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The Strange Vibrations of the Mamas & the Papas

Mitchell Cohen, Music Aficionado, 2017

THERE WAS a melancholy guitar, and then the voices came in: "All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey." That was the beginning of 'California Dreamin',' the song that introduced most people to the Mamas and the Papas at the end of 1965. It was a lovely thing, filled with musical uplift and emotional longing. It was kind of like folk music – or what people that year were calling "folk-rock" – and a little bit like earlier L.A. soft-pop, with a tinge of pre-rock harmony groups. But it was original: the Bud Shank flute solo, the assertive drums of Hal Blaine, the responsive female vocals echoing the lead singer like sirens bidding him west. "I'd be safe and warm," the singer thinks, "if I was in L.A."

Total word count of piece: 1860


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