Friday, May 16, 2014

Foskett Jumps to Mike's Band, Al *and* Dave to Play Gig with Mike's "Beach Boys", Matt Jardine Joins Brian's Band, Mike and Al Discuss Working "Creatively"

 
 
Okay, this is apparently what I get for more than one reference to Beach Boys news being dead as of late. Today, we have no less than four news items that are probably more interesting than most of what has happened in the last six months.....
 
 
From yesterday's Rolling Stone article concerning Mike and Bruce's summer tour:
 
The trek kicks off May 25th at the Belvedere Festival Park in Louisville, Kentucky. After a few European dates, the group will return stateside for a gig at Jones Beach in Long Island, New York that will feature special appearances from Al Jardine and David Marks.

"Year after year, it's been a great source of inspiration to see the happiness our music has brought to multiple generations of Beach Boys fans in so many parts of the world," Mike Love said in a statement. "This summer I’m particularly excited for the Jones Beach show, which is such a terrific, iconic venue. It will be very special to share the stage with some old friends and bandmates, Al Jardine and David Marks."

The tour also marks the introduction of singer/guitarist Jeffrey Foskett, who has worked regularly with the group since 1981, as a permanent member of the Beach Boys touring band. He'll replace Love's son Christian, who left the group to pursue a solo career ("As talented as he is, I hope he’ll still want to join his dad on stage every once and a while," the elder Love added).

So, we have confirmation that both Al as well as Dave will join in on Mike's July show at Jones Beach. Well, that's interesting and..... wait, what? Rewind.....

Apparently, Mike's son Christian Love is departing the touring band and his replacement will be none other than Jeff Foskett. As is often the case in Beach Boys Land, the immediate news is not necessarily the most thought-provoking part of the story. That Foskett would be recruited by Love is not in and of itself surprising. As many of us know, Foskett was originally brought into the touring band in 1981 by Mike. Mike also allegedly tried to recruit Foskett in the 1998/99 timeframe when the touring band splintered. Mike also seemed to most closely relate to Foskett compared to the rest of Brian's touring band during the 50th Anniversary tour.

No, the bigger question is, what does this mean in terms of Foskett's working relationship with Brian? Foskett has not only been Brian's main falsetto guy for essentially Brian's entire solo touring career, since 1999, but he's also pretty much on-stage and in the studio Brian's main companion, often operating essentially as a "handler" for Brian in some non-musical matters as well.

We had less than a day to stew on this before we got, for better or worse, the "official" responses from both Brian and Jeff:

First, Brian:

"Yesterday I found out that Jeff has decided to tour with Mike Love's BB's. I think its great since he really loved touring with Mike and the boys back in the day. He made it clear at the end of the JB tour that he would be moving on . I wish him the best and I'm happy for him. As for me , I'm busy in the studio working on my new album. A couple months ago I asked Matt Jardine to tour with my band and he accepted. He's a great guy and I love his voice. He's busy working with Paul and Darian and eager to get started. All good- Brian"

We'll get back to discussing how "real" this response is far as sentiment. What this does firmly state is that we have a new guy in Brian's band - Matt Jardine. I find that to be frankly more exciting news than Jeff joining Mike's band. But back to Jeff and his quick statement:

Thank you for all of your kind words regarding my career change. I am very much looking forward to touring with The Beach Boys. It’s where I started my professional career and it feels like a “homecoming” for me. It’s going to be a blast performing with Michael, Bruce, Scott, Timmy, Randelle and Cowsey. I am very grateful to Brian for his years of friendship, music, support and teaching. We’re still great friends and I’m sure Matt will be a stellar addition to his band. As for me … No Drama, No Hard Feelings, No Weirdness … simply time for a change. I look forward to seeing you out on the road this year!

So, how much should we dissect this? Realistically, all we can really say is that we have no way of knowing how amicable this all actually was. If Foskett left, and only later was offered a gig with Mike, then we know he didn't leave one band to join the other. Why did he depart from Brian's band? Other than guessing at obvious possibilities (money, politics, etc.), who knows? We can only hope it's as amicable as they seem to suggest.

In a separate article featuring a quick interview with Mike (http://www.petoskeynews.com/graphic/music/now-hear-this-an-interview-with-mike-love-of-the/article_664793fa-dc52-11e3-b7b2-001a4bcf6878.html), we got the following additional tantalizing bit of info:

Where do you see the future of the Beach Boys heading?

"Year after year we have opportunities in tour. We’re going perform in Tel Aviv in November. We’ve never been there. We’ll be in Paris before that. A lot of great things to come. I’m having a dialogue with Al Jardine and we’re talking about doing stuff together creatively. There are a lot of things left to do and a lot of creativities left to be manifested. As long as you like doing what you’re doing creatively there’s no real time limit on anything."


It's difficult to tie this all together, and maybe there's no reason to. What do we know for sure? To recap:
 
- Jeff Foskett has left Brian's employ, and informed him some time ago
- Christian Love is leaving Mike and Bruce's "Beach Boys"
- Jeff Foskett has joined Mike and Bruce's "Beach Boys", and if the apparent timeline is actually accurate, made this decision after Christian Love left and presumably an offer made to join
- Matt Jardine is apparently permanently joining Brian's tour band to replace Foskett
- Al Jardine and David Marks are playing one show with Mike and Bruce's "Beach Boys" in July
- Al Jardine and Mike Love are having a "dialogue" about doing something "creatively" (presumably less about touring and more about writing or recording?)
 
