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Preview: Providence Phoenix - Music

Providence Phoenix - Music





 



Barry Cowsill, 1954-2005

January 13 - 19, 2006

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Barry Cowsill, 1954-2005
Plus, the Entrance, and a new name for Planet Groove

We wanted to bid a formal adieu to Rhode Island legend Barry Cowsill, whose death was reported last week. He and I had spoken last summer about doing a story on what he was up to, but weren’t able to hook up. Certainly, we would not talk about the Cowsills, his child star-making vehicle. He had little interest in rehashing all that. His new stuff, as reported by Jim Gillis at the Newport Daily News, was really stellar and certainly worthy of attention.

"In 2004," Gillis writes, "Cowsill recorded several tracks, with Mike Warner on drums and Frank Dwyer producing, at Dwyer’s SoundScape studio in Newport. Cowsill played keyboards, guitar and bass and sang all vocals. Some of the tracks are re-recorded versions of songs on his 2001 CD As Is and others are new.

"The songs, such as ‘River of Love’ and ‘My Car Don’t Lock,’ are largely power pop with strong melodic hooks and crunching guitar chords. ‘Kid’ has a ragtime piano flavor, with Cowsill employing a fake trumpet effect with his




Toon tunes

January 13 - 19, 2006

(image)
Toon tunes
The reality behind the virtual Puffy AmiYumi

"It’s like Christmas in August," gushed Sam Register, vice-president of development at the Cartoon Network, as he described over the phone last summer the large box packed with Mattel toys that had just been delivered to his LA office. Inside were dolls, action figures, and playsets — a whole new product line — based on Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, the network’s animated show inspired by the real-life Japanese pop sensation Puffy AmiYumi. And Register wasn’t kidding about Christmas: the toys hit shelves just in time for the Christmas buying rush as the show went into heavy rotation, moving from two to five nights a week and positioning itself as the network’s most popular show outside of the Adult Swim block.

The series — a cross between Powerpuff Girls and Josie and the Pussycats — is imbued with the playful spirit of The Monkees or The Partridge Family. It follows the antics of peppy, poppy, pink-haired Ami, prickly, punky, purple-haired Yumi, and their semi-bumbling mana




Live, long, and uncut

January 13 - 19, 2006

(image)
Live, long, and uncut
Columbia opens Miles Davis’s Cellar Door

The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 is the eighth posthumously released Miles Davis boxed set delivered from the Columbia vaults since the "Miles Davis Series" program began in 1996, and that’s not counting re-releases and special editions of single discs. The best of the boxes have been repackagings (with extras) of classic multi-album dates: the Gil Evans albums, the Coltrane sessions, the "second classic quintet" recordings (with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams). The results have been less satisfying with the expanded, multi-CD boxes of what were originally single-album projects: The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, The Complete In a Silent Way Sessions, The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions. If these sets suffer by comparison, it’s because the albums that were drawn from them, the compositions that made them famous, were created in the editing room. They don’t exist in nature.

This may sound odd in the post-hip-hop rock-and-roll era, where it’s taken




Orange crush

January 6 - 12, 2005

(image)
Orange crush
The fury and serenity of Verbana Darvell

It all started a few years back when Brad Cottman and Blaine Wilkinson were in a band called Life This Week, an indie punk act with lots of chutzpah and good intentions. The band was around for a few years, toured quite a bit regionally, and laid down a debut disc, Has the World Gone Crazy?, before deciding on going separate ways. Wilkinson and Cottman then teamed up with guitarist Kevin Gougen on a more acoustic-based project, inspired by friendlier influences like the Beatles and Tom Petty. In time, their melodic pop turned electric once again, alternating between acoustic groove and electric punch. They recorded their first two songs with Mike Viele at Groundswell in Wakefield.

"We e-mailed those two songs to Andy Jackson," says Cottman. "He was the front man for Hot Rod Circuit, who loved them and he said he wanted to work with the band." To prepare for the sessions, they recruited a motley variety of bass players with mixed results and little stability. (Insert bass player joke here.)




