A band in search of a label, the Cowsills are one of countless in this, the rock ‘n’ roll capital of the world. But there are more than a few industry pundits out there who think they’re the best unsigned band in L.A. And judging from the capacity crowd, you’d think this gregarious quintet of power popsters, already had a slew of records under its belt, if not a considerable cult following.
Which is not far off the mark. For those who grew up watching “The Partridge Family” in the early ‘70s, the Cowsills were the Partridges’ real-life prototypes, and they basked in pop popularity at the height of the flower power movement.
Nowadays the Cowsills’ sound is just as infectious as ever. Their storied past aside, these Angelenos come across as your good, old-fashioned, party-band types, the kind who play tight, melodic rock and engage in plenty of snappy patter between songs. If you've got a request, chances are they have the song up their sleeve. If you’re into oldies these baby boomers boast a couple of surprise gems you thought you’d never hear again, such as “The Rain, the Park & Other Things” (with the refrain, “I love the flower girl”) and "Hair," about as archetypally '60s as you can get.
While the Cowsills perform their own material, the group’s influences seem, on the one hand, quite evident (the Plimsouls, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), and, on the other hand, so varied that the shadings are very' subtle. Its primary strength is that the band’s familial ties are evident in its tightly knit sound, as if music was in its genes.
Instrumentally, there’s not a weak link in the chain: Bob and Susan C. on guitars form two-thirds of the front line, with keyboardist Paul C. rounding out the three-part vocal harmonies, an especially delightful element of this band. John C. on drums packs the dynamic punch that fuels this guitar-driven unit, while non-sibling Robby Scharf supplies savvy bass.
If there's any complaint, it's the fact that the Cowsills are too polished, that their well-crafted, mostly 3'/2-minute pop-rock configurations could be a little rougher around the edges, a little darker maybe, or just a little riskier. But when you’re one step away from a comeback, it’s hard not to think of tripping yourself up — a highly unlikely scenario for these deserving pop veterans.