So that's a lot of info to chew on. What about the unknowns?
 
- Will Al and Dave (and Blondie Chaplin), all of whom have added material to Brian's album, be joining Brian on future live dates? Brian has two European tour dates, and it appears unlikely they will be joining Brian on those dates, as the July gig with Mike and Bruce conflicts. Brian has one apparent date in October in Modesto, CA, so that gives a good indication of a possible timeframe for a tour to promote a new album.
- Will Al and Dave do any further dates with Mike and Bruce? This seems like a very iffy prospect. More likely is the possibility of a few gigs here and there. But could they permanently join? That seems far less likely.
 
Rather than run down all of the various permutations of "what if's", we'll stew on this while you readers stew as well. There will be plenty of time for commentary......



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Reviews from the Archive - Vol. 1 - "A Celebration Concert" DVD


As I mentioned way back when I started this blog/page, the idea was to restart the old “Beach Boys Opinion Page” (or “Beach Boys Resource Page”) that was around starting in the late 90’s (wow!) through the mid-2000’s. It was a repository mainly for reviews of concerts and DVDs/CDs. With this new blog, I originally figured I would mix in new commentary with somehow reformatting/reposting old stuff from the old site.

There hasn’t been a ton of news in Beach Boys land lately, so I thought I might start up a sort of “From the Archives” series for my old reviews. I guess if the actual Beach Boys can’t start their actual “archival” releases of material, I will stick fans with the alternative: an old web page archive!

I suppose I’ll just pick out some random reviews of interest and start there. Please remember some of these reviews are as much as 15 years old (maybe a bit more!), and while I’ve briefly looked at them again and in some cases have done some re-writing and editing, they are not perhaps up the standard of what I would write now, scary as that may be.

So, here is “Reviews from the Archive – Vol. 1”:

We’re going to take a look back today at the oddball Japanese DVD release “A Celebration Concert”, the only official release of the band’s July 4th, 1980 Washington DC concert:

The Beach Boys- A Celebration Concert (1980)
Color, Full Screen (1.33x1)
Columbia Video (Region 2)
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0
Supplements: Chapter Selections

 
The Film:

This Region 2-only release from Japan is quite obscure, apparently. This one was difficult for me to track down back when it was still in print in 1997. It eventually came to me courtesy of a friendly fan who grabbed it for me at a Virgin Megastore in France! (289 francs!). Let me tell you, the cost of importing a DVD from Japan to France, and then to the USA, is astoundingly high!
 
The Beach Boys performed their first concert on the 4th of July in Washington DC in 1980. Culled from the show (which was broadcast live on the radio) were 17 songs for an eventual HBO TV special. It was never (and still hasn't been) released on home video in any format in the USA. The show was issued on videocassette in Japan sometime in the 80's as my research indicated years ago. The version on this Japanese release is that same HBO special. This DVD was issued in Japan around 1997, and as far as I can tell, quickly went out of print.
 
As for the show itself, it’s pretty darn similar to the “Knebworth 1980” show. Not surprising, considering this DC show took place a mere two weeks after Knebworth. On the plus side, all six Beach Boys are present. This was one of the last times that they were captured performing a full show together; certainly one of the last televised in-concert performances showcasing all six members. I personally feel that the performance is pretty tight and enjoyable, and all the group members (except for Brian who isn't very involved) are in good form. Even Dennis does a pretty good job on the drums. He doesn’t have the spunk he showed at Knebworth, but he holds the band together well.
 
 
Also, besides covering the mandatory hits, this DVD captures a few songs that survived in the Beach Boys' set list for a relatively short amount of time, namely "Good Timin'", "School Days", and "Keepin' the Summer Alive." It has at least a few tracks that aren’t repeated from the Knebworth DVD release as well (“Good Timin’”, “Catch a Wave”). However you view this era of the group’s history, this is a pretty historic concert. It still must be among one of the more widely attended shows of all time, with the crowd reported at 400,000 to 500,000, maybe even more. It’s certainly among the band’s biggest shows.
 
The band may not have been known to rock out convincingly that often, but even I must admit they do a pretty nice job on “Keepin’ the Summer Alive” at this show, breathing life into what was a stale studio recording and better-but-still-stilted performance at Knebworth. Also making this show fun is the uncensored crowd. We see an angry fan flipping the camera off, another guy smoking weed, a topless woman, and so on. Sorry folks, I was never a fan of James Watt, but he was actually kinda right about the audiences at these DC shows! It’s certainly a more surly, energetic crowd that the gingerly-moving baby boomers in Hawaiian shirts you see at Mike Love’s shows these days.
 
Video Quality:

The DVD itself is pretty stripped down, but it delivers the show itself in excellent quality. The picture quality is stunning, easily surpassing my now 34-year-old original off-air videotape of the show, which is still of better quality than most copies floating around the videotape trading circles. Simply put, this is truly as good as a live concert shot on videotape in 1980 is going to look.

