February 5, 2011, marked the first time that there was any public confirmation that something interesting was happening with the Beach Boys. That was the date of “A Concert for America: A Tribute to Ronald Reagan,” a benefit concert to mark what would have been the late President’s centennial. The Beach Boys appeared at that show, and performed six songs. But this wasn’t just the touring Beach Boys (at that time Mike Love and Bruce Johnston, along with Love’s son Christian, Scott Totten, Tim Bonhomme, Randell Kirsch, and John Cowsill, plus on that show John Stamos) – Alan Jardine was also on stage with them, for the first time since 1998.
Jardine had not permanently rejoined the Beach Boys – he was absent from the band’s shows for the rest of the year – but the appearance seemed to confirm that there had been a thawing in relations between the various Beach Boys camps, and that the rumours on fan message boards that something special might happen for the band’s fiftieth anniversary (which would be in September 2011) might be true.
And as it turned out, those rumours were true. Quite how it happened is still the subject of some dispute, but it appears that Love and Brian Wilson had got together at some point in 2010 to discuss a possible new album. While the original discussions were about the idea of doing an album of rock and roll covers, at some point this changed into an album of new material, working with Joe Thomas.
Thomas, who had produced the band’s last album in 1996, was by this point a successful producer of TV concert specials. He also had, from his sessions with Wilson in 1997 and 98, a stock of demos and half-finished recordings, some of which Wilson had intended for a possible future Beach Boys project. Wilson had already approached him about the possibility of doing something with those demos, and soon a plan of action was in place.
The surviving members of the band were going to get back together, and do a fifty-date tour in 2012 to mark their fiftieth anniversary. A new company was formed, “Fifty Big Ones”, which was co-owned equally by Wilson, Love, and Thomas, and which got a license for the Beach Boys name from BRI. That company was to promote the shows, and produce TV specials including concert footage.
There was also going to be a new album, with the “produced by Brian Wilson” credit for the first time since 1977, although Thomas was to get a “recorded by” credit which amounted to him actually co-producing the album (Love got an “executive producer” credit). A record deal was made with Capitol on the basis of several Wilson/Thomas demos with vocals by Wilson and Foskett, and the album was to come out in spring 2012, to coincide with the tour.
But first, they had to prove they could get together in the recording studio and work together at all. In May 2011, Love, Wilson, Johnston, and Jardine went into Capitol’s recording studio to cut a quick remake of their 1968 hit “Do It Again”. Along with them in the studio was a backing band consisting of Totten and Cowsill from the touring Beach Boys, and from Brian Wilson’s band Nick Walusko, Brett Simons, Probyn Gregory, Scott Bennett, Jeffrey Foskett, and Paul von Mertens, along with Gary Griffin (a keyboard player who had toured with both bands at different times).
That session went successfully enough that the band actually worked on a second track – a piano-and-wordless-vocals piece called “Think About the Days” – and the album was on.
The album, titled That’s Why God Made the Radio, was recorded using a mixture of members of Wilson’s backing band (and Cowsill on drums on some songs) and the session musicians Thomas preferred to work with. At some point David Marks was included in the reunion (reportedly at Wilson’s request), and he added guitar to a handful of tracks, but otherwise the Beach Boys provided only vocals for the album.
And those vocals were, with some exceptions, dictated to them in advance. Wilson had Foskett record elaborate vocal demos, singing every part, and then had Love, Jardine, and Johnston drop in their parts, singing what Foskett had already recorded. The result is a vocal sound unlike that on previous Beach Boys albums, and sounding far more like the sound on Wilson’s solo albums, with Wilson taking most lead vocals and Foskett prominent in the vocal stack.
The vocal sound is interesting in other ways, as well. A combination of the band members’ ageing voices and the greater possibilities opened up by modern technology means that the vocal tracks are created very differently from the band’s earlier recordings. The most notable way in which processing was used was the addition of autotune to the vocals – something which renders some tracks almost unlistenable, and made them sound dated as soon as they came out – but other, more subtle, processing is used.
In particular, the vocals are far more multitracked than in previous recordings, giving a much fuller sound. But the use of multitracking also means that occasionally the “lead vocalist” becomes a tricky question. Where earlier Beach Boys tracks had usually had each member singing a single vocal line each (even if double- or triple-tracked), here the intertwining lines are often sung by two or more different singers, and each singer might also be singing two or three different lines.
This is far from a bad thing – there are inventive things done with the vocal arrangements here that Wilson had never done before, and in particular a trick he uses a couple of times here, of having a heavily-processed Love doubled an octave above by Foskett, is quite staggeringly effective.
