TRIBUTE ALBUMS II
I - II - III - IV - V

NOTE: The new millennium brought another sheaf of Beach Boys tribute albums, with some very talented artists giving fresh, interesting takes on these decades-old songs, while other releases are content to simply rubber-stamp the original songs in a shameless attempt to fool purchasers into thinking they're buying the real deal.  John Hunter Phillips, Gary Usher, Brian Gari, and a slew of various artists have done the best job of selecting and re-interpreting rare gems, while two children's projects bomb, and John B and the Surfin' Safaris should go bury their heads in the sand.



The Music of the Beach Boys: Relaxing Solo Piano Interpretations With Nature
Northsound Music Group ASAC 70512 [CD];
Released October 20, 1998

fredsimon
1. Wouldn't It Be Nice?
2. Surfer Girl
3. God Only Knows
4. Wendy
5. Don't Worry Baby
6. In My Room
7. Girls On The Beach
8. All Summer Long
9. Warmth Of The Sun
10. Caroline, No

REVIEW:  Your tolerance for this CD is based pretty much on how much you enjoy new-age piano music - Fred Simon, the solo artist here, has played for such seminal instrumental labels as Narada and Windham Hill, and his lengthy resume states that "Fred has recorded and/or performed with Ralph Towner (Oregon), Paul McCandless (Oregon), Larry Coryell, Lyle Mays, Iain Matthews (Fairport Convention), Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra), Steve Rodby and Paul Wertico (Pat Metheny Group), Bonnie Herman (Singers Unlimited), Kurt Elling, Fareed Haque, David Onderdonk, Ingrid Graudins, Ross Traut, The Stan Kenton Orchestra, and many others."  The Chicago native has pedigrees in both Jazz and New Age styles, but this album is heavily the latter, and while I found the playing and interpretations simple and lovely, they also have a sameness from track to track that lends the album towards background music, rather than an active listening experience.  Still, I confess that I have a bit of New Age music in my collection, and at times I like to pull it out on winter evenings and enjoy the ambiance that it lends to cozy, romantic occasions.  Many rock listeners will simply scoff at this genre and look elsewhere, but if you enjoy the more melodic melodies which Brian Wilson penned, then you might find something to enjoy here.  The music is competing throughout with the soggy sounds of surf (hence, the 'nature' moniker in the title), but it's not terribly intrusive, and creates a through-sound motif that stays in the background.  The thing that endears me most to the artist is found in his liner notes, where he confesses that it was by doing this project that he fell in love with the music of Brian Wilson.  I was clued into the presence of this CD by intrepid site visitor Joel Reed Parker, and after a frustrating search, found very few copies in the marketplace.  The label has shut its doors, and the CD, which received a limited run, has long been out of print.  New copies occasionally show up at small dealers, so if you're interested, keep your eyes peeled.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:  I've discovered that there are actually TWO versions of this album floating around - the above, with 'ocean' noise, and a separate release which has NO ocean noises - piano only.  Here's the cover of the ocean-free disc (and it's this disc that is advertized on Amazon.com):
fredsimon 1

Smiling Pets
Sony Records Japan SRCS 325 [CD Only];
Released February, 1998

Smiling
                                                    Pets
1. Adventures in Stereo "Wonderful" (2:10)
2. Secret Chiefs 3 "Good Vibrations" (4:01)
3. Melt-Banana "Surfin USA You're Welcome" (3:22)
4. Short Hair Front "I'm Waiting For The Day" (2:59)
5. The Olivia Tremor Control "Do You Like Worms? (Do You Dig Worms?)" (4:01)
6. Jim O'Rourke "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (Spring Breaks and Back to Winter)" (3:05)
7. Sports Guitar "Wonderful" (2:49)
8. Thurston Moore "Here Today" (4:13)
9. OnoTetsu "Tones" (1:37)
10. "teabreak" (:39)
11. Forms  "Heroes and Villains" (4:42)
12. Harpy  "Cool Cool Water" (2:46)
13. Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her "You Still Believe in Me" (2:51)
14. The Ships "Little Pad" (2:43)
15. David Grubbs "Wind Chimes (After Perpetuity's Noon)" (4:09)
16. Feelds "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" (3:15)
17. John McEntire "Let's Go Away for Awhile" (2:42)
18. DM3 "Caroline, No" (3:14)