Solitary man?

January 6 - 12, 2006

(image)
Solitary man?
Getting to the heart of Neil Diamond

It’s easy to forget just how hard it’s been to pin down Neil Diamond over the years. If Rick Rubin is to be believed, it took close to a decade just to get Diamond to agree to collaborate on the American Recordings–style project that finally bore fruit with 12 Songs (American/Columbia) debuting at the four spot on the Billboard chart back in November. But Diamond was an elusive figure in the pop world long before Rubin came along. He’s known as a songwriter’s songwriter, a product of the Brill Building who was on hand for the birth of rock and roll. But unlike his Brill Building peers — even the ones who went on to become performers, like Carole King — Diamond’s also known as a performer’s performer, a glitzy pop star in glass-bead-studded, half-open shirts capable of breaking attendance records at arenas around the world. And, like so many of his singles, with their classic A-sides and forgettable, even embarrassing B-sides ("Red, Red Wine" backed by "Red Rubber Ball"), the contradict




Going underground

December 30, 2005 - January 5, 2006

(image)
Going underground
The Subways lead a pack of up-and-comers into 2006

With bad news about 2005 sales figures flooding the accounting departments at the major labels in a year that’s ended on a flat note in record stores, it’s easy to overlook just how well indie labels have been doing. From little ol’ Merge down in Chapel Hill, where big little bands like the Arcade Fire were joined by profitable reissues of Dinosaur Jr.’s first three albums, all the way out to Nebraska’s Saddle Creek, home to Conor Oberst’s ever-changing Bright Eyes, to the tiny imprints like Secretly Canadian (which scored a big hit with Antony and the Johnsons’ Mercury Prize–winning I Am a Bird Now) and Asthmatic Kitty (Sufjan Stevens, anyone?), the little guys have been reaching heights unheard of since Matador and Sub Pop were at the top of their game. The emergence of this new pop underground is clearly linked to the Fox teen drama The OC — or rather to the ongoing series of popular compilations tied to the show, even as they’ve stood alone as promotional tools for the likes of Death Cab




Closing time

December 30, 2005 - January 5, 2006

(image)
Closing time
Jarrod’s Place is the latest casualty in clubland

If, as the song goes, the girls really do look better at closing time, well, there must be a lotta beautiful women walkin’ the region these days. But it sure isn’t because we’re bleary-eyed and blotto at 1 am. It’s because there are lots of bars in and around our state that are closing down for good. Period. Kaput. "Closing time," indeed. In a rare confluence of miserable events, and in a sad indictment of nightlife in these parts, at least a half-dozen live music venues have decided to shutter for one reason or another. If you care about this kind of stuff, you already know the list, so it doesn’t bear repeating. But unofficially, I’m thinking it’s gotta be some kind of record. The latest joint is Jarrod’s Place, aka Jarrod’s Live Rock Venue. The Attleboro, Massachusetts hall will be closing its doors on Friday after one last massive hurrah. Sad but true, especially considering the folks there were in the middle of some wholesale improvements when they had to stop in their tracks. To help explain w




Third impressions

January 6 - 12, 2006

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Third impressions
Do the Strokes have anything left to say?

"With new bands I always listen to the third album," says the Kinks’ Ray Davies in the January issue of Mojo, regarding his curiosity about how Franz Ferdinand will follow up their sophomore effort. "That’s the real key to know what’s going to happen." Generally speaking, Davies is right. Assuming we’re talking about a band that had some sort of success with their first two albums, the third may signal a desire to stick with what works or the inability to grow artistically. Other times, it marks a departure or an attempt at maturation — think the Clash’s London Calling or Radiohead’s OK Computer. Neither scenario is necessarily negative or positive, but, as Davies points out, you often can get a good idea of where a band are headed by listening to their junior-year joint.

