It was family night at the Post Pavilion in Columbia yesterday, at least for a few families. The weather had cleared, and a sparse crowd, liberally sprinkled with mothers and just a few fathers, was on hand to hear the Cowsills, themselves a family consisting of mother, five boys and one girl. The most interesting aspect of the program was the familiar aspect of the group and the best was the fact that they put on a complete show, so that those in attendance at the highly priced concert received more or less their money’s worth.
The Cowsills are hard-rock on instruments, and soft-rock on the vocals. Neither aspect of their music is particularly good, nor are they particularly bad. In fact, except for the cuteness of youth, the godliness of family, and the happenstances of fortune through perhaps some good promotion (the father is general manager), there is nothing to distinguish the Cowsills as a contemporary pop-rock ensemble.
Some of their selections were the compositions of the two oldest boys, aged 19 and 20. At least half, though, were recent hits introduced by other singers, with a couple of standards like “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” and “Rockaby Your Baby” thrown in. There was even a leftover from the folksong revival, and the way Mrs. Cowsill crooned “the Cruel War is A-Raging” made one wish it were back in some more authentic hands.
The singing of the Cowsill rarely achieved more than routine patterns of harmony and rhythm, and it could rarely be heard clearly over the steady din of the electronic guitars and drum. An occasional break in the instrumentation revealed a tense blend of voices, and faltering attempts at branching out from those patterns.
The audience was fairly calm throughout the program, responding warmly enough to the basically warm music of the Cowsill. On the way out during the final number, I noticed that one young fellow, in his car guarding a gate within ample earshot of the sound, had nevertheless, tuned his car radio to a local top-40 program. The less might be that groups like the Cowsills are best heard on an occasional air-play surrounded by the contrasting sounds of today’s most popular songs.