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Cohn ‘Rainy Season’ follows sunny time

DOES LIFE change when you win a Grammy for best new artist and score a gold debut album?

Yes, says singer/songwriter Marc Cohn, who accomplished both in the last two years. But your values can also be sharpened by the experience.

“A lot of the things that occurredwere things I was obsessed about when I was a kid,” said Cohn, who had his dreams come true thanks to the success of his self-titled debut album, released in 1991 on Atlantic. “Now that all of those things have become reality, (the desires) have been put in a more appropriate and healthy corner as opposed to being all-consuming. There’s more room for being a father, a husband and a songwriter.”

Cohn’s new album, “The Rainy Season,” examines his new balance. On it he explores relationships with his new son and family, and contemplates his place in the universe — all with optimistic underpinnings.

While Cohn admits that his monster hit single from the debut album, “Walking in Memphis,” will likely be his signature song for some time, he’s working hard on not letting it become his albatross.

“The important thing for me to do is to get back in touch with how I felt when I wrote the song: excited and enthusiastic,” he said. “If I really have to project, I don’t think in 10 years people will define what I do by it, unlike, say, James (Taylor) and ‘Fire and Rain.’ I can think of lots of other, more personal statements that I made on (the debut) album and the new album that make ‘Memphis’ maybe a little less important.”

L.A. SEEN: Craig Chaquico, former songwriter and lead guitarist for the Jefferson Starship, celebrated the release of his first solo instrumental album with a party/performance June 17 at Ava’s Supper Club in the Beverly Center. Chaquico, whose “Acoustic Highway” bowed earlier this month on the Higher Octave Music label, delivered low-key instrumentals that were a distinct departure from the rock and pop of Starship, but the beautiful, peaceful and soothing music is fitting for the New Age label. Among those grooving to the mellow sounds were members of Fleetwood Mac and L.A. deejays Gail Murphy and Tawn Mastery.

Another record release party/performance was held June 24 at Club Lingerie in Hollywood for Zoo Entertainment artist Matthew Sweet, who broke out last year with the alternative music hit “Girlfriend.” Sweet’s new material follows his debut path — clean, catchy rock with pop hooks, great melodies and simple lyrics. A brief, early set by Sweet and his band was mostly culled from the new album, which features a dinosaur on the cover (how trendy and “Jurassic Park”!) Its title? “Altered Beast.”

GARTH BROOKS co-manager Pam Lewis, who last week announced new deals in records, film and television, is also getting into the restaurant and cable television business.

Lewis’ PLA Media and theCountry Music Foundation are among those involved with the Country Star Cafe, a new, country-themed eatery whose flagship location will bow early next year in Nashville just off Music Row. The Cafe is expected to offer a museum, simulator ride, a showcase club and a Boot Walk Hall of Fame, among other attractions. In addition, Lewis is partnered with prominent Los Angeles surgeon/author Vicki Hufnagel in launching the Women’s Cable Network, a start-up that will create its own programming and spinoff specials to other channels.

All this activity will take a back seat, however, to Lewis’ July 25 marriage to music industry veteran Andy Frances, her partner in new Atlantic venture North-South Records. The couple will unite at an antebellum-themed wedding that will see guests adorned in hoop skirts, Civil War uniforms, and period tuxedos, with cuisine from the Civil War era and entertainment by Brooks and other Lewis/Frances clients.

FANS OF the late Johnny Thunders’ inebriated, kamikaze style were recently treated to a performance even more inept and pathetic than the former New York Doll ever gave in his brief lifetime. The guilty party was Bob Forrest of Capitol recording artists Thelonious Monster, whose debacle came at a June 20 show at the Gaslight in Hollywood.

After picking a fight with an audience member out in the street just prior to showtime, Forrest stumbled onto the stage and incoherently mumbled the opening line of the Beatles’ “Yer Blues,” then kicked his bassist in the shins because he didn’t care for the bassist’s amp sound.

A brief wrestling match ensued on stage, with the two being separated by their bandmates. The song was then given another go and halted in the same spot, whereupon Forrest pleaded for someone in the audience to “give me a gun or a knife so I can kill myself, please?”

Trying to make the best of it, the group attempted another song, but after two lines — apparently infuriated by a burst of feedback through the monitors — Forrest hurled his mike stand at the club walls, narrowly missing his harmonica player. He then kicked over two amps and stormed out the door. The audience watched as though all of the behavior was perfectly normal (which, considering Forrest’s history, it probably is). Elapsed time of show: two minutes. Sid Vicious would have been proud.

THE REACTION by country music artist John Michael Montgomery to completing his debut album may have surprised the folks at Atlantic Records/Nashville: He told them he didn’t like it.

“I called (Atlantic/NashvilleGM) Rick Blackburn at midnight and told him I wasn’t happy with the album,” Montgomery recalled. “Most artists call their label and rave about how pleased they are about their album. Here I am, complaining.”

Blackburn allowed Montgomery to record six new songs, which turned out to be the right move. One of the additions, title track “Life’s a Dance,” debuted in the upper reaches of the country charts and became a radio staple.

Propelled by the success of the single, the album debuted in the Top 40 of the Billboard 200 pop chart and has stayed there since its January release.

The 28-year-old Montgomery differs from his Music City brethren when it comes to songwriting.

While many singers hope to write songs for their album, Montgomery does not have any aspirations to become a tunesmith.

“If I don’t write a hit song the rest of my life, I can live with that,” says the Kentucky native. “I don’t see any point in passing up a good song from an outside writer just so I can have one of mine on the album.”

MUSIC INDUSTRY veteran Steve Machat, whose resume lists stints as an attorney for Genesis and Phil Collins, management of Manhattan Transfer, and ownership of two record labels, has announced a management pact with worldbeat musicians Strunz & Farah, assisting in the launch of the duo’s new label, Gitano Records.

Machat, who owns the Acid Jazz and PST Records labels, also announced the Acid Jazz release of an album by Peter Gabriel drummer Manu which will feature vocals from Sting and Gabriel.