Brian Wilson 7½
( 1988 )
ove And Mercy / Walkin The Line / Melt Away / Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long / Little Children / One For The Boys / There's So Many / Night Time / Let It Shine / Meet Me In My Dreams Tonight / Rio Grande
Brian's psychiatrist Eugene Landy had taken control. He did manage to get a whole
album out of Brian, the most concerted effort Brian had made towards recording since the late seventies. The problem here isn't in terms of song writing. Many of these songs are fine. The problem is with the musical performances, especially in terms of production. Let's take the opening 'Love And Mercy'. Acclaimed now as one of the finest songs he's EVER written. Doesn't sound like it based on this version. The very worst eighties production and embellishments out of place. The recording of Brian's vocals leaves a little to be desired. Sure, his voice had declined in terms of range since the golden heyday of The Beach Boys. It's buried in the mix here! It's his own album! Well, sort of. 'Walkin The Line' is one of the few songs where the production is credited solely to Brian. It's a simple song but also a happy song. It's entertaining. 'Melt Away' is a gorgeous song. The production isn't obtrusive here and the harmonies work well. It's a pure Brian Wilson melody and a heartbreaking vocal from him. 'Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long' is pretty good too, actually. Lyrics not written by Brian but he certainly directed them. The music does what it is supposed to and reminds you of course of The Beach Boys. Many of the songs here certainly aren't offering anything new but this advanced into his career perhaps its unfair to expect too much innovation. 'Little Children' is a little simplistic but it remains fun listening. 'One For The Boys' is interesting! Accapella harmonies in the style of The Beach Boys. All the vocals performed and arranged by Brian. He sang all the parts.
The title is an obvious indication.
Despite the problems with the production
something like 'There's So Many' in terms of writing reminds me of The Beach Boys
'Love You' album. He could still write great songs. 'Night Time' isn't one of them but its an enthusiastic performance from Brian. 'Let It Shine' was written with ELO's Jeff Lynne but its not a great moment. The production meshes all the instrumentation together but not in a Phil Spector wall of sound type way. It just sounds 'mushy' I guess. Although, I realise that's not especially a correct English word! 'Meet Me In My Dreams Tonight' is a little better, produced by Brian with collaborator Andy Paley. Its a simple song but again an enthusiastic performance from Brian. In truth, though we've had one or two pleasant moments, nothing on this record is essential listening - and even with Brian's melodic touches here and there, remains pretty average all in all. The last song saves the record and placed hope in the hearts of Brian Wilson fans everywhere. 'Rio Grande' was recorded at the behest of Lenny Waronker ( a huge fan of Brian’s ) and he also co-produces the song. It's an ambitious suite containing vocal fragments based upon the Smile album. It's a cowboy/western type of song! It contains a moment of real magic, possibly the only such moment on the whole record. Just leading into the three minute mark the track drops out and humming is heard. The 'cabinessence' style vocal harmonies come in. Storm sound effects. Then, a little twinkling keyboard and Brian harmonising with himself on the most beautiful section of music here. It manages to bring a little tear to my eye. A 'night bloomin jasmin' vocal section comes in. To give you an idea this whole piece is based on 'Smile' rather than 'Catch A Wave' you know? It comes back in on itself and fades out
the same way it began with the cowboy/indian section. It's a fine song and it raises the standards of this album as a whole.
firstname.lastname@example.org I'm sorry to say that I do not agree with your views on the 1988 album, Brian Wilson. Brian Wilson is one of the greatest albums to ever come out of Beach Boys history. It is so wonderful to finally see Brian making an album like this. Get your ears srynged and listen to the album again.
john, county kildare
email@example.com brian, the man they call brian........ isnt rio grande a dainty gem of a track? the first time a beach boy attempted anything epic since the enjoyable but misguided here comes the night.the production job on let it shine is sterotypical 1980s queasiness at its worst, but the overall class of the track manages to shine through it all, as if affirm its own existance, and who could really begrudge it that? little children echoes the dont give a fuck charm of love you, while one for the boys should have given still cruisin' the kick in the bollocks it deserved. not that it actually HAD any bollocks, but you know what i mean.melt away is worthy of sunflower. it's a pity dr.landy outstayed his welcome that little bit too long,as it may have affected the public's positive outlook on the album, but i certainly dont agree for one second with mike love's ulterior motives in wanting to get rid of eugene. 9/10.
Chicago 9- Sure, the production is overly "busy" and a product of its time, there is a small army of co-producers and writers, Landy makes sure to get his name attached to the album, and Brian's 80's voice is so different than that of 20 or even 10 years earlier that it's almost impossible to believe. Yet, I think this is Brian's best solo effort, including Smile. There is an energy and determination to prove he "still had it" that I've found lacking since this album. And his voice still had enough power to provide almost all the vocals and background harmonies, including some fine falsetto throughout. Others may have been pulling the strings behind the scenes, but Brian still could weave that magic which just makes you feel good all the way to your soul. There are 3 bona fide Wilson classics on the album - "Love and Mercy" and "Melt Away" feature that unique Wilson dose of spirituality without ever seeming to be spiritual in the least, touching on raw human emotions but leaving the listener feeling uplifted even if the lyrics seem depressing. "Rio Grande" may be an obvious nod to "Smile", even featuring a vocal out of Mrs. Olreary's Cow/Fire, but this is one epic piece of music, composed of at least 5 different songs seamlessy tied together. There is some real underrated work here, too, such as "Walkin' the Line" with its killer chorus, the undeniably charming "Little Children", and "Meet Me in My Dreams Tonight". Even some of the lesser songs still have something to like; "Let It Shine" sounds a little too pedestrian to be written by Brian but his vocals sound like he shaved 10 years off his age. "Night Time" features the most egregious ham-fisted 80's production, but it's infectious beat and thumping synths make it hard to hate. I've loved this album since the first time I heard it and I never tire of it.
I Just Wasn't Made For These Times 7
( 1995 )
Meant For You / This Whole World / Caroline, No / Let The Wind Blow / Love And Mercy / Do It Again / The Warmth Of The Sun / Wonderful / Still I Dream Of It / Melt Away / Til I Die
With Eugene Landy now out of harms way producer Don Was set about coaxing Brian back
into the music business. Don's aim was ultimately to produce a fully fledged Beach
Boys record and when Brian got wind of this Brian stopped the whole thing and refused to do any more work. Don Was did however get Brian recording some less well known
Beach Boys classics to accompany a TV documentary. This is the soundtrack to the
documentary. 'Meant For You' leads into 'This Whole World' and Brian's voice sounds so
much stronger than on much of the 'Brian Wilson' album. Especially on 'Caroline No'
which even manages to have Brian reaching for those high notes and putting in a lovely affecting performance. The musical backing simply follows Brian for the most part but
does add in a lovely flute section which works well. 'Let The Wind Blow' is a good
performance of the 'Wild Honey' song and retains its lovely lilting melodies. The
selection of material on this record is its big plus point. Such a good choice of
songs! 'Love And Mercy' finally reveals itself to be the wondrous song it really is.
This version is close up, great vocals from Brian. Without all the unnecessary
productions effects we are left with the heart and soul of the composition. The vocal
harmony section in the middle is much improved too. A classic Brian Wilson song. And,
believe me. It will be remembered in years to come. Many years to come.
'Do It Again' features Carnie and Wendy Wilson ( Brian's Daughter ) singing
backup. Its wonderful to have them all singing together. Its always a good song and it
retains its charm performed here. 'The Warmth Of The Sun' is as affecting as ever.
'Wonderful' is a little disappointing - Brian performing it straight and not making any effort to update the song to its original 'Smile' vision. I say its disappointing! Its still a nice performance and he was hardly likely to radically re-work any of these songs due to the informal nature of these recordings. Talking of which....'Still I Dream Of It' is a home demo taken from 1976. The sound quality is atrocious but there is melody to be savoured and a sad, lonesome Brian vocal. 'Melt Away' only re-iterates how good some of the actual songs on his 'Brian Wilson' album really were. 'Til I Die' is perhaps a little downbeat to be chosen as album closer and doesn't match the emotionally affecting quality of the original 'Surfs Up' version. This is a warm sounding collection of decent songs. It's nothing more. It contains the best 'studio' version of 'Love And Mercy' and well performed versions of all the other songs. It is what it is. Its always a pleasing listen.
firstname.lastname@example.org I largely agree with you on this album. But I think your overall mark - 7 - is too low. "Love and Mercy" on its own makes this an 8.
john, email@example.com think this is brian's most disappointing solo album. the reason being, that the documentary was a joy to behold, something which really opened my mind, and especially my soul in the mid 1990s to a band of whom i thought were nothing more than a bunch of dorks singing stupid 2 minute surfing songs. what really got me going was this bizzare, fucked up, frail as autumn leaves, genius, standing somewhere between mozart and spike milligan in the greater scheme of things. seeing "i just wasn't made for these times" on bbc2 around mid 1996 (or thereabouts) was without doubt, the moment i could truly put my hand on my heart, and call myself a genuine music fan. jesus, i was addicted!!! so why doesn't the album PERSE work for me? i dunno. it just feels like the novelty has been stripped bare, kind of like when a fantastic novel looses its impact after it hits the silver screen. there just seems to be some of that magic missing here, that's all. there are 1 or 2 songs that remain m! outhwatering, i.e. the superior version of "love and mercy", a performance of "the warmth of the sun", which at the very least, equals the original, and the daddy of them all, a fucking awesome demo version of "still i dream of it" literally a "warts and all" job, and all the better for it. it's just that in the long run, the soundtrack feels like 1 after eight mints too many, after the best dinner you have ever had. "this whole world" takes me on a 101% non chemical trip everytime i hear it, (thank you carl) and "meant for you" is untouchable, which is why brian really shouldn't have tampered with them here. noble but..... 6/10.