So what’s up with the third effort from the Strokes? Well, before we get to that, here’s a quick refresher course: for the most part, the songs on their 2001 debut, Is This It (RCA), were brilliantly stra




Toon tunes

January 13 - 19, 2006

(image)
Toon tunes
The reality behind the virtual Puffy AmiYumi

"It’s like Christmas in August," gushed Sam Register, vice-president of development at the Cartoon Network, as he described over the phone last summer the large box packed with Mattel toys that had just been delivered to his LA office. Inside were dolls, action figures, and playsets — a whole new product line — based on Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, the network’s animated show inspired by the real-life Japanese pop sensation Puffy AmiYumi. And Register wasn’t kidding about Christmas: the toys hit shelves just in time for the Christmas buying rush as the show went into heavy rotation, moving from two to five nights a week and positioning itself as the network’s most popular show outside of the Adult Swim block.

The series — a cross between Powerpuff Girls and Josie and the Pussycats — is imbued with the playful spirit of The Monkees or The Partridge Family. It follows the antics of peppy, poppy, pink-haired Ami, prickly, punky, purple-haired Yumi, and their semi-bumbling mana




Live, long, and uncut

January 13 - 19, 2006

(image)
Live, long, and uncut
Columbia opens Miles Davis’s Cellar Door

The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 is the eighth posthumously released Miles Davis boxed set delivered from the Columbia vaults since the "Miles Davis Series" program began in 1996, and that’s not counting re-releases and special editions of single discs. The best of the boxes have been repackagings (with extras) of classic multi-album dates: the Gil Evans albums, the Coltrane sessions, the "second classic quintet" recordings (with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams). The results have been less satisfying with the expanded, multi-CD boxes of what were originally single-album projects: The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, The Complete In a Silent Way Sessions, The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions. If these sets suffer by comparison, it’s because the albums that were drawn from them, the compositions that made them famous, were created in the editing room. They don’t exist in nature.

This may sound odd in the post-hip-hop rock-and-roll era, where it’s taken




Orange crush

January 6 - 12, 2005

(image)
Orange crush
The fury and serenity of Verbana Darvell

It all started a few years back when Brad Cottman and Blaine Wilkinson were in a band called Life This Week, an indie punk act with lots of chutzpah and good intentions. The band was around for a few years, toured quite a bit regionally, and laid down a debut disc, Has the World Gone Crazy?, before deciding on going separate ways. Wilkinson and Cottman then teamed up with guitarist Kevin Gougen on a more acoustic-based project, inspired by friendlier influences like the Beatles and Tom Petty. In time, their melodic pop turned electric once again, alternating between acoustic groove and electric punch. They recorded their first two songs with Mike Viele at Groundswell in Wakefield.

"We e-mailed those two songs to Andy Jackson," says Cottman. "He was the front man for Hot Rod Circuit, who loved them and he said he wanted to work with the band." To prepare for the sessions, they recruited a motley variety of bass players with mixed results and little stability. (Insert bass player joke here.)




Solitary man?

January 6 - 12, 2006

(image)
Solitary man?
Getting to the heart of Neil Diamond

It’s easy to forget just how hard it’s been to pin down Neil Diamond over the years. If Rick Rubin is to be believed, it took close to a decade just to get Diamond to agree to collaborate on the American Recordings–style project that finally bore fruit with 12 Songs (American/Columbia) debuting at the four spot on the Billboard chart back in November. But Diamond was an elusive figure in the pop world long before Rubin came along. He’s known as a songwriter’s songwriter, a product of the Brill Building who was on hand for the birth of rock and roll. But unlike his Brill Building peers — even the ones who went on to become performers, like Carole King — Diamond’s also known as a performer’s performer, a glitzy pop star in glass-bead-studded, half-open shirts capable of breaking attendance records at arenas around the world. And, like so many of his singles, with their classic A-sides and forgettable, even embarrassing B-sides ("Red, Red Wine" backed by "Red Rubber Ball"), the contradict




