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The Best of Cass Elliot

Before she was in the Mamas & the Papas — and even before she was in her pre-Mamas group the Mugwumps — Elliot was one-third of a folk ensemble called the Big Three with Tim Rose and Jim Hendricks. Her personality shone when she sang lead on this saucy blues classic, first made famous by Ida Cox. I love hearing her dig into her voice’s grit here, flexing a muscle she usually wasn’t able to in the Mamas & the Papas.

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John Phillips wrote this vampy, almost carnivalesque tune — a hit off the group’s 1966 self-titled album — about his tumultuous relationship with his wife at the time, Michelle. But knowing it was squarely in Elliot’s wheelhouse, he wisely enlisted her to sing lead.

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From Elliot’s second solo album, “Bubblegum, Lemonade, and … Something for Mama,” this luminous ray of sunshine pop was written by the legendary songwriting duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill.

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Elliot’s rendition of this Barbara Lewis ballad is at once brassy and coy, leaning into the slight absurdity of the lyrics — “and I’ll be yours until 2 and 2 is 3” — while maintaining an earnest sense of devotion. It’s a sonic Valentine.

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Elliot’s collaborative album with the former Traffic musician Dave Mason, simply titled “Dave Mason & Cass Elliot,” is an underrated entry in her discography. Though Elliot’s contribution is mostly limited to backing vocals, it’s a testament to the power of her voice that Mason saw fit to give her co-billing. Although Elliot did not write most of the material that made her famous, this album features two of her only songwriting credits: the lilting, melancholic “Here We Go Again,” on which she sings lead, and this gentle rocker, which she co-wrote with Mason.

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Though it was written and later recorded by Leonard Cohen, this song was actually first released by Elliot, when it appeared on her 1968 debut solo album, “Dream a Little Dream.” (Cohen’s stark and comparatively monotone interpretation appeared on his 1969 LP, “Songs From a Room.”) Featuring one of the most soulful vocals Elliot ever put to tape, the track is an amalgam of jazz, folk and gospel — more proof that Elliot could flourish in just about any genre imaginable.

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