How an obscure and commercially unsuccessful old folk band like The Mugwumps could produce half the members of two Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame groups is beyond me. Cass Elliott and Denny Doherty went on to The Mamas and The Papas and singer/harpist/autoharp player John Sebastian plus lead guitarist Zal Yanovsky formed The Lovin’ Spoonful with drummer Joe Butler and bassist Steve Boone.
The Lovin’ Spoonful were inducted into The Rock And Hall Of Fame on the strength of a series of impeccably produced and extremely catchy single releases which were issued during the last half of the 1970’s. Songs such as “Summer In The City,” “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice,” Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind,” “Do You Believe In Magic,” “Rain On The Roof,” “Daydream,” and “Nashville Cats” all reached the American top ten and sold millions of copies. Their sound was labeled good-time music and while it may not have been essential to the development of rock ‘n’ roll, it was pleasant and extremely popular.
Their catalogue has been reissued many times down through the years and in many different formats. One of the best is Anthology which was issued by the Rhino label during 1990. While it is not by any means a complete presentation of their music, its 26 tracks do cover the highlights and for a singles band that is enough.
Their big hits are still recognizable four plus decades later. They are sixties folk/pop at its best. The only single release to depart from this formula was the brilliant “Summer In The City” which topped the American charts during 1966. It was a gritty rock song, complete with sound effects, which made you feel apart of the inner city. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
This CD does delve a little deeper into their catalogue. “Jug Band Music” was a whimsical look at their musical roots. The gentle “Younger Girl” was a hit for The Critters. “Pow” was used by Woody Allan in his movie What’s Up Tiger Lily. “Night Owl Blues” and “Butchie’s Tune” show they could have a harder edge every once in awhile.
The Lovin’ Spoonful may not come to mind very often but Anthology is a pleasant way to spend an hour or so. It is a trip back to the sunny side of the late sixties. Given what else was going on at the time, it is not a bad place to be.