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      The Rooks
    "Rook" what we have here

    The Rooks' blend of pop, rock, folk and thoughtful songwriting is evident on their latest CD, "A Wishing Well."


    Considering that OffOffOff is dedicated to New York City-area culture, there is some irony in the Rooks' being our premiere band of the week. One would have to go all the way back to the Left Banke (of "Walk Away Renee" fame) to find a local band less "New York" than this foursome. Actually, the Left Banke are one of the more appropriate comparisons, as the Rooks' latest release, "A Wishing Well" (on the tiny Denver, Colo., label NotLame), bears similarly lush orchestrations. Other comparisons that are springing to many reviewers' minds are the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" and the Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper," although, in "A Wishing Well's" embracing of folk-rock guitars and harmonies, it perhaps more nearly approaches Simon & Garfunkel's "Bookends" (an admitted favorite of Rooks leader Michael Mazzarella).

    Michael Mazzarella (vocals, guitar)
    Kristin Pinell (guitar, vocals)
    Patrick Yourell (drums).
    Available from

    From The Shelves Of Soundscape Studio


    The Rooks


    A Wishing Well - Revisited

    Encore Echoes


    Michael Mazzarella - Home Demo Recordings

    Do You Have God   RA
    India   RA
    © The Rooks. Used by permission.
    That's not to say that "A Wishing Well" is, track by track, the equal of those classic albums. Like its namesake, it bears up a storehouse of coinage in the form of hooks and harmonies — some glittering, some dull — along with chiming guitars and bittersweet vocal turns, some sparkling new, others sounding as though they were unearthed from deep within wistful record collectors' pockets. Mazzarella, who co-produces as well as sings and writes, sounds like he came out on the losing end of one too many tosses as he tries in songs like "Happenstance" and "Vows" to make heads or tails of broken relationships. When his lyrics are as sharp and cohesive as his dazzlingly intricate arrangements, as in "Do You Have God" — "Do you have God, 'cause you don't have me to curse at anymore?" — the results are almost illegally tender, but there is no denying their genuine currency.

    Numismatic puns aside, a scan of the booklet of "A Wishing Well" gives an idea of how ingrained the Rooks (who released their first album in 1994) are within what is known as, for the lack of a more descriptive word, the area's power-pop scene. In addition to Rooks members Michael Mazzarella, Kristin Pinell (an extraordinary lead guitarist who does double duty in the Grip Weeds), and Patrick Yourell, the album includes guest players such as Mike Mesaros of the Smithereens, Huw Gower of the Records, Richard X. Heyman, Frank Bango, Lauren Agnelli & Dave Rave, Debbie Schwartz, Joe Mannix of Mannix, and celebrated downtown trumpeter Leif Arntzen. Anybody who knows any of those artists (except perhaps the Smithereens) knows that these are not party types who will drop by and moan a few lines into a microphone in exchange for a cold Rolling Rock and a whiff of some unspeakable controlled substance. These are the people whom pop fans around the world hold responsible for keeping a unique and special brand of concise, catchy, creative, and vital three-minute tune alive. That they would contribute their talents to such an enterprise for no money (OK, maybe a Rolling Rock, but warm, with no controlled substance on the side) speaks volumes for the recording's integrity.

      The Rooks
    "A Wishing Well" was recently licensed by the British label Castle Communications, along with the Rooks' back catalogue. The latter will be compiled onto a single CD, "Encore Echoes". Castle plans to release both discs on March 1. The Rooks are the first new artist signed to the label, which is best-known for its reissues of such artists as the Kinks, Small Faces, and countless other vintage stars. There are rumors that the Rooks may tour England in the spring, but for the moment they are on hiatus, until they take on a permanent bass player. In the meantime, the domestic release of "A Wishing Well" is available from the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, or from

    DECEMBER 13, 1999

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