Saturday, April 20, 2013

Mike Love Minimizes 50th Reunion Tour & Album in Recent Interview

I wish the headline for the entry only simply referred to Mike Love minimizing the window on his computer, but for better or worse, things are pretty much fully back to the way they were in the olden days. Mike Love has given another short, but nevertheless memorable interview. You can read it in full here:
Time has been instructive to Beach Boys fans, as we are at least finally gaining a better understanding of Mike Love's true feelings about the whole 50th Anniversary project. A lot of what we're hearing are things many fans suspected, but it is definitely instructive to hear these things from the man's mouth.
The interview is pretty short, so I won't excerpt much here since it only takes a few moments to read the link above.
Basically, Love is even more firmly standing by the idea that he's done with more reunion activities for the forseeable future, and seems to feel he went above and beyond in even participating in the tour and album last year. He still interestingly refuses to acknowledge the actual offers the band supposedly had on the table for more immediate concerts, TV appearances, and recording and instead once again has brought out his vague assertion that some promoters told him the reunion should "give it a rest" for at least a year to presumably build up demand. This idea seems even more useless in light of the fact that he certainly doesn't seem as if he's ready to get back with the reunion in 2014, so I'm not sure what point he's making here other than to justify not continuing the reunion in 2013.
Asked about last year's new Beach Boys album, Love's comments are particularly interesting (and not surprising given what we know about the album's creation):
"Well, I wasn’t consulted very much with that album. Brian and I had spoken about a year before we even got started with that album. He wanted to do some re-records of some of our favorite songs. And I was up for that. We mentioned a couple of songs to each other. But that never happened. Nor was I able to actually get in a room and write with Brian like I did back in the ’60s. So that was, to me, unfortunate.
On the other hand, he had some songs he had been working on for several years. Brian has done a lot of things as a solo artist over the past 10 or 15 years, but it was nice to get together and do something in the studio together for the first time in many years. It sounded great, reminded me of 1965 again. And Brian said that, too."

What Love says here does make total sense. We knew based on interviews and the credits on the sleeve (and what the album simply sounded like) that this was largely a Brian Wilson/Joe Thomas project with some lyrical input from Love and vocal input from the rest of the group. Not completely unlike the days of "Pet Sounds."

Love seems to be hung up on not writing songs from scratch with Brian. I think most fans agree this would be lovely if the pair could actually produce quality material. But Love's track record on writing material from scratch in recent years, or even recent decades, is spotty. While Brian often has collaborators and other musical partners flesh his stuff out, Brian has written album after album that includes at least *some* quality material and material that doesn't all sound like Papa Doo Run Run trying to ape the sound of either "Kokomo" or "Surfin' USA." Love's track record makes this additional comment from the interview regarding the album particularly, well, just read this crap:

"Well, it debuted at No. 3. That’s not bad. But it didn’t stay up there very long. To have sustained success, like we’ve been known to do, you need a single that will chart and stay in the Top 20 or the Top 10 for three months. And that didn’t happen with this album."

There are about 50 things wrong with this statement. I would imagine the first thing that popped into many fans' minds when reading this was 1992's epic "Summer in Paradise" album. For those that don't remember, this was the previous "final" original Beach Boys album, and was essentially a Mike Love solo album recorded without Brian, with Al "suspended" from the group for most of the sessions, and with Carl, Bruce, and Al making some vocal cameos. This was the album where someone decided that if "Kokomo" was a hit, then an album full of nothing but "Kokomo" knock-offs would be a bigger hit. Yes, I know some of the songs are not literally "Kokomo" rip offs, but the whole thing was lackluster to put in kindly. Most pointedly, the album literally DID NOT CHART. As in, not in the TOP 200! This was the purest example we've ever had of what happens when Mike Love wrestles full control of a project. Even his 1981 solo album wasn't as much of a concentrated serving of Love, as he didn't have as many songwriting credits on that one.

