Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Mamas and the Papas: Greatest Hits [MCA, 1998]
As with such contemporary jazz and folk harmonists as the Hi-Los and Peter, Paul & Mary, the pretensions of their elaborate schlock were strictly vocal. Rather than a wall of sound for them to emote over, Lou Adler had the Tycoon of Teen's studio studs construct a latticework for them to wend through, with strings generally left out, mixed down, or reduced to chamber music. Another corn corrective was John Phillips's detached, often acid songwriting--cf. the gentle rake's confession "I Saw Her Again," or this collection's sole serious omission, the cheerful junkie boast "Straight Shooter." Phillips got romantic only as a California dreamer, most tellingly in the late, commercially minor "Twelve Thirty," a benign description of how groovy it felt to leave New York for L.A. circa 1966. Its sense of stoned entitlement on show business's hippie fringe evokes a utopian moment too many '60s memoirists have forgotten or never knew. A