Saturday, May 25, 2013

Brian Apparently is Recording a New Solo Album

The new issue of UK's Mojo magazine has a few bits about Brian's current recordings. Details are still sketchy, but we do know Brian is recording, he is recording stuff presumably as "solo" material, Jeff Beck indeed was involved in actual recording for Brian's album, and Joe Thomas is still involved.
From the Mojo issue (via the Smiley Smile Board:,15536.425.html):
Earlier this year Wilson and Beck spent a week in the studio. "They got along famously and came up with some new things" says Brian's collaborator Joe Thomas. The LP's one non original, he added, is a traditional song familiar to them both from their youths.: " It's actually the first song Brian ever learned to sing from his grandmother," says Thomas. "Jeff Beck blasted off this one version and it knocked Brian out of the ballpark and then Brian came up with an arrangement and within a few hours there was this magical version" The song, whose title they're keeping secret for now " will blow everyone's minds".
Thomas reminded him of their 80 hours of unreleased material from those (1998) sessions. He put them in digital files and Brian referred to some when writing songs for last year's TWGMTR. Others he wanted to save for a solo record. "He was very specific about which were which," says Thomas, " and in a lot of cases, the ones for his own album are a lot edgier." He also wanted to write new songs. "I've known him for 20 years and I've never seen him so prolific." So many, Brian says, he can't remember the titles. There's "no concept" this time, "just music. I love the music."

Intriguing 1989 Carl Wilson Interview

A generous bunch at the Smiley Smile board have posted a transcript from a 1989 interview with Carl Wilson.
Carl interviews are rare, for whatever reason. It's confusing, because these guys did 100 to 150 gigs per year, every year, yet rarely were given the opportunity (or took the opportunity?) to sit down for substantive interviews. In any event, this 1989 interview features Carl being relatively candid about the band's current state, discussing the "Still Cruisin'" album, live show setlists, Mike's place in the band, Brian's solo work, and so on. This was in the later Landy era where that situation was unraveling, and Carl as he usually did refused to go into detail on that subject.
Some interesting tidbits/details from the interview:
- Carl discusses a possible "Caribou" compilation of some sort that obvioiusly never materialized
- They tried to get Brian in on the 1989 European tour, but obviously it didn't happen due to the Landy situation
- Carl describes the joy of being in the studio with Brian working on "In My Car", while also pointing out the horrendous lyrics Landy was adding to the proceedings
- Carl is pretty diplomatic about the issue of the band's stale setlist when the interviewer refreshingly points out they should be doing stuff like "Cool Cool Water" instead of "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena"
- Carl says he likes Brian's solo album, and interestingly highlights the track "Let It Shine"
- Carl is eerily and stunningly prescient about the band's future, semi-jokingly but correctly pointing out that Mike would probably still be there performing after everybody else is gone
- Carl still partly avoids addressing what the hell happened on the 1978 Austrlian tour

New & Recent ESQ Issues....

I've failed to mention the most recent issue of "Endless Summer Quarterly", Spring 2013, which celebrates the "Holland" album with new interviews from Mike and Al. They don't often comment on this era, especially Mike, so it's interesting to hear Mike delve into a new interview topic instead of reminding us that "Kokomo" was #1 and the Beach Boys are still tops on oldies radio. Check out the issue of course. Mike comments on his shared interests with Al and how they were able to share meditation and whatnot.

As I've mentioned in the past, from about 1998 to around 2008 or so, you would rarely see Mike even mention Al's name in interviews. He would talk about Brian, but rarely Al. Mike and Al's relationship seems to be an interesting one in the band's history that still hasn't been delved into too deeply.

I also did not previous mention the Winter 2012 issue, which was a tribute to Carl and Dennis comprised of clippings from previous ESQ issues. A wonderful tribute, and I didn't have all of the back issues from which they pulled clippings, but a bit disappointing to get a sort of "best of" issue with little new content. Still worth picking up, especially if your subscription to ESQ has been spotty over the years and you don't have all the back issues.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review - "Live - 50th Anniversary Tour" CD Set

We finally have, over a year after it started and eight months after it ended, an audio document of the 50th Anniversary tour. So how does “Live – 50th Anniversary Tour” hold up? Let’s find out.

I was lucky enough to get a listen to this a day ahead of release date, purely because Amazon delivered it to me early. A nice little bonus for my Monday.

The tracklisting is available in an earlier post here. Suffice it to say, we get a good hunk but not all of the 2012 tour setlist, 41 of 61 songs to be precise. Not too bad overall, considering most shows on the tour were in the 44 to 50 song range. So this does nearly approximate the length of the early shows on the tour. The selection of tracks is endlessly debatable, although a common criticism that I agree with is dropping Al’s “Cottonfields”, and in general an under-representation of Jardine on the set. Overall, the set manages to fit in a good amount of the “rarities” from the tour setlist while also giving us at least one lead vocal from all five guys.

