SOLO ALBUMS I: THE BEACH BOYS
I - II

NOTE:  Carl Wilson was the first of the Beach Boys to put out an entire solo album.  Although Brian Wilson had put out singles (the first being "Caroline No" from Pet Sounds) and Dennis Wilson had flirted with the idea over the years, Carl was the first to step out on his own, and this was after he had tired of the band's complacency in rehearsing for their live act.  But the Beach Boys have never succeeded as solo acts; being stripped of the Beach Boys powerful name as a marketing tool, their solo efforts struggle to get noticed; and invariably, being compared to Brian's compositions, their own works pale in comparison.  But as with all things, there are jewels to be found... 

Carl Wilson | Dennis Wilson | Mike Love | Bruce Johnston | Al Jardine

The Solo Albums

Carl Wilson
Carl Wilson
Caribou NJ2 37010 [LP]; Released 1981
1. Hold Me (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith) 4:03
2. Bright Lights (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith) 3:47
3. What You Gonna Do About Me (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith) 4:27
4. The Right Lane (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith) 5:13
5. Hurry Love (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith) 4:44
6. Heaven (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith/Michael Sun) 4:23
7. The Grammy (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith) 3:04
8. Seems So Long Ago (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith) 4:56

REVIEW: Carl teamed up with Myrna Smith (former backup vocalist for Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin and wife of Wilson's then-manager Jerry Schilling) to put together this slight album.  Carl wrote the music to all the numbers, while Ms. Smith did the lyrics and sang backup on every number (and shared a duet with Carl on one.)  Side One is all up-tempo rockers, and having just listened to the album again, it struck me how bland they all are.  "Hold Me," "Bright Lights," "What You Gonna Do About Me?" and "The Right Lane" are completely undistinguished, containing workmanlike melodies, pedestrian lyrics, and thin production.  The chord changes and melodies are very simple, and the whole thing smacks of being quickly written and recorded.  Side Two fares better, with three ballads (something Carl's voice is particularly tuned for), all of which are somewhat memorable, especially the gently swaying "Heaven," (which ironically contains ocean imagery and a perfect harmonic tag) and the bittersweet "Seems So Long Ago."  The first cut of side two, "Hurry Love" is also a nice ballad, benefiting from Carl's fine voice.  There is one out-and-out embarrassing cut: "The Grammy" is a pretentious number relating a high-minded rocker's apathy at receiving a Grammy Award (also, ironic, since the Beach Boys have never won the prestigious award).  Carl has a distinctive voice and is also a great guitarist, but this album lacks weight.



Youngblood
Caribou BF2 3797 [LP]; Released 1983; ICONOCLASTIC [CD]
CD Release September 10, 2010
1. What More Can I Say? (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith) - 3:26
2. She's Mine (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith) - 3:04
3. Givin You Up (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith/Jerry Schilling) - 4:41
4. One More Night Alone (Billy Hinsche) - 3:05
5. Rockin' All Over The World (J.C Fogerty) - 3:00
6. What You Do To Me (John Hall/Johanna Hall) - 3:56
7. Youngblood (Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller/Doc Pomus) 2:42
8. Of The Times (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith) - 4:07
9. Too Early To Tell (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith/John Daly) - 2:51
10. If I Could Talk To Love (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith) - 4:10
11. Time (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith) - 3:00

REVIEW: Re-teaming with lyricist Myrna Smith from his debut album, as well as pulling songs from a number of different sources (including Billy Hinche, John Fogerty, and Elvis Presley writing team Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller) Youngblood is a measure above Carl's debut in a couple of ways: first, there are several good songs on this album ("Youngblood," "Givin' You Up," "She's Mine," "Of The Times"), and one VERY good song (a joyful "What You Do To Me"). It's also well produced, with moments of sweet harmony, stinging guitars and soaring vocals, which only Carl could supply. Youngblood is also a fairly hard-rocking album, with more defined touches of R&B thrown in, which is fun to hear. Carl has his own sound and style that's distinct from the Beach Boys, much like Dennis did, and Youngblood is such an improvement over Carl Wilson, that it's a shame he didn't press on to better things.  On the other hand, there are also several unmemorable songs, (a bland "If I Could Talk To Love", and the throwaway "Rockin' All Over The World"), which shows that while Carl is certainly not without his measure of songwriting gifts, he cannot supply a full album's worth of good material. Finally seeing the light of day on CD in 2010, collectors who manage to lay their hands on it probably won't be sorry.



Like A Brother [Beckley-Lamm-Wilson]
Transparent Music 500022, [CD Only]; Released 2000
Like A Brother

1. Today (John Waite/Phil Galdston) 4:15
2. Feel The Spirit
3. I Wish For You (Carl Wilson/Robert White Johnson/Phil Galdston) 3:01
4. Run Don't Walk (Carl Wilson/Phil Galdston) 3:55
5. Watching The Time
6. Life In Motion
7. Sheltering Sky
8. They're Only Words (Carl Wilson/Phil Galdston) 4:40
9. Without Her
10. Like A Brother (Carl Wilson/Phil Galdston) 4:43

Japanese version featured three extra tracks, namely "Standing at Your Door," "Blue After All"  and "In The Dark." None of which were written by Carl Wilson, or feature his lead vocals.

