This is the latest in a series of CD releases to present the leadman for the Mamas & Papas, John Phillips, in his fullest light. I critiqued the last one, Pussycat, and Man on the Moon is a very hip follow-on compendium of 34 songs—not one ever released before this very moment—from a play written by Phillips, produced by Andy Warhol, directed by Paul Morrissey, and featuring members of Warhol's Factory as well as Denny Doherty (also of the Mama & Papas). The comedic play debuted off-Broadway in '75, then closed after only five days, almost immediately forgotten by all but Warhol/Philips aficionados. His wife, singer Genevieve Waite (a main figure in the play), cites this event as decisive in Phillips' much-covered further descent into a hellish drug addiction. He and she had worked on the presentation for years, and it completely and decisively imploded in less than a week…a very surprising fact once the soundtrack's heard, as the cabaret is very good indeed.
Not only is the disc a full boat of cuts, but you also get encrypted video footage of parts of the 1974 rehearsal, an Adobe PDF of the playbill, photos, reviews, clippings, early scripts, and song orchestrations, making the release a cornucopia. And what a horn of plenty! The play is by turns acidic, funny, wry, satiric, and parodic, a non-stop lampoon of events and topics current of the day: Werner von Braun, class war, free speech, the space race, etc. The closest parallel I can think of is a cult film many B-movie aficionados cherish: The Phantom of the Paradise, and that perhaps points to what might possibly have rescued Phillips. Had the play made it into film, it would undoubtedly have joined Greaser's Palace and other art-house flicks of the era. That much, at least, would've endowed John with a well-deserved second-wind modicum of respect.
The 8-page liner, written by Chris Campion & Jeff Greenberg, is loaded with vital facts and sidelights, bringing the time back to life. Several photographs indicate what surreal staging was had as each cut takes on a different facet of song style and theatrical approach. The recording's very good, undoubtedly remastered from the original tapes to now be more sonically full than the original. Quite a few tastes of Phil Ochs, flapper girls, Tom Rapp, Irving Berlin, and a wide assortment of older archetypes pop up. Without doubt, this is, aside from all the ultra-cool work he did with the Mamas & Papas, my favorite John Phillips release by far.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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