I - II - III - IV

NOTE: By the mid-Seventies, The Beach Boys had become officially a nostalgia act, and the groups that followed their sound now weren't so much imitators as homage artists.  Now we have second-and-third generation fans springing up, admiring the Beach Boys sound, along with other artists, so that the harmonic seeds which The Beach Boys planted in the 1960s have bloomed and spread like spores - incubating in artists of all genres and styles. 

Flash Cadillac: Sons Of The Beaches
Varese Sarabande 066149 [CD]; 
Released 1975; CD Release August 8, 2000

1. Did You Boogie (With Your Baby) (McQueen, McQueen)   2:49
2. Summer Means Fun (Barri, Sloan)  2:30
3. Time Will Tell (Moe)  3:25
4. Hot Summer Girls (Shelly, Wilde)  3:18
5. It's a Summer Night (Moe)  2:48
6. Come On, Let's Go (Burns)  2:50
7. Good Times, Rock & Roll (Burns)  2:50
8. You Sat Right There (Sandler)  2:35
9. I Wish You'd Dance (Moe)  4:03
10. It's Hard (To Break the Ice) (Moe)  2:28
11. Rock & Roll Menace (Moe)  4:11
12. See My Baby Jive (Wood)  3:36
13. Brown Water [Apocalypse Blues] (Bement, Knight)    4:13
14. Did You Boogie (With Your Baby) (McQueen, McQueen)  2:46 

REVIEW:  Flash Cadillac & The Continental Kids are a band who live for the sun.  And on this, their best and most successful homage to the California myth, the band successfully captures the sunny, innocent flush of suntanned bodies on the beach with an almost self-concious copying of the Beach Boys.  Their sound, straight from the 1970's owes more to First Class perhaps than to the Beach Boys, and has the slick production shine that was creeping into even the Beach Boys albums.  With the majority of songs being original compositions, there is plenty of new stuff to discover here, from the rich Beach Boys harmony and Phil Spector feel of "Time Will Tell" to the very Mike Love-ish "Hot Summer Girls" extolling the charms of California beauties.  There is a well-chosen cover of a Bruce & Terry song: "Summer Means Fun" which stacks up well with the original version, but the best songs are the originals, with the great songs "Come On, Let's Go" and "I Wish You'd Dance" tearing up the dance floor, and the fun "See My Baby Jive" a personal favorite.  But every song here is worthy of hearing, even though some songs veer into a comically goofy swing.  Varese Sarabande has filled out the disc with three alternate mixes/songs, and has remastered the original album with great sound.  A terrific party album, and a real find for fans of the Beach Boys early sound.

Ricci Martin: Beached
Epic P34834 [LP]; Real Gone Music [CD]
Original Release Date: 1977; Re-release: September 11, 2015

Ricci Martin
1. Stop Look Around
2. Moonbeams
3. Belle of the Ball
4. Everybody Knows My Name
5. Streets of Love
6. Spark of Me
7. My Old Radio
8. Precious Love
9. I Don't Like It
10. I Had a Dream
11. Here I Go Again
12. Stop Look Around (Stereo Single Version)
13. Moonbeams (Stereo Single Version)
14. Stop Look Around (Mono Promo Single Version)
15. Moonbeams (Mono Promo Single Version

  Ah - to be young, rich, and well-connected.  Ricci Martin, youngest son of eternal Rat-Packer Dean Martin, and younger brother of Dino, Desi and Billy s Dean-Paul Martin, this fortunate young man pulled together a slew of his family friends and cut an album of laid-back, inoffensive California pop which then pretty much sunk without a trace.  Now, thanks to Real Gone Music, this <cough>"lost classic"<cough> has been re-discovered, remastered, accented with freshly-dusted-off bonus tracks and brought back for a second look.  Eh - it's worth looking at, if only for his notable backing group: Carl Wilson co-wrote, co-produced and sings backing vocals, Dennis Wilson and Ricky Fataar share drumming duties, Chicago's Peter Cetera, America's Gerry Beckley, and Wings Jimmy McCulloch all dropped by sessions to contribute as well.  Other names on the record sleeve that will be familiar to long-time Beach Boys fans include Bobby Figueroa, Carli Muñoz,  Ed Carter and Van Dyke Parks!  Yep - this boy was not lacking in musical firepower.  What it IS lacking however is a strong songs, or distinctive vocals.  While Ricci was able to call in powerful collaborators, his own talents in music were mediocre, at best, and every song here sounds like a better artist's throwaways, with vague tropical, pop, and rock influences all melting into an indistinguishable, if pleasant, listen.  His voice, a nondescript baritone, isn't called on to reach any great heights, and the songwriting reminds me strongly of the typical AM radio slush of the times.  Recorded at the Beach Boys own Brother Studios, with so many strong Beach Boys connections in its creation, you might want to check it out - but don't believe the hype - it's no "lost classic" it's just a well-connected kid's vanity project, pleasant and forgettable.

