An Odd Smile

September 18th, 2017

Today is the 50th anniversary of the release of Smiley Smile – more than 16 months after Pet Sounds, which would be seen as productive these days, but was an eternity in the mid 60s. And a lot has happened since I posted on the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds in May last year.

Ah..Smiley Smile, the album released during the “Summer Of Love” in 1967 that befuddled a generation, changed the commercial and critical perception of the Beach Boys, and now survives as a minor cult classic. What can one say about this unusual album which sounds nothing like the Beach Boys, or any other group, released before or since. “Barbershop on acid” may be one description, but one really has to hear this record to believe it.
Smiley Smile shares a similar name, and at least five songs with the abandoned SMiLE album that you can read about here. Indeed much of the music was probably conceived at some stage during the SMiLE sessions, but aside from Good Vibrations and parts of Heroes And Villains, was completely re-recorded in Brian’s home studio.

There is a “stoned” feel that permeates much of the album, but there is also a wide variety of styles. The slick production of Good Vibrations also doesn’t sit well with the homespun feel of much of the remaining material. Quality is also a mixed bag…Little Pad and With Me Tonight have strong tunes beneath the goofiness, the alternative Wind Chimes is spooky but fascinating, but the bizarre approach to Wonderful doesn’t work when contrasted with the SMiLE versions.

As David Leaf noted, the progression from Surfin’ Safari to Pet Sounds was stopped with this album which seemed to go in a direction that no-one predicted or understood. This album must take some of the blame for the loss of critical and commercial appeal that blighted the Beach Boys in the late 60s and early 70s, and prevented the strong albums that followed this one becoming succesful in their own time. It also seems bizarre that the band approved this release when seeming to resist the groundbreaking, but surely more conventional album that SMiLE surely would have been had it been released in 1967.

Even so, an album with Good Vibrations,Heroes And Villains and some great harmonies and a sense humor is still better than average. Smiley Smile will befuddle you, but over time, you may well learn to love much of it.

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CLI: Darlin’

September 11th, 2017

Image result for darlin' beach boys big bang

With my wedding still fresh in mind, I offer one of the great Beach Boys love songs – one that has become a bit less obscure after featuring in a Big Bang Theory episode. Once again, the result of some musical recycling, this is a development of the Thinkin’ About You Baby melody, which became a distinct, stomping but eternally catchy love song. No wonder it became Sheldon’s ear-worm.

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CLI: I Do

September 1st, 2017

Image result for i do beach boys wedding

Today is my wedding day. So this song is pretty appropriate for today’s hidden beauty!

 I Do is the final development of the melody that was used on the first Beach Boys album in the song Country Fair. The recycling of the tune was definitely for the better, with a powerful production and a perfect wedding lyric.  Although recorded by the Beach Boys, their version remained unreleased until the CD two-fer release of Surfer Girl/Shut Down 2, which was a pity given that it was far better than a lot of the filler on the latter album. The privilege of originally releasing the song was given to the Castells, but its the Beach Boys own version that is now the definitive version of what should be a wedding classic.

23 Songs For Today

August 26th, 2017

1. Everything That Touches You-    The Association
2.Never My Love-    The Association
3. Time To Get Alone-    The Beach Boys
4. We’re Together Again-    The Beach Boys
5. I Do-    The Beach Boys
6. Your Summer Dream-    The Beach Boys
7. Forever-    The Beach Boys
8. I Will-   The Beatles
9. First Of May-  Bee Gees
10. You’ve Touched Me-  Brian Wilson
11. Don’t Let Her Know She’s an Angel-  Brian Wilson
12. One Kind of Love-  Brian Wilson
13. Heaven -  Carl Wilson
14. For All We Know -  The Carpenters
15. We’ve Only Just Begun- The Carpenters
16. The Green Grass Starts To Grow-  Dionne Warwick
17. I Just Have To Breathe -  Dionne Warwick
18. Butterflies-  Kacey Musgraves
19. Symphony-   Marvin Gaye
20. Can’t Find the Time-    Orpheus
21. Your Valentine-    Saint Etienne
22. You Send Me-    Sam Cooke
23. Darlin’ -  The Beach Boys

