If It’s July…It’s Europe

June 24th, 2017

July may be month of national days in the USA and Canada, but this July, Brian Wilson will be touring in Europe in an extended European jaunt that extends into June and August. Brian will be covering a number of countries, and performing at some festivals in what could be (but maybe not) his last European jaunt. The full itinerary can be seen here.

Time For A Greatest Hits

June 21st, 2017

Brian’s first solo was released in 1988, which means that in his 55 year musical career, he has been mostly a solo artist for more than half of that time. Although it may not have been as prolific as the early Beach Boys days, it includes 11 studio albums and 2 live albums -an output not dissimilar to Paul McCartney and other contemporaries. But up until now, there have been no compilations of Brian Wilson as a solo artist.

That will all change on September 22 with the release of Playback: The Brian Wilson Anthology, an 18 track compilation of Brian’s solo work from the 1988 eponymous solo album to 2015′s No Pier Pressure. Most interestingly, there will be two new tracks; an official release of Some Sweet Day, a great track from the Paley session and Run James Run, which was the working title of Pet Sounds but seems to be a completely different song and an outtake from the No Pier Pressure sessions. One could quibble with the tracklist (only one song from Lucky Old Sun?) but there is some great music here. Full tracklist is

  1. Love and Mercy
  2. Heroes and Villains
  3. Surf’s Up
  4. Melt Away
  5. Let It Shine
  6. Some Sweet Day
  7. Rio Grande
  8. Cry
  9. Lay Down Burden
  10. The First Time
  11. This Isn’t Love
  12. Soul Searchin’
  13. Gettin’ In Over My Head
  14. The Like in I Love You
  15. Midnight’s Another Day
  16. Colors of the Wind
  17. One Kind of Love
  18. Run, James, Run

The Other Twin

June 20th, 2017

Two days and an ocean apart, Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney have together redefined not just pop music but 60s culture. Now Brian is also 75, and there is so much to celebrate and be thankful for. Common perception may be that Brian’s genius was all in his first 25 years, culminating in Pet Sounds, Good Vibrations  and the failure to release SMiLE. His second 25 years could be seen as a period of relative stagnation, notwithstanding albums like Love You and songs like ‘Til I Die, and included a lot of personal struggles. But his last twenty five years have been one’s of personal redemption as a live artist, as a Beach Boy (the 2012 reunion tour) and a conquerer of demons (SMiLE completed). The world may have gone backwards in the last few years, but in the ever-increasing oevure of great musical work, we have a comfort and joy of Brian’s great music. Mere words can’t really express our gratitude, but thank you Brian and happy birthday!

Forever Young, Much More Than 64

June 18th, 2017

McCartney on stage playing guitar and singing. It’s hard to think of the chirpiest, seemingly forever young Beatle as a man who turned 75 today. We are certainly thankful he is still with us, touring the world and coming up with new music. Loving Paul may not come with the “hipness” of John or even George, but this is someone who has come up with some of the greatest songs ever, and who was part of a 50 year old album that has re-topped the charts. Very best birthday wishes, Paul.

A Poignant Adios

June 16th, 2017

GlenCampbellAdios.jpg Glen Campbell’s slow decline due to Alzheimer’s is in many ways as sad as those pop and rock stars who check out too early. At least fans have been able to say goodbye to him in person during his farewell concerts, and there have been a number of farewell records. Adios, released last Friday, is a fitting final goodbye – recorded after the final concerts, and including songs that Campbell had always loved and never recorded.

Fittingly, one-third of the album included songs written by the masterful Jimmy Webb -all from Webb’s 1993 Suspending Disbelief album. There is a fairly fun cover of Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice ,It’s All Right, and heavyweights Vince Gill and Willie Nelson lend a hand. Overall, it’s a professional and poignant testament to Campbell’s talent and legacy.

One Of The 50 Greatest

June 14th, 2017

Rolling Stone have put out their list of the 50th greatest concerts, and rightfully the first SMiLE concert on February 20, 2004 is on the list. I had the privilege of being there, and this is what I wrote five years after the event.