So let’s get to the main issue at hand. Reviews popped up prior to release date intensely criticizing the set, and specifically the heavy use of autotune on the lead vocals and to a lesser degree the general awkwardness and sterile nature of the mix and overall sound quality. After reading a bit of this in the last week or so, I stopped reading and waited to get a listen myself. What’s my verdict? Autotune is indeed all over this thing, most notably on Mike’s leads on a number of songs. It sounds like it is slathered onto pretty much everybody at one point or another, but it’s most notable on Mike’s leads, especially on some of the early songs in the set. Brian gets the treatment too. Marks sounds relatively unscathed on “Getcha Back”, while Al similarly sounds relatively normal as well. Brian’s vocals are all over the place. “Heroes and Villians” is pretty processed, while something like his vocal intro on “California Saga” sounds okay. But yes, the effect is often pretty distracting and kind of embarrassing. Mike in particular sounds like a robot at certain points. Simply put, these guys’ voices are not suited to the use of autotune. They aren’t just flatting one note here or there. Their voices end up being so processed by autotune that it literally goes well beyond “their voices don’t sound as organic anymore” and veers into literally sounding like a robot, almost as if they are singing through a vocoder from the 70’s or 80’s. Brian’s voice in particular jumps around too much to be smoothed out by autotune, so you end up with these jagged, robotic sounds. It was so bad when applied in early shows on the tour that they cleary and obviously stopped using it in the live mix at shows. In any event, some songs sound okay, some a bit processed, and some comically so. It’s really all over the place.

Apart from that, everything else isn’t too bad, just a bit sterile and stiff. The mix isn’t too wet, which I sometimes worry about with modern live mixes. So that’s good. There are occasionally other wonky audio anomalies. The vocals occasionally are somehow double tracked, presumably electronically. This is evident on a few Brian leads in particular, including “Add Some Music to Your Day.” This still sounds better than autotune, but still quite odd for a live release. The most wonky-sounding bits outside of autotune come from, once again, the two tracks off the new album. As I’ve lamented before, I have yet to hear these guys put together a solid live performance of “That’s Why God Made the Radio.” TV performances have sounded rather haphazard, and a few “official” live versions heard on radio broadcasts or live DVD/Blu-ray sound patched together from mixtures of live and studio elements, making the whole thing sound disjointed. On this new live album, they’ve smoothed out the edges somewhat better, but it still sounds really wonky. Elements are seemingly flown in from the studio recording still, and the vocals sound totally out of place mixed in with the live musicians. “Isn’t It Time” is the same. For the sake of accuracy, it is worth noting that while “Radio” was totally live in person at the actual live shows as opposed to augmented with studio elements, “Isn’t It Time” seemed to have bits mixed in from the studio recording when they performed it live at most shows.  I’m not sure why the two “new” songs in particular needed to be constantly fudged with so much. They probably should have just cut these two tracks and given us something more solidly performed.

All of that being said, I don’t think this set is quite trainwreck status. There are some good performances mixed relatively nicely. Marks’ aforementioned “Getcha Back” sounds nice. Al still sounds like Al on “Then I Kissed Her.” Brian, Mike, and Al all take turns to good effect on “California Saga.” “Pet Sounds” sounds just fine (no vocals!). “Add Some Music to Your Day” still is a highlight. “All This Is That” and “Marcella” are cool inclusions that sound okay. The “rarities” are the main highlights of this set.

It is a bit odd that Joe Thomas was apparently quite involved in this release. I say this because outside of his work with Brian and the group, his main apparent work in the last couple decades has seemed to be live music production, including the PBS "Soundstage" show. I've seen several episodes of that show, and the sound always at least seems to be pretty "un-futzed" with and sounds just fine. So it's kind of strange that this Beach Boys release sounds so, "altered", to put it nicely.

As for the physical packaging, the booklet is pretty barebones with a few pics and basic musician and song credits. Something a bit more deluxe would have been nice.

So I would still say the release is worthwhile, and unfortunately as “live” as we’re going to get from an official release. I would still offer a qualified, very tentative recommendation for the set. For me, this isn’t quite up to the level of “boycott” status. I would surely enjoy an unedited, 61-song release with more “honest” sounding performances, but I just don’t know if we’ll ever get such an article.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bruce Said it Last Year, But.......

A recent extremely short promotional story for Mike and Bruce's "Beach Boys" show in Las Vegas (found here: ) recycles a quote from Bruce from last year that apparently some of us missed:

“The band that’s going to win the noncompetition, no offense to Brian, is whoever’s called the Beach Boys,” Johnston said last year. “I just kind of stuck with what I know. I just hung in there. Mike got the license to be the Beach Boys, and he’s kind of the front guy. I thought, ‘Well he’s my friend, I’ll just kind of hang in this world.’ ”
And, let it not be forgotten, “We built a huge, huge business out of it. Huge.”