REVIEW: Like A Brother is a difficult album to review, simply because it touches some close feelings in me.  Being Carl's last full project before his death, and having taken so long to see the light of release, the anticipation for it ran fairly high, and while it's a tight, professional album, it has faults, mostly in weak songwriting and fairly sterile production.  That said, however, I recommend it for anyone who has enjoyed Carl's voice or songwriting.  Like Dennis and Brian, Carl was given the gift of expressing his soul in his voice and writing, and in the course of the album, it is Carl's heart-on-his sleeve talent that pushes this album up.  "I Wish for You" is simple and fragile, and the closing song "Like A Brother" contains notable references to older brother Brian, "Run Don't Walk" benefits from Carl's rocking lead, and his harmony vocals throughout are distinctive and welcome.  This album is comparable in overall value to his previous solo outings -- better than his first, somewhat lesser than his second, but as an epitaph to a life, it becomes music to be treasured, since we will not see its like again.



I Can Hear Music: The Beach Boys lead vocal by Carl Wilson
EMI Japan [CD Only]; Released December, 2002

Carl Wilson: I Can Hear Music
1. I Can Hear Music
2. Sweet Sunday Kinda Love
3. Trader
4. Livin' With a Heartache
5. Girl Don't Tell Me
6. Marcella
7. God Only Knows
8. San Miguel
9. Only With You
10. Darlin'
11. This Whole World
12. Full Sail
13. Palisades Park
14. Long Promised Road
15. Good Timin'
16. Night Was So Young
17. Wild Honey
18. Good Vibrations
19. Steamboat
20. She Believes in Love Again
21. I'll Bet He's Nice
22. Goin' South

REVIEW:  Carl Wilson had one of the most unique voices in rock music.  It could alternate between lush sweetness ("God Only Knows") and and ragged rhythm and blues ("Wild Honey").  And this CD manages to gather most of his lead vocal contributions which he made to The Beach Boys over the course of twenty-five years.  I wouldn't recommend anyone rushing out to buy this compilation, since anyone with the Beach Boys catalog and a CD burner could do as well, and maybe even better, since a few tracks are omitted ("Bluebirds Over The Mountains"?)  What could have made this disc something special is the inclusion of rare-and-getting-rarer tracks from Carl's two solo albums (see above), which have yet to see the light of day in the Western hemisphere (not counting the pricey compilation put out a couple of years ago to benefit the American Lung Cancer Society).  But if you're really into collecting rare Beach Boys stuff, this is a pretty interesting track lineup, but as you can see, nothing really rare, but an interesting compilation, if you're interested in that sort of thing.



Dennis Wilson 
Pacific Ocean Blue
Caribou/Epic Associated ZK 34354 [CD]; Released 1977
Reissued June 17, 2008 

1. "River Song" (Dennis Wilson/Carl Wilson) - 3:44
2. "What's Wrong" (Dennis Wilson/Gregg Jakobson/M. Horn) - 2:22
3. "Moonshine" (Dennis Wilson/Gregg Jakobson) - 2:27
4. "Friday Night" (Dennis Wilson/Gregg Jakobson) - 3:09
5. "Dreamer" (Dennis Wilson/Gregg Jakobson) - 4:22
6. "Thoughts Of You" (Dennis Wilson/Jim Dutch) - 3:02
7. "Time" (Dennis Wilson/Karen Lamm-Wilson) - 3:31
8. "You And I" (Dennis Wilson/Karen Lamm-Wilson/Gregg Jakobson) - 3:25
9. "Pacific Ocean Blues" (Dennis Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:39
10. "Farewell My Friend" (Dennis Wilson) - 2:26
11. "Rainbows" (Dennis Wilson/Carl Wilson) - 2:55
12. "End Of The Show" (Dennis Wilson/Gregg Jakobson) - 2:55

REVIEW: Hearing this album may be a shock for those who still think of Dennis for the teeny-bopper rock of "Do You Wanna Dance?" or the sweetness of "Little Bird" - dark, coarse, and grungy, Pacific Ocean Blue is Dennis Wilson cutting his own path through American rock music.  Written, produced and sung by Dennis, with help from longtime friend Gregg Jakobson, Pacific Ocean Blue begins with the layered, Spector-ish "River Song," with it's swirling piano and alternately rocking and tender vocals before strolling into the bluesy honky-tonk of "What's Wrong."  Next comes the druggy and intimate ballad "Moonshine," followed by the trembling opening strains of "Friday Night," a slow rock jam.  "Dreamer" is much the same, accented with a grumbling bass harmonica and horn section.  The next cut, "Thoughts Of You" is one of my favorites, a lovely ballad with a stumbling, halting piano accompaniment, and Dennis singing very intimately, before the song drifts off amid rising strings.  "Time" is just as good; almost stream-of-consciousness writing with a single trumpet solo building into a fuller, chugging finale.  "You And I" is perhaps the lightest song included, with acoustic guitars and electric piano punctuated only with soft percussion.  Next comes the environmentally-charged title track, which is a much-less pretentious number than anything his cousin has written.  My next favorite song, "Farewell My Friend" doesn't take many chances, but is a melodic, emotional number.  Next comes the friendly twang of "Rainbows" with banjo perking up the track, before the album closes with the optimistic, lush "End Of The Show."  Dennis' voice is very gruff, but he uses it to great effect, and this album is unmissable. 


