Al Jardine was a founding member of The Beach Boys. During 1961, brothers Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and Jardine came together to create one of the legendary groups in American music history. Jardine briefly left the group during 1962 but returned a year later. He then remained a constant member until 1998, when he left the touring group upon Carl Wilson’s death. However, he remains one of the owners of The Beach Boys name.
While he is best remembered as the rhythm guitarist and for being an important part of the group’s harmonies, he also provided a number of lead vocals. “Cottonfields,” “Susie Cincinnati,” “Peggy Sue,” “Lady Lynda,” “Come Go With Me,” and the number-one hit “Help Me Rhonda” all featured Jardine on lead.
He has now returned with his first full-length studio release,
A Postcard From California. It was worth the wait, as he has created an album very close to the spirit and sound of The Beach Boys.
“Don’t Fight The Sea” began decades ago when he and Mike Love were planning an album centered on an ecology theme. The original track featured Carl, Bruce, and Al providing background vocals. Years later, Brian added his falsetto, and recently Mike Love contributed his baritone to the harmonies. Jardine finished the thirty year journey by adding vocals by his son Matt and friend Scott Matthews. It all adds up to classic Beach Boys harmonies, and it recalls just how good they were when at their best. It is also a nostalgic treat to hear Carl Wilson again. The track remains true to its original intent as it expresses a number of environmental concerns.
Jardine returns to The Beach Boys’ 1973 release Holland for an updating of his “California Saga/California,” which has been re-titled, simply, “A California Saga.” The opening piano solo is the same as the keyboards of “California Girls.” On this restructured version, he shares the lead vocal with Neil Young with some background vocals by David Crosby and Stephen Stills. The track retains its West Coast appeal and proves Jardine’s voce is in fine form.
There are a number of other highlights on A Postcard From California. His version of “California Feelin’” equals Brian Wilson’s. “Lookin’ Down The Coast” comes complete with Spanish guitars and a very strong lead vocal by Jardine. The title track has the feel of “Rhinestone Cowboy,” which is understandable as Glen Campbell lends a hand on the track. He even reinvents his “Help Me Rhonda” with a little blues feel to it.
Yes, he may have depended too much on prior Beach Boys material, but overall, he has produced an extremely entertaining album. His feeling for his native California shines through and each track is a well-produced postcard that forms an advertisement for the state and his music.
A Postcard From California is about as close to a new Beach Boys album as has been released during the last decade or so. It should please the many fans of the group as their 50th anniversary year dawns in 2011.