The Cowsills – Rhythm of the World (review)

The Cowsills – Rhythm of the World (Omnivore Recordings)

First new album in 30 years from the original “Family Band”

Long before the Jacksons and Osmonds, the Cowsills were the original musical family.  Hailing from Rhode Island, the band of six siblings and their mother, hit the charts in the late Sixties with songs like “The Rain, the Park and Other Things,” “We Can Fly,” and “Hair.”  They were even the inspiration for the hit TV show, The Partridge Family.  After a long hiatus, the band is back with an excellent new album called Rhythm of the World.

Their signature, spine-chilling, familial harmonies were what helped propel their original fame, and thankfully, it’s what makes their new album so good.  In fact, there are times when harmonies seem to be coming from every direction – left, right, center; enveloping you in those warm, human voices.  

The group’s sharp rise and fall from grace was chronicled in the 2011 documentary, Family Band, which is readily available on streaming.  Despite so much adversity over the years, you might be surprised at how positive most of the songs here are. 

The trio of Bob, Paul and Susan Cowsill remain from the original seven (brother John plays drums for the Beach Boys).  However, furthering the family affair are Bob’s son, Ryan, on keyboards, and Paul’s son, Brendon, on guitar.  Susan’s husband, Russ Broussard, handles the drums, and Mary Lasseigne, also from Susan’s band, plays bass.  

The record opens with “Ya Gotta Get Up,” a phrase that Howard Kaylan of the Turtles (a frequent touring partner of the Cowsills) would often yell to the audience.  The song itself is plea to keep going, something all of us can understand in this post-pandemic world.  The track is mostly sung by Paul with a trippy middle section sung by Susan.  

The song that really stands out (and the one that won’t get out of my head) is “Lend a Hand,” a great, jangly slice of sing-a-long, Sixties-styled pop featuring some excellent, sun-kissed harmonies, and a lead vocal by Bob.  It’s a song that somehow manages to be both classic and completely relevant today.

“Hawks on the Hill” has a spaghetti western feel (think Duane Eddy), while “Every Little Secret” reminds me of Byrd Gene Clark’s solo output, and features a faux sitar, and a nod to Fleetwood Mac’s “Little Lies” on the chorus.

Susan takes the lead on “Rhythm of the World,” which slowly builds from a 12-string electric strumming.  The lyrics admit, “we’re having way too fun to slow down,” but serves as a warning, “please remember there’s this place where we live / it can’t take too much more / something big’s got to give.”  There’s also a nod to Crowded House with the “hey now, hey now” on the chorus.

“Largo Nights” is a gorgeous, mid-tempo number, while “Goodbye’s Not Forever” recalls Simon and Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound.” “The Long Run” features a shuffle beat on the verses, but then the harmonies come in on the “tell you how I feel” chorus – this harmony stuff is addictive, you just want to hear it over and over.  

The album closes with the heavy “Katrina,” a firsthand account of the destruction that left Susan homeless, and ultimately took the life of brother Barry.  The track opens with strumming reminiscent of Chicago’s “Beginnings.”  The verses swirl around you like a building storm, while the chorus asks “K-k-katrina, what did you do to me, do to everyone”?  The song ends in chaos of voices and guitars – a stunning tribute to a storm that changed the course of so many people’s lives.

Rhythm of the World reminds us that, despite most of us spending a lot of time recently alone, we’re better together.  The Cowsills know this too, and this album proves it.  Give it one listen.  You may find yourself hitting the repeat button, just to hear those great harmonies again, and again.  —Tony Peters

399 – Felix Cavaliere – Book: Memoir of a Rascal. “Good Lovin,” “Mustang Sally,” and More.

They were the first white group signed to Atlantic Records, the Rascals blazed a trail with what became known as “blue-eyed soul,” with legendary hits like “Good Lovin,” “Groovin,” and “How Can I Be Sure,” but also created songs like “People Gotta Be Free,” which are still socially relevant more than 50 years after they were written. 

At the heart of the band was singer and organist Felix Cavaliere, who has just written a book – Memoir of a Rascal: From Pelham, NY to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. He tells us the stories behind many of his biggest hits, how the band got signed to Atlantic Records, and how the Rascals found “Mustang Sally” before Wilson Pickett.

398 – Jocko of Sha Na Na – New DVD, Sha Na Na’s Woodstock: 20 Years After

At the very peak of the Hippie movement, here comes Sha Na Na to remind everyone that “Rock n’ Roll is Here to Stay.” They were the second to last performers at Woodstock, opening for their friend (and fan of the band) Jimi Hendrix.

After that prime slot, the band went on to high-profile gigs at the Fillmore, best-selling albums, and even a hit TV show in the mid-Seventies. Sha Na Na ushered in a rock revival that continued with the films American Graffiti, Grease (which they were featured in), and the long-running TV show Happy Days.

20 years after their Woodstock performance, Sha Na Na, along with other performers of the original festival, gathered in California for a reunion concert. For the first time, that historic event has been put on DVD as Sha Na Na’s Woodstock: 20 Years After from Liberation Hall. It’s also available on CD and download.

We talk with founding member, drummer & vocalist, Jocko, from the the band. He walks us through the crazy path Sha Na Na took from college vocal group to the Woodstock stage in just a few short months. He also gives his memories of that crazy festival, and the reunion concert that followed.

397 – Nicki Bluhm – New Album, Avondale Drive, features AJ Croce, Oliver Wood, & More.

Nicki Bluhm hails from Lafayette, California. The singer/songwriter released her first album in 2008. She also was a a part of Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers. Her latest project, Avondale Drive, deals a lot with making a fresh start in life – after a divorce and a relocation to Nashville, Bluhm is ready to make music on her own terms.