REVIEW: Released only in Japan on Sony records, "Smiling Pets" presents what I consider to be the best homage to the music to Brian Wilson that I have heard to date.  Focusing mostly on the Pet Sounds/Smile era (hence the title), it immediately struck me how daring this collection is, and yet how often it succeeds where other tribute albums have failed.  Why?  Primarily because it seems the artists are having such fun with the music.  Culling artists from the fringe of popular music, each seem to have dumped a bin of old Beach Boys 45s into a meat grinder and come up with some of the screwiest arrangements of Brian Wilson songs that you're likely to hear.  Listen for example to the school girl-like shrieking of Melt Banana as they fuse "Surfin' USA/Welcome" into something not-of-this-world.  Or the dreamy sway of "I'm Waiting for the Day" which is morphed into a prom dance/doo-wop swinger.  Olivia Tremor Control swipes liberally from Beach Boys bootlegs in their recontruction of "Do You Like Worms?," and Jim O'Rourke paints a soothing aural landscape in "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter."  In fact, out of the entire album, there are only a couple of tracks which I consider out-and-out clunkers, (especially the numbing "Here Today" by Thurston Moore) which for a tribute album is a rarity. But the great majority of this collection is filled with screwy, yet disarmingly childlike covers like "Little Pad" and "Wind Chimes" which manage to be reverent and challenging at the same time.  A cheerfully zany way to reevaluate our favorite band, and highly recommended.



The New Symphonic Orchestra Plays The Beach Boys
Disky 855472 [CD],
Released 1999;  Ryder Music [Reissue] 2005
ZERO STARS
1. Sloop John B [Wilson] 3:48
2. I Get Around [Wilson] 2:41
3. God Only Knows [Asher, Wilson] 3:00
4. Then I Kissed Her [Barry, Greenwich, Spector] 2:38
5. Before Long [Scheffer] 3:05
6. Fun, Fun, Fun [Love, Wilson] 2:33
7. Do It Again [Love, Wilson] 2:30
8. Sail on Sailor [Almer, Kennedy, Rieley, Wilson] 3:17
9. I Still Believe in You [Scheffer] 3:19
10. I Can Hear Music [Barry, Greenwich, Spector] 3:08
11. Kokomo [Love, McKenzie, Melcher] 4:02
12. Don't Forget Me [Scheffer] 3:24
13. Help Me Rhonda [Love, Wilson] 3:00
14. Good Vibrations [Love, Wilson] 4:22
15. Barbara Ann [Fassert] 2:22

REVIEW: A German import that I stumbled upon while surfing the web, I am astounded that crap like this finds its way to the marketplace - that producers, "artists" and stores consent to record and sell what essentially is "elevator" music, only without even attaining that admittedly low standard of production.  Essentially a one-synthesizer job with every instrument sounding cheap and tinny, the only "orchestra" present is apparently some slob sitting in his basement sequencing these songs with about as much enthusiasm as if he were attending a parole hearing.  This is seriously deficient work; from the clunky hunt-and-peck melody line employed on "Then I Kissed Her" to the musical castration of "Good Vibrations" to the flabbergasting chutzpah of wanna-be composer Mr. Scheffer who takes this opportunity to plug three of his own melodically-challenged compositions into the mix ("Before Long," "I Still Believe In You" and "Don't Forget Me").  Even fine piano honky-tonk moments as those found on "I Get Around" and "Fun, Fun, Fun" are undercut by the horrendous synthesized strings and dime-store drum sound which bleats out of every chorus.  It must take a special kind of talent to transform thrilling numbers like "Sail On Sailor" and "Do It Again" into lurchingly bad karaoke music, or maybe just a good strong blow to the head can accomplish it, but whatever the impetus, it needs to be stopped (I suggest an angry, pitchfork-wielding mob - I'll bring the torches).  This is anti-music - about as 'rock and roll' as your grandmother's false teeth, and just as appealing.  I strongly suggest that whoever is producing this garbage get a job, get some therapy, and change the title of your CDs to Talentless Wretch Wastes His Time and Your Money.  'Nuff said.