Surfin' Lungs: Cowabunga
Big Beat WIKM 41 [LP]
Release Date: 1985

1. Pray for Sun
2. Hey Muscles
3. Last Beach Party
4. Warpaint
5. Rockin' in Rameses' Tomb
6. Surf Taboo/Down at the 'B' Club
7. Quasimodo A Go Go
8. 389
9. Surfin' Chinese

  A British band I'd never heard of 'til I was clued in to them by hardcore surf-punk affeciando Joshua Adams, The Surfin' Lungs have been around since 1985, but never made much of a splash here in the States, despite being a recording and touring band for the past quarter century(!)  The original line-up consisted of Chris Pearce (Lead Vocal, Guitars), Steve Dean (Bass, Vocals, Keyboards), Geoffo Knipe (Organ, Guitars) and Al Beckett (Drums, Vocals).  On this, their debut album, Cowabunga, their punk and surf sensibilities are in full force, with jangly surf guitars, sharp harmonies, propulsive beats, and an undeniable knack for crafting poppy/punk melodies anchored to Southern California surf culture.  Although they are a vocal surf band, a genre the Beach Boys were first shoe-horned into, they don't aspire to any of the more melancholy, artistic Brian Wilson-like heights, instead, they're content to be more aligned to bands like The Super Stocks or The Hondells, churning out danceable surf rock that is fun to listen to in the car with the hood down, but doesn't dig any deeper than that.  In fact, after listening to Cowabunga, I can't really say that any track stuck out as markedly different from the one which preceded it.  "Rockin' in Rameses' Tomb" caught my ear, mostly because of its ethereal minor-key vocals.  But for the most part, you get fast drum kicks, doo-wop-ish harmonies popping in and out, and lyrics which extol the surf, beach and drag culture from the mid-Sixties.  The Surfin' Lungs are without a doubt a potent rock band, but don't aspire to anything more. Their latest album Full Petal Jacket is the only one readily available in the States, but you can find more albums at, or check out their website for a complete discography of their eleven albums and more.

The Legendary Masked Surfers: Jan & Dean's Golden Summer Days
Varese Sarabande 5727 [CD]; 
Released July 24, 1996

1. Ride the Wild Surf [Berry, Christian, Wilson] 2:15
2. Fun, Fun, Fun [Love, Wilson] 2:14
3. Dead Man's Curve [Berry, Christian, Christian] 2:55
4. Surf City [Berry, Wilson] 2:39
5. The Little Old Lady from Pasadena [Altfeld, Christian] 2:33
6. Surfin' U.S.A. [Berry, Wilson] 2:36
7. Honolulu Lulu [Adler, Beamer, Berry]    2:22
8. Popsicle [Cason, Russell] 2:38
9. Surfin' Safari [Berry, Love, Wilson] 2:13
10. Sidewalk Surfin' [Christian, Wilson] 2:35
11. Little Deuce Coupe [Christian, Christian, Wilson] 1:51
12. Gonna Hustle You [Berry, Wilson] 2:44
13. I Get Around [Wilson] 2:15
14. Drag City [Berry, Christian, Christian] 2:21
15. Be True to Your School [Love, Wilson] 2:29
16. Vegetables [Parks, Wilson] 2:24
17. Thanks for Buyin' Our Album [Nilsson, Torrence] :43

REVIEW:  I'm really not sure why I've taken such a long time to pick this up, since in many ways it's as much a Beach Boys album as a Jan & Dean album - in many ways more so, with the involvement of not only Mike Love and Brian Wilson, but Marilyn Wilson, Diane Wilson, and touring members of the Beach Boys band John Cowsill, Mike Kowalski, Chris Farmer, Eddie Carter, and John Stamos. The impetus for this collection of tracks was the 1978 TV movie Deadman's Curve, which was a fictionalized re-telling of the Jan & Dean story.  With rights to the original music tied up in legal knots, Dean Torrence decided to re-record several of J&D's biggest hits for inclusion on the film's soundtrack. He enlisted several friends, and Mike Love volunteered the use of his Santa Barbara studio to record the songs. Strangely, instead of sticking with J&D hits, seven of the tracks of the 17-song collection are better known as Beach Boys hits; including "Fun, Fun, Fun", "Surfin' USA", "Surfin' Safari", "Little Deuce Coupe", "I Get Around", "Be True To Your School" and (!) "Vegetables". Jan & Dean did cover most of these songs on their own albums, but still, it's a Wilson-heavy project.  Jan & Dean hits include: "Ride The Wild Surf", "Dead Man's Curve", "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena", "Honolulu Lulu", "Popsicle", "Sidewalk Surfin'", "Gonna Hustle You", and "Drag City". The sound on this recording actually reminded me of the similar Beach Boys Salute NASCAR CD: the songs are well-played, uptempo, with discrete use of synthesizers (this was 1977, after all) and with a professional, slick sound that evokes the past hits, but doesn't really improve upon them. Brian Wilson's only appearance is on "Vegetables", but Mike Love chimes in "Little Old Lady..." and "Sidewalk Surfin'". A good album for Beach Boys fans to investigate.