Orange Crate Art 7½ (
Orange Crate Art / Sail Away / My Hobo Heart / Wings Of A Dove / Palm Tree And Moon / Summer In Monterey / San Francisco / Hold Back Time / My Jeanine / Movies Is Magic / This Town Goes Down At Sunset / Lullaby
The title song here is a thing of indescribable beauty. So, i won't even try. Well,
maybe a little. First, a little background. This is actually an album by Brian's
'Smile' collaborator Van Dyke Parks with Brian providing vocals only. It was very much
a case of Van Dyke helping Brian out, trying to give him self confidence again. Brian
certainly sings well all over this record. Anyone expecting anything remotely
approaching a 'Smile' will be disappointed. No attempt is made to recreate those heady
days of the mid sixties. This is a warm, old fashioned album of simple relaxing
melodies. That's all it is. As I said before though, 'Orange Crate Art' itself really
is a lovely song! Brian sings this very well as he does second song 'Sail Away'
actually. The string section is impeccable as perhaps you would expect on a Van Dyke
Parks record. A soft Hawaiian feel permeates 'Sail Away' and it does send you places.
'My Hobo Heart' sports effective harmonies and Brian going 'yay yay yah' at the
beginning and sounding better than he has in years. Van Dyke should be involved in all of Brian's recordings if he can help Brian sing as well as this! 'Palm Tree And Moon' and 'Summer In Monterey' simply cannot be saved. Terribly middle of the road and plodding. Lacklustre material certainly. 'San Francisco' is hardly a great song either but Brian's vocal is extremely playful and good fun to listen to.
The second side is much the same mixture as the first. Some songs decent, some very middle of the road and the lovely 'Movies Is Magic' in particular. The closing 'Lullaby' is very beautiful. An instrumental, so no. Brian didn't contribute. This is Van Dykes version of a Gershwin classic and fits the mood of the record. A pleasant record! As I say, it certainly isn't ambitious and nor does it strive to be. It doesn't pretend to be anything that its not. It's so laughably out of all current fashions that moves all the way around to be a sort of cool thing to listen and chill out to.
Ian Gosling Canada The thing that bothered me a little bit was the middle-of-the-road sound of this recording. But that aside, Van Dyke Parks lyrics are always pleasantly unique and Brian seems to be hitting all the high notes.
( 1998, UK pos 30 )
Your Imagination / She Says That She Needs Me / South American / Where Has Love
Been? / Keep An Eye On Summer / Dream Angel / Cry / Lay Down Burden / Let Him Run Wild / Sunshine / Happy Days
I'll get the bad out of the way first of all. The production here remains a problem
although this time it's the guy whose record label Brian signed a deal with. He
co-produces the record with Brian and chose all the musicians. He asked Brian to re-record The Beach Boys lovely 'Let Him Run Wild' which Brian did. Its included here but seems to lack any enthusiasm in the performance whatsoever. Its never been one of Brian's own favourite songs in any case. We also have a re-working of an even older Beach Boys song 'Keep An Eye On Summer'. It sounds sweet enough but was hardly a classic song in the first place! The opening song 'Your Imagination' sounds especially over produced, strains to match the likes of 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' and fails to do so. But now, onto the good stuff!
'She Says That She Needs Me' is a 'Pet Sounds' type of song. The vocals are a notch or two down from 'Pet Sounds' of course, but still. Impressive singing from Brian here. He sounds in fine fettle actually. The music here matches the beauty of the song and works very well. 'South American' sounds like a Beach Boys summer classic. The lyrics are very Mike Love ( actually written here by Jimmy Buffet ) and its such a happy sounding song! No masterpiece but it makes me smile. 'Where Has Love Been?' is a touch of genius. And, no production tricks here. Very simple sympathetic backing. Brian sings all the vocals including the harmony parts. The genius is the actual song itself, the melody and the emotional quality of Brian's voice which sounds very affecting. If only someone would just let Brian be himself for a while perhaps we'd have a whole load more modern gems such as this to enjoy. Other highlights here include the good vocal work on the ballad 'Cry'. 'Lay Down Burden' is affecting but not a great sounding production, sadly. Another case of the song being better than its recorded version allows. 'Sunshine' is another of those simple enjoyable moments. It's a happy song!
The closing 'Happy Days' starts off with the melody from a child’s music box. It leads into a section actually written in the mid seventies during one of Brian's darkest moments. He's taken that section and re-written it and worked it into this new song. The Bass! I've got to mention the bass on this song! That up and up and up, then down only to rise again bass line? The type of bass line all over mid sixties Beach Boys records? Its here! I've been waiting so many years for that sound to return! A fantastic middle section to this song all round. The closing section is the optimistic section. When it breaks in.....it just brings such a smile of joy to my face! All the troubles Brian has had throughout his life. This song addresses those issues and ends off so happy sounding and full of life and hope. It's a wonderful wonderful moment and another touch of genius. An uneven album on the whole but signs are that given another few years Brian will be back again, and this time, really back. I look forward in hope and optimism to that day! <
kees van lieshout firstname.lastname@example.org im not a huge fan of brian's solo effort's. to me, they seem to be someone else trying to stamp THEIR sound on brian.
imagination suffers this more than any bw album.
my main quibble with this album is the awful treacly 80's production, all carniverous snare's and saxophone's, which would have been better suited to some terrible aor cack like michael bolton.
the best brian wilson solo stuff... recorded with andy paley (his best collaberator ?) remain largely unreleased
hapman email@example.com i have to agree with the opinion above, Joe Thomas' production totally ruins the album, it sounds more like some friggin Alan Parsons Project record than a BW album. and some of the songs are amongst the worst Brian has ever written (Dream Angel, anyone? brr). She Says She Needs Me is a pretty nice song, but it had been written some 33 years before Imagination was released. "Cry" could have been another highlight, but oh, that horrible guitar intro.. y'know, i'm the world's greatest BW fan and all that, but i consider this record to be the absolute low point of the man's career (and yes, i've heard GIOMH too).
john firstname.lastname@example.org i listened to this album last week, for the first time in about 2 years. my previous attitude towards "imagination" was one of embarrasment. i agree with the guy who made the comments about the michael bolton sound, yeah, that god forsaken production is gringeworthy to the extreme, with the digitally mixed echo chamber drums, cheesy musak style acoustic guitars, fairlight synths, and the stereotypical 1985 pop single saxophone sound. but something just hit me deep inside on my last listen. if we can overlook the obvious and many flaws, "imagination" has the bones of a very beautiful album. "happy days" is easily brian's most spectacular catharsis, a musical portrayal of the leap from november into may in the space of a few minutes. a few critics have commented that it's wilson's best compostion since "til i die", and i'm more and more inclined to agree. the sense of release is mindblowing. i disagree about the guitar work on "cry" i think it's one of the very few brian solo ! songs with a relevent guitar solo. ignore the sickly production, and you'll find a corker of a track. the remake of "let him run wild" is unadulterated shite, but is excusable in the circumstances. "sunshine" is a whole lot more pleasurable than it's namesake on "keeping the summer alive". "imagination" is an aquired taste, the kind of album that chooses to reward you, on its own terms, in its own good time. give it a chance folks. 8/10.
