Mamas and Papas/Soul Train

by: Classics IV

A confusing title graces the sophomore album from Classics IV as bold off-purple/brown screams Mamas and Papas/Soul Train, which is more dominant than the large white lettering of the group's name. "Is it a Mamas & the Papas release?" consumers could very well have wondered, as the package comes off looking like a compilation of pop and soul acts -- which is the sound the band was shooting for, but missed. It's a shame because Marvin Lyon's photography of bandmembers holding sculptures at the beach is as captivating as the hit single here, "Stormy," which means there were some sparks of creativity. "Stormy" is even more influenced by Bobby Hebb's 1966 classic "Sunny," than its predecessor, "Spooky," not only with the opening line of "You were the sunshine, baby" and the heavy bassline which surrounds the production, but the keys or vibes directly lifted from Hebb's work. That "Stormy" is itself a fascinating fusion of pop and soul, with its saxophone and descending guitar lines it's more than just charming, it is a tremendous creation which sets a mood whenever it comes on the radio. As with the first Classics IV disc, everything pretty much falls apart after the hit. "Mamas and Papas" is a lame attempt to sound like John Phillips and company, but instead comes off as a poor imitation of the Partridge Family. Producer Buddy Buie and guitarist John "JR" Cobb write eight of the 11 compositions, while Bobby Goldsboro, of all people, co-writes "I'll Pity the Fool" with Buie. That tune, and Ira and George Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So," are two of the more listenable escapades here, while "24 Hours of Loneliness" has the producer and guitarist going after Bacharach/David. "Waves," from Side One, has the flavor of Dionne Warwick's "Trains and Boats and Planes," which not so coincidentally, hit its highest point the week before Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" went to Number Two. What can be found in the exactly 25 minutes of music on this second offering from Classics IV is the emerging presence of producer Buie, who goes uncredited here (the album says "a Bill Lowery production" ), and J.R. Cobb. The only thing to write home about on this album is the true classic which leads off Side Two, "Stormy," making the album Mamas and Papas/Soul Train more of a study than something to listen to for entertainment. "Bring back that "sunny" day" was the hope of "Stormy," and they again try to re-write "Sunny" with a song called "Strange Changes." Perhaps realizing the futility, they did eventually cover Bobby Hebb's gem on another album, but if they only had the insight to stretch the big song here -- their greatest moment of inspiration -- across an entire side of the disc -- well, that would have been the real fun and for most fans of pop, and that's what it's all about. ~ Joe Viglione

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