Mike Love
Looking Back With Love
Boardwalk NB 1 33242 [LP Only]; Released 1981 
ZERO STARS
1. Looking Back With Love (J. Studer/C. Thomas/D. Parker) 3:38
2. On And On And On (Benny Anderson/Bjorn Ulvaeus) 3:02
3. Runnin' Around The World (J. Haymer/B. Aaronson) 2:48
4. Over And Over (Robert James Byrd) 2:16
5. Rockin' The Man In The Boat (J. Studer/J. Arnold/M. Brady) 3:20
6. Calendar Girl (Neil Sedaka/H. Greenfield) 3:16
7. Be My Baby (Ellie Greenwich/J. Berry/Phil Spector) 2:39
8. One Good Reason (J. Studer/M. Brady) 4:08
9. Teach Me Tonight (S. Cahn/G. DePaul) 3:28
10. Paradise Found (Mike Love/J. Studer) 3:51

REVIEW: Here it is, the nuclear waste of Beach Boys product. Sinking lower than any other album (with the exception of perhaps Summer In Paradise which was also virtually a Mike Love solo album), Looking Back With Love may the be worst record ever.  Strangely, for a man who's claimed to write most of the Beach Boys most popular hits, Mike does very little writing on his debut solo album, taking credit only for the final track, "Paradise Found."  (Maybe he should take Neil Sedaka to court and claim his share of "Calender Girl.")  The opening track sounds as if it were Mike's lyrics though, with prominent songwriter J. Studer rhyming "vibrations" with "assassinations" in the worst beginning to an album I've yet to hear.  The rest of the LP is either dumb-bell remakes of classic tracks, lecherous, innuendo-filled originals, or "Beach Boys" wannabes that are sucking air.  Add to that his extremely nasal voice that only works when couched in full harmonies, thin production (lots of synthesized stuff here), and absolutely NO creative sparks to be heard, and you get an album that really warrants a hazard label.  It's more disappointing to realize that one of the producers on the album was none other than wunderkind Curt Boettcher (here titled as Becher), who was easily on par with Brian Wilson in the 1960s in his producing and singing skills; but here, Mr. Becher sounds like he's simply cranking up the music box and letting it run down.  Avoid at all costs, unless you can get for free (and you're into masochism.)



First Love (Unreleased) 1978; Produced by Paul Fauerso

Country Love (Unreleased) 1978; Produced by Al Perkins
ZERO STARS
First Love - Country Love FIRST LOVE
   1. First Love (Fauerso)
   2. Too Cruel
   3. You’re Looking Better
   4. Little Lela
   5. I Don’t Wanna Know
   6. Brian’s Back
   7. Viggie
   8. The Right Kind Of Love
   9. Sumahama
  10. Daybreak

 COUNTRY LOVE
  11. Today I Started Loving You Again (Williams)
  12. Dallas
  13. Beth On The Mesa
  14. Brand New Start
  15. I’m A Changed Man
  16. Rock ‘n’ Roll Country Bride
  17. Every I Touch (Turns Into Tears)
  18. Wrinkles
  19. My Side Of The Bed
  20. Everyone’s In Love With You
  21. Some Sweet Day

REVIEW:  A double-CD bootleg, this release documents the two albums which Mike recorded at Santa Barbara Sound Recorders during 1978 and both were reportedly refused by record labels for release.  Now, I'm not a big fan of Mike Love's solo works - his own particular talents have always seemed to worked best within the group dynamic of the Beach Boys particular sound; he has always been more comfortable writing songs about cars and girls than more adult themes, and his talent has always paled next to his cousin's.  But here, if you can track them down, are two more prime examples of the paucity of Mike's writing talent:  First Love begins promisingly, with a track written by the album's producer, Paul Fauerso, and is a decent ode to, well, first love.  Mike sings in a pleasant baritone, and the track is produced with an organic sound that keeps it from feeling too dated.  The album's other decent track is the R&B churner "I Don't Wanna Know" which has a strong, punchy lyric and memorable groove.  But surrounding these two songs are truly wretched compositions, with horribly contrived lyrics, stilted melodies and some insipid instrumentation, (most appallingly on the infamous "Viggie" which has teeth-grinding flutes piping up like Woody Woodpecker on Prozac - where's my rifle?)  Listeners are alternately battered by simpering love lyrics and Maharishi-style platitudes, and we all know how fun those things are in rock music, huh?  We're also treated to "Brian's Back" straight from the 15 Big Ones promotional push, and an early version of "Sumahama".  The album closes with a good track - "Daybreak" which is a pleasant-enough ballad, not too far from Bruce Johnston territory.  Country Love is much worse - a epic disastrous attempt by Mike to tap into the country music market, but if some poor record company had been foolish enough to release it to the market, there probably would've been a lynching.  It's tough enough for me to listen to Mike's nasal whining in a regular pop song, but when it's shotgun-wed to a contrived countrified slang accent and slide guitars, I start praying to be scalped below the ears.  And if you ever find yourself confronted by lurching story-songs like "Beth on the Mesa" or "Rock 'n' Roll Country Bride" or (God forbid) "Wrinkles", just grin and remember that this is the same man who railed against the sublime Pet Sounds and Smile.