Live At The Roxy Theatre 8½
( 2002 )
Little Girl Intro / Little Girl I Once Knew / This Whole World / Don't Worry Baby / Kiss Me Baby / Do It Again / California Girls / I Get Around / Back Home / In My Room / Surfer Girl / The First Time / This Isn't Love / Add Some Music To Your Day / Please Let Me Wonder / Band Intro / Brian Wilson / Til I Die / Darlin / Lets Go Away For Awhile / Pet Sounds / God Only Knows / Lay Down Burden / Be My Baby / Good Vibrations / Caroline, No / All Summer Long / Love & Mercy
Now, as live albums in general go this is pretty good. The emotional context of the recording - an intimate concert performed by Brian ( with members of The Wondermints and Jeff Foskett amongst others ) before just 500 people? Well, it makes you shiver and cry. The man is alive and well! After all he's been through, the therapy, the addictions, the breakdowns. He's back performing in front of people, and. Doing a damn fine job of it! I wonder if Mike Love has heard this? If he has, I hope he's proud of his former band-mate and friend. 'Little Girl I Once Knew' makes me laugh. It was never a big hit due to passages of 'dead air' that confused the listener. Even today, all these years on, a couple of members in the crowd are heard going 'whoo!' which seems kind of inappropritate, but nevermind! 'This Whole World' was originally sung by Carl on The Beach Boys 'Sunflower'. Like other songs here not originally sung by Brian - it fares less well than certain other songs here. It only goes to show how right Brians judgement was in the first place at handing his songs over to the various members of The Beach Boys to sing. 'Don't Worry Baby' sounds so good! The Wondermints add wonderful harmonies, a trumpet adds to the occasion as well. Brian turns in a good vocal performance. No doubt about it.
A notable feature of this performance besides the great performances ( especially musically, the backing group get a lot of these fairly complicated songs just right ) is that Brian is talkative between songs. He even tells a joke or two! 'Kiss Me Baby' sounds near perfect although Brian can't of course do the falsetto parts too well anymore. They are handed over to The Wondermints. 'California Girls' fares especially well in terms of musical performance. THAT introduction is a joy to hear. Perfection itself. The organ comes in! It sounds perfect! Exactly the right sound and Brian sounds like he's having the time of his life. Mike sang the original vocal of course but Brian doesn't do too badly here. 'I Get Around' is rather perfunctorily performed and doesn't go anywhere near the magic of the original single version. The ballads 'In My Room' and 'Please Let Me Wonder' are much better, very emotional listening. Brian does especially well vocally on 'In My Room' a song thats always been close to him.
The second disc opens with a brief Brian Wilson version of The Barenaked Ladies song 'Brian Wilson'. Its funny and delightful especially when the harmonies come in. 'lying in bed like brian wilson did'. And! That's not even the half of it! It flows seemlessly into 'Til I Die'. And! Heres the even even better part! It sounds NOTE PERFECT! It sounds.....well. It brings a tear to my eye. Near the beginning, before the vocal comes in Brian tells the crowd 'Don't fall asleep, it'll put you to sleep!'. They yell back 'No!!'. The singing comes in. Brian singing in harmony with The Wondermints. Vocally, the do especially well on this song. Brian sounds perfect as well. This is the highlight of the whole thing for me. Its followed by 'Darlin' where Carl is missed. Brian does his best but Carl sang this so well. The two 'Pet Sounds' instrumentals are stunningly well performed given their instrumental complexity and richness. And, they no doubt allow Brian time to rest his voice.
'God Only Knows' and 'Good Vibrations'. Well, 'God Only Knows' again misses Carl. 'Good Vibrations' is one of those songs nobody has ever really nailed during live performance. 'Lay Down Burden' from his 'Imagination' album sounds wonderful here, better than the recorded version. Brians version of 'Be My Baby' is good fun if a slightly rough performance. Another piece of Brian banter. He asks the audience their favourite all time songs. People are yelling 'Good Vibrations' etc. Brian responds 'Brown Eyed Girl you like? Really? Really? Well, i'll be goddamed! Here is my all time favourite'. And, of course, they launch into 'Be My Baby'. Its nice :) 'Love And Mercy' of course closes the whole show. A stripped back, spiritual performance. 'Caroline No' is given a sensitive treatment as well. I need to sum up here or i'll be talking all day! I need to get back to listening to the thing. This is as good a Brian Wilson solo live album as anybody could possibly imagine at this stage in his career. Some of the vocals do sound a little off - the harmonies aren't The Beach Boys and the non-hits often fare better than the big hits in terms of performance. Still, these are minor quibbles. If you are any sort of fan of the music of Brian Wilson - this is a must buy.
John Co Kildare Didn't notice Adrian's review until now. With more and more listens, I have to admit that this album has really grown on me, and the setlist is really intellegent, mixing some lesser known stuff with fresh versions of the obvious classics. My only minor critique is that maybe some of the stronger "Imagination" material like "Cry" or "Happy Days" could have been included, but not to worry. Also, the fact that it was recorded in such an intimate venue shows great wisdom on behalf of Brian and his advisors. Had this been done at a huge venue, I don't think the album would have been such an artistic success. 8.5/10.
Getting In Over My Head 8
( 2004 )
How Could We Still Be Dancin' / Soul Searchin' / You've Touched Me / Gettin' In Over My Head / City Blues / Desert Drive / A Friend Like You / Make A Wish / Rainbow Eyes / Saturday Morning In The City / Fairy Tale / Don't Let Her Know She's An Angel / The Waltz
As the time comes for the studio 'Smile' to be released, as that time comes. The journalists have heard the live Smile, presented by Brian in 2004 in Europe and the UK - and they've realised, that yes. 'Smile' was going to have been the 'Sgt Peppers' beater. It was going to take music to, to quote Carl Wilson for a second "another.... level". It was going to happen, but it never did. The Beach Boys vs The Beatles thing was being won by The Beach Boys circa 1966, that was The Beach Boys year. The non-appearance of 'Smile' was crucial. Then again, there are people who listen to the 1967 'Smile' bootlegs, which are just bits and pieces, and assume 'Smile' was finished. It wasn't. Anybody who heard the live 'Smile' presented by Brian and his backing band during 2004, will know. They'll know that no music more beautiful and complete has ever been produced by any composer, and i'll use that classical term, ever. They will know that. So yes, the non-appearence of 'Smile' was indeed crucial to everything that's happened to Brian Wilson since that time. I'll carry on. Such names as Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, etc, etc. Those kind of names? They carry on making music during the nineties and the noughties. It's irrelevant, so inferior to their classic material, fans don't even bother comparing. Brian Wilson fans have been waiting an awfully long time for a true Brian Wilson solo album. One not burdened by co-producers and people taking Brian for a ride. This is that album.
The material here is varied. Some songs date from Brian's aborted second solo album, 'Sweet Insanity'. Some from his mid-nineties work with producer Andy Paley. Some are brand new songs. The band he's toured with, back him up for these recordings. Trusted Beach Boys figures mix, co-write, etc, etc. The guy that wrote lyrics with Dennis Wilson co-writes a couple of new songs with Brian. Van Dyke Parks, forever linked with 'Smile', co-writes a brand new Brian song here. It's all good stuff. Elton John sings the bulk of the opening song, and sounds like he was born to be in The Beach Boys! No, 'How Could We Still Be Dancing' isn't contemporary, but it does sound like pure classic Beach Boys material. It also sounds like, wait for this, the best thing Elton John has done in thirty years and also like a hit single waiting to happen. How about that?? Elton sings, but Brian does great vocal arrangements, wrote the song, sings during the verses, etc, etc. It's Brian. 'Soul Searching' takes a lost Carl Wilson vocal and places a newly recorded Brian vocal with it. It's beautiful. Just to make sure the listener is in no doubt, this new record is entirely a Brian Wilson production, arrives 'You've Touched Me'. It's quirky, it's simple, it's packed with melody and clever musical and vocal things. It's very very happy, as the whole album is, actually. Throughout, the vocal arrangements are superb. Some of the songs aren't bad, either. Let's take 'Desert Drive'. It sounds like the kind of material The Beach Boys would have taken to number one back in 1965. Some reviewers have already complained about this, that Brian hasn't progressed. Hasn't made an album that sounds like, I don't know... I mean, how stupid is this? What, Brian is meant to make an album that sounds like Coldplay? Or The Darkness?? Nobody asks Paul McCartney why he hasn't been 'contemporary' since about 1982 or something. So, why are people asking Brian?? I go back to my first point. Music reviewers, critics... are running scared. Yeah, 'Smile' might turn out to be bunk, crap. Then again, it might prove everybody wrong in their assumptions about, well, pretty much everything. So, this album, which isn't 'Smile', is their chance to make sure Brian gets some critiscm. Not that he deserves it, because this is a frequently beautiful, astonishing record.
