Denny Doherty (RIP)
Band members Related acts
- Denny Doherty (RIP 2007) -- vocals, guitar
- Buddy Emmons -- pedal steel guitar
- Eddy Fisher -- guitar
- Brian Garofalo -- bass
- Jimmie Haskell -- accordion
- Eric Hord -- guitar, banjo
- Russ Kunkel -- drums
- Gabe Lapano -- keyboards, vibes, autoharp
- Barry McGuire -- guitar, harp
- The Big Three
- The Mugwumps
- The New Journeymen
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Watcha Gonna Do
Country/State: Halifax, Canada
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve; still in shrink wrap
Catalog ID: 272
Best time to play: Saturday afternoon while cleaning up the house
By some odd quirk of fate I actually bought this album at a yard sale the same week Doherty died. It then sat in my to-listen-to pile for the next six years ...
The quiet one; the cerebral one, the cute one, the George Harrison of The Mamas and the Papas ... I guess they're all applicable descriptions for the late Denny Doherty.
Released two years after The Mamas and the Papas had called it quits, 1971's "Watcha Gonna Do" found Doherty having moved on with his personal and professional lives. Produced by Bill Szymczyk, the album was interesting for a number of reasons, but for me the biggest surprise was demonstrating what a great voice Doherty had. As part of The Mamas and Papas his contributions were frequently overshadowed by the rest of the band. Shame since he may have had the best overall voice. The album was also interesting for the shift in musical direction. With two notable exceptions he all but abandoned Mamas and the Papas top-40 folk-rock and pop. In its place tracks like 'Neighbors', 'Still Can't Hear the Music' and 'Gathering the Words' found Doherty diving headlong into country-rock that bore at least a passing resemblance to the territory Mike Nesmith was exploring in his post-Monkees releases. (For anyone interested, the album's most pop-oriented track happened to be a cover of The Mamas and the Papas 'Got a Feelin''.) I will say that occasionally the material was too country for my tastes ('Neighbors' and the abysmal 'Tuesday Morning'), but with those isolated exceptions the songs were all pretty good, sounding like Doherty and his friends had enjoyed the recording sessions. That said, this was one of those weird albums that was actually better as a whole package than as singular compositions ... Hard to explain, but it's one of those albums that you should listen to as a complete package.
Gonna Do" track listing:
1.) Watcha Gonna Do (Denny Doherty - Linda Woodward) - 2:21 rating: *** stars
The title set the pace with a likeable country-rocker that served to showcased Doherty's frequently overlooked vocal talents. As mentioned above, his dry, clear voice reminded me a bit of Michael Nesmith. Lyrically it wasn't anything great; basically the title track repeated over and over and over, but the melody was quite pleasant and the harmonies were great. Dunhill also released it as a single.
- 1971's 'Watcha Gonna do' b/w 'Gathering the Words' (Dunhill catalog number D 4270)
2 ) Neighbors (G. Lapano - Linda Woodward) - 3:49 rating: ** stars
One of the few non-originals (then-wife Linda Woodward co-wrote the track), 'Neighbors' found Doherty expounding on the joys of married life. A bit too country and hokey for my tastes ...
3 ) Gathering the Words (Denny Doherty - Linda Woodward) - 4:09 rating: **** stars
One of the album's biggest surprises, the country-tinged 'Gathering the Words' was an album highlight. Co-written by Doherty and Woodward (you could also hear her on backing vocals), the song's always reminded me of something a post-Monkees Mike Nesmith might have written and recorded. When he wasn't scatting, Doherty's dry voice seldom sounded as good.
4 ) Don't You Be Fooled (Denny Doherty) - 2:46 rating: *** stars
One of the album's more pop oriented tunes, 'Don't You Be Fooled' had a laidback, slinky arrangement and some nice horn charts.
5 ) Got a Feelin' (Denny Doherty - John Phillips) - 3:26 rating: **** stars
Given the song's connection with old flame Michelle Phillips, I always wondered why Doherty decided to cover the Mamas and the Papas 'Got a Feelin'' (it was on the debut LP and was the 'Monday, Monday' single's 'B' side). I always thought The Mamas and Papas tune was pretty lame. Compare to the original Doherty's was pretty good. Starting out as a stark acoustic ballad, the track picked up speed (and orchestration) as it went along. The laidback, slinky vocal, coupled with the slightly lysergic-tinged orchestration (very Beatle-esque) was actually quite cool.
1.) Tuesday Morning (Denny Doherty - Eddie Fischer - Laura Woodward) - 4:44 rating: ** stars
The album's least satisfying track, 'Tuesday Morning' sounded like something that had been written by a committee. A horrible country-tinged number, Doherty was largely drown out by the stoned sounding backing singers (including Woodward). Other than the brief nod to The Mamas and the Papas "it's Monday Monday again ..." this one didn't have a great deal going for it. Geez, this was bad enough to have been mistaken for and early Paul McCartney and Wings song.
2.) Still Can't Hear the Music (Denny Doherty) - 2:53 rating: **** stars
Possible my favorite track, 'Still Can't Hear the Music' was a glorious slice of country-rock. Kicked along by Buddy Emmons' pedal steel guitar, this one had a great melody, wonderful vocals, and a nice, reflective lyric. This was one of the tunes where Doherty's came off as a dead-ringer for Mike Nesmith.
3.) Hey Good Looking (Hank Williams) - 1:45 rating: ** stars
I have no idea why the brief fragment of 'Hey Good Looking' was included on the album, other than perhaps to show how much fun the crowd was having ? Musically in was a drunken waste of a minute worth of vinyl.
4.) The Drummer's Song (Eddie Fischer - Laura Woodward) - 3:18 rating: *** stars
Propelled by Jimmie Haskell's accordion and Barry McGuire's harmonica 'The Drummer's Song' was easily the album's strangest song. Sounding almost like a French ballad, it was way different and kind of cool. No idea what the lyrics were about ...
5.) Here Comes the Sun (George Harrison) / The Two of Us (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 5:43 rating: *** stars / **** stars
I'd love to say something nice about Doherty's Beatles medley, but other than being professional, it really didn't have a great deal going for it. Linking 'Here Comes the Sun' and 'The Two of Us' was apparently one of those concepts that looked better on paper than the actual end-product. Of the two segments, I'd give the nod to 'Two of Us' simply due to the fact it was more obscure than George's 'Here Comes the Sun'. After all, how many times can you cover 'Here Comes the Sun'. Giving credit where due, Doherty's arrangement was actually a bit more energetic than normal and he managed to work in a sly, unaccredited nod to John Lennon's 'Give Peace a Chance' at the end of the song.
- The album ended with a brief a cappela refrain of the title track, Actually quite sweet.
Easily one of the best Mamas and Papas solo projects, Doherty's timing proved lousy since the subsequent Mamas and the Papas reunion effectively limited support and publicity for the album.
There's a nice Doherty website at: http://www.dennydoherty.com/
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