The High Llamas: Hawaii
BMG 27004 [CD];
Released July 29, 1997

1. Cuckoo Casino
2. Sparkle Up
3. Literature Is Fluff
4. Nomads
5. Snapshot Pioneer
6. Ill-Fitting Suits
7. Recent Orienteering
8. Hot Revivalist
9. Phoney Racehorse
10. Dressing up the Old Dakota
11. D.C. 8
12. Doo-Wop Property
13. Theatreland
14. Friendly Pioneer
15. Cuckoo's Out
16. Peppy
17. There's Nobody Home
18. Hokey Curator
19. Campers in Control
20. Double Drift
21. Island People
22. Incidentally N.E.O. 
23. Tides
24. Nomad Strings
25. Pilgrims
26. Rustic Vespa 
27. Folly Time  
28. Hawaiian Smile   
29. Instrumental Suits

Over the years I've heard lots of Beach Boys fans rave about Sean O'Hagan and his project The High Llamas, and the supposed link to "Smile"-era Beach Boys.  And after much listening and comparing, I have to admit that there are sonic similarities, and occasionally out-right sampling of the hazy 1967 sound that Brian Wilson, and many other bands were tinkering with at the time.  But whereas Brian Wilson eventually grew tired of these experimental soundscapes, The High Llamas grasped onto it like the proverbial security blanket and have released a half-dozen albums which mine these same musical ideas over and over again.  To compare this group to the Beach Boys is actually doing Sean O'Hagan a disservice; he's a talented arranger in his own right, creating delicate, pretty, occasionally stark musical tapestries, which borrow trumpet lines from Burt Bacharach, or harmonic shifts from Paul McCartney's songbook, or, on this album, melodic and lyrical offshoots from the psyche of Brian Wilson.  But rather than create songs in the traditional sense with verse-chorus-bridge constructions, O'Hagan writes rambling, unfocused ditties (there's no other word for it) that seem to have been cut from his early-morning dreams than composed at a keyboard.  Sonically, you'll find Wilson-esque touches: the anachronistic banjo playing on "Peppy," or fuzzy saxaphone on "Doo Wop Property," (which sounds like it might have been taken from "Pet Sounds,") or chiming accompianment on "Dressing Up the Old Dakota" tied with a remarkably accurate Brian-like vocal (a la' "Busy Doin' Nothing.")  But while there are snatches of these moments throughout the album, the experience as a whole is too much the same, further undercut by the addition of droning sythesizers, or songs that melt into one another without much alteration in moods or tempos.  Hawaii is a prime example of both the strengths and weaknesses of The High Llamas - namely a musical arrested development too much in love with itself; the album exists on a plateau rather than the emotional peaks and valleys of classic Beach Boys albums.  It's all very lovely and interesting at first, but it soon becomes apparent that the program isn't going to alter much, and this album, though out-of-print, is still readily available in used record bins.  However, if you, like many other fans, really dig this, check out other, similar albums, such as Beet Maize & Corn, BuzzleBee, and Snowbug.

The Malibooz: Living Water (The Surfer's Mass) 
The Orchard
 313 [CD]; 
Released February 9, 1999

1. Benedicite       3:37
2. Kyrie     1:33
3. Gloria     2:42
4. Bitter Water     4:50
5. Alleluia     0:58
6. Crest, Then Broken     5:19
7. Holy, Holy     1:39
8. Doxology/Amen     1:19
9. Lamb of God     2:38
10. Summer Wind     3:38
11. Caught a Wave     3:43
12. Benedicite Reprise     1:15

REVIEW:  Out of all the Beach Boys-hybrid bands that have sprung up over the years, The Malibooz have the most authentic credentials, and sound.  Formed with long-time members John Zambetti and Walter Egan (who had a one-hit career with "Magnet and Steel") formed the Malibooz in 1964 and have been releasing their mix of Beach Boys and surf guitar music off and on ever since then.  This 1999 release is easily their most daring and dynamic piece of music - a reverential song-cycle in the form of a Catholic Mass, with sweeping ocean imagery reminscent of Brian Wilson's "The Lonely Sea" (especially on the moody, swirling piano of "Bitter Water), but it's the rich vocals and unusual tack that the band takes that makes this album such a stunner: the blending of Christian trappings and the near-religious fanaticism that surfers have for their sport make this a one-of-a-kind album that some may find a wee bit too serious for their tastes.  But check it out, it's probably the sweetest slice of pure harmony singing that you're likely to hear.  Whereas the Malibooz's other albums have all been a tried-and-true formula of Beach Boys harmonies blended with the Surfaris intrumental prowess, this album is the Malibooz's Pet Sounds.   A heartfelt stunner and rarely-heard expression of faith that stacks up with songs like "Surf's Up" "'Til I Die" and the Beach Boys best.

Wilson Phillips: Greatest Hits  Capitol Records 22085 [CD]; Released May 23, 2000

Wilson Phillips - Greatest Hits
1. Hold On [Single Edit]
2. You Won't See Me Cry [LP Version]
3. You're in Love [Single/Radio Edit]
4. Impulsive [Single Edit]
5. Give It Up [New Extended Radio 7"]
6. Release Me [Single Version]
7. Dream Is Still Alive [AC Remix]  
8. Flesh and Blood [Single Edit]  
9. Daniel [LP Version]  
10. Conversation With Wilson Phillips
11. Hotel California [Live] 
12. Hold On [Live]         
13. Naked and Sacred [LP Version] - Chynna Phillips  
14. Miracle [LP Version] - The Wilsons 
15. Everything I Need - The Wilsons [LP Version]