The title song contains the most beautiful musical backing track, and vocal arrangements, that Brian has done since 'Pet Sounds'. That much is true. 'City Blues' features Eric Clapton. The albums worst song, 'A Friend Like You', is a self-confessed Brian Wilson love letter to Paul McCartney. Paul even plays and sings on this song. Later, we get to such gems as 'Saturday Morning In The City, brilliant song, pure Brian. The closing 'The Waltz', co-written with Van Dyke Parks, is also a sheer quirky wonderful gem of a song. Brian is in good vocal form throughout the album, the material is his best solo material. What more could anybody possibly ask for? 'Getting In Over My Head' features musical and vocal arrangements that yes, are going out of fashion. This album, at times, sounds like it could have been written in 1965 or 1966. Still, is that a bad thing? This music doesn't link to anything else. It's just pure, prime Brian Wilson music. That's all. And yes, it's enough.
brad veach email@example.com
I totally agree with your observation that it is enough to have a good Brian album that doesn't nec. link to anything. If anything, doesn't that in some way to point to some kind of integrity? He's reaching down into his heart and not trying (or perhaps even able) to be contemporary or stylish. For all we know he may well still be living in 1966, but god bless him, he is making those clean healthy sounds that
do indeed go straight to the heart. Brian has a gift, and he once again is starting to treasure it. Let the linguists languish in the English language, I'll take those heavenly harmonies anyday.
Steve R.firstname.lastname@example.org Adrian is quite correct about the new BW offering. The title track seems to do for Brian what Keith Richards elegant "Losing My Touch" ("Stones "Forty Licks", CD 2 last track) did for him. Both are gross overstatements and great to listen to. Among the interesting insights gained from a serious listening to this CD are that apperantly Brian is a fan of 70's R&B, the Gamble & Huff variety, as evidenced on the intro of "Don't Let Her Know She's An Angel". The collaboration with Paul isn't completely without fault as Brian's arrangement does lay a great foundation for Paul's vocals. Elton's guest shot, "How Can We Still Be Dancing", is among Elton's best recordings in a very long time. Why isn't this a single (or in a film)??? Also "City Blues" is another unexpected triumph. EC's gritty and biting Strat lines against that great roadhouse brass section (ala the Stones, or Joe Cocker circa '72?). Best things overall are the bass and drums throughout. The nice thing is Brian has t! ucked in some fine almost unnoticed brass and woodwind lines. Everything is tastefully delicate and well placed. Guest shots seem to be a good thing here. Perhaps next time out Walter Becker, Donald Fagan, Leon Russel, Prince, Sting, and maybe even U2 can stop by. Would be interesting wouldn't it?
david schulten email@example.com yup, i agree in the main with both of the other 2 comments. If you want Coldplay or Radiohead, then, fine,- go listen to them. This is Brian Wilson and you know what you're going to get. Pure,unadulterated, simple (not simplistic) pop songs with hooks and harmonies the like of which most other writers would give their right arm to be able to write. My only 'gripe' would be the production, which, whilst, good, seems rather rather 'dull,'without the clarity and brightness that i personally loved on'Imagination.' Having said that - if you like good MOR music that actually takes 'talent' to write - listen to this. it's worth it.
McBill R.McBilll@execulink.com 'The Waltz' is quirky??? Frankly I thought this was the best song on the album...ooops, I meant to say CD. Indeed, 'The Waltz' may very well be the best Brian Wilson offering since 'Heroes and Villians'
Steve Rstevenjromero@aol.com Actually this is an addenum to my first posting. This disc is hard to put away! It has many (pleasantly) addictive qualities. Unfortunately a lot of us have seen the wise and prudent opinions of the loyal opposition whom stand ready to decimate anyone whom has any sort of physical or emotional challenge (shall we say?) and dares to be creative AND in the marketplace of ideas.
This CD is above and beyond what passes for serious entertainment in terms of content in the composition, arranging and execution (production and performance). Indeed any composer (myself included) would give their right or left adenoid for the ability to understand the raw means to formulate such complex harmonic structures and make it sound simple, accessible. The title tune, like stated previously, is a good demonstration of this. Indeed "Pet Sounds" (specifically "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" and "Caroline, No") are referenced with the use of echo and reverb and in the vocal execution. Bu! t notice also that gorgeous guitar/harmonium line-a direct reference to George Harisson. One might also hear strains of Steely Dan's title track "Aja" as well. As tasteful and delicate as anything you'll likely hear anytime soon. A Grammy (R) winning CD? I doubt it. Massive radio airplay or a place in a film? Doubtful. If anyone else could achieve this the odds are a bit different. Either way it makes no sense.
I was also wrong about the track with Sir Paul. It is incredible. Stephen Kalinich, Dennis' lyrical crafter on Undercover.com relates the whole story behind the song. This track manages to place the sound of the mellotron (Sgt. Pepper) and echo guitar (Pet Sounds) on one track as well as pair both Brian and Paul's voices together in close harmony, so close it's hard to tell who is who.
"The Waltz" is one of the funniest tracks since Dylan singing about his grandpa being a "duck trapper" on "Love and Theft" (ironically released on 9/11/01!). Somehow or other! it sounds like he got The Band and Led Zeppelin together some! time in the past and this was the result! Be great if Brian put out a version in German.
Solomon Burke put his stamp of approval on "Soul Searchin'" a year ago and so that speaks volumes already.
Overall the question of "contemporary" is rather irrelevant. Brian is more like a preservationist of style and professionalism. Yup, "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy" may sell more CD's and get infinitly more airplay. But after a hundred or so listens it's a bit like sugar free gum. Steely Dan, Nora Jones, Lucinda Williams, and Brian (among others) buck that trend for all its worth. They may be a dying breed. But we are blessed to have them.
Shannon R.,firstname.lastname@example.org I admire Brian Wilson and his mid 60's work as much as the next fanatic, but to say that a 2004 B. Wilson composition is the best thing Elton John has done in the past 30 years is laughable. I would have been more bothered by this had I not read your reviews of mid 70's Beach Boy albums, and realized that you may have been slipped into the same drug-induced, out-of-touch state as Brian. Elton is the tunesmith of the 20th century. He is not a producer of Brian's calibur, but his sense of melody is still very acute, and continues to contribute quality product to this day, as he has done for the past 35 years. Your loyalty to Brian is admirable, but he hasn't been 60's Brian for decades.
Lee R.email@example.com I have to disagree with most of you, this album is embarrasing for me. Consisting of about 4 new songs, leftovers and rehashes from abandoned projects, and some of the most awful guest appearanes I've ever heard, "Gettin' Over My Head" is Brian at his least. He sounds tired and uninterested. It makes "Sweet Insanity" look like a masterpiece. The biggest stinker is Paul McCartney and Brian finally appear on record together ("A Friend Like You"); singing to each other like Paul's a hired Big Brother, looking after 10-year old Brian for the weekend. Terrible. Hey, don't forget lyrics like 'Rainbow eyes/Red yellow blue/Rainbow eyes/I want you' ("Rainbow Eyes") and the unbelievable line 'She had a body you'd kill for/you hoped that she'd take the pill for' ("The Waltz"). Brian can do better. The recent release of "Smile" proves that he can still sound alive when he's inspired to.
Federico Ahe R.firstname.lastname@example.org I'm writing from Buenos Aires, Argentina (remember "South American" lyrics ?). First of all, I'm very angry because in my country the record company didn't released this album.
I have to download this production by the net, and I miss the booklet and the lyrics for example. I agree that this cd is the real first album by BW. This album sounds really good, and remains to the Pet Sounds era, because the sound of the production especially in
the tittle track is high. The Elton Joh's collaboration
remenber the Ringo Starr's song Snookeroo, and the harmonies are very beautiful and stronger. The song "A friend like you" with the mellotron's intro is excellent.I'm a Mc Cartney fan, and I waiting for this kind of collaboration many years ago. Soul Searchin bring us Carl's voices from the heaven... . Clapton's guitar in "City.." is very 80' in my opinion. "Desert Drive" sound like a outake from "All Summer Long", without the different
level's of harmonies. The rest! of the song are very similar in the quality. I'm waiting to hear the Smile Cd, and I hope that this new release will be unforgetable...