Going underground

December 30, 2005 - January 5, 2006

(image)
Going underground
The Subways lead a pack of up-and-comers into 2006

With bad news about 2005 sales figures flooding the accounting departments at the major labels in a year that’s ended on a flat note in record stores, it’s easy to overlook just how well indie labels have been doing. From little ol’ Merge down in Chapel Hill, where big little bands like the Arcade Fire were joined by profitable reissues of Dinosaur Jr.’s first three albums, all the way out to Nebraska’s Saddle Creek, home to Conor Oberst’s ever-changing Bright Eyes, to the tiny imprints like Secretly Canadian (which scored a big hit with Antony and the Johnsons’ Mercury Prize–winning I Am a Bird Now) and Asthmatic Kitty (Sufjan Stevens, anyone?), the little guys have been reaching heights unheard of since Matador and Sub Pop were at the top of their game. The emergence of this new pop underground is clearly linked to the Fox teen drama The OC — or rather to the ongoing series of popular compilations tied to the show, even as they’ve stood alone as promotional tools for the likes of Death Cab




Closing time

December 30, 2005 - January 5, 2006

(image)
Closing time
Jarrod’s Place is the latest casualty in clubland

If, as the song goes, the girls really do look better at closing time, well, there must be a lotta beautiful women walkin’ the region these days. But it sure isn’t because we’re bleary-eyed and blotto at 1 am. It’s because there are lots of bars in and around our state that are closing down for good. Period. Kaput. "Closing time," indeed. In a rare confluence of miserable events, and in a sad indictment of nightlife in these parts, at least a half-dozen live music venues have decided to shutter for one reason or another. If you care about this kind of stuff, you already know the list, so it doesn’t bear repeating. But unofficially, I’m thinking it’s gotta be some kind of record. The latest joint is Jarrod’s Place, aka Jarrod’s Live Rock Venue. The Attleboro, Massachusetts hall will be closing its doors on Friday after one last massive hurrah. Sad but true, especially considering the folks there were in the middle of some wholesale improvements when they had to stop in their tracks. To help explain w




Blues schooled

January 13 - 19, 2006

(image)
Blues schooled
Elvin Bishop gets his groove back

Elvin Bishop is best known for his 1976 hit "Fooled Around and Fell in Love," a sweetly romantic song with a slide-guitar hook that replaced "Stairway to Heaven" as the closing number at your parents’ high-school dances — or maybe your own. He recorded four more albums with his Elvin Bishop Group after that, but as the ’80s began, he became a footnote in pop history.

That’s okay with Bishop (who plays Scullers January 18), because by then he was already a legend in the blues world as a charter member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. When he says, "We introduced blues to the white public at large," he isn’t exaggerating. The Butterfield band’s first three albums, including the raga-inspired psychedelic touchstone East-West (Elektra), fueled the passions of a young audience by making the sound of Chicago part of their own musical vocabulary. And the group’s 1965 debut fired the imaginations of Eric Clapton and a host of other white musicians who were just beginning to find their way in a styl




Comic belief

January 13 - 19, 2006

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Comic belief
Eugene Mirman’s DIY stand-up scene

Each week in a Lower Manhattan space called both Rififi and Cinema Classics — a combination bar, video store, and comedy club — comedians Eugene Mirman and Bobby Tisdale host "Invite Them Up." It’s a kind of Little Rascals talent show for emerging comics and musicians, not much different from what happens at Cambridge’s Comedy Studio, one of the local rooms where Mirman honed his skills before relocating to New York City.

The shows have a no-frills, homespun feel that’s captured on the new live three-CD-plus-DVD set Invite Them Up (Comedy Central), which was recorded and filmed over three nights in May 2005. Like the Comedy Studio, the Rififi nights are a kind of safe harbor where regular audiences come expecting anything and the performers have the right to bomb without their careers, fledgling or otherwise, blowing up.

The package features 23 comics and three musicians, and as you’d imagine, there’s a lot of dross — enough to exclude at least one entire CD from the set. But the idea he