The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic By The Beach Boys

October 16, 2019

There has been a recent deluge of albums of previously released material with newly added backing by orchestra’s. Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Oasis, Pete Townshend, George Michael, and many more have had their music re-released and re-imagined with orchestral backing. The Beach Boys are the latest to have their material undergo this transformation.

When releasing material in this manner, there is a tension between the commercial and creative. Most major artists have had their songs released in many ways and configurations and an orchestra added to the original recordings is another way for music company’s and the copy right holders to make some extra income. On the other hand, doing the best creative job possible adds to the commercial appeal.

The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic is the latest in the orchestral backing sweepstakes. It is a mixed affair with pros and cons.

One of the positives is the sound. While many of the songs were recorded with the technology of about 50 years ago; Brian Wilson was a genius in the studio and his recordings are impeccable. The sound is crystal clear and the vocals are up front, which puts the emphasis on the harmonies.

The ballads seem to work better than the faster songs. “The Warmth Of The Sun,” “In My Room,” “God Only Knows,” and the album’s best track, “Disney Girls,” are excellent as the new backing add new textures and dimensions to the sound. More rockish tracks such as “Fun Fun Fun,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and a ramped up version of “Darlin’” are less successful as the fusion is more difficult.

Anything interesting by The Beach Boys is worth a listen but The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic is not essential. The major problem is songs like “California Girls,” “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and “Fun Fun Fun” are 1960’s pop perfection and sometimes that is enough.


Beach Boys 67: Sunshine Tomorrow By The Beach Boys

December 26, 2017

The endless summer of the Beach Boys has reached the 55 year mark. Created in 1962, it still beckons, several generations now, to a life that is just beyond the horizon.

The Beach Boys 67: Sunshine Tomorrow is the latest entry into the bands lexicon of music. It is a album for Beach Boys devotees as it gather studio tracks, alternate versions of songs, live performances, rehearsals, and a few oddities from 1967. The two CD contain a generous 67 tracks. It is not an album you may want to pop in the car stereo while driving down the highway but it does fill in a lot of gaps in the their musical journey.

The center piece of the release is a stereo mix of the Wild Honey album. Re-mixing an album in stereo can be tricky, especially given the age of the original tapes, but here the channels are just about perfectly balanced.

I have always found Wild Honey to be more interesting than enjoyable. Brian Wilson was moving away from their sunshine pop material. Wild Honey is about as experimental as he would ever get and as such it is a unique album in their catalogue. The band would quickly reverse direction and settle into a rock/pop hybrid sound. Still, Wild Honey is worth the journey and in many ways fares better in the musical world of today.

The album is populated by a number of interesting inclusions. There are live versions of “Wild Honey” and Country Air” from a November, 1967, concert. It is interesting to hear the band tackle technically difficult material. When the Beach Boys sing hit songs by other artists, they rarely get them right, but they do provide a unique perspective. “Game Of Love,” “The Letter,” and “With A Little Help From My Friends” add little to their legacy but find them covering songs like thousands of American bands.

Other highlights include an A Capella version of “Surfer Girl,” a rehearsal of “Heroes And Villains,” plus the 1967 version of “Surf’s Up.”

Whether or not you want to acquire this release will depend upon how invested you are in the Beach Boys. If you need everything by the band, then The Beach Boys 67: Sunshine Tomorrow is a treasure trove. If you just want to experience the eternal summer, then any of their compilation albums will do just fine.


Brian Wilson And Friends (CD + DVD) By Brian Wilson And Friends

February 14, 2017

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The new live release by Brian Wilson and Friends is bittersweet. Wilson is now 74 years old and one has to wonder about his future. His voice is not of the caliber of his prime, so the emphasis on many of the tracks centers on his friends. In some ways he becomes the sideman. On the other hand he is one of the recognized genius’ of American pop music and his compositions remain a nostalgic part of American culture.

His friends include former Beach Boys Blondie Chaplin, Ricky Fataar, and Al Jardine who oddly is not mentioned anywhere in the liner notes but is a dominant figure in the music. Other friends include She & Him and Nate Ruess, the lead singer of the pop group Fun.

The sound and the DVD quality are both excellent. There are set differences. “California Girls” and “”California Saga” only appear on the CD. The DVD adds nine additional songs including the classic ballads “Don’t Worry Baby” and “God Only Knows.”

The concert was recorded at the Venetian in Las Vegas;. The music is a microcosm of Brian Wilson’s and the Beach Boys career. Al Jardine steers the band through “Wouldn’t It be Nice,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and the underappreciated classic “All Summer Long.” Chaplin and Fataar shine on “Marcella,” “Wild Honey” and “Sail On Sailor.” Ruess has a wonderful voice and he takes the lead on “Hold On Dear Brother,” “Darlin,’” and “Saturday Night.”  Beach Boy staples such “Heroes  And Villains,” “Dance Dance Dance,” “Fun Fun Fun,” and “Good Vibrations” are group efforts, which work well given Wilson’s vocal limitations.

His solo material is more reflective and runs counterpoint to the early Beach Boys songs. The two bonus songs, which close the DVD; “Pacific Coast Highway,” and “Summer’s Gone” are the statement of an aging musician looking back on his career and life.

While Brian Wilson takes a back seat to his friends many times; it is his music that is front and center and ultimately carries the album. It is a ride through the decades of the eternal summer that Brian Wilson created so many years ago.

 


Help Me Rhonda By The Beach Boys

January 21, 2016

“Help Me Ronda” was an obscure track on the Beach Boys TODAY album. Brian Wilson worked his magic with the song; adding layered harmonies, and changing the name to “Help Me Rhonda.” Released as a single, it entered the charts April 17, 1965. It was a quick trip to the top as on May 29 it became the number one song in the United States, where it remained for two weeks. It was a rare Beach Boys song to feature Al Jardine as the lead vocalist.

