John Phillips “John The Wolfking of L.A.” CD (Varese Sarabande)

A lot of reviewers are focusing on Bob Dylan’s aping of Phillips’ cover pose and costume on the front of Desire, but the most interesting things about Wolfking –and there are plenty–are in the grooves. This storied 1969 solo disk from the ravaged ex-Papa proves that not just symbolist poets make their best work when systematically deranging souls and senses. (Of course, Rimbaud didn’t surround himself with ace players from the Wrecking Crew and Elvis’ band, nor with the Blossoms on backing vox.) Wolfking is an eclectic, ambitious and playful romp through scenes of Hollywood and Malibu excess and redemption, exquisitely sung and arranged. Phillips’ style fuses country, pop, scat, gospel and soul in a very personal and appealing way. Eight strong bonus tracks easily turns the disk into a shoulda-been double, including the tender "Lady Genevieve" which negates some of the emotional ugliness of "Let It Bleed, Genevieve" from the original album, and ending with the superior single version of "Mississippi."

(Buy from Amazon. See also Brian Doherty’s review of the album from the Lost in the Grooves book.) 

The Four King Cousins – “Introducing” CD (El)

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Reissue of a 1969 harmony-pop disk on Capitol, produced by David Axelrod under the not-quite-anagramic Lex de Azevedo. The cousins King were music industry pros with a family TV show and the connections to get their nascent quartet a regular slot on John Davidson’s Kraft Summer Music Hall. Blonde, slick and resoundingly old-fashioned despite the matching mini-dresses on the cover, in the studio they brought their frosty, elevator-ready pipes to arrangements of Beatles, Boyce & Hart, Hamlisch, Bacharach-David and Nichols-Asher that veer from the tasteful to the mildly twangy and tuff. The best track is “God Only Knows,” where their ethereal ice princess sexiness really suits the material. Like an estrogenic Carpenters without the angst, these four twenty-somethings made music for people the sum of their combined ages.