Almost all the songs recorded were Wilson/Thomas co-writes. Their working methods varied from song to song, but both men have said in interviews that typically Thomas would provide basic chord structures, over which Wilson would come up with new melodies, and the two would then collaborate on the lyrics. However, this would vary enormously depending on the song, and I’ll note in the entries for each song how it was written, if that’s been made public.
There were reports of conflicts during the recording, too – Jardine wanted the band to work on another version of “Waves of Love”, which Wilson refused to do, and Love came into conflict with Thomas and members of Wilson’s management team over his desire to write new material alone with Wilson (although Love as “executive producer” had more influence than any of his bandmates, and did contribute lyrics to three Wilson/Thomas tracks, as well as writing the only non-Wilson/Thomas song on the album). More material was also recorded than could be used on the album – including a remake of Johnston’s “She Believes in Love Again”, originally from The Beach Boys – and the final song selection was apparently made by Capitol.
The result definitely has flaws – the sound of the final recording has, to many fans’ ears (including mine), too much of Thomas and not enough Wilson in it. Many production elements which had appeared on Imagination but disappeared in Wilson’s subsequent work (overuse of woodwinds, tinkling percussion, a lot of cymbal work, nylon string guitar) made a comeback here, and often not to the album’s benefit. Also, the lyrics are rarely coherent at all (a common fault in all Wilson/Thomas collaborations) – the songs give the impression, usually through strong choruses, of having themes or subjects, but on closer analysis the words have mostly been chosen as mouth noises rather than having a meaning. Certain words turn up over and over – “time”, “wine”, “strange” – but seem to be signifiers detached from the things they signify.
But those flaws are, for the most part, minor ones. This is not a great album – it’s nowhere near as good as That Lucky Old Sun in terms of Wilson’s late-period work and production style, and it sags in the middle – but it’s a good album. It’s the first album with the Beach Boys’ name on it to work as a coherent whole since at least 1979’s LA (Light Album), and it’s a far better piece of work than most fans would have expected of the Beach Boys in 2012.
The reunion ended somewhat acrimoniously (as we’ll discuss in later essays) and this is likely to be the last ever Beach Boys album. It’s not a perfect way for the band to go out, but it’s a lot better as a swan song than Stars & Stripes vol 1 or Summer in Paradise.
Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, David Marks
All songs written by Brian Wilson and Joe Thomas except where noted
Think About the Days
Lead vocalist: Group/Al Jardine
The opening song, a piano instrumental by Thomas to which Wilson added a wordless vocal part, and which opens with the group a capella, serves as an overture to the record. It’s relatively pretty (if I’d been asked to listen to it without knowing the writer I’d have guessed it was written by Johnston on a good day), and at under ninety seconds it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
But its main purpose is to show that this version of the band – vocally, Wilson, Jardine, Love, Johnston, and Foskett – could still sing. Other than a few French horn notes by Probyn Gregory at the end, the only instrument on the track is Joe Thomas’ piano (Scott Bennett is credited as playing vibraphone on the track in the CD booklet, but several people involved in the album have said that the credits were wrong on some tracks, and there’s no audible vibraphone).
The harmonies are gorgeous, and both Jardine (singing the “doo doo” vocals) and Johnston (singing the ultra-high falsetto) are in particularly excellent voice here.
That’s Why God Made the Radio
Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Joe Thomas, Larry Millas, Jim Peterik
Lead vocalist: Brian Wilson and Jeffrey Foskett
The album’s title track (and first single) dates from 1998, and had been discussed by Jim Peterik for years before as one of his great lost songs. Peterik, best known for his time in Survivor, had referred to it as a song written by himself and Larry Millas (his bandmate in one-hit-wonder band The Ides of March), but in an interview around the time of the album’s release, Joe Thomas explained that the title and basic chord structure were both the work of Brian Wilson.
And that chord structure is one of the more interesting things about the song, as the opening line basically reuses tricks from both “Warmth of the Sun” and “Your Summer Dream”. The song starts out as a doo-wop progression, but after the second (vi7) chord, it changes up a tone to vii7 – that change up a tone between minor sevenths is the same change (though in a different context) as the change on “all the while” in “Your Summer Dream”.
The song then takes that vii7 as being the ii7 of VI, and it continues the end of the doo-wop sequence, followed by the beginning again, in the new VI key, before dropping back down and finishing the original sequence, so the sequence goes “start of doo-wop sequence in C – end of doo-wop sequence in A – beginning of doo-wop sequence in A – end of doo-wop sequence in C” (I-vi7-vii7-III7-VI-iv#7-ii7-V7).