Love's comments also ignore that the charts are tabulated, and sales occur in a far different way today than they did in the 60's, or even the 80's. Old fogey bands like the Beach Boys don't have "hit singles" often anymore. Guys like McCartney sell albums, and then get Grammy nods for albums. They don't hit the top of the "Hot 100" singles charts anymore. They don't even release physical singles anymore.

Love also fails to point out that it would have at least theoretically been possible to promote the album and it's second single ("Isn't It Time") if the reunion lineup had done more dates, and/or more TV appearances and so on.

Love at one point in the short interview senses that the interviewer is getting hung up on the reunion tour and album, which is also telling as it indicates Love's potential lack of awareness of how bad the press has been for him in the aftermath of the reunion, and also of course tells us that he is back in full "Pre-2012" mode in promoting his touring "Beach Boys", continually asserting that this has been the way it was since 1998, as if that means anything to anybody.

I do want to continue to see interviews like this, though, as we are slowly getting a more honest picture of the reunion, and interviews like this make me more and more thankful and frankly shocked that they held the reunion tour together for as long as they did. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Brian and Al in the Studio.....

Brian has been posting a number of pictures recently on his social media platforms depicting a variety of studio sessions for which no explanations have been offered. We’ve seen some pictures of studio sessions with drummer Jim Keltner, old cohort from the 90’s Don Was, Jeff Beck (who may well have simply been working with Brian prepping for the upcoming odd “Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp” project), and now the most interesting of all, Al Jardine.

The first picture from the control room suggested the possibility that Al and Brian may have simply been attending a listening session for the upcoming “Made in California” set or some other Beach Boys project. Speculation that his has anything to do with the upcoming live album seems unlikely, as we're only four weeks out from its release; it most likely has already been mixed, mastered, and potentially already manufactured. But then we got a few “studio floor” shots:


What exactly Brian, Al, and Jeff Foskett could be working on is a mystery, but the fact that they are doing presumably *new* recording is promising, whether it’s a Brian solo project, an Al solo project, some sort of joint project, or some potential Beach Boys project.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"The 50th Anniversary Tour" CD Set - We Have Cover Art!

Here's the artwork for the new live album. Not bad, not bad at all. It could have been far worse. Major props to the guys for *not* putting either a surfboard or a car on the cover. 

"The BAD Tour 2013" - Brian, Al, and David

Someone on the Smiley Smile Message Board dubbed the Brian/Al/David tour dates as the "BAD Tour", and I certainly believe it will be anything but bad (unless we're talking about the good kind of "bad", but that's a discussion for an old fuddy-duddy parent to have circa 1990).

What remains to be seen at this point is how much of a "tour" this will be. Here's what the schedule looks like so far:

    • July 20 — Atlantic City, NJ (The Grand @ The Golden Nuggett)
    • July 21 — Pittsburgh, PA (Stage AE)
    • July 23 — Interlochen, MI (Kresge Auditorium)
    • July 25 — Kettering, OH (Fraze Pavilion)
    • July 26 — Highland Park, IL (Ravinia Festival Pavilion)
    • July 27 — Apple Valley, MN (Minnesota Zoo, Weesner Family Amphitheater)
    • October 20 — Los Angeles, CA (Greek Theatre)

So we have six dates bunched together in late July, and a random October date in L.A. It might be tempting to believe they will literally fill in the entire time between 7/27 and 10/20 with tour dates, but that seems unlikely. But I certainly hope we get some additional dates, at least something akin to a standard Brian solo tour from the old days, a good 20-30 shows or so that hopefully gets around most of North America.
What can we expect from these shows? I think they could be awesome, especially if they allow David and especially Al to have more than just cameo roles in the show. When Al played a few gigs with Brian in 2006/2007, he was really relegated to a few leads. Beyond that, it was more just the novelty of seeing the two guys together. Let's hope Brian hands over a substantial number of leads to Al, and some to David as well. Let's also hope we see Al and David introducing their own stuff into the setlist. I'd love to see Al sing "Cottonfields" and "California Saga" again, but I wouldn't mind seeing him add "Don't Fight the Sea", or "Lady Lynda", or "Santa Ana Winds", and so on.