Almost Summer: Music from the Original Motion Picture Score
MCA Records 3037 [LP]; Released May 8, 1978

almost summer 1. Almost Summer (Wilson/Love/Jardine) featuring Mike Love
2. Sad Sad Summer (Love) featuring Mike Love
3. Cruisin’ (Love) featuring Mike Love
4. Lookin’ Good (Altbach)
5. Summer In The City (Sebastian/Boone) featuring Dave Robinson
6. It’s OK (Wilson/Love) featuring Dave Robinson
7. Football (Lloyd/Altbach)
8. Island Girl (Lloyd)
9. Christine & Bobby (Altbach)
10. We Are The Future (Laws/Holiday/Bolton/Womack) performed by High Inergy
11. She Was A Lady (Pratt) performed by Fresh

REVIEW:  During the late 1970s, Mike Love began to take on projects outside of The Beach Boys organization.  One of the major side-trips was with Celebration, a band which featured many of the players who would figure as part of the Beach Boys band for decades to come.  Although this film (and its soundtrack) have faded into oblivion, it's interesting to hear how, even away from The Beach Boys, Mike Love would take their sound along with him: "Almost Summer" is of particular interest, since it's a collaboration between Brian, Mike and Al, and sounds akin to "Some Of Your Love," with the opening tag stolen directly from that song.  But it's the second track which is really eye-opening.  Mike has long stated that he's the "optimism" half of the Beach Boys, while Brian is the "melancholy" but on "Sad Sad Summer" Mike has written as melancholy a lyric and melody as Brian ever did.  It's a pretty melody as well, if repetitive, and to my ears, it's probably the best solo song Mike has ever composed.  The third song, "Cruisin'" also written by Mike, is fast, furious, and forgettably stereotypical car song, not bad, but by 1978, this type of song was so out of date that to have Mike still writing and singing about it is almost comical.  The rest of the album features only a couple of further tracks of interest: "It's OK" performed by Dave Robinson, who does a decent job with the then-recent Beach Boys song, and "Summer In The City" which is a very decent John Sebastian-penned track full of melody and drive.  The rest of the album is forgettable instrumentals and a couple of 1970s-era songs which have not worn well.


Celebration: Celebration
Pacific Arts Records PAC7-122
 [LP]; Released February 21, 1979
Celebration 1. Getting’ Hungry (Wilson/Love) featuring Mike Love
2. Sailor (Robinson/Altbach) featuring Dave Robinson
3. Lovestruck (Tuleja/Altbach) featuring Dave Robinson
4. She’s Just Out To Get You (Love) featuring Mike Love
5. I Don’t Wanna Know (Love) featuring Dave Robinson
6. Starbaby (Love) featuring Paul Fauerso
7. Go And Get That Girl (Tuleja/Altbach) featuring Dave Robinson
8. How’s About A Little Bit (Wilson/Rovell/Love/Altbach) featuring Mike Love
9. Song Of Creation (Robinson/Altbach) featuring Dave Robinson
10. Country Pie (Tuleja/Altbach) featuring Dave Robinson

REVIEW:  The first album proper by Mike's "other" band, Celebration featured a core group: Mike Love (vocals), Dave Robinson (vocals, bass), Ron Altbach (keyboards), Charles Lloyd (saxophone), and Paul Fauerso (vocals, keyboards), along with other supplementary session players and vocalists.  The album alternates between Mike's and Ron Altbach's songwriting efforts, and despite the album having a dated feel to it, the songwriting and singing are generally very strong.  It's interesting to hear how Mike seems to be re-energized by being in a fresh setting, with other songwriters and singers to bounce ideas off of - each of the songs he's written here is strong, with special mention given to "She's Out To Get You" - a strong entry in a strong album.  And even more surprisingly, Mike doesn't take the lead vocal on all of his own songs - Dave Robinson gives a very bluesy reading of the slinky "I Don't Wanna Know" which shows a remarkable sophistication in Mike's songwriting - it's easily one of the catchiest, wisest songs he's written.  And on "Starbaby" Paul Faureso" brings a smoky ambiance to the somewhat simplistic lyrics, but again, the song sounds miles above other solo tracks Mike has penned.  And that's not all that's good here: the simple, melodic "Go And Get That Girl" is classic 70s pop, and for Beach Boys fans, there's the rare "How's About A Little Bit" which shows Brian Wilson is classic "Shortenin' Bread" mode.  And Mike sounds absolutely great on the final track, "Country Pie".  This is all in all an impressive album - in fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that Mike Love has never sounded better as a songwriter and singer than here, away from The Beach Boys, with talented, sympathetic friends who appear to have brought out his very best.  A real eye-opener for those (myself included) who've cast a skeptical eye on Mike's later efforts.


Celebration: Disco Celebration
ADC Records  LS-4052 [LP]; Released 1979
disco celebration 1. Disco Symphony (Love/Altbach) featuring Suzanne Wallach
2. You Can Count On Me (Love/Altbach) featuring Paul Fauerso
3. California Girls (Wilson/Love)
4. Party Girl (Love/Altbach) featuring Suzanne Wallach
5. First Love (Fauerso) featuring Paul Fauerso

