Mama’s Big Ones, by Cass Elliott
Cass Elliott remains known today, to the extent that she is known, for fat jokes and speculation about the cause of her death–which was a heart attack during her early 30’s. And it is somewhat melancholy to note that this particular album certainly plays with the whole fat joke element of her career, with the album referring to various important songs, most of them somewhat front-loaded on the album, as being “big ones,” the album released the year of the artist’s death. If Cass Elliott’s solo songs are not welll-remembered and if she was by no means a great songwriter, she was a surprisingly prolific artist given her short life, with five albums of material with the Mamas & the Papas as well as at least six albums of solo material, a remarkable pace of material. But is this album, released in 1973, the year of the artist’s untimely death, any good? Let’s see.
The album begins with “It’s Getting Better,” a beautiful song about how love improves with time. What follows is “Dream A Little Dream Of Me,” which is the second time at least that this song has appeared on a Cass Elliott album, not even including its appearance in a nearly identical form in the fourth album from The Mamas & The Papas. “Make Your Own Kind Of Music” is a passionate ode to self-expression even if no one else appreciates it. “Words Of Love,” with its old-fashioned music, points to the need for action to replace mere words of love when it comes to demonstrating one’s love. “New World Coming” gives a voice to the age’s optimism about a good new day that was supposed to be coming, a mood that would not long last, which could also be considered a millennial song. “Move In A Little Closer, Baby,” features lovely backup vocals as well as a pleasant message expressing a desire for intimacy. “One Way Ticket” expresses the often misguided belief that anywhere is better than where one happens to be. “The Good Times Are Coming” expresses a sense of hard-won optimism in the face of life’s difficulties. “Easy Come, Easy Go” is a song that straddles the line between optimism in a better future and a great deal of criticism over a bad relationship in the past, expressing that one wasn’t hurt as much as one thought by it. “Don’t Let The Good Life Pass You By” takes an ironic sort of look at what the good life means, with a sense of realistic happiness. “Ain’t Nobody Else Like You” provides a sentimental and gorgeous love song. The album ends with “A Song That Never Comes,” with a sense of worldly-wise sadness.
If this album is not unified by any consistent tone or any obvious concept apart from the songs apparently being big ones, the songs are all connected in having beautiful vocal parts sung by Cass Elliott as well as gorgeous instrumental parts that sound a bit old-fashioned but in the best way. Some of these songs were truly big ones–“Dream A Little Dream Of Me” hit #12 on the Billboard Hot 100, was Cass Eliott’s biggest solo hit, and remains her only song to be streamed more than 100 million times on Spotify, where I listened to the album myself, although some of the other songs here, mostly towards the beginning, also remain somewhat popular songs of hers comparatively speaking. This album is certainly an enjoyable one to listen to if you are splitting the difference between optimism and a sense of weariness about the state of love or the world. That is a pretty relatable emotional terrain, and Cass Eliott’s voice is always pleasant to listen to, so that makes this album well worth checking out if you want to get into her discography.