News & Reviews

December 1998 Cosmik Debris

THE COWSILLS
Global (Robin Records)
Reviewed by Bill Holmes

First of all, stop laughing. If you pass up the first new Cowsills record in thirty years, it's YOUR loss. Yes, we're talking about John and Susan and Paul and Bob Cowsill, whose hits like "The Rain The Park And Other Things" and "Hair" topped the charts in the late sixties. A true family act (did The Partridge Family ever fess up and pay props?), The Cowsills featured great sibling harmony driving sunny pop songs with just a touch of psychedelia, not an unusual combination considering the era. In the nineties those same strong harmonies are now framed by solid pop melodies and ringing guitar tones. Wisely, their material and arrangements mine their maturity instead of trying to recapture the past, and the result is a solid effort that will rank among the years best pop releases.

Bob Cowsill wrote all the songs (some co-written with wife Mary Jo) and along with sister Susan handles most of the lead vocals. Brother John sings lead on the first track "What About Love" which, except for the chorus, is very reminiscent of Daltrey fronting the early Who (speaking of sixties pop bands!). Bob's slightly raspy voice is dead-on for the rest of the songs - all Byrdsian 12-string guitars and mid-tempo rock hung on great hooks (and in the case of "You've Got No Time", TWO great hooks!). The rhythm section of drummer John and bassist Robby Scharf is solid throughout.

The band members' association with REM and Dwight Twilley isn't lost here - if you like the feel of those artists you'll find a plateful of good eating here. "What I Believe" has that great Records/Searchers buzz while "I Be Low" mines the best of Fleetwood Mac era Lindsey Buckingham. Along with the jangly pop, though, you'll find the Neil Young like leads by Bob and some great guest work by The Knack's Burton Averre snaking low in the mix. And special mention must  be made about Susan Cowsill, a great vocalist who only makes everything she touches a notch better. You've no doubt heard her work with many other bands like The Continental Drifters and the aforementioned Twilley; she also stole the show away from everyone else on Jules Shear's duets album Between Us. Her leads on Global's "Far Away" and "Cross That Line" are outstanding. I'll say it again - Susan Cowsill might just be the most underrated vocalist on the scene.

Perhaps the record's most poignant moment is the closing piece "Some Good Years", a beautiful piece juxtaposing past accomplishments with a hopeful eye to the future. My sentiments exactly! We need more music like this. Rumor has it that some record companies loved the record but backed off when they found out who the band was (ironically, the same rumor exists about the latest Dwight Twilley record). That doesn't mean YOU have to be stupid, too! Go get this record right now! Global can be found at independent record stores or through the Robin Records web page  (www.robinrecords.com).

1998 Bill Holmes and Cosmik Debris

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