REVIEW:  Love the cover.  The Beach Boys may have never made a bigger mis-step in the eyes of their fans than their one and only foray into disco music, on 1979's L.A. (Light Album).  But this was the era of mirror-balls and polyester suits, and after their successful, organic debut, apparently Mike Love & Celebration decided that here was a market that was crying out for their particular blend of California-lite pop.  As a kitsch item, Disco Celebration is priceless - Mike Love and Ron Altbach write a magnum opus discotheque anthem in the opening "Disco Symphony" and is sung with all the breathless passion that Suzanne Wallach can muster.  Paul Faureso does the same with the similarly vapid "You Can Count On Me" - the production is actually very good, the songs are strong, the melodies are memorable, and the singing is top-notch, but with everything slathered with the heavy dance beats and Fame-like choruses, it's hard to judge the songs on their own merits.  The sticker for most Beach Boys fans, and a rallying cry against Mike Love's judgment, is the disco-fying of a classic "Beach Boys" track: "California Girls" which here is transformed into something from, oh, say, Xanadu.  It's a surreal listening experience like no other, and for the duration of the song, my mouth was hanging open like the proverbial slack-jawed yokel.  Oddly, Mike Love doesn't sing lead on the track - it's mostly a hot-and-heavy saxophone solo on the lead melody, with ultra-lounge wah-wah vocals in the background.  Following this debacle, Mike and Ron write the bump-and-grind "Party Girl" which is as voyeuristic and sexist as "Hey Little Tomboy" ever aspired to be.  The album closes with the thankfully disco-free re-recording of Paul Fauerso's "First Love" which sounds much better here than on Mike's own version from his aborted solo album.  Recommended to all those out there with a disco/Beach Boys fetish (you know who you are!)


Mike Love of The Beach Boys: Catch A Wave 
M.E.L.E. Co 101 [CD]; Released 1996

catch a wave 1. Catch A Wave
2. Do It Again
3. I Get Around
4. California Girls
5. Fun Fun Fun
6. Surfin’ Safari
7. Hawaii
8. Surfin’ USA
9. Surfer Girl

All tracks produced, engineered, arranged by Adrian Baker

REVIEW:  In 2007, Mike Love sued Brian Wilson (and lost) for doing what he himself had done three times before - re-recording old Beach Boys hits and releasing them as promotion items in the United States and Canada.  These recordings, which were pretty much Adrian Baker's baby with Mike Love and Bruce Johnston providing lead and some backing vocals, were almost note-for-note recreations of the original Beach Boys hits, and were slick, professional work.  The most well-known of these tracks appeared on the NASCAR CD, but this CD appeared first.  It's unknown whether this album ever achieved legitimate release to the public, but it was available for a short time through Adrian Baker's website.  There's not much else I can say about these recordings - they're colder, more synthesized than the originals, but the tempos, arrangments, and vocals are all spot on - Mike Love's voice is of course more nasal than the original recordings with The Beach Boys, but these are fine reproductions - it's like hearing one of the many rip-off Beach Boys products out there, but with an eerily familiar-sounding lead vocalist in place of the usual anonymous schlep artist.  I'm not certain whether this surfeit of songs was recorded with the intention of selling them to the highest corporate bidder, but that's what happened, and hey, that's what makes America great, isn't it?  (Well, that - and being able to sue your family over it.)



Summertime Cruisin' - The Unforgettable Favorites of Mike Love and Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys 
Capitol Records/Emi Music Canada [CD]; Released 2001
summertime cruisin 1. Catch A Wave
2. Do It Again
3. I Get Around
4. California Girls
5. Surfin’ Safari
6. Surfin’ USA
7. Surfer Girl
8. Little Deuce Coupe
9. Little Ol’ Lady
10. Shut Down
11. Don’t Worry Baby
12. Kokomo
13. Good Vibrations
14. Summertime Music (musicians unknown, but probably performed by Adrian Baker) 1991
15. Camp California (musicians unknown, but probably performed by Adrian Baker) 1991

All tracks produced, engineered, arranged by Adrian Baker

REVIEW:  Mmmm... is it just me, or does the subtitle to this album contain the undeniable stench of "Golden Oldies?"  The third CD to surface from the Adrian Baker sessions appeared at Chrysler/Dodge Dealers throughout Canada, and simply pulls the majority of its tracks off of the previous two collections, and adds four new tracks: "Kokomo" (oh good, another version), "Good Vibrations" (in a sterile, lifeless rendition); and two originals by Mike Love from 1991: "Summertime Music" which features Mike Love on lead vocals and an annoying Jamaican rhythm section trying to cover Baker's similarly annoying shrill falsettos, and finally the "Fun, Fun, Fun" rip-off "Camp California" which is so cheery and chipper that I'm fully expecting my hypoglycemia to kick in after one listen.  Adrian Baker undoubtedly is a talented arranger, and probably the most canny mimic of Brian's harmonic acrobatics that I've heard, but his production style is so clean, so controlled and so processed, that it makes every song here sound like it was stamped out on a production line.  I can understand why Mike Love found him an ideal partner for these productions; in the absense of Brian Wilson, Adrian is an excellent copyist - but after too many of these chilly echoes, I have a strong hankering for hearing the real Beach Boys.

Mike Love Not War (AKA Unleash the Love) 
Unreleased Album [CD]; Produced by  Paul Faureso c.2005

Mike Love Not War
1. Unleash The Love (Love)
2. Cool Head, Warm Heart (Love)
3. Anything For You (Love)
4. i) Happy Birthday (Thank You)                         (Lennon/McCartney)
    ii) Pisces Brother (Love)
5. Everyone’s In Love With You (Love)
6. 10,000 Years (Love)
7. Glow Crescent Glow (Love)
8. Too Cruel (Love) featuring Christian Love
9. Brian’s Back (Love)
10. I Don’t Wanna Know (Love) featuring Christian Love
11. Love Foundation (Love)
12. Daybreak (Love)
13. Only One World (Love)