Nicknwhite@houstoncountyga.org I have just purchased Brian's latest album (Gettin In Over My Head) and I must say that I was disappointed. I think that whenever an album is judged its important to know what your yard stick is. Are you comparing the album to the best the artist has ever done? Or to the best contemporary albums out there? Or to the best you think the artist is capable of at the moment? To me, I wasn't expecting vintage 60's Brian. And I wasn't comparing the album to contemporary top 40's radio. Or even comparing it to the offerings of other vintage rock stars (e.g., McCartney, Rolling Stones or even Elton John). Instead, I was hoping for a Brian Wilson album that would be the best of what I expect he's capable of today - simple, memorable melodies with clean production. I got none of that. There is not one song on the album that has a memorable melody. And the production is muddled and reverbed. Is this because Wilson doesn't have a voice any longer? Does he! feel the need to hide it behind production? Surely not, because when you can hear his voice it sounds good (if not a little weary, but that only ads to its character). True, alot of the old Beach Boys stuff was slick and well produced (e.g., Don't Worry Baby, California Girls, Pet Sounds) but it was always "clean". Very crisp. This album is anything but that. Oh well, maybe the upcoming Smile release will be good.
paul email@example.com okay, firstly..elton john is a prize w#nker, and shouldn't be let anywhere near a brian wilson album. almost as unwelcome is clapton's tired fretwork wanking, better suited to a fuckin toto or phil collins album.
on the tracks recorded with andy paley in the mid 90's, brian sounds alive...his voice was great, and he sounded as though he was having fun.
on this album, brian sounds tired and uninterested, and sings in that strange woozy baritone.
release the paley sessions on cd, stop forcing him into concert stages and leave the bloke in peace to eat ice cream and fly kites, or whatever it is he likes.
john, firstname.lastname@example.org "how could we still be dancing?" 7.5/10. deserves higher praise than it usually gets. it manages to stay on the right side of the "love you" vs "m.i.u." divide, and elton basks in the quality of the moment, no doubt psyched up by the return to form (of sorts) he is currently enjoying. it certainly rubs off on this track. "soul searchin'" 10/10. actually betters solomon burke's classy version. is this carl's last ever recorded performance....? tough to listen to, but spellbinding at the same time. "you touched me" 8/10. a stupid childish song on first listen, but addictive after the fifth. "gettin' in over my head" 9/10. simillar to "cry" in terms of construction and vibe. impressive. "city blues" 5.5/10. interesting use of sound effects, but ultimately a filler. "desert drive" 4/10. embarrasing. hard to believe this could be a choice cut from the wilson/pailey sessions. come on guys! this is more in league with something like "smart girls". avoid like the clap. "a friend lik! e you" 6.5/10. the intentions are honourable, but.... "make a wish" 7/10. crap lyrics, but brilliant don't give two fucks music. "rainbow eyes" 8/10. if this had been produced by someone like sean o'hagan or conor oberst, it would be an all-time masterpiece, in fact the whole album should have been produced by these guys. "saturday morning in the city" 9/10. i like it, and that's good enough for me. nice one, brian baby. "fairy tale" 8/10. it shouldn't work, but it does! a bit like "you touched me", in that regard. a very charming song. "don't let her know she's an angel" 8.5/10. heck, she must be some kind of wonderful, to have a song like this dedicated to her. "the waltz" 10/10. van dyke parks, dennis becker to brian wilson's george rockford. and i mean that in the best possible way. the wondermints take to this song like gavin henson to a hair salon. impossibly irresistable. now that the dust has settled, and people seem to have completely forgotten this albu! m in the haze of "smile", perhaps we can finally judge it in a! n object ive manner based on the SONGS, instead of the HYPE, or who the performer is. my overall impression is one of beautiful manchild, caught in a full time whirlwind of sesame street, strawberry ice cream and train sets. so enjoy each each and every pleasure brian, because you deserve the sunlight. 8/10.
( 2004, UK pos 7 )
Our Prayer / Heroes and Villains / Roll Plymouth Rock / Barnyard / Old Master Painter-You Are My Sunshine / Cabin Essence / Wonderful / Song for Children / Child Is Father of the Man / Surf's Up / I'm In Great Shape / Workshop / Vega-Tables / On a Holiday / Wind Chimes / Mrs. O'Leary's Cow / In Blue Hawaii / Good Vibrations
It's the day before the release of Smile (26.09.04 ). There are guys posting on the official Brian Wilson Twitter who literally have been waiting the full 37 years for the release of this legendary lost album. Those who pre-ordered it back in December 1966 when it was first meant to be released. Then we heard that Janauary 1967 was the new release date. Then, fall-out. Nothing. The release of 'Smiley Smile' which wasn't the same thing at all. 'Smiley Smile' was a beautiful record, but it wasn't Smile and contained only a few very brief fragments from the original 'Smile' recording sessions. Such great Wilson compositions as 'Surfs Up' were missing. Fast forward to 1971. Excerpts from 'Smile' had been sprinkled across such beach boys records as '20/20'. Carl Wilson took it upon himself to try to finish what Brian had been unable to finish back in 1967. Carl did versions of 'Surfs Up' and took the dreamy "water water water" Smile vocal fragment and with Brian's co-operation, brilliantly re-worked it into 'Cool Cool Water', the song that closed The Beach Boys satisfying 1970 album, 'Sunflower'. The Beach Boys announced that 'Smile' would be finished for release sometime in 1973/1974. That date passed and nothing more was heard.
Brian was under the care of controversial therapist Eugene Landy in the mid eighties to early nineties. In 1988 it was announced that Brian was back in the studio working with the 'Smile' tapes. A new running order was produced, but no new recording was done and no attempt was made to finish 'Smile'. It was finally realised that so much was missing. The original tapes account for hours upon hours of material, yet there was no way those tapes and brief fragments of songs could be assembled into a cohesive album, especially a cohesive album that did Brian's original ambitions and visions for the project justice. Moving onto more recent times, the 21st century has been very kind to Brian, so far. With the support of a backing band of youthful and talented musicians and vocalists, Brian has come out of his shell. With the support of a loving wife and those musicians, Brian has toured and toured to masses of adoring fans. Brian, the recluse, Brian who in 1964 suffered a breakdown, so scared was he of touring and playing in front of audiences. He played a mixture of greatest hits, solo highlights and highlights from 'Pet Sounds'. He ended up playing the entire 'Pet Sounds' album live to awestruck audiences and wondered where he could go from there. Which brings us back round to 'Smile'.
Vocalist/vibes/keyboardist Darian Sahanaja, 'Wondermint' and member of Brian's band worked with Brian to arrange 'Smile' for live presentation. Brian knew which parts were missing or needed to be completed, and enlisted the help of original Smile lyricist, Van Dyke Parks. Together, they added new material and arranged existing material into a cohesive near 50 minute long, three part suite for live presentation. Playing the completed Smile to audiences in the UK, Brian had faced up-to his legend, the millstone around his neck that had always been his inability to finish 'Smile', the record which was supposed to have topped 'Sgt Peppers'. It was then announced that Brian was going into the studio with his new band to record this new completed version of 'Smile' from scratch. A thirty seven year wait, finally over. September 27th 2004 was set as the release date. As in 1966, tantalising fragments and songs from 'Smile' were released to those who needed to hear them. These newly recorded 'Smile' songs have been embraced fully by those lucky enough to hear them. Early reviews have been five star, ten out of ten, across the board. Rolling Stone giving Brian a rare and rave 5/5 review for his finally finished 'Smile'.
27.09.04. "Brian Wilson Presents Smile"..... The surprise news that Brian has a genuine UK hit single has reached us. The limited edition 7" only, 'Wonderful' has reached number twenty nine in the UK singles charts, also becoming the biggest selling vinyl single in the UK for eleven years, by anybody. Let's face it, 'Smile' has an awful lot to live up-to. The greatest album of all time, a symphony to god? 'Smile', like any good story, has a beginning, a middle and an end. Comments made by Brian back in '66 that 'Smile' would be "a whole album like good vibrations" was misunderstood. He never meant it would be album containing a bunch of songs recorded LIKE 'Good Vibrations'. He meant, as 'Good Vibrations' contained three movements and so many different parts, that 'Smile' would be the same. 'Smile' is an album as a whole, not just a bunch of tracks that join together. 'Smile' itself is a composition, a concept and an entity. It is also beautiful beyond belief and all expectations.
The toughest comparisons to the original versions of these songs would be to take the new 'Good Vibrations' and the new 'Surfs Up'. Both at least equal the stellar originals. Elsewhere, 'In Blue Hawaii' ( water ) actually betters 'Cool Cool Water', already one of my favourite Beach Boys songs of all time. The previously instrumental only 'Holidays' now has words, and the transition into 'Wind Chimes' is one of those all-time lovely Brian Wilson moments. It's such a beautiful affecting transition. The strings that link the various tracks together are just awe-inspiring beauty. To take the new version of 'Surfs Up' alone, that it matches the stellar 1971 Beach Boys version, yet adds extra meaning with the maturity in Brian's voice.... I'm speechless. 'Workshop', aka 'I Get Around' has added female backing vocals and it's very beautiful. 'Smile', completed a full 37 years after its original conception is just awe-inspiring music of the kind that not only do they not make any more, but they never did in the first place! An album containing only the barest hint of guitar, or rock 'n' roll, yet with sections of 'In Blue Hawaii', links right back to 'Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow' and all of the original Brian and Beach Boys inspirations. 'Smile' is heroic and beautiful and pop music as a high art-form. Suddenly, in the hands of Brian Wilson, the highest art-form of them all. Brian and his band have pulled this off. There isn't a single weak moment here, Brian's vocals during 'Wind Chimes' sound like the best he's sang in decades. That's just one moment of many affecting moments during 'Smile'. The credits feature lyricist Van Dyke Parks name in large print, billed alongside Brian. Van Dyke deserves that, these lyrics, some completed a full 37 years after the others, are poetics of the finest kind. 'Smile' is something to live inside and to cherish, not only now, but for the next thirty seven years, and beyond.