That’s the first line of the song (“tuning in the latest star/from the dashboard of my car”), and the melody sung is very similar to that of “Your Summer Dream”. The whole song proceeds this way, managing to reuse old elements in interesting ways. As well as old Beach Boys songs (there’s also more than a little of “Keep an Eye on Summer” in here), the chorus melody is clearly “inspired” by John Barry, specifically the themes to “Midnight Cowboy” and “You Only Live Twice”.
Vocally, the song is lovely. Brian (lightly doubled at points by Foskett and Jardine) does a great job on the verses, and the chorus harmony vocals give both Jardine and Johnston a chance to shine. And instrumentally, the track manages to do a reasonably tasteful updating of a 50s doo-wop style, with a 12/8 organ-led backing track which bears some relation to “Soul Searchin’”, with some great honking baritone sax (although this is let down by the middle eight, where for some reason there’s a turn to terrible 80s AOR guitar sounds).
Lyrically, too, this is above-par for this album, with genuinely cute lines like “it’s paradise when I/Lift up my antenna”.
Yet…somehow, it’s slightly less than the sum of its parts. It all feels a little too clean and manufactured, like it’s been created by committee with no real inspiration. It’s grown on me over the years, but there’s still something a little lacking here.
Isn’t It Time
Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Joe Thomas, Larry Millas, Jim Peterik
Lead vocalist: Brian Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine, Mike Love, and Jeffrey Foskett
This, on the other hand, is utterly wonderful, and genuinely the catchiest thing the Beach Boys had released since at least The Beach Boys Love You if not earlier. It’s a very simple song which evolved in the studio from a ukulele-and-bass jam by Millas and Peterik, and for much of the track that’s the only instrumental backing, other than some handclaps, with piano being added low in the mix for the choruses and middle eight, and something that sounds like a celeste on the middle eight.
(This is one of those occasions when I really wish that the credits on this album reflected reality. I don’t hear any guitar on the track, yet David Marks is credited as playing guitar on it, but I couldn’t swear that he’s not on there somewhere – there’s a possibility that the guitar is doubling the left hand of the piano, very faintly. On the other hand the credits don’t mention Foskett, who is all over the track vocally, or the keyboards.)
It’s very reminiscent of The Beach Boys Love You or Smiley Smile in the near-emptiness of the instrumental track and the way the song is carried almost entirely by the vocals, but it’s also the most up-to-date sounding thing on the album, as there was a brief fad for the ukulele in hipsterish indie bands around that time. And while the track’s ridiculously simple – for the most part it’s just four chords – it’s insanely catchy.
Every band member gets a chance to shine – Brian sings lead on the first verse while Love sings a gloriously dumb “doo-be-doo” bass part of his own invention (Love also wrote some or all of the lyrics), Love sings the second verse, and Jardine and Johnston split the chorus between themselves. The middle eight is the only slightly weak point, as Foskett strains to hit some of the high notes and doesn’t sound quite as wonderful here as on the rest of the album.
A single version of this song was released on the compilations 50 Big Ones and Made in California, with some additional instrumentation, a few lyrical changes, and with Foskett replaced by Love singing the melody in a lower range on the middle eight, but while Love does a better job on that section, overall the changes made were overegging the pudding, and the joyous version on the album is better.
This is one of three songs from the album (along with the title track and “Summer’s Gone”) which made it into the setlist during the fiftieth anniversary tour, and it remains an occasional part of Love and Johnston’s touring Beach Boys’ show.
Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Joe Thomas
Lead vocalists: Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, and Brian Wilson
And after three songs ranging from good to great, we get the first real stinker. “Spring Vacation” is another song that originally dates from the Imagination sessions, where it was originally titled “Lay Down Burden”. After Carl Wilson’s death, that title was applied to another song, and this one was left.
For these sessions, Wilson asked Love to write new lyrics, and suggested some of the chorus lines, and Love came up with…adequate lyrics given the brief. Those lyrics received a certain amount of criticism from fans at first, until it was revealed that some of the lines referencing old Beach Boys hits were actually suggested by Wilson, not Love.
