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.


Live: 50th Anniversary Tour by The Beach Boys

July 17, 2013

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The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Reunion Tour is a thing of the past. The tour and their latest studio album, That’s Why God Made the Radio, were better than any fan of the band could have hoped for or imagined. What the future holds for the band is unknown, but with Mike Love now back fronting his own version of the group, their future is filled with “what ifs” at the present time.

What we are left with is the residue from their extended anniversary tour, which no doubt will be issued in a number of different formats and configurations as the years pass.

I prefer to watch or listen to entire concerts, without interruption or studio tinkering, that present the good and the bad as it was at a specific point in time. Hopefully some entire concerts will come in the future but for now fans of the group will need to be content with this piecemeal approach.

The band members have all reached retirement age and their voices are not as supple as they were 40 years or so ago and Carl and Dennis Wilson are still missed. Having said that, they still sound pretty good and the harmonies remain intact. When needed, they fill in the sound with other voices.

As with their concerts, the song list combines many of their big hits with some of their lesser-known songs. “I Get Around,” “Surfer Girl,” and “In My Room” share space with “Pet Sounds,” “Marcella,” and “Hawaii.” Throw in such songs as “Don’t Back Down,” “Wendy,” “409,” “Shut Down,” and “Add Some Music to Your Day” and you have a wonderful trip down memory lane. “Good Vibrations,” “California Girls,” and “Help Me Rhonda” are performed in a row. If you are a fan of the Beach Boys, it doesn’t get any better than that.

There are about two hours of music, which is more than worth the price of the CD. My only major complaint is the lack of any liner notes, extensive or otherwise, which would have provided some prospective to the performances.

The Beach Boys have always been a part of the eternal summer of American culture. Much of their music emanates from a time that never will be again (and in many ways never was) as it was just beyond the horizon. Still, The Beach Boys’ Live – The 50th Anniversary Tour allows one to travel back in time one more time, while listening to some fine music along the way.


Barbara Ann by The Beach Boys (Dutch Release)

March 22, 2013

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Many singles by the Beach Boys were issued in various countries with different picture sleeves.

“Barbara Ann” was first issued by The Regents during 1961 and it reached number 13 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. The Beach Boys version spent two weeks at number two duringng early 1966. The odd thing about the release was that Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean provided the lead vocal.

The Beach Boys PARTY album was supposed to have been recorded live at a Beach Boys get together. Brian Wilson could not help but tinker with it in the studio. Still, “Barbara Ann” has a live feel to it.

The Beach Boys had four number one hits but “Babrara Ann” was their only number two making it the fifth biggest single hit of their career. The Dutch picture sleeve shows a very young group just about to enter the most creative period of their career.