We'll be getting essentially/presumably the 50th Anniversary tour lineup minus Love, Johnston, Cowsill, and Totten and probably one additional person to fill in on drums and/or bass (Brett Simons?). So it should be an awesome show, and maybe Brian will be more at east not having to do all the vocal heavy lifting on the tour.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"50th Anniversary Tour" CD Set Tracklisting.....

It appears we have a track listing for the live album:

Disc 1
1 "Do It Again"
2 "Little Honda"
3 "Catch A Wave"
4 "Hawaii"
5 "Don't Back Down"
6 "Surfin' Safari"
7 "Surfer Girl"
8 "The Little Girl I Once Knew"
9 "Wendy"
10 "Getcha Back"
11 "Then I Kissed Her"
12 "Marcella"
13 "Isn't It Time"
14 "Why Do Fools Fall In Love"
15 "When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)"
16 "Disney Girls"
17 "Be True To Your School"
18 "Little Deuce Coupe"
19 "409"
20 "Shut Down"
21 "I Get Around"

Disc 2
1 "Pet Sounds"
2 "Add Some Music To Your Day"
3 "Heroes And Villains"
4 "Sail On, Sailor"
5 "California Saga: California"
6 "In My Room"
7 "All This Is That"
8 "That's Why God Made The Radio"
9 "Forever"
10 "God Only Knows"
11 "Sloop John B"
12 "Wouldn't It Be Nice"
13 "Good Vibrations"
14 "California Girls"
15 "Help Me, Rhonda"
16 "Rock And Roll Music"
17 "Surfin' U.S.A."
18 "Kokomo"
19 "Barbara Ann"
20 "Fun, Fun, Fun"  

I suppose this is about what I expected. I had little hope that we would get a presenation of all 61 songs peformed on the tour. I held a bit of hope out for this based on the band playing all 61 songs at their second-to-last tour stop at the Royal Albert Hall.

The set is an unsurprising mixture of most of the expected hits, with a handfull of the "rare" tracks thrown in. Brian seems to love "Marcella", so that got in. Both Mike and Al seemed into "All This Is That", so that made it. Al added his signature "California Saga" a month into the tour and everyone seemed to have fun with that, so that made it. David's turns on "Getcha Back" and "Pet Sounds" are nice to see.

So what about the exclusions? Some make more sense than others. Many fans have noted the absence of "Cottonfields", which was one of Al's best peformances during the tour. In fact, a lack of more Al (sorry everybody, he has by LEAPS AND BOUNDS the most in-tact voice of the band)  is the biggest let down, as not only was "Cottonfields" dropped, but also "California Dreamin'" and "Come Go With Me". Don't get me wrong, I've never been that enthused about the band's peformances of "Come Go With Me." They always sound fine, but the song is a cover, and kind of boring at this point. But more Al would have been nice. They frankly should have given him more leads during the tour in general, either letting him add more of his songs or giving him a few leads like "Sloop John B" or even just a few of Mike's leads.

The 20 songs from the tour left off the set are:

This Whole World
Come Go With Me
Good Timin'
It's OK
Still Cruisin'
Our Prayer
I Just Wasn't Made For These Times
California Dreamin
Summer's Gone
Dance Dance Dance
Please Let Me Wonder
Kiss Me Baby
All Summer Long
You're So Good To Me
Do You Wanna Dance
Don't Worry Baby
Ballad of Ole Betsy
Let Him Run Wild