REVIEW:  It's impossible to have a Beach Boys-related artists page without including Wilson Phillips.  Not only does the group contain Brian Wilson's two natural daughters Carnie and Wendy Wilson, but this disc, which is easily the only choice for people curious about the group, contains the first of several of the Wilson's collaborations with their father as the final track.  Wilson Phillips was always more about style than substance, with their heavilly processed vocals lending the group's singles a too-perfect sheen which tended to fall apart in live appearances, but these ladies didn't hit the top of the charts a couple of times on pedigree alone.  The optimistic girl-group vibes found on "Hold On" and "You're In Love" contain huge hooks, and the harmonies, even if they are devoid of all emotion in their studio polishing, are bright and tight.  (It also didn't hurt that Wendy and Chynna looked really hot in the videos, and Carnie had a 'Mama Cass' thing goin' on).  This disc contains those two top hits, as well as several minor chart entries in the form of "You Won't See Me Cry," "Impulsive," "Release Me" and the not-too-subtle autobiographical letter to the Wilson's distant father "Flesh and Blood."  All these songs are included in the punchy single versions which were heard on the radio, and which surpass the tamer LP mixes.  Also included are thier contribution to the Elton John tribute CD Two Rooms "Daniel," two live performances, which show that Wilson Phillips could really sing (just not as well as on their albums), a single from Chynna Phillips solo album, and two cuts from Wendy and Carnie's The Wilsons CD, featuring the Tony Asher/Brian Wilson penned "Everything I Need" (which is all you'll need from that otherwise dismal release).  In short, this disc is a perfect sampler for those who loved the singles (guilty pleasure, I know), and want to have just some of Brian's progeny included in their collection.

Jeffrey Foskett: Stars In The Sand 
The Pop Collective TCP2001 [CD]; 
Released November 16, 2004

1. Living Alone       3:21
2. Thru My Window     3:29
3. It's My Fault     3:08
4. Baby It's You     3:05
5. Cool and Gone     3:43
6. Hurting Each Other     3:30
7. Fish!     4:17
8. I Live For The Sun     2:36
9. Everything I Need     4:16
10. The Word Go     3:10
11. The Mystery of Moonlight     4:10
12. (You're My) Favorite Waste of Time     3:19
13. The Best Thing About Me is You     3:56
14. Laughter In The Rain     2:40

REVIEW:  I've long been a grudging admirer of Jeffrey Foskett's music - he's a multi-talented singer/songwriter/instrumentalist who's adept at hybridizing musical trends from the last several decades and picking the best parts for his own recordings.  A long-time associate and friend of Brian Wilson, as well as a member of his touring band, Foskett is a creator of pop music with a capital "P" and the songs on this finely-chosen compilation by label The Pop Collective are a perfect showcase for his carefully-crafted solo outings.  Jeffrey Foskett knows a good hook when he hears it, and his songs, from the memorable "Thru My Window," "The Word Go," or "The Mystery Of Moonlight" or his cover versions of other artists' songs, ("I Live For The Sun," "Everything I Need") are given clean, sparkling productions and are all benefited from Foskett's remarkably supple tenor voice.  Most of the vocals and instruments are supplied by Foskett himself, with occasional help from friends like Marshall Crenshaw, Robert Lamm, Doug Fieger, and even Brian Wilson, who lends his voice to "Everything I Need."  The one complaint I've always had with Jeff's music is how carefully controlled it is; even on tear-em-up number like "I Live For The Sun" the music never really gets down and dirty - this is pop music put on a pedestal, and after a while of listening to it I get a hankering for some meat-and-potatoes rock 'n' roll.  But Foskett does step out of his comfort zone occasionally, as with the folk-pop of "The Best Thing About Me Is You" and the sunny, frenetic "FISH!" from Japanese songwriter Tatsuro Yamashita.  The album also finishes with a surprising riff on Neil Sedaka's "Laughter In The Rain" done acappella, with Jeffrey multi-tracking his voice into a Beach Boys-inspired choir or harmony and doo-wop euphoria.  An excellent starting point for those who wish to investigate this talented artist.

Gidea Park: Beach Party
Collecting Records OMP [CD][MP3];
Released 1996; reissued January 1, 2007

1. The Surf Is Up     4:35
2. Surfer's Paradise     3:54
3. Have You Seen That Girl     3:27
4. Lai Lo Lah Limbo     3:55
5. Party Beach     3:20
6. American Girls     3:22
7. And Your Dreams Come True     1:05
8. I Got Rhythm     3:28
9. Bring Back Those Surfin' Days     3:27
10. Lazin' On The Beach     4:24
11. Back In 65     4:43
12. Don't Look Back     4:49
13. Summertime City     3:30
14. Endless Summer Days     4:53
15. Stay Healthy     1:16

REVIEW:  This album, originally released under the title Endless Summer Days on Hallmark in 1996, has been reissued by Collecting Records OMP and features Adrian Baker on multi-tracked vocals, performing the kinds of thick, harmonic acrobatics he's known for in his collaborations with Mike Love. I've found clips of Gidea Park on YouTube that looks like it goes back much further though, with hairstyles and clothing that looks to be right out of the late 1970s-early 80s.  And musically, it takes its cue from the vacuous, synthezied cheeze-whiz which was all the craze during that era.  Although they obviously try to pay homage to The Beach Boys, Gidea Park sounds more like a lite Bay City Rollers, with a teeny-bopper vibe which I found completely brainless.  Adrian Baker has long given the impression of being a cold, robotic version of Brian Wilson - take away Brian's melancholy, this introspection, his quirky sense of humor, and leave the Four Freshman harmonies, and that's what you've got here.  The Beach Boys touches are numerous, from the one cover of "And Your Dreams Come True" to the half "Vegetables", half "Take Good Care Of Your Feet" rip-off "Stay Healthy", to the numerous surf and sun titles which litter the track list - there's not much here that felt honest, or elicited any emotional response other than "meh."  It's all so slick and mechanical that I found it hard to believe that actual living, breathing human beings could produce something so bland.