REVIEW:  While Mike Love has had more unreleased material stay in the vaults than any other Beach Boy, it's fair to say also that a great preponderance of this material deserves to stay unreleased.  That being said, this album, which has been making the rounds in Beach Boys' collector's circles, is undoubtedly the most polished, most accessible solo album Mike has recorded - and while it still has its faults (mostly in its forced, preachy lyrics) the arrangements (vocal arrangements by Mike and Adrian Baker) are extremely good, and in fact make all the songs sound much better than they might otherwise.  Many of the tracks have been reworked from earlier projects, but here all shine much brighter than in their original incarnations: "Too Cruel" in particular sounds reborn with a charismatic vocal by Mike's son,  Christian, and although I might question Mike decision to re-record the vapid "Brian's Back" which firmly belongs in the 1970s where it was written, here it sounds more wistful, and less crass, than it has in earlier recordings.  Other songs that surprised me was the strong "10,000 Years" (which is rumored to be an off-shoot of a collaboration with Dennis Wilson), and the gently lilting "Anything For You".  And the thrice-recorded "I Don't Wanna Know" again benefits from Christian Love's bluesy vocal, showing off the song as being one of Mike's very strongest compositions.  In fact so many of the songs here are retreads, that it begs the question of whether Mike is suffering a writer's block, such as his cousin Brian has also professed in recent interviews.  Of the new songs appearing, the lead-off track shows off Mike's lyrics to their worst effect (and does he have to make a play off his name on so many of his albums?)  But that same affection shows up on "Love Foundation" which is saved by the blow-your-socks-off gospel choir that joins in, while "Daybreak" is again a stronger incarnation than what appeared on First Love - the song is blessed with sweet harmonies which lift it up.  Mike closes the album with another spiritual incantation in "Only One World", which again puts Mike in the awkward position of calling for world unity, which, considering his litigious nature, isn't exactly a position he's suited for.  But overall, this album sounds great, and stands tall as Mike's far-and-away best solo album.


Bruce Johnston 
The Bruce Johnston Surfing Band: Surfers' Pajama Party 
The Surf Stompers' ORIGINAL SURFER STOMP DEL-FI LP 1248 [LP] Released 1963; Del-Fi Records DFCD 71228 [CD];  Released April 25, 1995
Bruce Johnston Surfing Band : Surfers' Pajama Party
1. Ramrod
2. Last Night
3. Surfer Stomp
4. What'd I Say?
5. What'd I Say?
6. Something On Your Mind 
7. Pajama Party (Surfer's Delight) 
8. Kansas City
9. Mashin' The Popeye
10. Gee But I'm Lonesome
11. Green Onions
12. Soupy Shuffle Stomp
13. Soupy Shuffle Stomp

REVIEW: Recorded live at a Sigma Pi fraternity beer bash at UCLA in 1963, this time capsule document is little more than a college-age surf band playing at a college function.  Muddy sounding, (I've heard bootlegs with cleaner sound) consisting of several surf-instrumentals, and various songs with Johnston taking lead vocals, this CD isn't going to set anyone's discman on fire, but it has a throwback charm that is reminiscent of the Beach Boys' earliest work.  My personal favorite is the sad, pretty "Gee, But I'm Lonesome" which reveals Johnston's penchant for sweet ballads already forming.  After this recording, Bruce produced some artists at Del-Fi, before leaving to form The Rip Chords with Terry Melcher, and of course, link up with the Beach Boys in later years.



Surfin' 'Round The World
Columbia CS-8857, CL-2025 [LP]; 1963, Sundazed 6100 [CD]; 1997
Bruce Johnston - Surfin 'Round The World
1. Surfin' 'Round The World
2. Maksha At Midnight
3. Down Under
4. Capetown
5. Biarritz
6. Jersey Channel Islands - Part 7
7. The Hamptons  
8. Virginia Beach  
9. Surf-A-Nova
10. Hot Pastrami, Mashed Potatoes, Come On To Rincon - Yeah!!! 
11. Malibu
12. Surfin's Here To Stay
13. Down Under (Unissued Instrumental)
14. The Hamptons (Unissued Instrumental)
15. Surfin' 'Round The World (Unissued Alternate Version)

REVIEW: Released two years before joining the Beach Boys, Surfin' 'Round the World finds Bruce Johnston in a generic "surf" mode, with loads of reverb-drenched instrumentals and some innocuous songs thrown in for good measure.  You won't find much evidence of his trademark ultra-melodic style on this disc, which you may consider a plus, but while this may be a fun disc to throw on as background music for a beach party, the songs don't stand up to careful listening.  The title track sounds like a poor man's "Surfin' U.S.A." redux, with catch-all lyrics like: "if you were near an ocean, you'd be surfin' too" and complete with hot-and-bothered female singers sweating in the background.  The entire album has the same flavor; check out the titles: "Jersey Channel Islands-Part 7," "Surf-A-Nova," and my favorite: "Hot Pastrami, Mashed Potatoes, Come On To Rincon-Yeah!!!"  Bruce Johnston also doesn't miss the chance to plug his prep-school roots in "The Hamptons."  Sundazed has done a marvelous job of mastering; the sound is great, and three bonus tracks have been added to the original song lineup.  The album is high-energy stuff, and this may appeal to surf-music collectors, but not, I suspect, to many Beach Boys fans.