Jeremy Berg email@example.com Well I have the CD of Smile and it's amazing. In particular the middle section with a superb Surf's Up. When Our Prayer launched into Heroes and Villains the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Truly an amazing achievement, beautifully arranged, performed and produced. On a par with Pet Sounds for me; it's more uneven but it has more highlights and greater depth of beauty. I hope you love it as I do. Jeremy Berg, London, England
Eddie Ryan firstname.lastname@example.org Hello there - 'Smile' arrived in Ireland last Friday, 24th September, and let me tell you it's been worth the wait. I won't give away too much - it could only spoil the surprise of what's to come. I'll just say it's nothing less than astonishing. Enjoy.
RICHARD NIGHTINGALE email@example.com Fantastic!!!!! got the cd this afternoon and playing it right now. Love it! Well worth the wait.
Peter Joslyn Peter.Joslyn@Hackney.gov.uk Having heard fragments from the original Smile, and having tried to get people to
understand the genius behind these insanely beautiful tunes, I was a bit worried
that we'd have a terrible watered down pastiche on our hands. But I admit I was in
tears by the time Heroes and Villains began. This guy is so beyond what any of us
can do, as an artist I can only really pay homage to him by dedicating the rest of
my art and my life to his genius. True love vibes all around!
firstname.lastname@example.org I haven't been this excited for a new album release in years. I literally kept this disc on 'repeat' in my Walkman every day for the first week I had it (then I made everybody at my work listen to it!). I just watched the Showtime two-hour documentary on the making of the original and the new version. Talk about tragic and inspiring! I also saw a taping for the High-def DVD of the concert filmed a week ago, here in Los Angeles. Needless to say, it was incredible. I can't wait to see the tour. This record gets my emphatic vote for best record of all time. Ever. Umm, diddy-waddah!
Scott email@example.com Now we finally know the meaning of 'Smile'. Draw a triangle, at the top is 7th grade social studies and American history, on the bottom right is childhood and innocence of youth, at the bottom left is the universe that contains both God and the physical elements. 'Smile' fills in the triangle completed by these three.
adam hammack firstname.lastname@example.org I'd never heard any of the original demos... I'd never even heard the original "Good Vibrations" until tonight. (I downloaded it from ITunes.) But good god! This is some of the most incredible stuff I've ever heard. I've always appreciated Pet Sounds, but this is just rediculous! I'm usually more eloquent, but this one has got me dumbstruck. /ah
Nikesh Gudka email@example.com Yes this is definately a brilliant album and a 10 at that. My favourite suite is the middle one, starting with Wonderful ending with Surf's Up. Go to metacritic.com....they give it a weighted average of 97/100 the highest since that site started...so we are talking along the lines of classic.
Darren Gomes firstname.lastname@example.org I bought Smile yesterday, I didn't wait 37 years for it, but I have waited over 10. I can't stop playing that album. It may be completely re-recorded, but has anyone noticed Good Vibrations is with the original lyrics, not the re-written Mike Love ones that the original had?
aleksander Aleksander1983@hotmail.com smile is just an album of another world nothing can compete with this music . it it just gorgouis. I think so atleast. you know the music is far more complex fare more sofisticated than any other music I have ever heard And I have heard both sgt. pepper and pet sounds through several times. but it just is something spesial with this music it is hard to describe but it just let other kind of music seems simple . as said I would say this cd smile is better than pet sounds and sgt pepper to beatels. thoose to cds is gorgous both this is just so mutch better. it belongs to another levels in the music world .
First of all, I'm not convinced about these new versions of "Surf's Up", "Cabin Essence" and "Good Vibrations". ("Heroes and Villains", though, is really clever in view of the bootlegs.)
Secondly: the rest, even the dorkier stuff ("Roll Plymouth Rock", "I'm in great shape", "I Wanna Be Around", the "four elements suite"), is pleasant but manneristic (and would have sounded like that 37 years ago even if Smile is considered to be more than the sum of its parts).
Finally: I'm not a B. Wilson fan, but I can imagine how Smile, new versions and all, could grow on me in the future.
as good as the brian wilson version is, i still believe if brian used the beach boys versions of those songs...........need i say more
Don't get me wrong, i'm a big Brian fan and seeing him perform Pet sounds at the royal festival hall in 2002 was the best/most emotional gig i've ever seen but this album is sooooo over-rated. It's benefited hugely from the mystique and myth that surrounded it for so long but the fact is that these songs are not as good as the hype suggested or anywhere near as well performed as the original availble recordings, they don't have the magic and atmosphere of that time-how could they? and they don't compare to Pet Sounds or even some of the albums that followed the Smile project.
Smile is a good album and worth buying but not a 10. There are some fine songs on here but also some very average ones.
Good Vibrations is one of my favourite singles of all time and the version on here doesn't come close to the original."Surf's Up'', is the biggest success, a beautiful version and ''Heroes and Villains'' is a good version but the rest are okay to average. All the songs are well! performed/arranged and as good as you're gonna get, but they definitely lack something...........let's face it , however much studio trickery and backing vocals disguise it, Brian's voice is only 50% of what it was. If Smile is as good as it's supposed to be, how come it sold as averagely as it did? if it was as timeless as the hype suggested how come it made no impact? it's not just down to radio play and marketing, surely word of mouth would have seen it sell. Even if it had come out in 1967 it would not have stopped The Beatles dominance,it is nowhere near as good as legend has it, it would have been well recieved but is just not as revolutionary or as influential as Pet Sounds was/is(and that sold bugger all at the time of release)-it's a worthy addition to your collection but no masterpiece.
Search out the original recordings of these songs, they contain the real magic.
Just need to get a bit of realism here!
Paul Wilde _Picnic@yahoo.com
Smile is a theme park of America- from the early days to the Victorian era to the 60s. It's both down to earth and artily psychedelic. This is Brian Wilson's attempt to put the picture book world of Disney in to music. It almost certainly inspired The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, although Paul McCartney only admits to Pet Sounds inspiring Sergeant Pepper.
Paul Wilde _Picnic@yahoo.com
Smile is not just a curiousity (though it almost certainly is the most curious album of all time- the very patchy Sergeant Pepper isn't fit to lick its shoes). It is THE most affecting, accomplished, concept album of all time, including any efforts made by all the classical composers of the past eg Holst. I don't think it would have been quite as good if it was released in 1967 as the new versions of songs on here are better than the originals (eg Veg-tables and On a holiday). Smile is an album above fashion- most people won't 'get' it. It's basically a journey through Americana from the early days to a Victorian Childhood (the second section) to a suite about the elements (earth, fire and water). It could have only been begun in the 60s, with its wild experimentation and generally positive outlook (before the cynicism of the 70s and beyond kicked in).
I love this album and some people say it's just because my mind is coloured by the legendary "smile-mystique". But I say, if you can't hear the greatness of this music, POP MUSIC, the ambition of it all, then you have listened too much to the current top ten and got your mind brainwashed by monkeybusiness. I give it a 10.
Matt Newham email@example.com As a man who looks at production ahead of the music itself, I love this album. Brian Wilson is one producer that I have only taken seriously in the last year or so, and suddenly I have been grabbed by the brilliance of Pet Sounds, "Good Vibrations", and of course, Smile. Being put on to it when I read the Smiley Smile/Wild Honey booklet (written before Smile was completed, but still worth a good read), I was amazed to find the finished product at the local CD store, and I was blown away by the production. The harmonies are brilliant (particularly on "Our Prayer" - at least on par with the 20/20 equivalent), the instrumental work is almost unbeatable and the lyrics, while at times untranslatable, somehow touch an emotional nerve. Perhaps this album has gained a bit through hype, (the "greatest album never released"), but is still brilliant work on Brian's part. The best track - "Heroes and Villains" even surpasses the amended "Good Vibrations" on this album. The worst? ! That's A tough call - they're all brilliant. If anything it sounds like Brian's voice just isn't what it once was when it comes to "Wonderful". The original can be found on either The Pet Sounds Sessions or Good Vibrations - Thirty Years of the Beach Boys. I don't have either but I have heard a brief sample of the original "Wonderful" track. I don't think it was beaten on Smiley Smile (although it was great too), and I don't think that it's been beaten now. In spite of that though, a beautiful and enjoyable album.
Martin, Spain firstname.lastname@example.org I heard this record, and to be honest, most of the songs were already available on the Good Vibrations - 30 years of the Beach Boys" box set, which sound 1000 times better and feature the BB's anyway. Brian sounds tired on his version. Also, it's fun to take the box set tracks and create your own version of "Smile"! Try it!
john renaud warren.michigan What can you say about this masterpiece. You just can"t believe that this guy made fun fun fun.When you listen to Brian Wilson today you must put all of your thoughts away from the days of the surfing days because this guy and his fine band are more much much more pure honest and better than anything out today. When young people listen to Smile and you do not tell them who they are listing to they think the sound is perfect then they ask who is this guy and you tell them he was the Beach Boys and they do not believe you. Take a listen over and over again to this CD and you will be closer to God than you will ever get. A true gift from God Smile forever.