The Wondermints 
Big Deal Records 9903 [CD];  
Released November 5, 1996

1. Proto-Pretty
2. Fleur-De-Lis
3. Tracy hide
4. She Opens Heaven's Door
5. Libbyland
6. Shine
7. Thought Back
8. Time
9. Global Village Idiot
10. Playtex Aviary
11. In A Haze
12. Carnival Of Souls

REVIEW:  Before the Wondermints achieved pop nirvana as core members of Brian Wilson's band, they carved out a distinctive solo career, beginning with this fab album released on Big Deal Records.  Mixing the very best parts of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Elvis Costello, The Left Banke and a touch of proto-punk attitude, the Wondermints have a knack of creating astoundingly catchy power-pop with enough hooks to choke a whale.  Their first album abounds with the lessons they've learned: from the folk-rock Monkees-vibe on "Proto-Pretty" to the high, shimmery harmonies on "Tracy Hide" and the lazy summer haze of "She Opens Heaven's Door" the amount of sheer melodic song-craft here is dizzying.  Snatches of the Beatles peeks through on "Libbyland" morphing to the percolating psychedelia on "Shine," then the band channels an almost perfect imitation of Elvis Costello on "Thought Back" then spins a Lennon-ish vibe for "Global Village Idiot."  No wonder Brian Wilson thought them the perfect match for him - it seems like these guys can imitate anyone they want - they're the ideal musical chameleons.  This album, which manages to maintain a remarkable unity of style and tone through the shifting influences, is an absolute joy, and unreservedly recommended as your first foray into the wonderful world of the Wondermints.

Taxiride: Imaginate
WEA/Warner Brothers 3984277222 [CD];
Released October 28, 1999

1. Can You Feel
2. Get Set
3. Everywhere You Go
4. 72 Hour Daze
5. Rocketship
6. Let Me Die Young
7. Rachael
8. Ice Cream
9. Let's Spend The Night
10. Nothing In This World
11. Counting Down The Days
12. Back Again
13. Helplessly Hoping (Bonus Track)
14. Get Set (Original Demo)
15. Everywhere You Go

REVIEW: The first time I heard Australian band Taxiride's debut album, I was reminded of The Beach Boys. Not that their songs, or performances are especially reminiscent of the Hawthorne Five - it was more the vibe that they put out.  This was music that demanded to be listened to while cruising down the highway in a convertible with the top down.  It doesn't hurt of course that Imaginate is pure pop songwriting at its best; nor should it surprise you to learn that their sound is rooted in rich harmonies.  But the harmonies are perhaps more akin to the tight interweavings of Crosby, Stills and Nash than the Four Freshman, but the feel - the mood of this album is definitely West Coast, with a touch of raw folk-rock in their guitar chords.  I've debated a long time whether or not to include them here, but in the spirit of sharing music that I love, I really wanted to give a shout out to this group.  And I think that fans of The Beach Boys and maybe more particularly West Coast-styled pop music will totally dig this album.  It's got a wide spectrum of styles included, from the rocket-science blast of "Get Set" to the acappella harmony riff of the opening track, this album rips out of the starting gate.  There's humor ("Ice Cream"), and straight-up pop hooks ("Everywhere You Go," "Nothing In This World").  But I was similarly impressed by the deep melancholy found on the melodic "Let Me Die Young" and the charming simplicity of "Counting Down The Days" (there are some marked likenesses in similar sentiments by both Brian and Dennis Wilson in these two songs.)  There's also Indian raga music to be found laced into "Rachel" and curiously successful Celtic influences in "Let's Spend The Night" and a short, whimsical benediction found in "Back Again."   And although the band has lost (and gained) a member since their debut, and have released more albums in the interim, it's their first outing which still sounds fresh and alive to my ears.  I love this record.  If you haven't heard it, give it a try.  And although Sire Records released this album in an abbvreviated American version, this CD, (their Australian release), is expanded with three very good bonus tracks that you won't find on the U.S. release

Ben Folds: Rockin' The Suburbs 
Sony 61610 [CD]; 
Released September 11, 2001

Rockin the Suburbs
1. Annie Waits       4:18
2. Zak And Sara     3:11
3. Still Fighting It     4:25
4. Gone     3:22
5. Fred Jones Part 2     3:45
6. The Ascent Of Stan     4:14
7. Losing Lisa     4:11
8. Carrying Cathy     3:48
9. Not The Same     4:18
10. Rockin' The Suburbs     4:58
11. Fired     3:49
12. The Luckiest     4:25