Would It Be The Same Country If You Could Change Your Mind

August 17th, 2017

They’ve been gone too long, but they are back just at the right time. Lucky Soul’s last album was all of seven years ago, and we thought we may have lost them forever.  There has been a lot of personal and political water under the bridge in those seven years, a lot of it painful, and Lucky Soul’s response has been to take it to the dancefloor -just like in the uncertain 1970s where the disco was the escape from the turbulent reality.

Change gonna come, but it stays the same and I’m still waiting

Ali Howard sings this line on the brilliant disco stomper, Locked Out -she could be singing about the personal or the political, but she’s letting her tears out on the dancefloor, and this is where Lucky Soul’s new album resonates. (Hurts Like A) Bee Sting, seemingly the centerpiece of the album seems to be a response to Brexit in the catchphrase that headlines this post, but can also be a response to any sudden jolt to one’s reality. Stonewashed slows the pace down with a classic Lucky Soul ballad, while No Ti Amo is pop perfection.

Hard Lines -the new album released last week after the seven year hiatus -may not solve the world’s problems, but it resonates musically and lyrically in these times. Let’s just hope it’s not another seven years before the next one.

Farewell, Glen Campbell

August 9th, 2017

Image result for glen campbell Glen Campbell was not just an important part of the Beach Boys story; he was a major artist in his own right. His passing yesterday marks the end of a long goodbye, and ends a glittering career including over 70 albums, selling over 45 million records.

Brian Wilson fans will know him best as the singer of the brilliant Guess I’m Dumb as well as Brian’s temporary replacement in the touring Beach Boys. But he was a talented musician and member of the wrecking crew, a great singer and a showman who hosted his own television show. Musically, he may be best remembered as the interpreter of Jimmy Webb’s song, especially Wichita Lineman, often regarded as the perfect song, on which he also played guitar.

So 2017 sees the end of another era, as we say goodbye to Glen Campbell and cherish all the great musical memories he has made. Farewell, Glen Campbell

Stories From The Road 2

August 6th, 2017

After tonight, Brian’s European Pet Sounds tour will be over, but it seems like he is finishing on a critical and commercial high -with the odd dissenting view. But this Guardian  has high praise for the London show, and its resonance in these “interesting” times.

Stories From The Road

July 30th, 2017

No automatic alt text available. Brian is in Britain, for supposedly the last time at least for Pet Sounds, and the London Tube has been celebrating his show at the Apollo on 1 August -thanks Val Johnson-Howe for the spot on All On The Board.

Meanwhile, here is a five star review from the Liverpool Echo, celebrating Brian, the music , the band and the love everywhere in the room. m

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CL: Hawthorne Boulevard

July 26th, 2017

Image result for "hawthorne boulevard"

Hawthorne Boulevard is a short Brian Wilson-written instrumental that hearkens back both in the title and musically to the early days of the band -playing in a garage at home and listening to surf instrumentals. Seemingly only used for the 1967 Hawaii concerts which saw the original five playing together again, it has now seen official life on the Sunshine Tomorrow collection. While it by no means Brian’s greatest work,  it is short and sweet, with a lot of energy in the minute of music.

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CXLIX: Here Comes The Night

July 20th, 2017

Image result for here comes the night beach boy

This song may be best known (or notorious) as the disco megamix on LA Light Album, but in it’s better incarnation, it was one of the R&B flavored originals that made Wild Honey such a breath of fresh air. Wild Honey saw the resumption of the Brian Wilson and Mike Love songwriting partnership, and the combination of music and lyrics works well, driven by Brian’s soulful late 60s voice. The disco mix dredged out all the original soul of the track, but as in many cases, the original is the best.