The Best of Bruce & Terry
Sundazed SC 11052 [CD Only]; Released August, 1998
Bruce & Terry
 
1. Hawaii (Previously Unissued)
2. Summer Means Fun
3. Come On, Let's Go (The Rogues)
4. Carmen
5. Don't Run Away
6. Custom Machine
7. I Love You Model 'T'
8. Raining In My Heart
9. Everyday (The Rogues)
10. Roger's Reef (The Rogues)
11. Yeah! 
12. Thank You Baby
13. Girl, It's Alright Now
14. Roger's Reef, Part Two (The Rogues) 
15. Halfway (Previously Unissued)
16. Come Love
17. Four Strong Winds
18. Help Me Rhonda (Previously Unissued)
19. Look Who's Laughing Now (Previously Unissued)
20. Here Comes Summer (Previously Unissued)

REVIEW: An excellent disc, covering material from 1963 - 1966, this  compilation by Sundazed is chock-full of several very fine (if lightweight) 'forgotten' gems that cross the surfing and folk genres that were so popular in the early and mid-sixties.  Occasionally sounding like Jan and Dean knockoffs, more surprising is the sometimes canny resemblance to the Everly Brothers or the Byrds when these two blend their voices in sympathetic harmonies. Of special interest to Beach Boys collectors is the inclusion of three covers of Brian Wilson compositions: "Hawaii," "Help Me Rhonda" (both previously unreleased), and "Custom Machine," heard in stripped-down productions that compare favorably with the Beach Boys versions.  Also on my list of favorites: the hit single "Summer Means Fun," a super-charged "Come On, Let's Go," an early incarnation of "Everyday" (later remade by James Taylor), lush ballads like "Don't Run Away," "Raining In My Heart," and the lovely "Thank You Baby." There are many more tracks that I liked as well, including "Halfway," "Come Love," and "Four Strong Winds."  Complimented by a thoughtful booklet which contains new interviews, several photos and informative "sides," this CD is a first-rate document of these two talented old friends.



Going Public
Columbia KC-34459 [LP]; Edsel Records EDCD 697 [CD] Released 1977
Bruce Johnston: Going Public
1. I Write the Songs
2. Deidre
3. Thank You Baby
4. Rendezvous
5. Won't Somebody Dance with Me
6. Disney Girls
7. Rock and Roll Survivor
8. Don't Be Scared
9. Pipeline

REVIEW: From my first listen, I'd have to say that this album is a hate it/love it kind of experience. Bruce proves to the world what Beach Boys fans have known from the get-go: namely, he hasn't a rock 'n' roll bone in his body. Filled with electric keyboards and string arrangements, Bruce's most obvious influences are Neil Sedaka, (especially on the catchy track "Rendezvous") and stylistically he's very similar to the Carpenters. Personally, I've always enjoyed his Beach Boys songs; from "Disney Girls" to "Deirdre" to "The Nearest Faraway Place," Bruce has managed to create lovely (some would say 'bland') melodies that were nice counterpoints to Dennis's rock stylings and Carl's R&B leanings. Also, Bruce has a fine tenor voice that's perfectly suited to his songs. This album makes some mis-steps, however; "Won't Somebody Dance With Me" is sheer torture in it's saccharine sweetness, and did we really need a slower, more introspective take on "Disney Girls?" (I'm still deciding how I feel about the disco-fied "Deirdre"). And you can't help thinking while listening to "Rock and Roll Survivor" that REAL rock groups used to beat up guys like Bruce in high school. All in all, this is a perfect Sunday afternoon album, just don't expect to be shaked, rattled, or rolled.



Gone Public: The Bruce Johnston Story
Landlocked Productions, [CD]; Released 2005

Gone Public FEATURES:

  • Two-CD set covering Bruce Johnston's career - from "Bruce & Jerry" from 1959 to 1998
  • Numerous rarities, including outtakes, television performances, and more.
  • Includes outtakes from Bruce's work with various groups, including The Vettes, The Rip Chords, The Kustom Kings, The Catalinas, and many more!
  • For complete track listing, click here.

REVIEW:  
Of all of the Beach Boys, Bruce Johnston has perhaps been the most under-appreciated.  He seemingly dumped his own career - that of a successful producer/songwriter in order to jump on the Beach Boys bandwagon, and for better or worse, he's been identified with them ever since.  And it's been difficult to chart his progress as a songwriter as well, since his contributions to the Beach Boys has been sporadic, with only a couple of songs showing up every few years, and the songs that have appeared have discarded the surf/rock learnings that he was best known for in his pre-Beach Boys days.  So its here, on this remarkable dual-CD that was passed around in circulating circles around 2004-05 that I'm finally able to get an idea of the musical journey that Bruce Johnston has been on, and the different hats he's worn over the course of his nearly 50-year-long career.  The earliest tracks here, which date from 1959, are mostly novelty songs penned for the "Bruce & Jerry" duo - fairly innocuous stuff, with tracks appearing from Surfer's Pajama Party (including an odd take on George Gerswhin's Porgy & Bess song "Summertime" - the first hint that this was not your average public school lad.  The Bruce Johnston that most Beach Boys fans will be familiar with shows up first on the cocktail-party clinker "Mazatlan" before really taking off with a very credible cover of "Surfin' Safari" by the anonymous group The Hot Doggers.  You can almost hear the change which The Beach Boys music created in Johnston, as the music becomes more sophisticated, and more attuned to surf and drag music.  This begins Johnston's golden age, when he began to sing and produce The Rip Chords, The Vettes, and begins his fruitful collaboration with Terry Melchner; an association he continued right up to his aligning himself with The Beach Boys in 1965-66.  Disc two show just how much his sound changed after he joined the Beach Boys - it became more elegant, more ballad-oriented, and to some ears, less interesting - he dropped his rock stylings and turned into the second coming of Neil Sedaka.  Why he made this change is somewhat baffling - it's a dramatic and seemingly sudden turn-about, but this CD (which Bruce himself reportedly owns a copy of) is invaluable in hearing the evolution of the sixth Beach Boy.