The real problem with the track isn’t the lyrics, though – lines like “summer weather/we’re back together” may be predictable, but they’re fine for a song about how the band are back together and still going strong. The problem is, rather, that the music is, frankly, rubbish. Thomas has described it as being a gospel-style song, but it doesn’t sound anything like gospel music except for the presence of a Hammond organ. Rather, it belongs to a particular subgenre of music I can only describe as “the kind of music you get on bad 90s American family sitcoms”. I can’t find a better descriptor for that genre than that, but this fits into it so well that I find it almost impossible to listen to the track without imagining an “executive producer: Linwood Boomer” credit coming up towards the end.
Along with that, this is one of those tracks where the autotune-as-effect has been applied so much to Love’s vocal that he barely sounds human. Utterly without merit.
The Private Life of Bill and Sue
Lead vocalists: Brian Wilson and Jeffrey Foskett
This, on the other hand, is a song which almost everyone except me thinks is awful, but which I think is a highlight of the album. A pseudo-calypso song (and one of the few where the nylon string guitar Thomas likes is stylistically appropriate to the song) about reality TV, this song was one of the newer songs written for the album. Wilson brought in the verse (“the private life of Bill and Sue/Can you dig what I’m telling you?”) and Thomas added the chorus (“from California to Mexico…”), which he’d written separately but which meshes perfectly with Wilson’s verse.
(Perhaps a little too perfectly – the one criticism I’d make of this song is that the verse and chorus are too similar both to each other and to “Mary’s Boy Child”).
It’s by no means a complex song, but there’s a huge amount of enthusiasm in the “um baddy addy yay” backing vocals in the chorus, and in Wilson and Foskett trading off chorus lines, while in the verses Wilson seems to be very patiently explaining his view of the world, and how bizarre he thinks it is that people are interested in the lives of reality TV stars.
Of all the songs on the album, this is the one that most provides me with what I look for in Beach Boys music, and I suspect it’s not a coincidence that (if the credits are to be taken as accurate – we’ve already established that there are errors in them, but I think the basics are right) this is one of the relatively few tracks whose instrumental parts are played largely by members of Wilson’s band rather than by session musicians. Where for much of the album the rhythm track and guitar parts are played by the kind of session players who’d played on Imagination, here the session players are confined to the piano and one of the acoustic guitars. Otherwise the band here is Wilson’s then-current band, with the addition of Cowsill on drums and Marks on guitar.
It’s fun, and light, and silly, and somehow hated by the vast majority of Beach Boys fandom, many of whom consider it literally the worst track the band ever made. Their loss.
Lead vocalists: Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Jeffrey Foskett
One of the worse sequencing decisions in putting this album together was putting this track right after the last one. Both are very similar in tempo and rhythm, and in general sonic feel. (The credits suggest they were tracked at the same session – other than Joe Thomas on harpsichord the credited musicians on this track, both those from Wilson’s band and the two session players, all appear on the previous track, although it’s hard to be sure because no bass player or drummer is credited at all, though both are clearly audible. It may be that Nelson Bragg, credited for “percussion”, played drums here.)
It’s a shame, because it dilutes the impact of this, another real highlight of the album. The verses (sung by Wilson) are clearly modelled on early Phil Spector, especially his collaborations with Leiber and Stoller, and have a very similar semi-Latin feel to tracks like “Spanish Harlem”, while the choruses (sung by Foskett, with Love doubling an octave down on the latter half) have a vaguely Roy Orbison or Gene Pitney feel.
While the lyrics are, like much of the album, utter gibberish to put it charitably, they still work very well with the music, as both music and lyrics have a strange tension between sounding gently comforting and anxiously longing. This tension is, of course, implied in the title – “shelter” is obviously a good thing, but you still need to shelter from something.
(Joe Thomas has talked about how the song was inspired by Wilson referring to his home as his shelter, and this casual word choice seems to say a lot about Wilson’s attitudes.)
Everything about the arrangement here – the chanted nearly-inaudible backing vocals in the last couple of choruses, the faint harpsichord, the trumpet and French horn parts played by Gregory, the “yayyay” interjection from Jardine – is perfect at setting a mood and creating a fine piece of Spectoresque pop.
Daybreak Over the Ocean
Songwriter: Mike Love
Lead vocalist: Mike Love
This track is an odd one out in many ways. This is actually a recording from Love’s unreleased mid-2000s solo album (variously titled Unleash the Love and Mike Love Not War), produced by Paul Faueroso, onto which the other Beach Boys have overdubbed a few extra backing vocals (the “bring back/wontcha bring back” sections). Most of the backing vocals, however, are actually supplied by Adrian Baker and Love’s son Christian (he’s the one singing “bring my baby” in a voice very like Carl Wilson).
