Singer had moved from Dunhill to RCA, shed the “Mama,” and recorded two albums her way prior to her 1974 death. Daughter Owen Elliot-Kugell oversaw CD debuts. DVD release of 1969 TV Special also planned.
Online PR News – 23-July-2009 – – LOS ANGELES, Calif. — While Mama Cass Elliot is mostly remembered for her vocal harmonies with the quintessential California folk-rock quartet the Mamas & the Papas, her story did not end there. Elliot (born Ellen Cohen) came to music via the New York folk scene of the early ‘60s (with a detour into a road production of The Music Man). She was part of a Kingston-esque trio, the Big Three, which morphed into the proto-folk-rock outfit the Mugwumps. Eventually Elliot and fellow Mugwump Denny Doherty joined John and Michelle Philips to form the Mamas & the Papas, recording such monster hits as “Monday Monday,” “California Dreamin’” and “I Saw Her Again.” But as successful as the Mamas & the Papas were, they split after only a few years.
Starting in 1968, Elliot recorded two albums and a handful of singles (most notably Dream A Little Dream of Me) under the name of Mama Cass on ABC/Dunhill. However, her most spirited and independent work came when she signed to RCA Records in 1971, dropped the “Mama” and added her surname, and recorded three acclaimed albums. Of these, the eponymous Cass Elliot and its follow-up, The Road Is No Place for a Lady, will be reissued for the first time on CD on August 25 by Collectors’ Choice Music. The single-CD reissue, titled Cass Elliot/The Road Is No Place for a Lady, contains two previously unreleased tracks, “We’ll See” and “Try it Baby.” In addition, Infinity Entertainment Group will release, on the same date, The Mama Cass Television Program, a 1969 television pilot starring Cass with guests Joni Mitchell, John Sebastian and Mary Travers. The program also makes its DVD debut.
The CD package features extensive liner notes by Elliot’s personal historian, Richard Campbell, as well as by Owen Elliot-Kugell, Cass’ daughter, who oversaw the project. Elliot-Kugell says in the liner notes, “How amazing (it was) in the year 2009 to be able to go into the studio and watch the now 37-year-old tapes be loaded into the machines and actually played. Nothing had disintegrated. And we were transported instantly back to 1972.” Attending the mastering session was the original producer of the two RCA albums, Lewis Mermenstein (known also for his work on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks), who regaled Owen-Kugell with stories and memories.
According to annotator Campbell, Cass was restless following her ABC/Dunhill Records years, both with the band and solo. “I didn’t want to sing bubblegum anymore,” she explained in 1972. “It wasn’t a complete expression. It was like fractioning me.” Then came RCA. The deal was reported to be 10 albums in four years for $1 million. “I like schedules, so that’s OK,” she said. The label purchased full-page ads in Billboard and Rolling Stone trumpeting the signing. The first album, Cass Elliot, was recorded in the fall of 1971 at RCA Records’ Hollywood studios at 6363 Sunset Blvd.
The album contained original Elliot compositions as well as songs by Randy Newman, Bobby Darin, Bruce Johnston with Beach Boy Carl Wilson, and Elliot’s sister Leah Kunkel. Veteran arranger Benny Golson brought lush orchestrations and simple arrangements.
After recording two stray, never-until-now released tracks (“We’ll See” and “Try It Baby”) and recording the theme for the Andy Warhol/Paul Morrissey film L’Amour, she prepared her next album, The Road Is No Place for a Lady. The album was recorded at Trident Recording Studio in London and again produced by Merenstein. Unfortunately, RCA used the wrong mix of the single “If You’re Gonna) Break Another Heart,” featuring heavy bass and buried vocals. In reviewing the tapes earlier this year, Merenstein and Owen-Kugell were delighted to uncover the proper mix, which appears on the reissue.
In addition to Albert Hammond’s “(If You’re Gonna) Break Another Heart,” the second album contains Jimmy Webb’s “Saturday Suit,” Paul Williams’ “Say Hello” and the title song which was penned by Elliot’s sister. Featured on guitar was British axe demon Chris Spedding.
The DVD, meanwhile, is a slice of late-‘60s music utopia, featuring Cass’ renditions of the Mamas and Papas’ hits California Dreamin’ and Monday, Monday, plus her solo turns on Dream a Little Dream of Me; I Can Dream, Can’t I?; River of Life, and Dancing in the Street, with strong contributions from Joni Mitchell (Both Sides Now), Mary Travers (And When I Die) and John Sebastian (She’s a Lady). Cass, Joni and Mary team for a stirring version of Dylan’s I Shall Be Released, and Cass and John duet on Darlin’ Companion.
According to Elliot-Kugell in the notes to the CD reissue, “I have always felt that the albums my Mom made in the later part of her life were the most important. Important because these are the songs that she wanted to sing and she got to decide who, what, where and why for Cass. It’s for this reason that I have dreamt passionately of the day these recordings would be available to anyone who wanted to hear them. I needed to, as her daughter, make sure that she would be heard. In her own right. On her terms. For Cass. For Ellen Cohen.”
# # #