What I Really Want For Christmas 7 ( 2005 )
The Man With All The Toys / What I Really Want For Christmas / God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / O Holy Night / We Wish You A Merry Christmas / Hark The Herald Angels Sing / It Came Upon A Midnight Clear / First Noel / Christmasey / Little Saint Nick / Deck The Halls / Auld Lang Syne / On Christmas Day / Joy To The World / Silent Night
Recorded at the behest of his record label, by all accounts. It's a strange way to follow-up 'Smile', but then, this is Brian Wilson we're talking about. Very nearly never predictable. Anyway, yes, we've got 15 tracks here, mostly the usual festive xmas favourites we would expect. The highlights of the set are two new Brian Wilson penned songs and rounding out the record we have a couple of versions of Beach Boys Xmas songs Brian wrote and originally recorded with The Beach Boys back in 1964. I'll start with these two re-workings if nobody minds? Ah, good. Right, Brian and his backing band tackle The Beach Boys 'Little Saint Nick' and come off the worse for wear. The backing lacks surprises, the arrangement is a little fussy and Brian's vocals lack enthusiasm. 'The Man With All The Toys', the other Beach Boys Xmas song re-worked here fares better, thankfully. It's a good rocking tune with the right amount of festive-production touches, but not too much. Good trumpet solo during the songs instrumental break and 'The Man With All The Toys' is a solid album opener, most notable for the utterly beatiful vocal harmonies right at the songs close. It also works well to lead into the first new Brian Wilson number, the albums title track. It's a happy occasion to report this is a very strong, beautifully sang and arranged Brian Wilson song. Brian himself is in fine voice, the backing track very 'Pet Sounds' and the entire arrangement very lovely indeed. Equally as good is 'Christmasey', another very strong new Brian Wilson number. Brilliant vocal arrangements, great lyrics and a new christmas favourite is born, easy as that.
The rest of this album contains the old festive favourites. Brian sings them very well, his voice is in good shape throughout these records, something it makes me very happy to report on. The arrangements are usually Brian by numbers, although a few songs contain twists and surprises. This is a beautifully played Christmas album, very solid piece of work. Actually, although I probably shouldn't say this, purely for Xmas purposes I managed to find around 6gb of assorted Xmas songs from a huge variety of artists. Deleted now, I might add! Yet, this album and the Phil Spector album stood out as fine examples of Christmas records. Obviously, due to the nature of the songs this album here will have limited appeal during the rest of the year. I'm glad Brian recorded an Xmas album, though. It's a very Brian Wilson thing to do, and he really does sing lovely here. Check out his lead on 'First Noel', for example. Perfectly pitched, and when the harmonies ease in alongside him it becomes clear this project was carefully considered, and certainly doesn't deserve to be thought of as any kind of stop-gap throwaway.
That Lucky Old Sun 8½ ( 2008 )
That Lucky Old Sun / Morning Beat / Room With A View (narrative) / Good Kind Of Love / Forever My Surfer Girl / Venice Beach (narrative) / Live Let Live / Mexican Girl / Cinco de Mayo (narrative) / California Role / Between Pictures (narrative) / Oxygen To The Brain / Been Too Long / Midnight s Another Day / Lucky Old Sun Reprise / Goin' Home / Southern California
'That Lucky Old Sun' sees witness to new Brian Wilson originals wrapped around his version of the nineteen forties standard, 'That Lucky Old Sun'. It's kind of a happier, sunnier, nostalgic adult-oriented pop version of 'Smile'. A 'Smile' without the drugs, if you will. Brian has been re-signed to Capitol Records for the release of this LP and if it happens that it's the last LP he makes, he can hold his head up high. Brian's new music is nicely produced and arranged and likely to appeal mostly to existing fans of Brian and The Beach Boys, although in a better world, would have much wider appeal. Brian returns to 1965 for musical inspiration and several of these songs are likely to appeal to Mike Love, Al Jardine and the surviving members of The Beach Boys. 'Forever She'll Be My Sufer Girl' could have returned The Beach Boys to the singles charts quite easily. 'Midnight's Another Day' is a superior Brian Wilson ballad, 'Oxygen To The Brain' is a delight for those that prefer Brian's quirkier material. Something for everyone, really.
'That Lucky Old Sun' is ambitious in the way it's been constructed and the lyrics by Scott Bennett often produce some striking one-liners for Brian to sing. On 'Midnight's Another Day', a heartbreaking, glorious moment appears. This is a song that swells upwards and Brian's vocals are spot-on, ranging from low, almost spoken to full-out harmonising on the line ‘all these people make me feel so alone’. Delicate piano punctuates the strings which are beautiful throughout the song. Almost a modern day 'Til I Die' and I cannot give higher praise than that. 'California Role' is a really happy tune that opens with vocals by band-member Scott Bennett and it’s a nice thing. ‘At twenty-five I turned out the light cos i couldn't handle the glare in my tired eyes but now i'm back drawing shades of bright blue skies.’ Oh, a final word. 'Going Home' is superb, a wonderful rocker complete with sailing, see-sawing harmonica. Good lyrics too and a tune full of sound, saturated with sound. Album closer ‘Southern California’ is almost as good as the melodic changes of ‘She’ll Be My Surfer Girl’ and the ballad ‘Midnights Another Day’. ‘That Lucky Old Sun’ is arguably Brian’s finest ‘proper’ solo album release and can we really ask for more than that? Brian we must remember, is a Sixty-something pop survivor and 'That Lucky Old Sun' certainly compares favourably with recent albums by his peers, Paul McCartney, Jagger/Richards and Bob Dylan.
Paul N Bahrain I bought this last week and my God, does it grow on you?! A long time Beachboy fan and this album is tickling my brain like it hasn't been tickled for a long time. Smile it isn't, but excellent brilliant BW music it is. What a joy!
Reimagines Gershwin 8½ ( 2010 )
Rhapsody in Blue Intro / The Like in I Love You / Summertime / I Loves You, Porgy / I Got Plenty o' Nuttin' / It Ain't Necessarily So / 'S Wonderful / They Can't Take That Away from Me / Love Is Here to Stay / I've Got a Crush on You / I Got Rhythm / Someone to Watch Over Me / Nothing But Love / Rhapsody in Blue Reprise
Wilson and Gershwin were born two generations apart yet are closely linked musically - how often did we spot weaves of Gershwin in Wilson's music, particularly throughout the 'Smile' era? Brian produced 'Reimagines Gershwin' armed with more than 100 fragments of unfinished Gershwin music. In the end, Brian chose to finish just two, 'The Like In I Love You' and 'Nothing But Love'. It's been said that the touch of Brian is all over this album, a personal touch that sometimes has been lacking during the more collaborative solo albums he's previously released. We'll touch on the vocal chords of the sixty eight year old Brian Wilson for a moment. Now taking regular vocal coach lessons, his voice continues to surprise. Sure, there's still a touch of old man about his voice but then again, there has been for decades. He knows how to sing and 'Reimagines Wilson' actually features very acceptable Brian vocals that on occasion manage to be genuinely touching. The vocal arrangements are bright and fresh too, not just apeing Beach Boys arrangements of the past. The entire musical and vocal arrangement for 'The Like In I Love You' is clearly reminiscent of 'Pet Sounds' and initially you think you've heard this kind of thing too many times before from Wilson, yet the more you listen to the track the more you discover. The 'pain in painting, muse in music' vocal refrain, the subtle yet effective harmonies, the lovely gently beating bass lines. I wouldn't change a single thing about this track which is truly a modern-day Wilson masterpiece, a musical fantasy utterly suited to being released by Disney, Brian's latest record label.
'Someone To Watch Over Me' is the mature mirror of Brian's own 'Caroline No' and arranged deliberately so to evoke that feel, you suspect. Brian sings this tune particularly sweetly as he does 'I Love You Porgy' - both tunes sporting vocals that defy the decades of abuse Wilson subjected to voice to. The late-night city feel of 'Ain't Necessarily So' is fairly unique for a Brian Wilson album and this is a song that's particularly superbly performed by Brian's group of musicians. 'I've Got A Crush On You' is turned into a romantic doo-wop number and 'I Got Plenty Of Nothin' into a Pet Sounds era instrumental. Finally, more or less, The 2nd 'new' tune here 'Nothing But Love' is just so damn good you wonder what has happened to Brian to revitalise his muse quite so spectacularly. Is the album any good then? Well, I think you know my answer to that one.