John Hunter Phillips: Diamonds On The Beach - A Beach Boys Tribute CD
JHP Entertainment/The Orchard [CD]; 
Released March 10, 2000

1. Our Prayer
2. Do It Again
3. Wild Honey
4. One More Night Alone
5. Labaina Aloha
6. Susie Cincinnati
7. God Only Knows
8. Somewhere Near Japan
9. I'm Waiting for the Day
10. Marcella
11. Keepin' the Summer Alive
12. Lay Down Burden
13. Kiss Me Baby
14. Roller Skating Child
15. Rockin' All Over the World
16. Sail On, Sailor

REVIEW: John Hunter Phillips has created a whole album of Beach Boys "re-creations" on this smoothly sung and played covers of Beach Boys and Beach Boy solo tracks.  With a beautiful, chameleon-like voice, Phillips manages to eerily sound like Mike, or Carl, or Brian as he pays homage to these songs.  The track selection is all over the map, giving this album a greater diversity than other tribute albums: from "Our Prayer" to "Roller Skating Child", from Summer In Paradise's "Lahiaina Aloha" to Wild Honey's title track, he seems to show a preference for later Beach Boys songs - no "Surfin' Safari" or "Little Deuce Coupe" here, but you will find rare Carl Wilson solo tracks, like "Rockin' All Over The World" and "One More Night Alone" from Carl's Youngblood album, and Mike's "Somewhere Near Japan" taken from the Still Cruisin' album.  Brian's solo career is also noted with "Lay Down Burden".  Other interesting choices include "Susie Cincinnati", and "Keepin' The Summer Alive".  John even brings on long-time Beach Boys sideman Billy Hinche on the cover on "One More Night Alone".  Although I don't particularly agree with all the song choices, since the Beach Boys later years are not considered by anyone to be their best, Mr. Phillips tries to point out high points, and to a great degree, he succeeds; I enjoy "Lahaina Aloha" more than the one found on SIP, and the added harmonies that he adds to "Marcella" is great.  The only drawbacks to this disc are the sometimes cold feeling that the synthesizers bring to the songs, or the feeling that the backing tracks are too thin and processed, rather than dense and organic - like the bass heard on "God Only Knows" which almost sounds like it's being played on a toy piano.  And I don't much care for the Jamaican vibe he brings to the arrangement of "I'm Waiting For The Day" - interesting, but it just doesn't work.  But that's the whole point of listening to discs like this - to hear these old songs recast in a different mold, and make them new again; and John's fine singing, and interesting song selection make this album worth checking out.



The Warmth of the Sun
Varese Sarabande 302 066 1172 [CD Only];
Released May, 2000


1. New York's A Lonely Town - The Trade Winds
2. G.T.O. - Ronny & The Daytonas
3. Hot Rod High - The Surfaris
4. Girl On The Beach - Rick Henn
5. Sunshine Music - Papa Du Run Da Run
6. You're Gonna Ride With Me - The Hondells
7. Competition Coupe - The Astronauts 
8. There's No Surf In Cleveland - The Euclid Beach Band
9. I Believe In Her - The Trade Winds
10. I Live For The Sun - Jeffrey Foskett
11. Yellow Balloon - Yellow Balloon
12. My World Fell Down - Sagittarius 
13. She Did It - Eric Carmen 
14. Rendezvous - The Hudson Brothers
15. As Long As I'm With You - The Rubinoos
16. Love Tonight - The Fraternal Order Of The All
17. Thru My Window - Jeffrey Foskett
18. Channel Surfing - Alan Boyd 
19. Beach Baby - First Class