The new album was produced by Jesse Noah Wilson and features guest appearances from folks like AJ Croce, Oliver Wood, Eric Slick and Jay Bellerose. After listening to her previous work, we think it’s her strongest album to date.

Note: the chirping you hear throughout the interview is a baby duck that decided to make friends while Bluhm was talking!

396 – Sass Jordan – New Album, Bitches Blues

Sass Jordan hit pay dirt in the early 90’s with rock radio hit albums like Racine and Rats, and songs like “Make You a Believer” and “You Don’t Have to Remind Me.” But, she also garnered a Juno award in 1989, and even portrayed Janis Joplin in an off-Broadway musical.

While Covid was raging, Sass issued her first all-blues album called Rebel Moon Blues to critical acclaim. Now, she’s put together another collection, some originals, some covers, called Bitches Blues from Stony Plain Records.

We chat with Sass about playing live in a post-Covid world – how both musicians and the audience both need to relearn how to have fun. Plus, how she dug back to her childhood to pick some of the songs on her new record.

Evil Woman: The American ELO – Fraze Pavilion – 7/14/22

Evil Woman – The American ELO (review)

Face it, there’s going to be a time in the not-so-distant future when all the musicians who sang our favorite songs are gone.  That’s what makes good tribute bands important.

After seeing Evil Woman – The American ELO at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering, I give them an A+

They’re hands down one of the best tribute bands I’ve ever seen.

The original Electric Light Orchestra last toured America in 1978, so lots of people (including yours truly) missed out on seeing their favorite band in concert.  But, the music of Jeff Lynne & company is about as sophisticated as popular music ever got, so pulling this off live is no easy task.

Enter Nigel Holland.  He created this project, and wow.

First of all, it wouldn’t be ELO without the ORCHESTRA, and they had a four-piece string section that was fabulous.  Holland was one of two keyboardists, who were joined by two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, and an operatic, energetic backup singer.  For those keeping score, that’s eleven musicians so far.  

But wait, what about Jeff Lynne?  Well, they got a guy that looks and sounds like him too (oh, and he plays guitar).

Total: TWELVE musicians

If that’s what it takes to pull this music off live, well then..rock on!

They opened with “Tight Rope,” an album cut off of A New World Record, before launching into a bulletproof set of ELO standards.  “Do Ya,” and “Hold On Tight” both sounded big and rocked plenty, while ballads like “Strange Magic” were done with care.  “Jungle,” off of the Out of the Blue album was the other “deep cut.”

All along the way, they nailed it.  The twin lead guitars on “Showdown,” the big drum sound on “Don’t Bring Me Down,” the operatic voice on “Rockaria!”  Oh, and let’s not forget the Vocoder – yes, we heard it on “Mr. Blue Sky,” but also on “All Over the World” and “Confusion.”

The solos, the vocals, the strings – everything was faithful to the original recording.  

I was fortunate enough to see Jeff Lynne’s ELO back in 2018, and while watching the guy that actually sang and created the songs was fabulous, I have to say Evil Woman: The American ELO is better.  Lynne’s stage show and lights were breathtaking, but Evil Woman had an attention to detail that even the meticulous Lynne couldn’t match.  

We are going to want to sing the music of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s for generations to come.  The bands that can faithfully pull off the classic sounds stand in a class by themselves.

Evil Woman: The American ELO is one such band.

I’m a very picky music fan – and I was thoroughly impressed.

—Tony Peters

395 – Killer Queen – Paying Tribute to the Music of Freddie Mercury and Queen

They were the first Queen tribute band: Killer Queen was formed in 1993, just a year after Freddie Mercury’s passing, and they’ve been celebrating the legacy of Queen ever since.

We chat with frontman Patrick Myers about what got him to form the band in the first place, plus admiring Freddie’s moves, and how timeless Queen’s music really is. Amazingly, Killer Queen has managed to play some of the very same places that Queen did back in the day.

Killer Queen is making a stop at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Wednesday, June 29th.

394 – Seth Walker – New Album, I Hope I Know

Seth Walker has been issuing music for almost a quarter century. His albums have charted on the blues, Americana and folk charts, showing his diversity as an artist. His latest release, I Hope I Know, is his 11th album, once again produced by longtime collaborator, Jano Rix.

We discuss why he chose to relocate from Nashville to Asheville, NC, how an end to a relationship mixed with the worldwide pandemic caused him to look inward, and his excitement of playing overseas.

393 – May Erlewine – New Album, Tiny Beautiful Things

Michigan born singer/songwriter May Erlewine has been putting out her own music for almost 20 years. She’s also issued albums with the Sweet Water Warblers.

Her music has been covered by many artists, including Sawyer Fredericks, who performed her song, “Shine On,” on NBC’s The Voice.

Her brand new album, Tiny Beautiful Things, deals a lot with the connections between people – something sorely missing during the worldwide pandemic. In her own words, she says “this album is an invitation to connect with the many ways that love appears in our lives.”

We chat with Erlewine about the challenges around having to record the new album remotely. She also reveals the inspiration behind many of the songs on the new record.

392 – Robin McAuley of Black Swan – Second Album, Generation Mind

Black Swan, a hard rock supergroup featuring Robin McAuley of MSG, Jeff Pilson of Dokken, Reb Beach of Winger and Matt Starr of Mr. Big.

The band issued their debut album in 2020 called Shake the World to critical acclaim. Now they’re back with their sophomore release, Generation Mind, once again recorded at Pilson’s home studio in L.A.

McAuley talks about how Jeff Wayne’s musical of War of the Worlds inspired one song, while Jack the Ripper inspired another. He also discusses the difficulty of getting all four (busy) members together to make music.

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