Back in January 2016, Real Gone collected the complete singles of The Mamas & The Papas onto one 2-CD collection to celebrate the group’s 50th anniversary. Two years later, on January 12, 2018, the label is turning its attention to a solo member of the band by releasing Of All the Things: The Complete ABC/Dunhill Masters by Denny Doherty, featuring Doherty’s 1971 album Watcha Gonna Do together with other assorted tracks (including four unreleased) and including liner notes written by our very own Joe Marchese.
By 1969 /1970, it looked as if The Mamas & The Papas were done. The group’s fourth album, The Papas & The Mamas, had been released in 1968 and since then, Cass Elliot and John Phillips had moved on to solo recordings while Michelle Phillips began an acting career. That is when the band’s label, ABC/Dunhill, came to Denny Doherty and informed him that he contractually owed them a solo album himself. Doherty was teamed with future Eagles producer Bill Szymczyk to record what would become Watcha Gonna Do.
Material began to be prepared for the album, with Doherty writing or co-writing five new songs of the eventual ten tracks. His collaborators included his then-girlfriend/future wife Linda Woodward and musician “Phast” Eddy Fischer (currently of the duo Robin & Eddy). A band was put together with Doherty, Woodward, Fischer and musician Gabe Lapano (who also contributed a song to the LP with Woodward) forming the musical core. The band was then rounded out with Bryan Garofalo, Russ Kunkel, Eric Hord, Buddy Emmons, Jimmie Haskell, labelmate Barry McGuire and even Szymczyk joining in.
Recording began in the summer of 1970 and the album would have a country-and-western feel, coinciding with work done by The Flying Burrito Brothers, Rick Nelson and John Phillips on recent projects (and foreshadowing the sound Szymcyzk would work with when he produced the Eagles). In addition to the originals on the LP, Doherty would cover Hank Williams’ classic “Hey, Good Lookin'” and perform a medley of Beatles tunes with “Here Comes the Sun/The Two of Us.” He would also revisit an earlier Mamas & The Papas hit with a substantially reworked “Got a Feelin’.”
Watcha Gonna Do was released in February, 1971, but did not make much a dent on the charts. Doherty would return to the original The Mamas & The Papas one more time when the group was obligated to record one more album for ABC/Dunhill. People Like Us was released in November, 1971.
Real Gone’s CD compilation is rounded out by six other songs Doherty recorded at ABC/Dunhill during this period. He contributed “To Claudia on Thursday,” featuring Spanky McFarlane of Spanky and Our Gang on background vocals, to Jimmie Haskell’s concept album California ’99 in 1971 (It was also released as a single). “Shadows on My Wall,” another Doherty/Woodward/Fischer composition, was recorded for the Watcha Gonna Do sessions, but remained in the vaults. However, Robin & Eddy have been performing the song onstage over the years as “Words Are Hard to Find.”
Doherty would record one more session for his label in 1972, which yielded four more tracks. Two of those, “Sail the Waterway” and “Giles of the River” were written by a pre-Steely Dan Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who also played on the tracks. Steely Dan producer Gary Katz helmed the sessions for Denny. Steely Dan would release their debut later in 1972, and their own version of “Waterway” was issued as the B-side of their still-unreleased-on-CD first single, “Dallas.” John Kay of Steppenwolf later recorded “Giles.” Eddy Fischer keeps “Shadow Sounds,” which he wrote with Doherty and Woodward, alive in his current setlist, but Doherty’s original 1972 recording has never been heard until now. Finishing out the set is Doherty’s version of Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter’s ballad “Of All the Things.” The song was not released at the time and was only first heard on last year’s The Mamas & The Papas Ultimate Anthology box set, a premium for Public Television.
Denny Doherty would move to Columbia Records for a short stint later in 1972 before going to Paramount Records in 1974. He would record an album (unreleased until 2001) featuring Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot during his tenure there. The single “You’ll Never Know” was released from the sessions and was one of the final recordings to feature Elliot as she died two days after the single’s release. Doherty would move to various arenas over the ensuing decades, including further recordings, the Broadway stage, stints in The New Mamas & The Papas beginning in the 1980s, and several gigs on Canadian television. Doherty passed away in January, 2007 at the age of 66.
Watcha Gonna Do has only ever seen a CD reissue in Japan in 2002. Real Gone’s compilation includes a 20-page booklet and Joe’s liner notes include quotes from collaborators and friends including Eddy Fischer, Bill Szymczyk, Michelle Phillips, and Denny’s children. It has been remastered by Mike Milchner at SonicVision.
If you would like to give this CD a listen, we’ve got the full tracklisting and preorder links below!
- Watcha Gonna Do
- Gathering the Words
- Don’t You Be Fooled
- Got a Feelin’
- Tuesday Morning
- Still Can’t Hear the Music
- Hey Good Lookin’
- The Drummer’s Song
- Here Comes the Sun/The Two of Us
- Shadows on My Wall
- To Claudia on Thursday
- Sail the Waterway
- Shadow Sounds
- Giles of the River
- Of All the Things
Tracks 1-10 from Watcha Gonna Do, ABC/Dunhill LP DS 50096, 1971
Tracks 11, 13-15 previously unreleased
Track 12 from ABC single 11318, 1971
Track 16 originally unissued, from Ultimate Anthology, TJL/Universal CD B0024954-02, 2016