There have been countless Beatles imitators over the years, but few artists have demonstrated the ability to build on the group’s tuneful legacy with enough originality to add their own twists and shouts. New York’s Rooks, led by the immensely talented Michael Mazzarella, is one of the rare exceptions.
The Connecticut-born writer/singer/guitarist/producer gets able assistance on The Rooks from bandmates Kristin Pinell (lead guitar/vocals, the same role she fills in the Grip Weeds), Annmarie Gatti (bass) and Jim Riley (drums), as well as guests like the Grip Weeds’ Kurt Reil, Richard X. Heyman and drummer Patrick Yourell (who had previously played with Mazzarella in the Broken Hearts). The Rooks’ bright, ’60s-influenced pop packs a real wallop, both musically and lyrically. Easy faves are the stately ballad “Steeplechase,” the unashamedly Beatlesque “Night Writer” and the swirling “Reasons.”
The Rooks steal the spotlight from Twenty Cent Crush on the Double Dose of Pop CD, offering up three remixes from The Rooks and six new songs. The presence of a new rhythm section — Gatti and Riley are gone, replaced by deputy bassist Nancy Leigh and drummer Yourell — does nothing to alter the Rooks’ pleasing signature sound, which takes an introspective turn on the sweetly nostalgic “Music Sound Sensation” (with former Car Elliot Easton adding some acoustic 12-string) and the hopeful “In a Pinwheel Spin.”
Dedicated to Mickey Mantle, the Chimes EP (with new bassist Anne Benkovitz in the fold) finds Mazzarella continuing to wax introspective, with such melancholy pop songs as “It’s a Crying Shame” and “War.” But the record also contains the playful “Friends of Mine” and a typically ethereal Christmas tune (“Christmas”).
Encore Echoes is a CD reissue of The Rooks and Chimes, with the added bonus of the group’s part of Double Dose of Pop and liner notes by yours truly.