REVIEW:  One of the great surprises of my year was to hear Ben Folds' solo album "Rockin' The Suburbs."  I wasn't familiar with his work with Ben Folds Five, but I heard snippets of this album and had to check it out for one vital reason: to my ears, Ben Folds sounds like vintage Brian Wilson, circa 1968.  Brian at that time was writing strange, intensely loopy pop songs like "Busy Doin' Nothing" and "Anna Lee, the Healer," which sounded nothing like his earlier songs, but have an intimate charm unlike anything he's written before or since.  Ben Folds, while not descending into the odd paranoia that Brian did, writes "little" songs about his neighbors, his girlfriends, and other inhabitants of his fishbowl of a world, and wraps these lyrics into perfect little pop melodies that he graces with his brilliant voice, which can jump into falsetto as easily as Brian ever did.  Listen to the perfect pop construction of "We're Still Fighting It" which veers between almost-too-pretty balladry and anthemic power-pop, and hear echoes of the sentiments of Brian's "When A Man Loves A Woman."  Then listen to the sweet sadness in "Losing Lisa" and you'll hear the same poet soul that permeated "In My Room" and "Cry."  I'm not saying that you'll find direct comparisons here, since Ben rarely uses harmony - in fact, this disc has a very dry, home-studio sound as compared to Brian's rich, harmonic soundscapes, but to me it helps to emphasize the bleaker tone that this disc carries, and from beginning to end it's a near-perfect diary of the songwriter's heart.  Another disc that I find myself plugging to friends whenever I get the chance.

Tripsitter: California Son
Tripsitter Music [CD]; 
Released January 1, 2004

1. Intro     1:19
2. Let Me Know You    4:42
3. Banana Split    3:14
4. Transformation    4:53
5. California Son    4:55
6. Wavestrumental    2:31
7. Last September    3:33
8. There Goes the Sun    3:59
9. Positively Thomas    3:13
10. Divine    5:10
11. On and On    4:49
12. Outro    1:15
13. Just a Little    3:41

REVIEW:  If I had my way, the Beach Boys would have retired in oh, say, 1974, and instead of foisting 15 Big Ones on an unsuspecting public, would have just soaked up some rays, done some surfing, and then once they'd all unwound a little bit, they could've put out an album like California Son, which is the finest, sunniest, most California sounding CD I've heard in a long, long time. Listening to this album brought back powerful memories of the West coast, with all the easy, laid-back effervescence that living in the Sunshine State evokes. Tripsitter have perfectly captured the good vibrations of the California Mythos, and personally have more than a few resemblances to the Beach Boys: a five-piece band, containing two brothers, and some simpatico friends who obviously share a love of harmony singing, they write their own music, play their own instruments, and weave a spell-binding magic in their music. They're not shy of acknowledging their progenitors either: they incorporate an acappella "Intro" and "Outro" which opens and closes the album in "Our Prayer"-like manner, or interpolate parts of "When I Grow Up To Be A Man" into the title track; or the "'Til I Die" vibes found on the instrumental "Wavestrumental" (love the title); or by doing their own vocal sampling of the harmony tag of "Be Here In The Morning" on "Last September." But these artists aren't Beach Boys clones - they're far more relaxed, and their influences also seemingly incorporate The Eagles, The Beatles, and The Carpenters, but not in overt ways - the album just breathes out a sweet, peaceful feeling, and alternately incorporates jazz, blues, or folk influences with remarkable fluidity. Other songs that trip my wires: "Transformation", "On and On", and the post-"Outro" benediction "Just A Little". Simply perfect pop. Check this album and be sure to stop by their website and say hi. Meanwhile, I'm going to play this disc over again and hope they have plans to catch a second wave of sweet, California music.

Northern Light: Sweet Sunny Day
Glacier Records [CD]; 
Released April 1, 1998

Sweet Sunny Day 1. Number 30
2. Hushabye/Little Star
3. Sweet Sunny Day
4. (I Like to ) Drive In My Car
5. The Mountain's High
6. Sunshine Days
7. Rumbles II
8. Van Gogh
9. My Heroines
10. Summertime Honey Retreat

REVIEW:  Independent label Glacier Records is the home of Northern Light, (consisting of three bass players, three guitarists, two percussionists, one keyboardist, one horn player and six vocalists) who capture a sweet slice of Beach Boys harmonies and songwriting sensibilities on this, their debut album.  Although most of the songs are original compositions, the band has a real knack for what made Brian Wilson & Co. tick, with nods to their California progenitors on every track, from the "Don't Worry Baby" vibe found on the opening track "Number 30" (which is about a boy's infatuation with a girl basketball player); to their cover of "Hushabye" which is interpolated with "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" in a nice 1950s pastiche.  The title track, "Sweet Sunny Day", is excellent, with a driving hook on the chorus that reeled me right in, and a gentle Carl Wilson-vibe permeates "(I Like To) Drive In My Car", and the albums' other cover, "The Mountain's High" has a rocking Everly Brothers groove to it.  "Sunshine Days" is pure Beach Boys, and could easily have been lifted from one of their latter-day albums, with excellent chiming guitar breaks and some very sweet falsetto singing distinguishing it.  The next track, "Rumbles II" is the kind of chunky, four-chord instrumental which the Beach Boys themselves might have tackled on their early albums, but with some effective tempo changes thrown in to keep it interesting.  "Van Gogh" has smooth, expressive harmonies reminiscent of the 5th Dimension; "My Heroines" is a somewhat clumsy tribute to women pilots of World War II, which is redeemed by the excellent melody and prominent vocals by Karen Paurus, and the final track, "Summertime Honey Retreat" borrows some chorus licks from the Beach Boys' "Wild Honey" and is a fabulous closing track.  The entire album is excellently produced, and quite frankly sounds like the Beach Boys would've if Brian, Carl, and Dennis had been born in Minneapolis instead of Hawthorne.  