REVIEW: Varese Sarabande has collected nineteen rare, and not-so-rare songs that run the gamut in homages to the Beach Boys sound, and while the track selection veers wildly in styles from early surf and hot-rod anthems to "Smile"-like compositions, this is an overall very fine collection that I can easily recommend.  Highlights include the heavenly harmonies of Rick Henn on "Girl On The Beach" (not to be confused with the Beach Boys song, this is an original composition), the clunky but fun "There's No Surf In Cleveland" by The Euclid Beach Band, a couple of songs by the very talented Jeff Foskett, an extremely eerie Carl Wilson-sounding vocal (courtesy of Andrew Gold) on "Love Tonight," and even producer Alan Boyd pops up with a fine and funny "Channel Surfing."  Also included is more familiar fare from Eric Carmen ("She Did It"), First Class ("Beach Baby"), and Ronny & The Daytonas ("G.T.O"), as well as a couple of lost classics from The Yellow Balloon ("Yellow Balloon") and Sagittarius ("My World Fell Down" with guesting Beach Boy Bruce Johnston on vocals).  A nice compliment to a Beach Boys CD collection. 



Catch A Wave: Beach Songs For Kids
Kid Rhino 79844 [CD];
Released May 23, 2000
 


1. Catch A Wave
2. Surfin' Safari
3. Fun, Fun, Fun
4. Surfer Girl
5. Wipe Out
6. Kokomo
7. Dance, Dance, Dance
8. When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)
9. In My Room
10. Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
11. Little Old Lady From Pasadena
12. All Summer Long
13. Surfin' U.S.A.

REVIEW:
Nowadays, it's hard to turn on the TV without seeing an advertisement for that infernal series KidzBop, with oh-so-cute pre-teens belting out the latest hits of the day, and without doubt selling their sanitized versions of hit songs by the truckload to the Disney crowd.  This CD, put out years before, tries to capture the same demographic, only this time by plagerizing a hefty chunk of The Beach Boys catalog.  I hesitate to even call this a "tribute" album, since the producers (from Kid Rhino, who usually know better) have no interest in redefining or celebrating these songs; no, their sole purpose is enticing gullible parents into purchasing this for their disinterested youth demographic.  But hey, I'm a Beach Boys fan, and I gotta review it all.  Catch A Wave features young soloists who warble their way through a baker's dozen of mostly Beach Boys songs, with production values so stripped of imagination that you'd swear you'd stumbled into some Wizard of Oz version of a karaoke bar.  The soloist are pretty sub-par, and mostly interchangeable, one who warbles his way through an interminable version of "All Summer Long" and finds his voice cracking mid-way through.  Another's thin soprano unable to navigate a melody AND stay on pitch at the same time, (see "In My Room") and all of them sounding completely out of their depth singing along to the obviously pre-recorded backing tracks which feature such bland, faceless playing and singing, that the entire album is dragged down by the hopeless mediocrity of it all. Add to that the safe, yet padded choice of songs ("Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini"???), and you're left thinking that these poor kids could've choked on all the cynicism this product embraces.  It would have been a vastly better album if the soloists had exceptional voices, or star quality; or if the producers had opted for a rougher, more organic sound, but since neither of these ingredients is present, what the listener is left with is a stale, exploitative zero. Recommended only for those who have to have everything.



Caroline Now!  The songs of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys 
Marina MA50 [CD Only];
Released August, 2000

Caroline
                                                      Now!
1. Lady - Eugene Kelly
2. I Wanna Pick You Up - Alex Chilton
3. All I Wanna Do - June & The Exit Wounds
4. Wind Chimes - Katrina Mitchell & Bill Wells
5. Anna Lee, The Healer - The High Llamas
6. Ne Dis Pas (Girl Don't Tell Me - French version) - Souvenir
7. Lines - Duglas T. Stewart
8. Busy Doin' Nothin' - Camping
9. Good Time - Stevie Jackson
10. Endless Harmony - The Free Design
11. Go Away Boy - The Pearlfishers
12. Stevie - Saint Etienne
13. Honkin' Down The Highway - The Radio Sweethearts
14. Lonely Sea - Eric Matthews
15. Rainbow Eyes - Kle
16. Let's Put Our Hearts Together - Chip Taylor & Evie Sands
17. Pet Sounds - Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra
18. Heroes & Villains - Malcolm Ross
19. Only With You - Norman Blake
20. Caroline, No - The Aluminum Group
21. Do Ya - Jad Fair
22. Big Sur - The Secret Goldfish
23. Good Timin' - David Ritchie Coalition
24. Almost Summer - Kim Fowley

