Documentary Film: Family Band: The Cowsills Story

The tale of the 1960s hitmakers behind “The Rain, The Park & Other Things” and “Hair” who inspired the TV series “The Partridge Family” follows what by now is almost a pop music career cliche: Rise to fame and then a fall that includes the inevitable break-up, financial rip-offs and personal excesses and suffering. But something more is at work in this story, told in a brutally frank yet nonetheless highly sensitive way. One observes how genuinely talented the at

her drove them to succeed yet eventuality shattered the groupCowsill brothers – later joined in the group by their mother and younger sister – were as musicians, and how their physically abusive f, plus squandered an estimated $20 million that they earned. Hence it’s also the story of one American family and its behind the scenes dysfunctions. Yet its final chapter also attests the redemptive power of the siblings’ family bond and their music that help carry them through the deaths of two brothers in 2005. It’s a emotionally rich and affecting document of one family’s unique path from teenage fame into adulthood.

CD: Behind a Veil
by Jess Klein

Disclosure: In recent years I’ve gotten to know Klein, who started out in the Boston music scene and then lived in New York before moving to Austin, Texas, where I live. And her produ-cer/manager Mark Addison (a friend) also recently called on me to revise and update her written PR materials, albeit for a fee far below my usual rates, hence my opinion about her talent has hardly been bought off. She’s so good I’d have been honored to help her out for free (at least in theory). And Behind a Veil is an album so notable that its songs keep spinning in my brain, the sort of indelible works that have made her now my favorite female singer-songwriter. Much like such icons as Joni Mitchell and Lucinda Williams, Klein is able to be confessional yet still strong. The songs on this album followed a tough and challenging time in her life: the death of her father from ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease), the break-up of a longtime relationship, and losing her record deal and deciding to carry on as an independent artist and start her own label. Though nominally a “folk” artist, the luscious music on this collection of songs transcend genre to draw from rock, pop and a touch of soul found within her voice. Her compositions are fluent, alluring and dynamic, and her voice is a wondrous instrument of great depth, potency, fluency and emotional power. In another and earlier time, she would have been heralded as a next big thing. And anyone who appreciates exceptional craft enriched with heart should do themselves a favor and get to know this very special and gifted musical artist.

TV Series: I, Claudius

Some 15 or so years after first watching this 1976 BBC series based on the books by Robert Graves, I did so again with great pleasure. It’s television that crackles with the quality and dynamics of great theater, powered by Derek Jacobi’s resonant and rich portrayal of the Roman Emperor whose stammering and twitching caused many to think him a fool. His life story, told by Claudius through fictional diaries, takes the viewer inside a critical period of Imperial Rome as it descends from greatness and glory. Television does not get much better than this.

From The Progressive Populist, January 1-15, 2014


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