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.

Live In Concert: 50th Anniversary (DVD) by The Beach Boys

December 8, 2012

Fifty years ago the Beach Boys caught a wave and rode it into the American consciousness. Their songs of surfing, cars, and romance combined with impeccable harmonies and catchy melodies to create a summer without end. While that eternal summer was just beyond the horizon and never really attainable, they at least kept the possibility alive.

In celebration of their golden anniversary the surviving Beach Boys created a wonderful studio album, That’s Why God Made The Radio, and embarked on an extensive 75-stop world tour. Live In Concert: 50th Anniversary presents a glimpse of their tour.

The good news is the 21 tracks are excellent and a testament to the lasting virtuosity of the band. Yes, they are older and the voices show some wear and tear but the harmonies are still present and the disc is a fine ride through some of the well-known and lesser known songs. The bad news is what is missing. Many of their concerts were divided into two sets which stretched out to 50 songs to match their 50th anniversary. Their Phoenix concert came close to that mark and songs such as “Please Let Me Wonder,” “Pet Sounds,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Add Some Music to Your Day,” “Little Honda,” and about 20 others were performed but not released on the DVD. If you are going to release a concert, then my feeling is include everything.

What is here is very good and worth the price of admission. From the opening “Do It Again” to the closing “Fun Fun Fun,” they appear engaged, relaxed, and happy. Yes, there are supporting musicians to fill in the gaps, including longtime guitarist Jeff Foskett, but the focus is mostly on the main members and they come through in fine style. The playing, the singing, and the general atmosphere they create are better than I expected.

Such eternal hits as “Good Vibrations,” “California Girls,” “I Get Around,” and “Little Deuce Coupe” share the stage with new songs, “That’s Why God Made the Radio” and “Isn’t It Time.” Throw in deeper cuts like “Hawaii,” “Marcella,” and “Sail On Sailor” and you have a ride through their 50-year career.

Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, and Bruce Johnston reunited for what may or may not be a final ride. If you just focus on what is here, then this this DVD is a worthwhile purchase. They prove that the eternal summer is still out there somewhere.

Article first published as Music DVD Review: The Beach Boys – Live In Concert: 50th Anniversary on Blogcritics.

That’s Why God Made The Radio by The Beach Boys

May 24, 2012

The Beach Boys have reached the 50 year milestone in their career. To commemorate that achievement, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks have reunited for an extended tour and the release of a new studio album, That’s Why God Made The Radio, which is currently scheduled for an early June release.

The album demonstrates that The Beach Boys are alive and well, at least in the studio. Brian Wilson has reassumed his leadership in the studio as producer, and songwriter as he co-wrote 11 of the 12 tracks. The best news is he kept his grandiose impulses under control, which allowed the band to reach back in time and create an album of simple but enjoyable music. The melodies are catchy and straightforward, while the lyrics tell simple stories similar to their early career material.

The lead vocals may show the wear and tear of the past half century, but the harmonies are tight and exquisite. If there is one thing Brian Wilson has always been able to do, it’s blend the individual voices of The Beach Boys into a virtual choir that has been and remains unique in American music history. In many ways these new harmonies are the centerpiece of this release.

The music and vocals are centered primarily around the five Beach Boys. The only additional musicians are their long-time guitarist Jeff Foskett and drummer John Cowsill, who has been touring with Mike Love’s edition of the band. Adrian Baker and Christian Love provide backing vocals on one track and the rest is all the band members.

The album’s first track, “Think About The Days,” establishes the fact that The Beach Boys have returned. It begins with the five voices united in a cappella harmony. A simple piano enters as the song flows gently along. There are no words but only vocal sounds.

The title song, lyrically and emotionally, is about capturing memories. It features a simple instrumental background with a heavy bass and drum backbeat. The lyrics may be a little self-indulgent in places, but the harmonies more than make up for it, which allows it to emerge as a track that would fit in with their better material.

“Spring Vacation” is an ode to themselves as Wilson and Love share the lead vocals. The lyrics express their happiness of being back together and it’s been decades since the Beach Boys issued a happy song. “The Private Life of Bill and Sue” features Wilson’s plaintive lead vocal with a ska/reggae beat in support. Both of these songs are probably the most sophisticated musically as the various instruments weave in and out and then combine in unique ways.

“Beaches In Mind” has a Mike Love lead vocal but it is the repetitive chorus with the united voices that is memorable.