In The Key Of Disney 7½ ( 2011 ) You’ve Got a Friend in Me (from Toy Story) / Bare Necessities (from The Jungle Book) / Baby Mine (from Dumbo) / Kiss the Girl (from The Little Mermaid) / Colors of the Wind (from Pocahontas) / Can You Feel the Love Tonight? (from The Lion King) / We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3) / I Just Can’t Wait to Be King (from The Lion King) / Stay Awake (from Mary Poppins) / Heigh-Ho-Whistle While You Work (from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) / When You Wish Upon a Star (from Pinocchio)
Brian is currently signed to Disney Records and 'In The Key Of Disney' completes a two album deal with the label. In style, 'In The Key Of Disney' echoes the Gershwin album, his talented backing group play the instruments and sing those Beach Boys styled harmonies well. Brian himself produces the set, which doesn't break any new ground, but then at the age of 67/68 it would be churlish to expect Brian to be breaking new ground. Besides, the Gershwin set has sold encouragingly and I expect this 'Disney' album to follow suit. His motivations behind this project seem sincere, to shed some light on Disney song-writers such as Robert and Richard Sherman who besides penning 'Stay Awake' for Mary Poppins also wrote Brian Wilson favourite 'Graduation Day' by The Four Freshman. Frank Churchill and Ned Washington compositions also feature as well as songs from 'Toy Story' and 'The Lion King'. Brian has also stated he wanted to release a record his grand-children would enjoy.
Some of the highlights of the set come from unlikely places, such as 'Snow White', 'The Jungle Book' and 'Little Mermaid' - some of the lowpoints come from the pen of Elton John. To the good stuff first 'Heigh-Ho-Whistle Whilst You Work' has been given a fun, jazzy atmosphere and the instrumental touches vaguely echo much earlier Brian Wilson mid-sixties experimentation with odd textures and sounds. The backing vocals here are lovely by the way ooohing and aarring and then going all toodleid and tweetid on us. Brian doesn't sing a lead vocal, the vocal melodies being taken care of by additional instrumentation and chanted 'heigh-ho's' from his backing group. Hard to explain why I love this silly slice of a novelty type song, but in Brian's hands it's just so much pure fun. 'When You Wish Upon A Star' we all known influenced Brian's own 'Surfer Girl' composition so it's fascinating to hear what he's done with this. Well, he plays it straight, the vocal harmonies are exquisite and his own lead perfectly adequate. I do love the semi-instrumental mid-section of the song - oh those harmonies! 'Kiss The Girl' is sunshine personified and suddenly you know exactly why Disney and Wilson are such a good fit, that Beach Boys style always did appeal to kids of all ages, same as Disney films really. Speaking of kids films, 'Baby Be Mine' from 'Dumbo' is given a lovely rendering in the best Brian in ballad mode style and also features a good vocal blend to close the tune, it's all done in very Beach Boys style.
So, 'Can We Feel The Love Tonight' sounds especially bland and Brian's vocal, in contrast to 'Baby Be Mine' being his best of this record, is the worst - he just can't get upto some of the notes. 'I Just Can't Wait To Be King' sounds a little clumsy in overall rendition, Brian sounding especially one dimensional in terms of his lead and the arrangement a kind of standard Beach Boys in semi-rock mode, we get a brief guitar solo, a brief sax solo. I don't know, it just sounds ordinary, something most Brian Wilson songs thankfully fail to sound like. 'You've Got A Friend In Me'? Well, it's ok but I want to hear Randy Newman sing it, not Brian. One last track to mention, 'Bare Necessities', forgot about your worries and your strife, sings Brian. Well, quite, it's a piece of advice he himself could have with at time to time during the 70s and 80s. As with 'Heigh-Ho', 'Bare Necessities' runs with a playful, jazzy feel and just manages to be grin-inducing which is enough - it's not high art but grin-inducing will do me, especially those 'dum, dum, dum' harmony parts. Is 'In The Key Of Disney' as good as the Gerswhin album? Probably not, it doesn't quite contain the same number of high-points yet overall, Brian Wilson's eighth solo album proper is properly solid and good listening for the entire family.
No Pier Pressure 7½ ( 2015 ) This Beautiful Day / Runaway Dancer / What Ever Happened / On the Island / Half Moon Bay / Our Special Love / The Right Time / Guess You Had to Be There / Don't Worry / Somewhere Quiet / I'm Feeling Sad / Tell Me Why / Sail Away / One Kind of Love / Saturday Night / The Last Song
Brian Wilson recorded, sang, wrote and arranged all of The Beach Boys hit singles, excluding 'Kokomo' which Byrds producer Terry Melcher wrote with Beach Boys frontman Mike Love. 'Kokomo' went to number one on the Billboard singles charts and it was something of a punch in the guts for Brian. Brian released a solo album in the late eighties which was pretty much the follow-up to 'Beach Boys Love You' recorded some ten years earlier, the follow-up to Brian's self-titled 1988 album was shelved and once Brian was left alone again early 90's he retreated back to his bedroom. Lots of music people have tried to get with Brian to take credit for his recovery, whenever said recovery was meant to happen. Producer Joe Thomas has fulfilled a role in Brian's life, recording every Piano roll and snippet of melodies and compiling a huge protools database of such. He produced an album with Brian called 'Imagination' and also enabled the recording of 'That's Why God Made The Radio', the well received 50th anniversary brand spanking new album that ends The Beach Boys career far better than 'Summer In Paradise' in 1992 ever did.
'No Pier Pressure' sounds different to every other Brian Wilson solo album and sounds different to every single Beach Boys album. Fans have regarded collaborations with some guest artists present with outright hostility, no least 'Sebu' on the modern dance number 'Runaway Dancer'. Did 'Today', 'Pet Sounds', 'Smile', 'Smiley Smile', 'Wild Honey' and then 'Friends' even sound remotely similar to each other? Brian and Joe Thomas have put together a new album that sounds commercial, yet commercial isn't always a bad thing - ask Mike Love about his lyrical input to 'Good Vibrations' if you like. 'No Pier Pressure' so far has received luke-warm reviews, even from Brian fanatics. So, i'm going to say that many of Brian's best works have taken time to be accepted, years and years of distance sometimes, and I think this record is no exception. That won't help Brian sell records of couse, yet without Mike Love, and the truth hurts, he never has sold any quantity of records to speak of.
The sound of this album is crystal clear and the harmonies are impeccable, even the dance number 'Runaway Dancer' has a brief vocal harmony section at the very end that makes you smile. 'Runaway Dance' is modern dance-pop and quite acceptable, it also still manages to sport Brian Wilson melodies although it's placement as the second track in whilst bearing no similarity to the rest of the album has had some fans in uproar, As a song, it's absolutely fine and nothing really to get annoyed about. 'Sail Away' could be a hit single, Brian rolls back the years and takes inspiration from his own arrangement of 'Sloop John B' and imagine for a second, a Brian Wilson in 1966 listening to 'Sail Away' in 2015, with no knowledge of his trials and tribulations in the meantime. He'd be pretty pleased I would guess, but would wonder where Mike, Dennis and Carl were. In the late Seventies The Beach Boys recorded an album called 'La Light Album' which included a disco version of one of their old songs. Brian on 'No Pier Pressure' writes a couple of songs that had he written back then would have hugely helped The Beach Boys sell records. 'Don't Worry' has been described as a Motown number but it's disco through and through and sports a massively addictive chorus. 'Saturday Night' has a guest vocal that is slightly reminiscent of The Bee Gees and if Brian had been this enhanced in 1978 would have pleased the rest of The Beach Boys massively - although this brings me to a bone of contention.
Yes! Bone!! Of!!! Contention!!!! Contention!!!!! Even Brian's biggest fans and supporters have expressed doubts, particularly with this album, how much Brian himself has been involved - is it all a mirage?! Well, Joe Thomas isn't a songwriter, that much is known. Yet, he clearly helps Brian finish songs he otherwise would not be able to finish. Joe Thomas is responsible for maybe 30 to 40 percent of the music songwriting. Yet, let us listen to 'The Last Song' and you tell me that anybody else but Brian Wilson could do it. 'The Last Song' has twenty or something orchestral musicians and was originally meant to be sang by Lana Del Rey but thank god it's Brian who sings - it's a brilliant track and worth the price of admission alone. Brian at his best has always used good musicians and 'No Pier Pressure' lives up to that - the sound is very Seventies, something of a lost decade for Brian so it's good to hear Brian do songs that could have very well been recorded during that decade. Currently however i'm adoring 'I'm Feeling Sad', one of the songs on the deluxe edition of 'No Pier Pressure' - it's pure Brian and the harmonies are stunning. 'One Kind Of Love' spins in and these harmonies could only have come from Brian Wilson - 'No Pier Pressure' I hope fulfils it's purpose as the second of three albums Brian signed to Capitol Records, this and the next were of course meant to be Beach Boys albums but it seems life got in the way of that.