Some of these objectively make *some* sense, even if I don't have a single objection to any songs. The four at the bottom of the list consist of the leads peformed by non-Beach Boys. Their exclusion is probably not coincidental. Too bad, as they were all good performances. "This Whole World" would have been great, even though I have yet to hear Brian peform a solid lead vocal on this since he started doing it live in 1999. That may be why it was only sporadically peformed during the tour, and left off the set. "Summer's Gone" was only done twice on the last two shows, so that one's not surprising. "Our Prayer" was only done a few times as well. Brian's turn on "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" is a bit surprising as an exclusion. "Good Timin'" would have been nice, even if again Brian's lead usually was a bit lackluster, especially distressing considering the lead vocal on that song is not particularly taxing. Al's three aforementioned covers are just that, covers, as is Brian's turn on "Do You Wanna Dance." I felt "Do You Wanna Dance" was probably the weakest song choice on the entire tour, so that's not too distressing to me. Mike seems to have a strong affinity for "It's OK" even if no one else in the band may, so I'm kind of surprised he didn't push to get that one on. "Still Cruisin'", "Dance Dance Dance", "All Summer Long", and "You're So Good to Me" were all songs that were never regularly included in the setlist, so those aren't terribly surprising either.

In any event, while we can hope for some magical third "bonus disc" or some form of bonus tracks that give us more of these songs, this is probably it other than whatever we get on this big tour documentary that is allegedly due on DVD/Blu-ray at the end of the year (and for which donations have been solicited for several months; more on that project in a future post!).

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Recent Articles & Interviews Discussing the "50th" Tour and Future Plans......

Mike Love has given at least a pair of interviews that have popped up recently, discussing last year's reunion as well as future plans. By future plans, I mean doing exactly what occured in 2011 and 2010 and so on. Mike and Bruce are back in full swing with their "Beach Boys" tour, and Mike is apparently still facing questions concerning the awkward ending to last year's reunion tour.
In this first article from the Montgomery News, Love basically just restates his "the reunion ended because it ended" argument:
“I maintain the attitude that there was an agreed-upon amount of shows that we were to do on the anniversary celebration,” he said. “Those shows were accomplished and I think a lot of fans got a lot of pleasure out of it and we had a good time doing it.

“But I’m not opposed to any future involvement. It’s just that those agreed-upon dates came and went and now we’re off to do what we do with our group. Al has his group and Brian has his group.”
As already discussed at length by fans, this reasoning explains in the most functional sense why there aren't more reunion shows (e.g. the tour ended because it ended), but doesn't explain at all why Love didn't take an option to continue the reunion. It sounds like he needs to just tell us that he doesn't want to play with the other guys, perhaps for financial reasons, perhaps because of politics in the business organization, etc.
Love then dug himself a bit of a hole by semi-incorrectly stating:

“If you’ve looked at Al’s website recently, there’s so much ‘Hate Mike Love’ stuff going on. You would wonder why he’d entertain that stuff on his website,” said Love. “I’d never post anything or allow anybody to say anything bad about anybody on mine. I wish people would understand."
This resulted in a swift correction from Love and his camp, pointing out that Al's website had nothing of the sort, and Love was actually referring to Facebook-type stuff, which as we all know houses all sorts of crap from every type of fan in the world. As some fans also pointed out, Love's own internet hubs including Facebook feature negative comments about him.
An additional article and interview from Lancaster Online sheds a bit more light on Love's true reasons for being hesistant about more reunion shows:

Though he had some reservations, Love says he did enjoy working with Wilson during the tour last year."If it was just Brian, it would be great," he says, "but it's not just Brian. That's all I care to say about that." And, again with some reservations, he says he was happy with the music and the presentation of the Beach Boys' catalog of songs.

"I think there were too many guitarists and too many voices competing for parts for my taste, but it was a good experience musically," he says. "Brian has a good band and there were some good musicians there. We had a good time."

Asked about the possibility of working with Wilson in the future, Love says, "I'm not negative on it but there are no plans at this moment in time to do anything more. But Ian Fleming taught us to 'never say never.'"

The comment concerning Brian seems to indicate the political machine surrounding Brian. While it might be easy to think Mike means Al, or the backing band, one would venture to guess it is Brian's "camp" that Mike is referring to, a camp that Mike's "camp" had to closely worth with (along with Joe Thomas) to make the reunion tour and album happen.