The final three tracks are a loosely united trilogy of the band looking back while accepting the present. “From There to Back Again” is a nostalgic ballad of looking back when life was spread out in front of them. “Pacific Coast Highway” is a nostalgic and reflective look at life from the present. “Summer’s Gone,” with Brian Wilson’s sad vocal, brings the album to a conclusion as it’s time to go.

I have seen The Beach Boys in concert four times and bought all of their studio releases. Their generation has aged gracefully in some ways but ungracefully in others, so I am willing to overlook a few flaws as this may be the last Beach Boys studio album. It is one to savor as one tries to catch a final glimpse of the endless summer.

It may not be as good as their best early career material but it is excellent in its own right and place in time. It is representative of their sound and that alone makes it an album worth owning. Fifty years have passed and The Beach Boys may not pass this way again.

Article first published as Music Review: The Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made the Radio on Blogcritics.

A Postcard From California by Al Jardine

February 22, 2012

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.

Best Of The Beach Boys Vol. 2 by The Beach Boys

February 20, 2012

Back in the 1960s compilation albums were not as prevalent as they are today.

1967 found The Beach Boys releasing their second BEST OF album and like the first, they padded it with some non hits in order to save them for a third BEST OF album. Money was the name of the game and albums of this nature by group’s such as The Beach Boys were commercial winners.

“Let Him Run Wild,” “Please Let Me Wonder,” and “Long Tall Texan” were filler on a Greatest Hits album. The heart of the release, “When I Grow Up,” “California Girls,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and “I Get Around” were some of the best pop releases of the 1960s.

Just like their first, BEST OF THE BEACH BOYS VOL 2 album, it was a good album that could have been better.

Beach Boys Medley 45 by The Beach Boys

March 27, 2011

Back during the early 1980’s, medley releases were all the rage. Any group that had had a number of hits put together one of these medley releases, and a few had hit singles.

Enter The Beach Boys. They combined their classic hits “Good Vibrations/Help Me Rhonda/I Get Around/Shut Down/Surfin’ Safari/Barbara Ann/Surfin’ USA/Fun Fun Fun” into one medley and issued it as a single on July 25, 1981. It rose to number 12 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

It was one of the better medley releases of the era, which is probably due to the Beach Boys having a better catalogue of songs to draw from than most artists.

The best thing was it introduced a new generation to some of their best material.

I Can Hear Music 45 by The Beach Boys

March 8, 2011

The Beach Boys had nearly reached the end of the line with The Capital Label. They had produced one of the best catalogues of songs in music history while recording for Capital.

“I Can Hear Music” was released March 6, 1969 and became a moderate hit reaching number 24 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

It was a cover of an obscure Ronettes song which was released during the fall of 1966 and spent on week on the American singles chart at number 100.

It was a Carl Wilson production and includes his nice soulful vocal. The use of a cappella harmonies is old style Beach Boys. It may not be one of their classic car of surf singles, but it was a very good release that helped close the first part of their career.

Do It Again 45 by The Beach Boys

January 30, 2011

The Beach Boys released “Do It Again” July 27, 1969 and it was a return to their former surfing style of song.

The single reached number 20 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Top 100 Pop Chart. Oddly it reached number 8 on CASHBOX and 7 on RECORD WORLD. There were no doubts in the U.K. and Australia as it reached number 1 in both countries.

The song was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love and was one of the last singles to be released on the Capital label. It would provide The Beach Boys with a nice send-off.

California Dreamin’ 45 by The Beach Boys

January 24, 2011

The Beach Boys version of “California Dreamin'” may not be the equal of the original by The Mamas & The Papas but it was an excellent cover nonetheless.

They recorded the song for their 1986 MADE IN THE USA compilation album. It was released as a single September 20, 1986 and reached number 57 on the American singles charts during its 10 week run.

One of the highlights is the 12 string guitar work by Roger McGuinn. John Phillips played the saxophone on the track. Michelle Phillips appeared in the orginal video.

Their harmonies worked well on the song and it remains one of their better cover songs.

Peggy Sue 45 by The Beach Boys

January 22, 2011

Every once in awhile The Beach Boys would issue a cover song. Their 1981 rendition of the Dell Vikings classic, “Come Go With Me,” was excellent. Their 1978 cover of Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” was average at best. The music buying public would agree as it only reached number 59 on The American singles charts during its six week run.

The recording just did not have a full sound and their classic harmonies were missing something.

Sometimes a song is better left in the care of its originator, and in this case the Buddy Holly version can’t be beat.