Interestingly the follow-up single was “California Girls,” which became one of the signature songs of the 1960’s but it stalled at number three leaving “Help Me Rhonda” as the second Beach Boys tune to reach the top of the charts.


I Get Around By The Beach Boys

January 16, 2015

 

The Beach Boys had come close to toping the charts with “Surfin’ USA” (number 3), “Surfer Girl” (number 7), “Be True To Your School” (number 6), and “Fun Fun Fun” (number 5) but finally and appropriately on July 4, 1964, the eternal American band reached number one with “I Get Around” and there they remained for two weeks.

“I Get Around” ushered in a new level of sophistication for Brian Wilson and the band as the sound and vocal harmonies were layered and just washed over the listener in waves. The song also became their first top ten hit in England.

The flip side, “Don’t Worry Baby,” was one of the best ballads  of their career. It is difficult to find two better songs on one single release.


Made In California by The Beach Boys

September 21, 2013

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It has been quite a busy couple of years for the Beach Boys. There was a new studio album, a successful 50th anniversary tour, and a live CD and DVD chronicling that tour. Now they have dropped the big one. MADE IN CALIFORNIA is six CD’s, 174 songs, and 473 minutes of music that includes 60 previously unreleased tracks. Everything comes in a high school type year book and also features recollections from the band members, classic artwork, archival photos, and inscriptions from Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks. It is musical nirvana for any fan of the band.

The sound of the set is phenomenal and brings many of the older tracks into the 21st century. While some of the material is limited by their original recording process, overall the clarity does not get much better.

The first four plus discs are in chronological order. This means that rarities and unreleased tracks are mixed in with many of their well-known hits. An example of this release is the first disc, which begins with a home recording of “Surfin,’” followed by “Surfin’’ with session introduction, a demo of “Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring,” and the original mono long version of “Surfin’ Safari.” And so begins the journey of The Beach Boys, which continues with almost eight hours of music.

Some of the highlights include Dennis Wilson’s lead vocal on a live “Help Me Rhonda,” a true stereo version of “Do It Again,” a Blondie Chaplin vocal on “Wild Honey,” plus the previously unreleased “Goin’ To The Beach,” “California Feelin,’” “Soul Searchin,’” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” and “You’re Still A Mystery To Me.”

The live tracks run the gamut from all periods of their career. Live performances making their debut are “Runway” (1965), “Friends” (1968), “Little Bird” (1968), “Sail On Sailor” with the lead vocal by Carl Wilson (1995), and acoustic versions of “This Whole World” and “Slip On Through (1993). Of particular note is the re-discovery of the 1964 BBC live in the studio sessions, which include “Wendy,” “When I Grow Up (To Be A Man),” and “Hushabye.”

MADE IN CALIFORNIA is a rare big set that is worth the price. It traces the journey of The Beach Boys through a half century of their career and is a journey worth taking with them. It is an essential listening experience not only for fans of the band but for anyone still seeking the eternal summer.


Good Vibrations Tour DVD by The Beach Boys

August 7, 2013

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The Beach Boys celebrated their 50th anniversary last year with the release of a new studio album and a series of commercially successful and artistically brilliant concerts. A DVD and CD of those concerts have recently been released. Who knows what will soon follow? Now, to capitalize on the renewed interest in the band, Eagle Rock Entertainment has climbed aboard the time machine to issue the DVD, Good Vibrations Tour.

The Beach Boys were promoting their latest revival back in 1976. They had just released 15 Big Ones, but more importantly Brian Wilson had become active again. To capitalize on the then-renewed interest in The Beach Boys, the cameras were rolling during a concert in Anaheim. That concert material was combined with some studio tracks, interviews, and skits to create a television special. That program has now been resurrected, which is good news and bad news.

The concert features the original Beach Boys, consisting of the three Wilson brothers, Al Jardine, and Mike Love. The show is basically a greatest hits affair. Songs such as “Fun Fun Fun,” “I Get Around,” “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “California Girls” and the like have been sung thousands of times live by the Beach Boys and the performances here are workmanlike. They are fine but there is nothing to separate them from what has gone before or has been released since.

One major issue is Brian looks completely lost. He is rarely the focus of attention and contributes little. On the other hand, Dennis Wilson is very animated and a center of attention. He shows why he was always the cool Beach Boy and is far different than his zombie-like appearance several years later, chronicled on the 1980 Live At Knebworth DVD. It is also a poignant look at Carl Wilson, whose voice and stage presence makes one realize just how important he was to the band.

One important fact to remember is this was a television program. There are a number non-concert sequences included among the concert tracks. There is a spectacular performance of the group performing “That Same Song,” supported only by a Baptist Church Choir and a piano. At the other end of the spectrum is Carl, Dennis, and Brian gathered around the piano performing a goofy version of “I’m Bugged at My Ol’ Man.”

There are a number of skits, for want of a better word. Lorne Michaels of Saturday Night Live was involved in the project and here we have John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, dressed as policemen, arresting Brian Wilson for violations of the surf code. I probably could do without Dennis Wilson judging a beauty pageant and Carl flying a plane, but it’s all harmless fun.

The major problem is the video quality. It was recorded during the 1970s and still looks like the 1970s. I don’t think there was any effort to clean it up using modern technology.

The Good Vibrations Tour DVD basically is a look at the Beach Boys at a specific time in their career. In many ways it is a nice counterpoint to what is being released from their 2012 tour. It is not a necessary release, but a pleasant one. It should fill in some gaps for their large fan base.