DENNY DOHERTY - Watcha Gonna Do (1971) & Waiting For A Song (1974)
Denny Doherty, the voice of numerous Mamas & Papas hits such as "California Dreamin,'" and "Monday, Monday," has been one of the greatest and most underrated lead vocalists of the rock era. While he had not completely explored the area of songwriting during his fame with the Mamas & Papas, he was the one member of the group who was truly at loose ends after the groups' demise in the late 1960s. While perhaps a contractual obligation, his first solo album has numerous charms. The record has a loose, party-in -the-studio feel, and much of that adds to the overall effect of this slightly country-oriented platter. Tracks such as "Gathering of the Words" and "Don't You Be Fooled" are quite remarkable, and show Doherty to be a sensitive artist in the singer/songwriter vein. A remake of "Got a Feelin'" features Doherty's world-class talent as a vocalist as well. The album's closer, a medley of "Here Comes the Sun" and "The Two of Us" ends the record in grand style, with Jimmie Haskell's exquisite string arrangement taking the listener into a wonderful and warm place.
After a lackadaisical country-rock album in 1971 and a Mamas & the Papas contract-fulfilling reunion disc later that year, Denny Doherty laid low for a couple years before issuing this obscure effort. Waiting for a Song is a rather depressing record, Doherty being mired in melancholia more or less from beginning to end. The title of "Give Me Back That Old Familiar Feeling," paired with the album's title, provide the intertwined recurring lyrical themes: Doherty as the lost artist looking for a song to sing and a reason to live -- the concepts becoming interchangeable after a while -- and continually looking to the past for fear of looking forward. This motif is underscored by the presence of his former bandmates, Cass Elliot and Michelle Phillips, on backing vocals throughout the record. Their harmonizing voices are in fine form, but the arrangements are far less novel than those from the group's heyday, and Doherty doesn't hit notes as brightly with his tenor as he once did. Less-than-stunning material and poor distribution rendered this album an instant obscurity, though collectors and Doherty fans were delighted by its reissue on the Varese Vintage imprint in 2001. In hindsight, the record is remarkable for its naked honesty, Doherty making little secret, either in the tunes or in the liner photos, of how much of a wreck he is, but on its own merits, Waiting for a Song is too much of a buzzkill to tout unreservedly. Highlights include the minor AC hit "You'll Never Know" and the Larry Weiss-penned ballad "Lay Me Down (Roll Me Out to Sea)."
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