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Perfectly pitched against Michelle

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“Mama” Cass Elliot: Doing it for the outsiders everywhere, and particularly at a time when female vocalists really only had two routes, the Diana Ross/Dionne Warwick diva or the Sandy Shaw/Petula Clark ingenue, Cass came to epitomise the feisty persona that is sometimes taken for granted in modern pop. But most of all, behind the (admittedly groundbreaking) image was THAT voice. Perfectly pitched against Michelle Philips’ sweeter tones, she was the core of most of the Mamas And Papas’ biggest hits, from the genuinely timeless “California Dreamin'” and “Monday, Monday” to her later solo rendition of the viciously satirical “Disney Girls”, proving she had a self-awareness that made her stand out. Much less documented but often more affecting, is the breadth of the solo speed dating  material she recorded; even when indulging in her love of vaudeville, she effortlessly lifts songs like “Coming To The Best Part Of My Life” from a potentially cheap show-tune to a celebration of simply being herself, and you can’t help but urge her on. But, also to prove it wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows, she also pulls no punches on songs like “If You’re Gonna Break Another Heart”, with a steely reservation worthy of contemporaries like Grace Slick and Janis Joplin; her legacy plain to see in everyone from Madonna to Beth Ditto.

Boy George: If there is one thing that depresses me it’s hearing Boy George and Culture Club’s music described as “cheesy.” OK, so no-one is denying that songs such as “Karma Chameleon” and “Church Of The Poisoned Mind” are almost aggressively upbeat pop tunes, but this is a man who know his way around a lyric. How a song such as “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” has come to be viewed as camp is anyone’s guess as the lyrics are a straightforward appeal for a truce in a stormy relationship, delivered in that soulful croon that so often gets overlooked. This is heard even better on “Time (Clock Of The Heart)” and “Victims”, songs having George admit his own personality flaws while pleading to be loved just the same.

 

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