REVIEW:
The potential and problem of so-called "tribute" albums stem from two sources: the artists and the material.  When you have a variety of artists, choosing such eclectic songs as are presented here, you're sure to have problems, and this disc has lots, which is a shame, since such loving attention has obviously been placed in the preparation of this album.  First, the good news: there are a handful of songs on here that I definitely enjoy; Eugene Kelly's Wall-of-Soundish "Lady," June & the Exit Wounds smooth "All I Wanna Do," The High Llamas ticking "Anna Lee, The Healer," the choral harmonies on "Endless Harmony" by the Free Design, and the great pop of "Go Away Boy" by the Pearlfishers all hew closely to the spirit of the originals, yet are subtly, and effectively reinvented.  Also the quirky charm of "Lines" comes through in Duglas T. Stewart's very Brian-ish interpretation, and  the covers of "Honkin' Down the Highway" (by The Radio Sweethearts), "Lonely Sea" (by Eric Matthews) and even the breathy, French chanteuse vocals of "Girl Don't Tell Me" have some charm.  The rest of the album, quite frankly, is awful.  Much of the problem lies in the dry, demo-like productions (much featuring solo vocal and instrument) or the (literally) flat, careless vocals that do nothing for the songs, and instead expose the appalling lack of talent that these so-called "artists" possess.  If the general idea of the label was to strip the songs down to their essence to find their core, it unfortunately comes out sounding like bottom-of-the-barrel budgeting, and a general disregard for the songs themselves.  Bottom line?  Worth getting for about half of the songs, and for the glossy, well-produced packaging, just be prepared to skip several tracks while listening.



Gary Usher: Add Some Music To Your Day (a 1970 Symphonic Tribute to Brian Wilson) Poptones MC5038CD [CD Only];
Released July 9, 2001


1. Caroline No
2. You Still Believe in Me
3. Busy Doin' Nothin'
4. Pet Sounds
5. Fall Breaks and Back to Winter/Good Vibrations/Heroes and Villains
6. Warmth of the Sun
7. God Only Knows
8. Please Let Me Wonder
9. Friends
10. In My Room

REVIEW: A curio that was recorded as part of Gary Usher's experimental Together Records project (which involved Beach Boys contemporaries like Curt Beottcher and Sandy Salisbury, as well as Usher), this project was shelved when Together Records folded.  Apparently a loving attempt to show Brian Wilson that he was still a composer of merit when public opinion was turned against the Beach Boys,  Mr. Usher fashioned ten of Wilson's songs into instrumental suites, including "Caroline No," "You Still Believe In Me," "Busy Doin' Nothin'," "Pet Sounds," "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter/Good Vibrations/Heroes & Villains," "The Warmth of the Sun," "God Only Knows," "Please Let Me Wonder," "Friends," and "In My Room."  Less of a 'symphonic' treatment than simpler chamber arrangements, it's not a bad album, but the arrangements are more in the vein of easy listening/lounge than classical, with tasteful strings and harpsichord on nearly every track.  More telling is how much Gary Usher relied on the cream of Brian's recent songs from "Pet Sounds" and even "Friends" than more popular chestnuts from the band's heyday.  But the arrangements are very sterile, and there are no real "finds" here, just an extremely pleasant album that makes for agreeable background listening.  Released on the British Poptones label, along with several other worthwhile albums from the aborted Together Records vaults, it's worth tracking down if you're in a mellow mood.



