Let me say that this was one heck of a time to release a new John Phillips album. His daughter, Mackenzie, has just published a tell all book and whether it is accurate of not, it has certainly put Phillips back in the public eye eight years after his death.
John Phillips is best remembered for his work with The Mamas & The Papas. His songwriting ability and his expertise as a producer would help them release a string of classic albums and singles in the mid to late 1960’s leading to their induction into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
Shortly after the group’s first breakup he began working on his grand project. Five years of his life would be spent developing the play Man On The Moon. The idea for the space themed production was initiated by the first moon landing in 1969. When a bomb is left on the moon by an Apollo space mission, a human astronaut leads a group of spacemen to diffuse it which ultimately forces humanity to abandon their destructive ways. The part of the astronaut was originally written with Elvis Presley in mind. I’m not kidding!
The play went through a number of producers, backers, and directors. Andy Warhol finally stepped in as a producer and helped Phillips find funding for the project. One of his personal actresses, Monique van Vooren, was given the female lead opposite Denny Doherty.
Man On The Moon debuted off Broadway with such luminaries as Warhol, Warren Beatty, Yoko Ono, Rex Harrison, and Geraldo Rivera in the audience. It lasted for a grand total of five performances and quietly disappeared into the mists of time.
The producers of this CD have done an outstanding job assembling all the material from this project. While a few of the songs have appeared in various forms over the years; for the most part it is seeing the light of day for the first time in three plus decades.
The heart of the release is the 22 songs that comprise the play. Most are in demo form as they feature Phillips on vocals supporting himself on acoustic guitar or piano. They take on an intimate feel but are not representative of their final form. Only a few of the songs have backup singers which demonstrate more of what he was trying to create.
Tracks 23 through 28 were recorded by Andy Warhol from the audience. Given his primitive recording equipment the sound is pretty good and remains the only extended recording of an actual performance. They also catch Denny Doherty at his vocal best.
Tracks 29 to 33 are performances by his then third wife Genevieve Waite. Three of these songs would be released on her solo album, Romance Is On The Rise.
The album draws to a close with some very raw video footage plus assorted clippings, scripts and more.
Man On The Moon has been lost for decades and should please fans of John Phillips, the curious, or just someone seeking out some good and interesting music.