The Duality Of The Elements

June 10th, 2017

Image result for what are the 4 elements In my part of the world, the Western Cape, we have seen the duality of the elements. The wind and water have brought healing rain during our worst drought, but also floods and damage in Cape Town. Fire keeps us warm in winter, but has just devastated the beautiful coastal towns of Plettenberg Bayand Knysna.

SMiLE is an album of duality…the heroes and the villains…and indeed there are some things that are black and white, pure evil or pure good.  But much is in between, and as we celebrate the rain, we mourn the loss of life of property and the devastation in Knysna. All four of the elements that are part of the album have their power to build and to destroy. But whether we save the world, or destroy, will depend on that fifth element …love, good vibrations, the forces that bring people together rather than divide them.

SMiLE Track-By-Track XVII: Good Vibrations

June 7th, 2017

“Good Vibrations” cover

It’s appropriate to end our revisit of the SMiLE track-by-track on the day the rains came to Cape Town. We got our drought relief. But in the ensuing, some lost their lives while others lost their livelihoods.

You know this song. And indeed, I’ve already covered this song on this blog on the 40th anniversary of it’s release, which I noted then was a highpoint for the group, and unfortunately the only was down. So the question is, does it belong on SMiLE?

I believe the answer is yes -for both commercial and thematic reasons. Commercially, I believe it had to be there, just as Sloop John B had to be on Pet Sounds- a strong hook to buy the album. Brian wasn’t oblivious to commercial necessity and it was on the original SMiLE tracklist.

Thematically, I see Good Vibrations as a kind of “fifth element” -the non-visible, almost spiritual connection that one can have between people; the transcedesence that is hinted at in the fire and water segments that precede this song.

On the 2004 version of the completed SMiLE, Brian goes back to the original Tony Asher lyrics and adds the hum-de-dum sections that was not part of the original single. Some may have seen it as churlish to move away from the song that everyone knew, but this was always going to be remake, and the differences provide some good distinguishing features and it certainly rocked in live performances.

Getting Out Of London

June 4th, 2017

Home Counties With album and compilation titles like So Tough, Good Humor and You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone, it’s not hard to see where Saint Etienne’s musical allegiance lies -even if sometimes they may seem more focused on the dancefloor than our beloved Brian Wilson.

They have also focused a lot on their beloved London, but for their latest record, they move just a little bit further afield to the Home Counties, the mix of rural areas and dormitory towns around the English capital, which also the title of their new album. As with much of Saint Etienne’s music, there is an element of nostalgia, but possibly for a past that never was.

As with much of their music, this is classic pop for the dancefloor. They have gifted us with 19 tracks and basically a double-album’s worth of music, but the immediate highlights for me include Whyteleafe and the atmospheric Sweet Arcadia. After more madness in London last night, What Kind Of World seems particularly poignant, asking “what kind of world is it we’re living in” and suggesting “let’s find another planet.” That may be a bit tricky, but for now Home Counties is a good substitute to escape to.

SMiLE Track-By-Track XVI: In Blue Hawaii

June 1st, 2017

As I repeat my original write-up of the “water” element, we have the worst drought for many generations in Cape Town. We definitely need some healing water soon- it’s in the forecast, let’s hope it comes for real.

We move from the fire to the cleansing water, but the initial part of the “water” section is the atonal water chant. Then suddenly, the music changes to the elemental, healing “I love to say da da” and we are magically transported to Hawaii and some of the most beautiful harmonies and music imaginable.

The resulting creation, In Blue Hawaii, is for my money, one of the top songs in Brian’s canon, and made SMiLE well worth almost four decades of waiting. Water is the purifying ,cleansing element, and the lyrics certainly hint at the Christian concept of washing away sin. Even outside that context, there is definite sense of escaping from the madness into some sort of paradise, and the song, presumably only finished in 2004, definitely fits in well with the overall redemption that concluded the story of SMiLE.

One of things that has struck me about SMiLE is the “elemental” nature of the music- not just the elements theme that is part of the album, but the way that much of the music has a way of sticking in your head, as if Brian has found the very element of a pure pop melody. The main refrain- known originally as I Love To Say Da Da and resurrected in Cool Cool Water- has a childlike quality to it, but once you hear it, you’ll never forget it. Just like water itself, it seems part of the very basics of music and life.