October 8, 2008

Brian Wilson’s latest release, “That Lucky Old Sun” is out, and it has garnered more than it’s fair share of good reviews. Our good friend Jana, I think, pretty much sums up all the qualities listeners favorable to it have said:

“Got the cd today and it is wonderful…simple, sweet, happy and the essence of Brian Wilson/Beach Boys. With all the complicated music out there, this cd gets back to basics of harmonies, notes you can hear, words you can memorize and sing along with, tunes you can hum. Brian celebrates Southern California, basic happiness and the things he loves. I LOVE this cd. It just asks you to listen and smile. Brian’s voice is strong and clear…the arrangements are pure Brian Wilson at their best. He has humor, heart and soul in this cd.

Respectfully submitted by the friend of the Big Kahuna Surfer Music Dude.”

Love that last line. Thanks, Jana – “Surf’s Up!”

But I digress.

I’ll admit, I was a little apprehensive about getting this CD. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a HUGE Brian Wilson fan, and I can’t even begin to say how much of an impact his music has made on my life. That being said, I don’t think the years have been kind to his voice, and, frankly, it now grates on me. It was tolerable on his “Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE” CD and his last collaboration with Van Dyke Parks, “Orange Crate Art”, but just barely so. In the case of the former, what can you say – it was the legendary “SMiLE” in almost all its legendary glory, with its unforgettable music and incomparable arrangements; as for the latter, there were just enough quirky tunes and entertaining lyrics to make it listenable.

But I have to say that, after listening to “TLOS” a few times, I’m more in agreement with the sentiments of Ryan Reed of Patriot Online, who writes:

…This year’s “That Lucky Old Sun” doesn’t come close [to “SMiLE”]. At 66 years old, Wilson frankly doesn’t have the vocal range he once had, and without the pure quality of songs to match those of SMiLE, the blandness of his youthful backing band starts to shine as brightly as the California sun of which he sings.

Van Dyke Parks is back again, this time writing lyrical interludes which are placed between the actual tracks. Set to music, Wilson reads the mainly derivative lyrics in an off-key moan that is, at times, painful to listen to.

Ultimately, “That Lucky Old Sun” is both a disappointment and a triumph. It brings Wilson back down to Earth after the revelation that is SMiLE, but also proves that he still deserves the attention of anyone with a pair of ears.

“That Lucky Old Sun” is like a long hug from a former love – it still feels good, but you wonder where the magic’s gone.

And that’s the way I feel. Maybe it’s just an extension of having seen the current incarnation (read: embarrassment) of the so-called “Beach Boys” (Mike Love and Bruce Johnston) live, and now having listened to this. I’m not saying Wilson’s release is bad – far from it; it’s just that even with its good moments I can’t help but feel that (and maybe I’m cutting close to my own bone here) there comes a time when you hafta tip your hat to the sands of time and move on to other things. Listen, I give Brian all the credit in the world for trying to maintain his artistic integrity in the latter years of his musical career – his former bandmates could learn a thing or two from their former band leader – but there comes a time when even musical giants have to say enough is enough.

“That Lucky Old Sun” is not a bad CD by any stretch. But listening to it makes me sad, reminding me that time moves on and no one is what they once were.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:24 | Comments (3)
  1. I wouldn’t expect anyone my age to sound like they did when we were teens and twenty-somethings. I adjust my ear to what I know is true and don’t expect the “old sound”. Take Tony Bennet or Frank Sinatra..their voices matured as they did as they are supposed to. Brian’s new cd should not be compared to anything he did in the 60’s..he is in his 60’s. I still love the sweetness in the lyrics and the humor he shares. It’s his heart that endears me, not just how different his voice may be. It’s supposed to be different now. Rod McKuen, my friend and poet,composer, singer, lost his clear voice early on and has become identifiable with his gravely voice…because that is Rod’s voice. If we are disappointed at how our idols sound now some 40yrs later, it’s our own expectations that disappoint, not them.

    Comment by Jana — October 9, 2008 @ 5:28 am

  2. Well said, Jana. It’s not that I expect a 60+ year old Brian to sound like he did when he was in his twenties – I don’t. But I do as a record-buying listener have a choice as to what sounds good to my ears and what doesn’t. Brian deserves every opportunity in the world to produce new product – God knows he’s earned that right. But that doesn’t mean someone who has heard virtually everything he has done since his late teens has to enjoy what he hears. That’s not unrealistic expectations, that’s just being a consumer.

    And besides, Rod never sounded good. 🙂

    Comment by The Great White Shank — October 9, 2008 @ 4:34 pm

  3. Rod lost his voice in the late 50’s after nearly a year of singing rock music in night clubs. Before that, he had a very good singing voice. I totally get the auditory pain listening to singing by a voice long past it’s prime. I wonder who’d be a choice to sing Brian’s music in the way he and the band used to sing. Who is out there that can harmonize the way they did? I haven’t gotten Denny’s cd yet…on my list.

    Comment by Jana — October 10, 2008 @ 4:37 am

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