The Langley Schools Music Project: Innocence & Despair
Bar None Records [CD Only];
Released October, 2001


1. Venus and Mars/Rock Show (Paul McCartney & Wings)
2. Good Vibrations (The Beach Boys)
3. God Only Knows (The Beach Boys)
4. Space Oddity (David Bowie)
5. The Long and Winding Road (The Beatles)
6. Band On The Run (Paul McCartney & Wings)
7. In My Room (The Beach Boys)
8. I'm Into Something Good (Earl-Jean/Herman's Hermits)
9. Saturday Night (Bay City Rollers)
10. I Get Around (The Beach Boys)
11. Mandy (Barry Manilow)
12. Help Me, Rhonda (The Beach Boys)
13. Desperado (The Eagles)
14. You're So Good To Me (The Beach Boys)
15. Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond)
16. To Know Him Is To Love Him (Teddy Bears)
17. Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac)
18. Wildfire (Michael Martin Murphy)
19. Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (Klaatu/The Carpenters)

REVIEW: For those of you who haven't heard the buzz around this disc, I'll put a brief explanation here.  In the mid 1970's a schoolteacher in Langley, British Columbia recorded his students singing several songs of the times, and a few numbers from the mid-sixties.  Recently discovered by a prominent radio disc jockey, the album generated enough buzz for Bar None Records to release it in CD format.   So why am I reviewing this CD?  Because out of the 19 songs included, six are Beach Boys covers, and it's a mildly interesting retro-baby boomer kitsch item.  But that's about all.  I've attended several children's school programs, and this one varies from them neither in production or talent.  As I said earlier, this recording works best if you appreciate the innate innocence of children, as well as the hazy nostalgia that this disc ultimately represents.  The kids sing simplified (read: clunky) arrangements of everything from David Bowie's "Space Oddity" to the Bay City Rollers "Saturday Night."  The six Beach Boys covers include "Help Me Rhonda," "Good Vibrations," "God Only Knows," "In My Room," "I Get Around," and "You're So Good To Me."  The kids seem to get a kick singing the upbeat songs, and there is an undeniably eerie melancholy on other songs, but overall the charm of this project wears thin very quickly, and the sound and packaging are similarly lo-fi. 



A Tribute to the Beach Boys
Big Eye Music 4215-2 [CD];
Released November 13, 2001


1. Good Vibrations
2. Barbara Ann
3. I Get Around
4. Sloop John B
5. Help Me Rhonda
6. California Girls
7. Fun Fun Fun
8. Surfin' USA
9. Surfer Girl
10. Wouldn't It Be Nice

bonus tracks:
11. Hungry Heart (Mike Love)
12. Papa Loved Mama (Al Jardine, Matt Jardine)

REVIEW: Danger!  Danger!  Whenever I see a tribute album that features anonymous artists like "John B and the Surfin' Surfaris" my spidey-sense starts tingling, and that ain't good.  A slim ten songs, all sung by the same group with the same cheap, synthesized production, this is the kind of product that's causing America's landfills to reach critical levels.  The performances sound like the tape has been sped up to simulate the high harmonies of the original Beach Boys, making some numbers (like the ad-lib shouts on "Barbara Ann") sound like the singers are grade-Z munchkins. BUT there is a curious reason to seek out this album for all you Beach Boys collectors: the presence of two "bonus tracks" which are completely out of place: the first is a cover of "Hungry Heart" which was originally recorded by Mike Love for a Bruce Springsteen tribute album, and second, a country rave-up called "Papa Loved Mama" performed by Al Jardine and his son Matt.  Both are well performed, (they blow the rest of the album clean away by comparison), but serve no purpose other than to entice gullible collectors to shell out cold cash for a CD that's mainly useful as a drink coaster.  Sheesh!



Guess I'm Dumb: The Songs Of The Beach Boys
Castle Records [CD];
Released February, 2002


1. Good Vibrations - Todd Rundgren
2. Guess Im Dumb - Dani Sheridan
3. The Girl Dont Tell Me - Tony Rivers And The Castaways
4. Youre So Good To Me - The Factotums
5. Jai Pas Le Temps (No Go Showboat)
6. The Little Girl I Once Knew - The Freshmen
7. God Only Knows - P P Arnold
8. Dont Worry Baby - The Ivy League
9. The Man With All The Toys - The Variation
10. Darlin - The Paper Dolls
11. The Girl From Salt Lake City - Tony Rivers And The Castaways
12. The Girl From New York City - Tony Rivers And The Castaways
13. In My Room - The Factotums
14. Papa Oom Mow Mow - The Freshmen
15. The Little Girl I Once Knew - The Bystanders
16. Im Waiting For The Day - Peanut
17. Here Today - The Factotums
18. Rock N Roll Music - Dickie Rock And The Miami Showband
19. Chapel Of Love - The Cadets Ft Eileen And Noel
20. Louie Louie - The Kinks
21. The Wanderer - Dickie Rock
22. Why Do Fools Fall In Love - Marion Ryan
23. I Wanna Go Home - Lonnie Donnegan
24. God Only Knows - Sounds Orchestral
25. I Can Hear Music - Mark Wirtz
26. Wipeout - The Saints