Al Jardine
Al Jardine Family & Friends Live In Las Vegas
Al Jardine Family & Friends HV100 [CD Only]; Released October 2001

1. Dance, Dance, Dance
2. Do You Wanna Dance
3. Catch a Wave
4. Hawaii
5. Do It Again
6. Darlin'
7. Wild Honey
8. Come Go With Me
9. Surfer Girl
10. Don't Worry, Baby
11. Shut Down
12. Little Deuce Coupe
13. I Get Around
14. In My Room
15. Girl, Don't Tell Me
16. Break Away
17. Sail on Sailor
18. God Only Knows
19. Sloop John B.
20. Wouldn't It Be Nice?
21. Good Vibrations
22. Heroes and Villains
23. Rhonda
24. Surfin' USA
25. Barbara Ann
26. Fun, Fun, Fun
27. California Energy Blues [*]
[*] bonus track

REVIEW: For anyone who's been living in a cave, you should know that Al Jardine is no longer a touring member of "The Beach Boys."  Kicked out during a power struggle following the death of Carl Wilson, and stripped of the right to use the Beach Boys name, he formed a touring band consisting of his two sons Matt and Adam, and Brian Wilson's first two daughters, Wendy and Carnie.  Together they toured as "Al Jardine Family & Friends," and judging by this 75+ minute disc, they put together a credible act, easily as powerful and polished as any other permutation of the now-splintered Beach Boys out there.  Full of energy, craftsmanship and their own sense of style, the group tears out faithful renditions of classic songs, with a few surprises, including "Do It Again," "Darlin," "Wild Honey," and "Sail On Sailor."  While there's not the sense of revelation that comes with hearing Brian perform live, Al Jardine as a solo act is no slouch. Looser than Brian's "Live at the Roxy," and with all involved sounding invigorated, this is a celebratory concert.  The harmonies are gorgeous, with some acapella breaks showing off their vocal chops (including a new tag at the end of "Surfer Girl" which is stunning), and overall bursting with a sustained sense of fun.  The disc closes with a new studio song by Al Jardine called "California Energy Blues" which is a novelty number dealing with the current energy crises in the Golden State and rates about the same as any of Jardine's earlier compositions.  With two of the three touring Beach Boys groups now documented, I would hope that Mike Love and Bruce Johnston soon follow suit.


A Postcard From California
Jardine Tours [CD/MP3]; 
Released June 29, 2010

aj postcard
1. A Postcard From California       4:59
2. California Feelin'     2:03
3. Looking Down The Coast     3:46
4. Don't Fight The Sea     3:23
5. Tide Pool Interlude     1:38
6. Campfire Scene     0:44
7. A California Saga     2:52
8. Help Me Rhonda     3:47
9. San Simeon     2:48
10. Drivin'     3:12
11. Honkin' Down The Highway     2:34
12. And I Always Will     4:19

REVIEW:  It's hard to know how to judge an Al Jardine album, since he, as an artist, has been so invisible for most of his life.  His unassuming demeanor made him the least 'notorious' of The Beach Boys; and since his very public split with, and acrimonious lawsuit with Mike Love over control of The Beach Boys name, Al has seemed content to let his music career putter along, doing the odd concert here and there, and working with glacial speed on this, his first ever studio solo album.  Despite his subdued nature, his gentle spirit has apparently made him lots of friends, and appearances from a multitude of these kindred spirits show up here.  You'll hear glimpses of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Gerry Buckley, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, David Marks Glen Campbell, ...and even Carl Wilson's sweet voice is heard in ghostly harmonies.  Brian Wilson makes extended solo appearances on two of the albums finest tracks: "Don't Fight The Sea" and "Drivin'" - the former a slinky 80s-style pop song, and the latter a twelve-bar blues churner, both of which show Al's compositional skills at their very best.  Which is unfortunately not to say that those numbers are typical; Al has never been a prolific or inspired composer, and it's a little discouraging to note that four of the twelve tracks here are re-recordings of old Beach Boys songs, which all bear some small stylistic changes, but hew pretty closely to their original arrangements (and it doesn't help that two of the songs are the pretentious "A California Saga" and the clunky "Lookin' Down The Coast").  The title track is a lyrically clumsy ode to his home state, name-dropping various locals and tied to a bland melody, and I found the pale "San Simeon" and "California Feelin'" both forgettable. There's also an awkward spoken poem in "Tide Pool Interlude" which is married to a pleasant piano backdrop.  Al's voice hasn't aged well either, and the closely mic'ed, dry vocals occasionally reveal just how much elasticity Al's voice has lost.  The prettiest song on the album, the closing "And I Always Will" is a lovely paean to his wife, and it achingly looks backwards with some regrets, but is a fitting, elegiac benediction.   This isn't an album that's going to win Al any new fans, but those who've enjoyed his intermittent contributions over the years will enjoy this as well.


Disclaimer: This is an unofficial site and has no connections with either the Beach Boys or their agents.
All content © copyright 2007 Bret Wheadon. All rights reserved.
The Monkees Guide | The Sinatra Guide