Alan Boyd: Channel Surfing
Boyd Production Group 20041 [CD];
Released 2004

1. Down South (In San Diego)
2. Channel Surfing
3. Be Her Friend
4. Everybody's Waiting
5. Miss America 1926
6. Don't Be Afraid Of the Dark
7. Beach Boys Britain
8. I Can't Wait To Fall Asleep Tonight
9. Meanwhile
10. For A Summer Night
11. The Earthquake
12. Busy Doin' Something
13. Medley: Too Damn Cold/Hawaiian Rhapsody
14. Hollywood the Unusual
15. You're The Beautiful
16. Down South (California)
17. Bonus track

Alan Boyd, best known to Beach Boys fans as the director of the fine documentary Endless Harmony, is also a hugely talented musician and, with his all-encompassing love of The Beach Boys' music, has released this fun album which is filled with canny pastiches of the early Beach Boys sound, from the sing-along choruses of "Down South" (found here in two incarnations) to the Pet Sounds-like "Be Her Friend" to the interestingly stitched-together creation "Everybody's Waiting" (which incorporates sound clips from Dennis Wilson doing a spoken introduction of the Beach Boys to quoting his own songs.)  Alan has a remarkable flexibility in his voice, occasionally sounding like Carl, or Mike, or Brian; and his ability to recreate harmonic and instrumental clones of the Hawthorne Five.  But there's some interesting original diversions as well, with the instrumental archaeology of "Miss America 1926" and the dreamy "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark."  Alan also doesn't shy away from literal name-dropping in his songs, which tends to be distracting, as on the opening track, where he names several of the Beach Boys in the lyrics, or even more obviously in "Beach Boys Britain" which appears to have been composed for a EU fan convention.  Cute song, but it's a strange choice to include on an album, considering it's specific purpose.  Still, this is one of the best-produced, Beach Boys-centric albums I've ever heard, with several of the songs sounding like they could've been pulled from the Beach Boys own vaults, especially the dynamic "I Can't Wait To Fall Asleep Tonight" which sounds like 1971-era BBs.  "Meanwhile" has the same confessional vibe of Brian Wilson's "In My Room" or "Busy Doin' Nothing" (which receives a positive-spin homage here on Alan's "Busy Doin' Something.") and there's an intriguing Tiki vibe on "Hawaiian Rhapsody."  I also loved the silent-movie piano riff found on the instrumental "Hollywood the Unusual" and the eerie Carl Wilson voicings on "You're The Beautiful."   The album closes with a lighter arrangement of "Down South (California)" and a hidden bonus track which is a goofy little surprise.

The Rip Chords: Shut 'Em Down...Again

Collectables COL-CD-6742 [CD]; 
Released June 28, 2005
1. Hey Little Cobra
2. Walk Away Renee
3. Cobra Beach
4. Three Window Coupe
5. Solitary Man
6. Hot Rod Days
7. Hey Little Cobra [Live]
8. 409 [Live]
9. Mustang Sally [Live]
10. Little Girl [Live]
11. Warm California Sun [Live]
12. Three Window Coupe [Live]
13. Rock N Roll Star [Live]
14. Santa's Got a Cobra [bonus track]

When "The Rip Chords" decided to reform for the Oldies touring circuit, it wasn't the studio creators of the Rip Chords Bruce Johnston (who had a decidedly more lucrative gig) and Terry Melcher (RIP), but the original touring "Rip Chords" Rich Rotkin and Bobby Rush, along with a guest appearance by studio vocalist "Rip Chord" Arnie Marcus - confused yet?  Anyway, all you really need to know is that for some odd reason, Collectables Records decided to spring for some studio time for this long-forgotten band, and the resulting Shut 'Em Down...Again was a decidedly mixed bag - some re-recordings of their original hits, some covers of other artists hits, and a heaping helping of live performances (taken directly from a PBS broadcast - complete with cheesy thanks from the band) which sound... oh, about as competent as any oldies cover band you'll find at most amusement park side-shows.  To be fair, the studio covers are very good - of course, if you're a fan of the original Rip Chords albums, these re-creations of "Hey Little Cobra", "Cobra Beach", "Three Window Coupe" (a particularly sloppy remake) and Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man" won't make you forget the originals - they lack the peculiar compressed sound and ambiance of their 60s progenitors, but they're generally tightly played and sung, with sleek harmonies and strong lead vocals.  The newly-written original "Hot Rod Days" is pretty awful - sort of a half-baked "Do It Again" without the strong hook.  And I question the need to remake The Left Banke's shimmering "Walk Away Renee" - but I suppose that it's a fan favorite at their concerts, which is the most likely reason it was included.  It's a good, if unspectacular return of the Rip Chords - most notable due to the fact that it became the first album in what turned out to be a robust return to recording.

