You have to know "Monday, Monday." Even if you didn't before this year, you have to have caught a whiff of it from its incessant rehearsal on "Popstars"--unless you live in a cave. If you don't know "California Dreaming," then your parents lived in a cave. Some songs deserve to be classics--and it takes a very skilled craftsman/woman to create the kind of pop songs that live forever and just feel natural. John Phillips was one of those people.
He's got a comfortable, laid-back style--he's someone who makes it sound easy (in contrast too e.g. Nick Cave who, although he is quite good, makes writing songs sound like a torturous masochistic process of revelation of darkness). This easygoing feel is very much in evidence on "Pay, Pack & Follow," an apparently "lost" album recorded about 30 years ago and released this year. Produced by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it's full of good ol' fashioned rock & roll blues and features performances by the aforementioned RS legends as well as Ronnie Wood and Mick Taylor. It's been set aside ever since, only released now in accordance to John's final wishes.
The songcraft leaves a little to be desired, however. Although the threads of those classic pop song structures run through it, there are a lot of wandering lyrics and strange themes. The blues feel is great, as are the musicians' performances--but when he's singing about strippers ('Pussycat,' a song about the "kids" that dance up and down the runway at the stripclub down the road who'll never be actresses but they have hearts of gold...) and African stereotypes ('Zulu Warrior'. ? ), it just doesn't make for a nice simple pop basket. I can see why this album wasn't rocketed straight from the studio right out to the fans and chart stardom--it's a bit rambling and self-indulgent. There are some really pretty songs on there--check out 'Very Dread' for a lovely piece about women's inexplicable sadness. And 'The Year 2000' is funny now, kind of like a bluesy country (Party Like It's)1999. But it's just not quite "Monday Monday." Maybe that's a good thing... if you like blues and rock & roll you'd probably enjoy this quite a bit. At any rate, check it out for a good sampling of old school music-making.
A newly recorded album by Phillips will be released later this year--keep an eye out for it because according to his record company, it "completely encapsulate(s) the essence of all his work." If that's true, it should be one muthah of a musical masterpiece.
6Laurie Parker's Score