The song itself dates back to the late 70s, and was originally recorded for another unreleased Love solo album, First Love. It’s a nice enough song – a rewrite of “My Bonnie” – but the production here, with its digital percussion and synth layers, is not very pleasant. And while Love’s vocal is decent enough, there’s a truck-driver’s gear change up a semitone for the instrumental break, and on the chorus after that it sounds like a pitch-shifted copy of one of the other choruses has been used rather than him sing it in another key.
Not the worst thing on the album, but forgettable.
Beaches in Mind
Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Joe Thomas
Lead vocalist: Mike Love
An exception to the general rule we’ve seen so far that songs with more Brian Wilson band members tend to be better, this is truly dire, and essentially “Spring Vacation part 2”. This time the genre is that particular kind of lightweight AOR that was used to soundtrack 80s films with Michael J Fox in (I’m sorry for the imprecision in these descriptions – I can easily detail precisely which microgenre like freakbeat or psychobilly something falls into when it’s in an area of my musical knowledge, but when it comes to stuff that was popular on US radio in the 80s and 90s, I’d only have a 50/50 chance at guessing whether something was by Huey Lewis or Foreigner).
“We’ll find a place in the sun/where everyone can have fun”, apparently. This would have fit perfectly on Summer in Paradise, and wouldn’t have been the best thing on it.
Lead vocalist: Brian Wilson
The last four tracks on the album were conceived as part of a longer suite, though how completed that suite actually was is questionable – in some interviews, Joe Thomas talks about it as a complete work that just needed releasing, while in others both he and Wilson talk about it as a concept with nothing completed save what’s on the album.
This first part is a rather bombastic track halfway between Phil Spector and Jim Steinman in feel, but aside from the excellent string arrangement by Paul von Mertens there’s not much actually to it – it’s harmonically simplistic and lyrically banal. It works largely because it’s one of the best-sounding things on the album, but on repeated listens it palls rather quickly.
According to some sources, there was meant to be another song between this and the next track, which was cut.
From There to Back Again
Lead vocalist: Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, and Mike Love
Easily the most complex song structure on the album, the second part of the suite is also one of the most musically interesting things here, and other than one fault it would be one of the best tracks on the album.
Unfortunately, that fault is a major one. Al Jardine gives a stunning vocal performance here, but it’s processed to the point that at times he barely sounds human. Anyone who’s seen Jardine performing live in recent years knows that the processing here is not to fix a flaw in his singing – he sounds like a man half his age, and I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that he is currently the best living vocalist of his generation – so it must be a deliberate stylistic choice, but it’s one that renders the track almost unlistenable to my ears.
Which is a shame, because almost everything else about the song is exactly my kind of thing. It gives up almost entirely on conventional song structure, and feels almost like a through-composed single piece. The only part of this “suite” that dates from 2012, this is far more sophisticated than the rest of it (fitting a pattern that, with the exception of “Beaches in Mind”, the 2012 songs are much better than those started in the 1990s). Musically, it has a lot in common with songwriters like Burt Bacharach, Paul Williams, or Jimmy Webb, especially with the songs Williams wrote in the early 1970s.
There are, roughly, three different sections of the song. The first, with Jardine singing lead, is characterised by piano chords, flute, and reverbed guitar (similar to that on, say, the track “Pet Sounds”). There’s very little repetition here, but it sort of functions as a set of verses, since the harmonic material (lots of Imaj9, IVmaj7 and ii9 chords) remains similar throughout – for a lot of it, it’s the kind of interesting pattern you can get when you keep playing the same chord and just lifting up or putting down one finger.
This ends at around 1:46, when Brian’s voice comes in with “if you just call…” (followed by the other Beach Boys singing “just fall…”)
We then have an instrumental break based on the same harmonic material (with “aah” vocals) before another section, starting with Jardine and Wilson singing together (“through our compromise, paradise”), but Wilson soon takes over the lead on this section. This short section is backed mostly by another von Mertens string arrangement, and deviates a fair bit harmonically from the first section. This is in a minor key, and much more gloomy in feel.
Finally we get to the final section of the track, which is closer to the first section harmonically and instrumentally, but is much more upbeat, with Love singing wordless “ba ba ba” vocals and Jardine whistling.
Were it not for the processing on Jardine’s voice, this would be a masterpiece. For those who can cope with that major flaw, it still is.