You can all just stew on Bruce's quote above for awhile. I'm sure I can editorialize on that at length at any time without much trouble.......

Matt Jardine Sits in with Mike & Bruce.....

Matt Jardine apparently popped up for a few numbers during Mike and Bruce's "Beach Boys" concert on Sunday, May 12 in Arizona, singing "Darlin'" and "Help Me Rhonda."

What does this mean? Nothing, most likely. It's a good sign that there is not any ill will considering the distant past of the late 90's. For those that don't recall, there was an awkward but short period of time in 1998 when Matt Jardine was still the "falsetto guy" in Mike's "Beach Boys" after Al Jardine's departure. It didn't last long, but Matt's departure probably was not completely unrelated to Al's.

In any event, it seems relations in the Beach Boys world are relatively calm compared to previous years and decades. In other words, there are no pending lawsuits at least.

I still cannot completly dismiss the irony that Matt Jardine can appear at a "Beach Boys" concert while Al Jardine for all we know could be sitting at home with nothing to do. I'm not suggesting Al simply joining Mike's "Beach Boys" would be ideal, but Al's amazingly intact voice should be heard somewhere, either with Brian's tour, or Mike's, or ideally with a reunited five-man Beach Boys lineup.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Good Vibrations Tour" DVD Due June 18 in US

It looks like UK-based Eagle Vision is finally bringing this DVD release to North America after having previously issued it in the UK nearly a decade ago.

For those unfamiliar with this DVD, it is a re-titled release of the band's 1976 NBC TV Special, sometimes also titled "It's OK."

We'll have to wait and see what this ends up looking and sounding like, but it most likely will be identical to the previous UK release. That release featured acceptable video quality, but the whole thing was a pretty barebones affair. No real extras, middling at best video quality (it was marginally better than the best old VHS dubs floating around among collectors), and a 5.1 soundtrack most likely fabricated from mono sound elements.

But it's certainly a unique article in the band's history, well worth a release.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Review - "That's Why God Made the Radio" 7" Single

Issued last year in a couple of variations, I offer a quick look at the 45rpm vinyl single for "That's Why God Made the Radio", backed with an instrumental version of the same.

The single was issued on its own, and then later in the year it strangely appeared in a small boxed set exclusively at Target stores, offered in a box along with a "Beach Boys 50" t-shirt.

The main draw here in the otherwise-unavailable instrumental mix of the song. It's about what you would expect: it's the song with the vocals stripped away. Interestingly, it is also missing a few other overdubs, most notably the saxophone. I love hearing alternate items like this, even in cases like this where no Beach Boys are even on the backing track with the possible exception of Brian.

I only wish this would have seen a digital or physical CD release as well, as while I'm enjoying spinning vinyl, it's still kind of a pain compared to popping a CD in.

It seems doubtful the instrumental track will see release elsewhere, so this is a fun curiosity to seek out. The sleeve artwork, while not terribly exciting, is arguably what should have been used for the actual album artwork.

Hopefully a review of the album itself is forthcoming soon; I think it would be instructive to look back on the album a year later.......

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review - "Don't Fight the Sea/Friends (A Cappella)" Single

So I finally got around to picking up this 7" charity single, even though it was initially issued nearly two years ago I believe. The early limited edition was apparently white vinyl; what I got was on good old fashioned black vinyl.
I finally got my turntable hooked back up again, and figured I would finally track this single down to hear the still-otherwise-unreleased "A Capella" mix of "Friends."
As for the A-side, it's seemingly the same version/mix of "Don't Fight the Sea" flown in from Al's album. It's fun to see it on vinyl, and hilarious to see that it contractually/legally can't be credited to "The Beach Boys" even though there are more Beach Boys on it (five) than plenty of stuff released under the band's name over the years. I think the song is great, and great to hear Carl's awesome vocals on it. Al sounds stellar as well. The song was first tracked in the late 70's, but much if not most of what we hear on this version sounds like it comes from sessions circa 1989 during the "Still Cruisin'" era; this is apparently the era during which most of Al's vocal comes from (one later verse was recorded in the late 2000's), as well as Brian's vocals (Brian apparently briefly "on loan" from Landy to do the session), and Carl's as well as the backing vocals from Carl, Al, and Bruce. Inexplicably, Mike apparently was not on the song until Al had him add some bass backing vocals in the late 2000's.
The B-side is great fun, proof that they need to put out a collection of vocals-only mixes. It's just what you would expect, more layers of lush group vocals revealed. These guys sang (and sing) like no others together. For some reason, this "A Capella" mix does bring the backing track up in the mix briefly late in the song. I can't explain why, though I wonder if there was some technical reason. I don't know if this mix will ever see a wide release, but in any event, while I'd much prefer to have it on CD, this was well worth the $10 I spent for a shiny new copy.