With an album of unreleased material on the way from the late John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, former group member Denny Doherty has taken the quartet's story to the stage.
Phillips' album, Phillips 66, so named because its August 30 release date would have been the folk rocker's 66th birthday, includes a remake of "California Dreamin' " with what producer Harvey Goldberg calls in the liner notes "a Spanish & lonely feel to it, with a much more emotional and gritty vocal."
Also featured on the album are "Me & My Uncle," a Phillips composition that became a standard for the Grateful Dead; "Slow Starter," a lullaby for his daughter Bijou; and "Gram's Song," a tune written about alt-country godfather Gram Parsons. Phillips recorded the album with musicians including Paul Shaffer, Anton Fig, Sid McGinnis and Will Lee (all of "The Late Show With David Letterman" house band) in New York and California in late 2000 and early 2001. Phillips died of heart failure in March.
Meanwhile, Doherty's "Dream a Little Dream: The Nearly True Story of the Mamas and the Papas" runs through September 1 at Toronto's Isabel Adler Theater. The show features Doherty delivering an account of his life story and the story of the group, interspersed with Mamas and the Papas music played by Doherty and a six-piece band, according to co-writer and co-producer Paul Ledoux.
"If George Carlin could sing well enough to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you'd have Denny," Ledoux said, adding that the production gives Doherty's take on the romantic triangle that developed between him, Phillips and Phillips' then-wife and fellow group member, Michelle Phillips. "When you add on to that the fact that [group member] Cass Elliot loved Denny, it's really a sad story." He added that Lou Adler, who signed the group to his Dunhill label in 1965, is looking for a theater in Los Angeles to put on the production later this fall.
Elliot died in 1974.
All of this activity coincides with the re-release of the Mamas and the Papas' first four albums on a two-disc set called All the Leaves are Brown, due August 28, according to Richard Campbell, an associate of the surviving group members and author of the set's liner notes.
Campbell also wrote the liner notes for this summer's reissue of Waiting for a Song, a 1974 Denny Doherty solo album previously released only in the U.K. The album features backing vocals from Elliot and Michelle Phillips, and Campbell calls it "the closest thing there ever was to a mid-'70s reunion of the Mamas and the Papas."