Also interesting is Love's characterization of the touring band, largely made up of Brian's long-time touring band. Love was effusive in his praise for this band when the tour started, and that was bizarre to begin with considering he had spent that last 14 years going out of his way to not discuss Brian's solo success much, and that he was ditching all but two of his touring musicians to let Brian's band lay claim to the "Beach Boys" touring band role. But early in the tour, Love was already making very small references to feeling the band was larger than he preferred.

The reason the new comments from Love are interesting is that they suggest that Love has some musical reason for having misgivings about the band. But you'd be hard pressed to find a fan or commentator that would suggest anything terribly negative about Brian's band. They have been praised by other musicians, stars, and so on. No, I think the evidence suggests it's the admittedly bloated budget that such a contingent of musicians would likely dictate that is at the heart of Love's misgivings. It's also true that a huge band probably isn't needed for some of his "meat and potatoes" numbers. But I find it hard to believe that he didn't hear the fullest arrangements he had ever head playing behind him on the mid 60's material that requires the huge band.

As I haven't posted for quite awhile, a likely unneeded update to the current touring situation can be found by simply perusing the Beach Boys Fan Club tour schedule, which shows that the Mike/Bruce "Beach Boys" band has a typical full year of touring currently being booked. Meanwhile, the Brian/Al/David lineup has a few more dates booked together, so hopefully they can swing by more cities and give us the closest approximation to the 50th tour.

New "50th Anniversary" Live CD Potentially Due

An intriguing listing has popped up on Amazon for a 2-CD set. Check it out:
It appears to be legit, although we'll see if the imminent release date holds. It's a bit odd we haven't heard a peep about this, but it's due in six weeks.
On the plus side, 2 CD's should afford the opportunity for at least something more substantial than the 21 tracks we got on the "Live in Concert" DVD/Blu-ray.
It's doubtful we'll get all 61 songs performed on the tour, especially as they probably wouldn't fit that on 2 CD's even if they cut every bit of crowd noise and stage banter.
But it would be nice to at least get a representation of the typical show on the tour that usually included around 44 to 50 songs each night.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Wouldn't It Be Nice to Hear "Wouldn't It Be Nice To Live Again"?

In the world of the Beach Boys, we still occasionally do get a true surprise. Think the "Good Vibrations" sessions film footage that surfaced in the last few years, or those reels from the "Shut Down Vol. 2" sessions that someone randomly produced.

Less dramatic but still interesting is the surfacing, after nearly 7 years, of an in-house reference copy of the "Warmth of the Sun" compilation that features an alternate tracklisting and track order. Sure, it's a bit interesting that they considered weird inclusions like "In the Parkin' Lot", and it's cool to see a representation of the vetting process for tracklistings for projects like this.

But look close, and you'll see one key track, Track #26. Long rumored and now confirmed is that the legendary (and heard by so few) Dennis Wilson "Surf's Up" era track "(Wouldn't It Be Nice To) Live Again" was definitely slated to be included on this CD. But more importantly, the picture above is from eBay auction in which the actual CD in question was sold.

Considering how much unreleased Beach Boys material floats around, it's actually surprising that this track has never been leaked or bootlegged, not even as some sort of murky, muddy bootleg recording. Cover versions of the track have been aired in recent years, and a few fans have heard the actual Beach Boys recording. But there are few tracks in the Beach Boys universe that are so legendary despite having never been heard in any form.

The ultimate question fans currently have is whether this CD and this specific track will "leak" somehow. The CD sold for almost $400 on eBay. I'd say the chances of this leaking are a bit lower than one would normally think. This is the only currently known possible source that the song could leak from, and of course the buyer is traceable through eBay.

If the supposed "Made in California" boxed set does ever surface, this track would surely have to be included if the set is actual intended to showcase unreleased material. So this hoopla may all be over soon enough anyway.

But it would be tantalizing to hear this track, even if I'm not 100% convinced it will blow my mind quite as much as some fans seem to think.