Thursday, March 02, 2006

CD Review: Unjustly Overlooked And Unloved Albums - The Beach Boys Love You (First in a Series)
February 13, 2006
Gordon Hauptfleisch
The previous album, 15 Big Ones, was supposed to be the big one to herald musical mastermind Brian Wilson's return to more active duty after years in bed and a living-room sandbox, complete with piano. The album was a mixed bag, largely uninspired, consisting of seven original songs--highlighted by the punchy good-times "It's Ok"--and the poignant and powerful cover of the Righteous Brothers' "Just Once In My Life," that worked because of, not despite, Brian's ravished and ragged vocal duet with Carl.

But it is in the ragged glory of the follow-up The Beach Boys Love You where Brian, still trying to recover from a fragile drug and abuse-addled state, really shines, writing eleven of the songs and co-writing the other three. Okay, it isn't another Pet Sounds eleven years on, and perhaps the unmet high expectations ensured the lukewarm sales and mixed reviews at the time, but it is precisely the seemingly tossed-off and un-self conscious who-gives-a-shit songwriting and production (also by Brian Wilson) that propels the melodious and manic pop thrill of Love You.

The bad boys know us and they leave us alone: Sure, the brothers Wilson know they are thirty-somethings, but in the of regressed, rough-edged, rock-fueled songs like "Let Us Go On This Way," "Roller Skating Child," and "Honkin' Down The Highway," they definitely get around, musically and metaphorically. Elsewhere, a wall of Spectorian sound and warmth of sunny trademark harmonies drive songs such as "Mona," "The Night Was So Young," and "I'll Bet He's Nice" (in which there is no don't-worry-baby reassurance).

The simplicity of the wording in some of the songs remind us of why the often childlike Brian benefited in the past from the use of a lyricist--"Solar system/ Gives us wisdom" anyone ("Solar System")? And though the prospect of a Wilson collaboration with the mighty Roger McGuinn from the Byrds sounds momentous, you will be decidedly under-whelmed by the very brief, almost nursery-rhyme quality of "Ding Dang." Dang!

But the unfussy quirkiness effectively and charmingly comes across in such songs as "Johnny Carson" ("It's nice to have you on the show tonight/ I've seen your act in Vegas--out of sight!"), while the shared vocals in the affecting ode to daddy-hood, "I Wanna Pick You Up," not only serves as a reminder of Carl's ample talents but also points up the abilities of the underrated Dennis here and in his unexpected gem of a solo release, also from 1977, Pacific Ocean Blue.

Loves You was originally planned as a solo album entitled Brian Loves You, which not only accounts for the head Beach Boys' controlling hand here, but also assured the wondrous off-kilter quality. Indeed, as Brian would continue to psychologically falter, it is no coincidence that the next year's MIU Album, in which Brian had little part, would prove to be one of the worst Beach Boys releases ever.

In the dedication of Love You is the declaration "To Brian" of "An unspeakable joy being with you in your expression of the music you put out there for everyone." Inexpressible though it may be, the filled-to-capacity joyousness virtually jumps from the grooves of The Beach Boys Love You, and the tacit trust and delight that Carl, Dennis, Mike Love, and Al Jardine show and have shown in Brian shines through.

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