason, I enjoy the blend of Cass and Michelle's voices on "Got A Feeling" (first disc, from the album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears). With Cass' amazing (and powerful) contralto, no one else is going to get as much attention (Cass was very talented) but Denny could also cut loose (such as on "Monday, Monday") and Michelle's soprano (on it's own or as part of the mix) was also a strong part of the group sound.

The group stuck together for four albums (If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, The Mamas and the Papas, Deliver, and The Papas and the Mamas) during the sixties and then came back together (due to the jerks of ABC/Dunhill suing) for People Like Us which no one seems to like. "Shooting Star" was recently featured on a disc that came with a monthly British music magazine and I know a number of members in England were surprised by that (they enjoyed it). For me, the songs that make it from that album (People Like Us) are "Snow Queen of Texas" (which has some of the hallmarks of their vocal blending), "I Wanna Be A Star" (which has some nice bursts that the album often lacks -- vocal bursts, too often, for my tastes, it all blurs and just sort of lingers, the vocals and the melody of the song itself are crisp on this song), and Denny cuts loose on "Step Out."

I could be remembering wrong, but I believe Deliver is Jess' favorite album. (Singles from it were "Dedicated to the One I Love" and "Creeque Alley.") ("Look Through My Window was a single before the album was released.) I also enjoy The Papas & The Mamas which isn't widely appreciated. It's more of a mood piece. (Singles were "Safe in My Garden" and "Dream A Little Dream Of Me.")

If you're a Cass fan, you get "Costume Ball" which is rare on collections. If you're a John Phillips fan, you'll probably enjoy one of the three tracks included. Denny's "To Claudia On Thursday" offers some fine vocal work by Denny and others. It's one of four tracks and all are strong. ("What You Gonna Do" isn't included on this collection.) You also get seven tracks where they're providing backup vocals for Barry McGuire.

All four of Michelle's tracks are wonderful (my opinion). They are also all on the recently released expanded version of Victim of Romance -- Michelle's only solo CD and just released in America on CD for the first time. Hip-O Select has that CD which you can also probably get from Amazon but if you order from Hip-O Select you also get a bookmark (photos taken for the album of Michelle). Hip-O Select has also released a two-disc Cass Elliot collection entitled The Complete Cass Elliot Solo Collection 1968-1971. (Kat reviewed it here.) If you're a Cass fan, this is the CD to get. You get thirty-eight tracks. Contrary to conventional wisdom (and an online encylopedia), Cass' solo "Dream a Little Dream of Me" is not the same track from the Mamas & the Papas album (The Papas and The Mamas) -- effects are added, there's a double tracked vocal, additional whistles, etc.. It also includes tracks recorded for albums that didn't make them (such as "Darling Be Home Soon" which is Sunny's favorite track on the compliation; and a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Sisotowbell Lane"). "Different" is from the soundtrack to the film Pufnstuf (which is now out on CD, the entire soundtrack, but this track appeared on CD for the first time via this collection). Cass' daughter Owen Elliot-Kugell writes movingly of her movie in the linear notes and Richard Barton Campbell does a wonderful job tracing both the career and the impact in his essay.

Before she left, I asked Kat which she preferred, the Mamas and the Papas four-disc set or Cass' two-disc set? She went with Cass. Why? She said she'd have to think about it. For me (I'd make the same pick) it's due to the fact that the tracks on Cass' two-disc set aren't readily available. As a result, unless you're a vinyl freak, you probably haven't heard them or haven't heard them in some time. They have a freshness and remind you of how talented Cass was. Her vocal power is often noted (and should be) but it's those moments where she caresses a note or line that demonstrate her gift. She could hit the notes, she had the breath to hold them, no question. But it was her ability to interpret songs, to give them life and meaning, that made her one of the greats. She earned her place in musical history (both as a solo act and as a member of the Mamas and the Papas).

Kat summed up Cass' gift far better than I could:

Listening to this collection, I have to wonder that as well. There really wasn't anyone like her. And no one's come along to replace her. You don't cringe at any vocals here. Cass always sang the song. She didn't oversing it. There were no Olympic leaps to show off. She could have strutted through every song if she'd wanted to. She can hold a note as long as your average diva. Listening to all thirty-eight tracks, you'll realize how many notes she could hit and how a decision was made not to show boat on a song.

The Cass collection is also available at Amazon.

I'm going to try to grab at least one more post while Kat's on vacation. (Mike and Cedric are each going to try to grab one post a week.) When Kat finally agreed to let me post here while she was gone, her first question was what I'd be writing about? I told her I'd write about the Mamas and the Papas in the first entry in case I didn't have time to write about anything else.
She loved that idea because so many in the community enjoy the Mamas and the Papas which, by the way, has been one of the biggest surprises -- a pleasant one, but a big one -- for me about the community. I wasn't surprised that members old enough to remember the group would be fans but I was surprised by how many younger members were fans (some as a result of picking up a CD because of Kat writing about the group). At The Third Estate Sunday Review, we always know that if we mention Cass or the group -- even just in passing -- there will be e-mails.
That the group had a hold on people was not surprising, that people still listen (including people just discovering the group) was wonderful (and deserving).

More information on Cass can be found at The Official Cass Elliot Web Site.