Northern Light: 49th Parallel
Glacier Records GCDX02 [CD]; 
Released 2005

49th Parallel 1. Beauty (Is in the Eyes)
2. Lakeshore Ballroom
3. American Fantasy
4. Think Snow
5. Lake Harriet Chorale
6. Neighborhoods
7. 49th Parallel
8. Minnesota
9. Runnin'
10. Foosball Man
11. Mystical Reunion
12. Snow Prayer

REVIEW:  Northern Light's second CD, released seven years after their first, is even better than their debut, with stronger songwriting, more organic production, and gorgeous vocals which still hew closely to their obvious Beach Boys-by-way-of Minnesota roots.  The opening track, "Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder" is a knockout, with cascading piano lines, harmonica, and killer hooks on the chorus immediately pulling me in.  This is great stuff.  It's followed by the fun, driving "Lakeshore Ballroom" punctuated with hand claps and another killer hook that's thick with Beach Boys harmonies, and to hear it devolve into a cacophonic mess at the end seems perfect, with a sweet, child-like instrumental tag closing it out.  Next is the acapella harmony opening of "American Fantasy" which leads into a love letter to their home state, Minnesota - exactly the kind of song Brian Wilson might have written for his beloved California.  The next song, "Think Snow" is a gentle paean to wintertime, with sweet, juicy harmonies backing up the lovely lead vocal.  I have to acknowledge songwriter David Sandler, who is the author of most of the songs here (he shares credit on three songs with Spence Peterson), and who I now unabashedly worship.  A spoken word "Lake Harriet Chorale" leads into "Neighborhoods" - a rosy look at one's childhood neighborhood, which is again thick with complex harmonies and a lead vocal which can sound uncannily like Brian Wilson, with a Mike Love sound-alike providing the bass line.  "49th Parallel" is another great song which promotes life "on the 49th parallel" and has a startlingly rich orchestral arrangement to accompany the memorable melody; it finishes with an interesting tag which darkens in a tangle of swirling violins.  The song segues into fan favorite "Minnesota", which is a fantastic, hook-filled pop song which melds John Denver-style sentimentality with powerful choral backing vocals.  The next song, "Runnin'" leads off with a surprising riff on The Beach Boys "Honkin' Down The Highway" with ticking percussion and vocal graduating into a piano driven mid-tempo rocker.  The next song "Foosball Man" is a hilarious tribute to Foosball addiction, with another great Beach Boys-inspired chorus breaking into ecstatic acapella harmony chants.  "Mystical Reunion" has a lovely oboe(?) line and an epic, Phil Spector-like production, all sweetened by a melody I can easily imagine Carl Wilson sinking his teeth into.  This remarkable album closes with the gorgeous, swirling hymn-like "Snow Prayer", a wordless pocket symphony that puts the perfect finishing touch on this album.  

Carnie Wilson: A Mother's Gift - Lullabies From The Heart
Big3 Records 367872 [CD];
Released May 2, 2006

1. Over the Rainbow [Arlen, Harburg]  2:51
2. Love Me Tender  [Matson, Presley]  3:01
3. Lola Sofia [Daniels, Edwards]  2:35
4. When You Dream [Bonfiglio, Wilson]  2:28
5. You Are So Beautiful [Fisher, Preston]  2:38
6. Heaven [Smith, Sun, Wilson]  3:45
7. A Mother's Prayer [Jones, Kugell, Pennock]  4:13
8. With the Sun [Knutson, Wilson]  3:17
9. Wings of Dreams [Kasset, Nagourney]  4:00
10. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star [Traditional]  0:28
11. Forever [Jacobson, Wilson]  3:35
12. What a Wonderful World [Thiele, Weiss]  3:02

REVIEW:  I've never been a big fan of Carnie Wilson's continual love affair with the spotlight - her tabloid-grabbing lifestyle and career choices have simply made me avoid her music, and after the twin bombs of The Wilsons (with sister Wendy) and her own stillborn solo debut For The First Time (which was sidelined by The Wilson Phillips reunion and as of this writing has not been released), I was wary of this disc, but I was very pleasantly surprised.  A Mother's Gift is a heartfelt, lovely paean to motherhood, and with exquisite taste and sweetness, delivers just the right tone of gentleness and love that many fans should find appealing. It's most closely akin to Kenny Loggins' multi-platinum Return To Pooh Corner with its beguiling mix of re-imagined pop classics ("Love Me Tender," "What A Wonderful World"), classic lullabies ("Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" "Over The Rainbow") a sprinkling of originals ("With The Sun", "When You Dream") and even a couple of nods to her late uncle, Dennis Wilson ("Forever", "You Are So Beautiful").  And for Beach Boys fans, there's also the incredibly moving duet with her father Brian Wilson, on the aforementioned "You Are So Beautiful" which is one of the most sympathetic duets Brian has ever recorded, and the sentiment between he and Carnie is perfect.  Although Carnie's voice has never been a really remarkable instrument - it lacks both range and depth, but for the simple sentiments contained on A Mother's Gift, it feels just right, transformed into a soft purr which is perfect for setting a soft, sleepy mood for the little ones.

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