Peter, Paul & Mommy

Peter, Paul & Mary

Warner Brothers Records, 1969

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Around a year ago, Andrew Thelen (the person who graciously donated his own personal Web space for "The Daily Vault" to get its start) wrote to us and asked us to review an album he had given his son as a child - Peter, Paul & Mommy from '60s folk icons Peter, Paul & Mary.

I remembered the album well - I had a copy when I was a boy, and accidentally broke it after years of service. But for some reason, I kept forgetting about his review request - until I received an "anonymous" package in the mail containing a new cassette of the album. (Subtle, Andrew... I got the hint.)

It had been well over 20 years since I last listened to Peter, Paul & Mommy, and a lot of the songs sound significantly different than the way I remembered them, but this album has lost none of its magic, despite being released in 1969.

The theme of the album was supposed to be Peter Yarrow, Noel "Paul" Stookey and Mary Travers singing children's songs to children who were in the studio with them - a move which was kind of like playing catch with a live hand grenade. You never knew if the kids were going to burst out in the middle of a performance (which I'm sure happened, and was edited out), or if the kids were going to sing off-key (which does happen on occasion, but kids don't have perfect pitch).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But I listen to Peter, Paul & Mommy differently at the age of 27 than I did at the age of five. For one thing, many of the songs on this tape don't seem like children's songs. "Leatherwing Bat" sounds a little complicated for young minds to grasp, but is a pretty song with Irish overtones throughout the number. "Christmas Dinner" is another song that I think would go right over little ones' heads - cripes, it took me over 20 years to figure out what this song was about. (What can I say, I'm a slow learner.)

A couple of things now surprise me about Peter, Paul & Mommy. First, the song order has been shuffled. I distinctly remember the record ending with "Day Is Done"; if anyone actually has the vinyl, I'd be interested in re-discovering the exact order of songs. Second, the kids aren't really used that much - I counted five songs of the twelve on the tape. Some of them, like "Puff (The Magic Dragon)" and "Going To The Zoo" (hey, now there's an idea for what to do with my daughter on Father's Day!), make perfect sense, but especially if the kids weren't on every song, one wonders why they were used on "Day Is Done" and not on "Mockingbird". (For that matter, why weren't the kids used on all the songs?)

This all, however, is nitpicking to the nth degree. The performances on Peter, Paul & Mommy are incredible. "The Marvelous Toy," a song that occasionally sees airplay around Christmastime, is still a beautiful song, while the performances of such cuts as "I Have A Song To Sing, O!," "It's Raining" (another one that would have been great for the kids) and "Puff (The Magic Dragon)", if heard at the right time, could bring tears to your eyes. No matter what you thought of their politics (or if you bought into that bullshit of "Puff" being a pro-drug song), Peter, Paul & Mary were top-notch folkies.

In a sense, though, this album now sounds too polished. I don't remember the record sounding as crisp and flawless, or some performances stretching as long as they do here. It might be a strange thing to say, but I'd almost prefer this on vinyl, if only to preserve a roughness that kids don't realize will eventually creep into their lives. (With the vast amount of vinyl in the Pierce Archives, at least my daughter will know what a record once was.)

Despite being almost 30 years old, Peter, Paul & Mommy is still a great record to start your kids out with, and is one that might instill a love of music with them... that is, unless your toddler is listening to Puff Daddy or Green Day instead.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.