By Ron VandenBoom
Old memories of tie-dye shirts, the summer of love, and bell-bottom trousers were rekindled and new memories created Tuesday when the latest incarnation of one of the worlds best known and best loved musical quartets filled the stage at MSU-Northern.
The annual Police Protective Association Concert kept toes a tapping and hands a clapping with the strong vocal talents of David Baker, Janelle Sadler, Bruce Atkinson, and Jennifer O'Hara in the roles of Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty, Michelle Phillips, and songwriter/vocalist John Phillips.
The group performed many of the classic Mamas and Papas the tunes that to this day typify the anti-war era of the 1960s when youthful rebellion, free love, and nonconformity reached new highs in American culture.
But the high-energy performance was also indicative of the effect good lyrics and melodies can have on any generation.
"It may be a clich," said John Kito, musical director and keyboardest for the group, "but good music is timeless."
And no doubt it was the timeless quality of great songs performed by great talents that made Thursday's show enjoyable to all.
The New Mamas and the Papas has a long history of thrilling audiences and the group's existence, according to Kito, is one of the surviving wishes of the songwriter and founder of the group, John Phillips.
Kito, a long time friend of Phillips, said the group has existed in various incarnations since Phillips brought it back into existence in 1981 with original members Phillips and Doherty, and new members McKinzie Phillips (John's daughter) and Spankey McFarland (of Spankey and Our Gang fame).
Kito, who joined the group as musical director in 1984, then saw a fifth member Scott Mckinzie, (best known for the hit record, "If You're Going to San Francisco, Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair,) join the group.
They toured together around the world doing as many as 100 shows a year until Phillips daughter left in 1992, and John's health began to decline. Phillips left the group in 1995 due to his health. Doherty left shortly thereafter in 1997 and Scott Mckinzie, who had replaced John Phillips, dropped out in 1998.
Kito said the group almost disbanded permanently after Scott Mckinzie left, but John told him he loved the new singers Kito had recruited, loved the music, and wanted to see the band continue.
Atkinson, who is also a bass player, songwriter, and tours with Richard Marx, and Jim Messina when not singing with the group, said the music of the Mamas and Papas was just so caught up in the time.
"There's no better marriage between music and the political things that were going on they were totally American," he said, before last night's concert.
Perhaps that's why the group strikes a universally accepted chord wherever the New Mamas and Papas perform.
"We've been getting a great response everywhere we play," said Sadler, who has toured with other great performers such as Natalie Cole and Donny Osmond. "I think that people are very emotionally connected with the group."
The emotions and the marriage worked well during last night's performance. Many attending the concert could be seen singing along with the familiar lyrics and applauding at the beginning of some of their favorite melodies.
It was a perfect blend of the young and the old and a perfect evening for anyone lucky enough to attend.