I’ve now hit a spot in the third Beach Boys book which I’ve known for years was coming, but which I still am not sure how to deal with, so I’d like people’s opinions.
In the ten-year period after Summer In Paradise, there were quite a few albums released by the Beach Boys or their members. Three of them — Beckley/Lamm/Wilson, Orange Crate Art, and The Wilsons — are outside projects, primarily led by people other than Beach Boys, and so not in the scope of the book.
One — Imagination — is a Brian Wilson solo album of new songs, so easy to deal with.
But then there’s the other stuff. The two rarities collections, Hawthorne, Ca and Endless Harmony can be dealt with in full. The Pet Sounds Sessions box set will get a thousand or two words, though it’s got no previously unreleased songs. The Good Vibrations box set will have all its unreleased material discussed, but not the previously released stuff. That’s OK.
But then there’s I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times, and Stars & Stripes vol 1. And Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks of the Beach Boys Salute NASCAR and Union 76 Gasoline. And Symphonic Sounds: The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Play The Music Of The Beach Boys. And Brian Wilson Live at the Roxy. And Al Jardine, Family & Friends, Live In Las Vegas. And Brian Wilson Presents Pet Sounds Live In London.
That’s seven CDs, ranging from the very good to the utterly terrible (you can probably guess which is which just from the titles). And the number of songs (as opposed to recordings) on them that haven’t been released on earlier CDs (and thus covered in earlier volumes) is six — the Brian Wilson songs “The First Time” and “This Isn’t Love”, Al Jardine’s “California Energy Blues”, Brian’s cover versions of “Be My Baby” and Brian Wilson”, and Mike Love’s cover version of “Little GTO”.
So my normal song-by-song analysis won’t really work for this huge patch of the band’s career.
What do people think — should I try to cover the albums in individual essays but not do the song-by-song thing, should I do one big compare-and-contrast post on all of them (even though some come before, and others after, Carl Wilson’s death and the band splitting, thus making the historical story a mess), or something else?
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I always enjoy your incisive (and oftentimes hilarious!) comments on a track, even if it’s a different version….so, personally, I’d rather see a track-by-track analysis on everything save previously-released tracks.
Or consider doing a BB ‘Outside Projects’ book?
Individual essays with the track-by-track breakdown replaced with “Notable Tracks” .
Please go for short individual essays, in chronological sequence, with “notable tracks” where you think they deserve it. I consider myself part of the core audience for your music books, i.e. I love many of the same people as you do and read widely to understand the context in which the music was created but I always learn something new from your essays even when you are describing a song I have known and loved for forty years. As it happens, the fringe albums are often the hardest to get hold of, and the least reviewed, so they will always be interesting, e.g. I have never seen or heard “Orchestral Sounds”, so I particularly look forward to hearing about it. There’s a lot of interest in them there fringes. Thanks.
David hit the spot! Can’t really add anything that he hasn’t already stated.
I think Orange Crate Art would warrant a full review. Brian does all the lead vocals (and a lot of the backups), so he *is* heavily involved. It’s probably my favorite of all the Beach Boy-related albums of the past 25 years. So in the sense that it’s actually a good album ….I mean, I’m sure you’d much rather write about something *good* as opposed to something that isn’t.
But the problem with that is it’s not a project driven by Brian, and it’s not part of the band’s artistic development. There are seriously better arguments for including, say, the two Celebration albums (both have new songs written by members of the Beach Boys, which Orange Crate Art doesn’t). And *certainly* there’d be a better case for Beckley/Lamm/Wilson, or the The Wilsons album.
A lot of what I’m doing in these essays is looking at the way the later music comments on or moves on from the earlier music, and Orange Crate Art doesn’t do that — Brian’s a hired hand on the album.
It’s a great album — one of the best things either Brian or Van Dyke has been involved in — but it says nothing about the creative evolution of the band. Were I doing a book on Van Dyke Parks, though, I’d definitely talk about it.
As a secondary issue, I have nothing to say about it. It’s simply *too* good, in a crafted way. You don’t have to tease apart what works and what doesn’t in Parks’ songs — it *all* works, and all for very obvious reasons. You just have to point at it and say “look. That’s good.”
With even the best of Brian’s stuff, there are rough edges that there aren’t with Parks, and those rough edges give you something to hold on to as a writer.
I understand what you’re saying. I think Orange Crate is relevant to Brian’s story though…..it was a big part of his resurrection in the mid-90s, and I suspect it helped give him confidence to go forward. True, he didn’t write or produce any of it, but he was the featured performer on it, and of course it is co-credited to him as an official release.
I prefer a track-by-track analysis but I understand it’s just too much. So individual essays (but not too short), in chronological sequence, with notable tracks will be good enough. On the album “Orange Crate Art” Brian’s name is listed first (for marketing reasons probably). But it’s a Van Dyke Parks album so when you review this one you should review all the other collaborations with Brian Wilson too (for example “In My Moondreams” –Andy Paley & Brian Wilson). But I have another question. Will you review all the digital only albums by The Beach Boys too? “The Big Beat 1963”, “Live in Sacramento 1964”, “Keep an Eye on Summer Sessions 1964” and “Live in Chicago 1965”. And what about the recently released Beach Boys’ Party! Uncovered and Unplugged?
As I say above, I’m not dealing with Orange Crate Art, and nor will I be dealing with one-off tracks like In My Moondreams which have never appeared on a Beach Boys or Brian album.
I will, though, be writing about all the archive releases. I suspect they’ll be book-only essays, rather than appearing on the blog, but they’ll all get written about.
I agree with David above: short essays on the pertinent albums with discussion of the notable tracks. As for things like Beckley/Lamm/Wilson and Orange Crate Art, what about an appendix to cover those important titles that fall out of the main focus of the books?
Having purchased and read both Volume 1 and 2, and enjoyed them very much, I too would much prefer and overview of the albums with a track analysis of the previous unreleased material. I look forward to reading it.