The Cowsills' "Christmastime (Song for Marissa)"
It was SantaCon Saturday (Dec. 8) and The Cowsills began what has become their annual December appearance at New York’s Cutting Room that night with “Winter Wonderland,” the holiday standard that is featured on their new limited edition mini-album The Dockside Silhouettes--An A Cappella Experience.
They also came out in proper Christmas attire, Paul Cowsill relating that they’d been accidentally locked out of their dressing room and that he was lucky, after they sawed open the door, that the Cutting Room crowd didn’t have to see what he looked like without his Christmas sweater.
“I hope to find that out next year!” chortled Susan Cowsill, cute as ever in her Santa hat. There were other Christmas songs, including “Let It Snow”—for which The Cowsills broke tradition and asked for an audience singalong—and Bob Cowsill’s “Christmastime (Song For Marissa).” And after following “Winter Wonderland,” the surviving trio (down from seven members at their 1960s height), were spot-on with their first hit “The Rain, The Park & Other Things,” spacing out the rest (“We only had four of them!” Bob said—meaning big hits, as they had plenty more) throughout a most fun-filled and musically satisfying evening.
Among the highlights were four songs showing that the Cowsills remain among the best harmony vocalists in the business: The Beatles’ “This Boy,” The Hollies’ “Bus Stop,” Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Helplessly Helping” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.” An extended section of just the siblings (minus a backing band including Paul’s son Brendon on guitar, Bob’s son Ryan on keyboards and Susan’s husband Russ on drums) focused on folk music (songs like “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “If I Had a Hammer” and the traditional blues/gospel “Samson and Delilah”); it also gave Susan a spotlight--with her friend Emily Moulton adding violin--on a highlight from her solo career, “Nanny’s Song,” a poignant tune about her dying grandmother.
Susan also made note of watching musical movies like Camelot and Paint Your Wagon, then delivered a breathtaking “To Sir With Love.” As for the three other big Cowsills’ hits, they did “Indian Lake” and “We Can Fly”--as well as lesser ones like their TV theme hit “Love American Style”--and while the singing was as good as it gets, the in-between talk was also wonderful, especially an impromptu Q&A following an audience request for their biggest hit, “Hair.”
“No, we don’t do that one,” Susan responded, without batting an eye. Deadpanned Bob, “We’d rather do something we wrote last night!”
But after Paul took a rare lead on the Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” Susan relented.
“Because the lady who asked was so sweet, we’re going to make an exception,” she said, and sure enough, The Cowsills, as always, closed with “Hair.”
Earlier, however, Bob underscored the fact that The Cowsills are more than just the perfect oldies act.
“For some reason, we think we’re relevant!” he said, then announced that the threesome is well into production of a new successfully crowdfunded studio album. “For those who need to go to the bathroom, we’re going to sing a song from it!”
As The Cowsills have become an integral part of the last few Turtles’ Happy Together Tour summer shows, the new song derived from Turtles’ lead singer Howard Kaylan’s admonition to the audience, “You gotta get up!” It should be noted that when The Cowsills performed it at the Cutting Room, no one got up to go to the bathroom.