Audio Quality:

As noticeable as the improvement in clarity of the picture is that the picture is much brighter. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0, featuring a good stereo mix that is of much better fidelity than how it was originally broadcast in mono. As with Knebworth, this show did benefit from some post-show overdubbing (most notable in some apparent backing vocal overdubs and, to my ears, some electric piano/keyboard, which you can hear punched-in at certain points when listening with headphones). Indeed, it appears as though years later Bruce Johnston may have viewed the DC show as a more "polished" product than Knebworth, as the DC show was overdubbed and then presented as a "finished" product via its TV airing, while Knebworth sat shelved for another nearly 25 years.


Extras;

There is no supplemental material, apart from a chapter menu available both in Japanese and English.
 
Since it is quite doubtful this show will ever see official release in the US, or anywhere else for that matter (especially as it is somewhat redundant in light of the DVD release of the Knebworth show), this release is probably the only way you can get the show on DVD, or any officially released format. The disc is NTSC, but it is encoded in Region 2, meaning those in the USA will have to either have a Region 2 player or have your existing Region 1 player modified to play Region 2 discs or modified to play all regions. That is, if you can even find this disc. I couldn’t even easily find a *picture* of this release online (resulting in my getting off my lazy ass and taking pictures of my disc), let alone a copy for sale when searching in 2014.
 
 
 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Al Joining Mike & Bruce for Gig in July?

 
 
It’s been kind of a dead year so far for Beach Boys fans, at least as far as any kind of “new news”, so something like this maybe jumps out as a bigger deal than it might be.
 
Apparently, Al will be joining Mike and Bruce for a gig in July at Jones Beach in New York. Details are literally non-existent at this stage beyond the advertisement pictured above. That Al is appearing is not even 100% confirmed. In the past, gigs for Mike’s band have on rare occasions been incorrectly billed as having other band members present. However, when promoters mistakenly do this, it usually consists of a more general “all original members” or accidental use of a picture of an old band lineup. For this billing with Al to be a mistake would take a lot of deliberate action, since someone had to specifically put his name on the ad and also leave out Brian and Dave. So it seems more likely than not that the Al billing is legit.
 
The two main questions this curious fan has are: What does this mean in the grand scheme? Also, What will Al’s appearance consist of?
 
Let’s look at the latter first. It’s worth noting that Al has never played a full-length gig with Mike and Bruce’s version of “The Beach Boys”, with the possible exception of one or two pre-50th tour private/charity shows Al reportedly played with Mike and Bruce’s band in April 2012, of which there were scant reports at the time. Apart from that, and I suppose technically the few gigs Al played in early 1998 before departing the band, Al’s only on-stage appearances with Mike’s “Beach Boys” have been quick cameos such as the early 2011 gig, or earlier this year at the Ella awards. So will Al be on stage for the entire show, or will he just pop in for a few numbers? Will he get a special introduction like he did when he played with Brian in 2006/2007, or will he just appear for the duration of the show as if it’s just a gig like 1997 again? Will he simply get tossed a few Al-centric leads like “Help Me Rhonda”, perhaps “Sloop John B” or “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, and maybe “Come Go with Me” or “California Dreamin’?” Setting aside the sort of visceral weirdness and potential uneasiness with Al simply rejoining Mike’s band, my main concern with this happening has always been that Al would simply get relegated to a role with only a few leads despite having such an in-tact voice.
 
Grand-scheme wise, does this mean anything? I’m not sure it foreshadows some huge imminent event in the Beach Boys universe, but it is very notable. It signifies a lack of estrangement between Al and Mike, which is a big deal. One also can’t help but wonder what this means in relation to Brian’s solo work and tour (and Al’s potential participation), and also what it might mean for more full reunion activities. When Al made a guest spot with Mike in early 2011, most spectators agree that among other things, it had to be a very small early trial run for making sure Al and Mike could handle being on stage together, and indeed we got the reunion project which began a few months after that. It’s tempting to wonder if Al “jumped ship” from the Brian camp to the Mike camp, but we also know that mere days or weeks ago, Al was pictured doing more recording with Brian.
 
Generally speaking, it’s refreshingly nice to see these guys be able to work with each other in various capacities and not be estranged even if they don’t all stay together as a group. It’s also frustrating, since the reunion tour was so amazing.
 
Also interesting to ponder: What is Mike’s motive in this? Is there one beyond just playing with Al? I truly want to believe these guys just love each other and want to sing together. That’s one possibility. I’d like to believe even more they are priming things for an eventual return to the reunion lineup, perhaps in 2015 or 2016. But fans are not completely out of line to wonder if there are band politics involved here, and/or any number of motives. Reading Jon Stebbins’ and David Marks’ book and its recounting of the shuffling with bringing David on board in 1997, one always has to wonder if something like that could be happening again.
 
Time will tell, for lack of a less clich├ęd way of putting it. I can’t particularly see anything negative about Al playing a gig with Mike. There is a vast potential for some observational irony, and it’s easy to be cynical. But let’s see what happens…..