What I remember most about Jerry Doucette's Mama Let Him Play is the cover. I used to wander into the record store and there was a poster of this album: A fabulous white Gibson SG double neck and a boy of about 2 sitting beside it. On the wall is a picture of a grown man, Jerry Doucette, in a frightening disco, suit playing the same guitar. Ten years later I had this poster on my wall and it stayed there a long time.
Interestingly, I never bought the album. Not then, not later when it hit the dollar bins. To this day I don't know why and in the late 80's I paid a King's ransom to finally get a copy. This is an album that has had a hold of me for a long time, much longer than I have had a hold of it, and it all starts with that one song, that anthem: Mama Let Him Play. Want a quick and fast opinion: This is the greatest flat out, straight ahead rock and roll song to ever come out of Canada! Ever!! Some will reasonably argue Takin' Care of Business, others maybe Innocence or American Women, others still My Heart Will Go On but I'm not budging. There is no greater high volume, high energy song to come out of Canada. This is the only known song in which I cannot drive and listen to simultaneously, at least not at the volume that this song must be played at.
But the rest of the album deserves scrutiny as well. It is, first of all, a product of its times. While Love Me Do may be a good song, it is unquestionably from the early 60's. Mama Let Him Play was released in 1977, and there is no mistaking it. When people think of 70's music, they often think disco. Disc, however, existed in our conscience for only two or three years and great rock and roll surrounded it. Unfortunately for Mama Let Him Play, 1977 was the middle of the disco craze. This makes it an album that is sometimes directionally confused and allows Doucette to get away from his strengths. This means there are moments when it is not up to its potential. All I Wanna Do and Love Is Gonna Find You are almost full blown disco songs that hurt the overall effort. But even the influence in songs like People Say is a drag on the song, and consequently the album.
Yet it is still one of my favourite albums, and at the top on my Top 5 Canadian Albums list. It is actually scary to think how good this album really could be if it was sans disco. The albums second track, Back Off, may be the second best Canadian straight ahead rock song - the great moments in this album are truly that good. People Say, disco bits and all, has a groove that so few artists ever achieve. Take away the disco and this song could be number three. The albums opening track and first single, Down The Road, is an hard edged pop song worthy of Bryan Adams (if only Adams was half the guitar player). What's Your Excuse and Keep On Running also deserve honourable mention. This is the way electric guitar was meant to be played, and it's songs like this that put the rock in rock and roll.
Overall, this is a great album that I would heartily endorse to anyone who likes 70's rock. This is as good as it can be, despite it's weak moments.