For some time George Wein had a natural attraction for his festivals in the collective person of the Cowsills, as native of Newport as the Breakers or the Clam Shack.
But as fate usually decrees, they went the prophet-without-honor route, took the Jamestown Ferry out of town to take up ultimate residence and show business renown in New York.
The Cowsills spun off a fast chart-topper, with their first M.G.M. single of “The Rain, the Park and Other Things,” caused the great one, Ed Sullivan, to smile upon them, not once but many times. Their Christmas appearance on Sullivan’s soiree was crystal-pure for its ingratiating warmth and charm.
In their third album, “Captain San and his Ship of Fools,” the family illustrates its musical growth in just a year’s time. Eschewing the stream-of-unconsciousness verse produced by hard or acid rockers, the Cowsills take the listener along on a disjointed flight of song.
In fact, a slice of the verse of “Who Can Teach A Songbird to Sing?” is liberally buttered with reminiscences of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” You know the part that carries the lines “Picture yourself in a station, with plasticine porters with looking glass ties.”
The opener, “Captain Sad,” also has the carnival saltiness of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Barbara and Bud Cowsill shrewdly avoid sibling clashes within the family circle by spotting various offspring as soloists on the tracks.
The Choral sound of the Cowsills, with the issuance of this latest product, exhibits a honed precision which can only confirm that the group has done its homework faithfully. The weave in counterpoint with the acumen of the Mamas and Papas. The churchiness, at its commercial best, rivals the Association although they are not totally indifferent to the urgency of rock here and there.
And fun is never more than a chorus away as in the “Fantasy World of Harry Faversham,” an unidentified throaty caricature.
Other selections include “Make the Music Flow,” “Indian Lake,” “ The Bridge,” “The Path of Love,” “Newspaper Blanket,” “Painting The Day,” “Meet Me at the Wishing Well” and “Can’t Measure the Cost of a Woman Lost.”
Tony Romeo’s arrangements for the Cowsills, in addition to two contributions, form a weighty factor in any success forthcoming to this album.
You’ll have to concede the Cowsills are the biggest item in Newport since Operation Clapboard.