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Whilst the UK has until now been largely oblivious to the irresistible charms of the Rooks this is about to be rectified with the release of not one but two CDs which together comprise the majority of their recorded work to date.
Admittedly they’re not that much better known in their native U.S.A. but it won’t be the first time that a hugely talented band has been neglected in favour of the incessant barrage of also-rans that are churned out by the majors each year over there.
Based in New York, the band was formed in 1990 by Michael Mazzarella following the demise of his previous group The Broken Hearts who had recorded one LP in the late 1980s. Responsible for writing all The Rooks songs so far, he has impressed his vision on the band since its inception. The Beatles have obviously been a huge influence on his style and his vocals evoke more than a hint of John Lennon.
However there are many bands and singers who owe a debt to the Beatles, but the Rooks go way beyond replicating their sound wholesale and have succeeded in creating a sound all of their own. Hints of the Byrds can also be detected in the bands contemporary interpretation of 60s guitar based pop music.
Whilst Michael Mazzarella is obviously the cornerstone of the group the contribution of guitarist Kristin Pinell to the Rooks sound cannot be underestimated. Her variety of playing throughout is exemplary. Never unnecessarily flashy or overstated, her playing can be as robust or as delicate as the song demands but always succeeds in embellishing the song in memorable fashion. In addition to that her subtle backing vocals throughout, add refinement to Mazzarella’s nasal vocal style, which may not be to everyone’s taste.
Encore Echoes is comprised of their debut album ‘The Rooks’ which was originally released in 1993 together with most of the ‘Chimes’ EP and several tracks from the ‘A Double Dose Of Pop’ split CD which they shared with Twenty Cent Crush, both of which were released in 1995.
The first 11 tracks, which made up the bands debut album, are superb examples of hook-laden guitar pop. ‘Love Said To Me’, ‘Reasons’ and ‘Night Writer’ all splendidly demonstrate the way in which Michael Mazzarella has combined his Beatlesque influences and vocals with Kristin Pinell's incisive guitar flourishes.
The later material from 1995 is more reflective but no less appealing for that and in retrospect the songs from ‘Chimes’ provide pointers for the generally more introspective direction Mazzarella would pursue for the band’s second album ‘A Wishing Well’.
Released in the U.S.A. late last year ‘A Wishing Well’ was originally scheduled for release in Spring 1997 when the bands engineer and close friend Gary Wade was diagnosed with leukaemia eventually succumbing to the disease in 1998. This great personal loss resulted in a prolonged period of mourning for the band before they could face returning to the project.
The resulting album is an exuberant and life affirming experience throughout. This is the Rooks in cinemascope. By turns evoking joy, grief, love and anguish this timeless collection of songs will hopefully gain the band an extensive audience.
From the ringing, uplifting chorus of ‘Drag Of The Month’ to the gentle rippling chords and fragile brass and string arrangement of closer ‘Some And Others’ there is an overflowing well of tunes on offer here.
Having overcome the hurdles that life has recently put in their way, the future looks brighter for the Rooks. Apparently Michael Mazzerella has some 100 songs in reserve and the band should be recording their third album sometime later this year.
Once you’ve heard these albums that should prove to be an irresistible prospect.
01) Love said to me
05) Night writer
08) Circle of fools
09) Always you and me
10) Better start right now
11) Monday Morning
12) It's a crying shame
13) House of fortune
15) Friend of Mine
18) Music sound sensation
20) Glitter Best
21) In A Pinwheel Spin
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Rooks:Encore Echoes/A Wishing Well
Encore Echoes - CD
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