Pacific Coast Highway
Lead vocalist: Brian Wilson
A very pretty fragment, dating from the late 90s, “Pacific Coast Highway” segues straight out of “From There to Back Again”, and is so closely related to it that it’s hard to think of it as a separate song, rather than a link between it and the final track. Starting with a block of “ooh” harmonies, we go into a short fragment of a song – about a minute of actual song in between forty seconds of “ooh” at the start and strings fading at the end – where Wilson sings “my life/I’m better off alone”.
Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Jon Bon Jovi, Joe Thomas
Lead vocalist: Brian Wilson
And the final track – the final track on any Beach Boys album – is another one that divides people. Specifically, everyone else loves it and I think it’s a dirge. The end of the “suite”, this was written in the 1990s and always intended as the last song on the Beach Boys’ last album (although apparently Wilson later decided that maybe this wouldn’t be the last album, before the band split up again).
A collaboration with Jon Bon Jovi, this thankfully has few of the New Jersey rocker’s fingerprints on it. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t have a chorus or a middle eight. The same thirty seconds or so of melody repeats over and over for the whole four minutes and forty-one seconds of the track, and while the first time it sounds quite pretty, if a bit plodding, by the end of the track it’s become mind-numbingly tedious.
Melodically, it has a slight resemblance to parts of “Superstar” by Leon Russell, but slowed down and turned almost into a lullaby, while the production is clearly attempting to do something similar to “Caroline, No” as a weighty album closer.
The instrumental arrangement is interesting, and the vocals are nice, but fundamentally this is a fragment – a quarter of a song – stretched out to ten times its natural length.
Mike Love has taken a lot of criticism for a joke during the playback of this in the studio, when in front of a journalist he mimed blowing his own head off after the song (though few of those critics remember that immediately afterward he said “It’s brilliant, beautiful”). But frankly, that’s my reaction too. To an extent, the weight of the song as the last track on the last album has made it immune to criticism, and the fact that one line (“I’m thinking maybe I’ll just stay”) is inspired by Wilson’s last conversation with his brother Carl gives the song a bit of borrowed emotional weight.
But fundamentally, and trying my best to like the song, it’s simply not very interesting. It’s a poor ending to what is a far better album than we could have expected.
Do It Again (2012 version)
Songwriters: Brian Wilson and Mike Love
Lead vocalists: Mike Love and Brian Wilson with Jeffrey Foskett
The first track recorded for the reunion, this sneaked out on a “ZinePak” – a magazine about the band with a free CD and postcards, distributed through WalMart – as the one new track on what was otherwise a standard greatest hits CD, before appearing as a bonus track on the Japanese version of the album.
The song (which later became the opening song every night during the reunion tour) was chosen because it was one that everyone involved knew, and no major changes were made to the arrangement. Love’s voice is a little huskier, Brian Wilson sang the middle eight, and Foskett sang the falsetto Brian had originally sung, but other than that (and the fact that it comes to a hard close rather than fading) a casual listener would probably not notice the difference from the original, especially since the introduction is sampled from the 1968 recording.
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I had the exact same response you did to Summer’s Gone. At first I liked it, and thought it was pretty and touching. Then after a couple more listens, I realized it wasn’t a finished song. It’s just a bunch of verses, with rather blah lyrics. It’s an unfinished song, to my ears. No chorus or bridge, and the verses have little to say. Not the kind of thing you expect from Brian, who’s never lost for musical ideas.
I would agree that Al Jardine’s voice has held up to the point where yeah, he’s probably one of the better vocalists among his peers from the 60s. David Crosby is in that class too. His voice has changed hardly at all.
I’ve not heard Crosby’s voice for decades, so can’t judge there — never been a huge fan of his though. Both Micky and Nez from the Monkees also still have their voices, but Al’s a better singer than either.
Colin Blunstone has also kept his voice, and he may be up there with Al.
Crosby’s 2 latest solo albums have him in classic voice, virtually unchanged. Of course if you don’t like the material he’s singing, that’s another issue.
At last, I can come out of the closet – someone else also thinks Private Life of Bill and Sue is a highlight of the album. It’s completely disarming and I find I usually just listen to that and Isn’t it Time. Where any of the other songs are listenable its because of the occasional gorgeous fragment amongst some MOR dross, but never as a complete song of quality … and as you say, Summer’s Gone is just one of those fragments extended for too long.
It’s OK, you’re among friends here.
It seems to me that the rhythm and structure of the chorus lyrics of “Daybreak Over The Ocean” are identical to those of “Bluebirds Over The Mountain”, and for some reason this annoys me so intensely that I just can’t listen to it. Surely at some point during the recording process, someone turned to someone else and said “hey, haven’t we sung this before?”