REVIEW: Castle Records has put out an interesting, but slight "tribute" album culled from the Beach Boys' British contemporaries that were originally recorded on the Pye, Piccadilly and Immediate labels.  The results are sometimes fascinating, such as The Freshman's take on "The Little Girl I Once Knew;" or The Factotums tight pop construction on "Here Today," both of which have enough variations from the original versions to make them good listening.  Other tracks are merely curios, such as the amphetamine-laced jitter of "I'm Waiting For The Day" by Peanut, or P.P. Arnold's "somebody-put-her-out-of-her-misery" wailing on "God Only Knows."  Most of the artists here are second-tier "stars" that most fans won't have heard of: (The Factotums, The Variations, The Bystanders), but there are also some recognizable faces such as Petula Clark, Todd Rundgren, and The Kinks.  The charm of this album is in the "British Invasion" production values and in some of the daring choices these artists make in their song selection: Dani Sheridan tackles "Guess I'm Dumb" (one of Brian's rarest, and best songs), Tony Rivers & The Castaways do a double-city tour by covering "Salt Lake City" and "The Girl From New York City," and Petula Clark records the lesser-known "No Go Showboat" with French lyrics!  But buyer beware: some of these so-called "Beach Boys" songs are merely songs by other artists that the Beach Boys covered themselves at one time, so also included on this disc are sometimes extra-cheesy versions of "Papa Oom Mow Mow," "Chapel Of Love," "Rock 'n' Roll Music," "Louie, Louie," "The Wanderer," and "Wipeout" -- hardly the first songs that fans would attribute to The Beach Boys, and the last third of this album really begins to scrape bottom.  Overall, an OK disc that has enough interesting cuts to warrant a recommendation.



Monkeys Uncle: In Bed With Brian Wilson [EP]
Aroma Records Smell-CD-01 [CD Only];
Released March, 2002

1. Good Vibrations
2. Vegetables
3. Cabin Fever
4. She's Goin' Bald
5. Surfin' On Acid
6. Wonderful

REVIEW: First of all, I need to thank whoever it was who sent me this CD.  Somehow, someone found out my home address, and shipped it right to my front door!  Second, understand that my two-and-a-half star rating above is entirely subjective.  There is a strong probability that many people out there will like this CD more than me, since it is well-produced, well-sung, and an overall cunning piece of work.  Basically, this is a six-song EP that combines four Beach Boys songs ("Good Vibrations," "Vegetables," "She's Goin' Bald," and "Wonderful") and two original instrumental compositions ("Cabin Fever" and "Surfin' On Acid").  The songs are performed by a single person, Alan Castellaro, who combines fuzzy trance techno and a sort've 60's acid redux, which is -- well, unique.  From the Smell of Vinyl webite (no longer available) they state that only 500 copies of this, their first release, have been pressed, so I'm guessing they're not shooting for the Top of the Pops, but it's still a solid release, and has a winking sense of humor about it that I find kind've endearing.  The packaging and layout are all faithful to Beach Boys history, right down to the orange swirl label printed on the CD!  A nice homage that is another collector's item. 



Brian Gari Sings Brian Wilson
Original Cast Records [CD Only];
Released June 4, 2002



1. Break Away
2. The One You Can't Have
3. Guess I'm Dumb
4. Good Time
5. Dance Dance Dance
6. Wonderful
7. Drive In
8. Busy Doin' Nothin'
9. All Dressed Up For School
10. Thinkin' 'Bout You Darlin'
11. Your Summer Dream
12. Don't Back Down
13. Summer Means New Love
14. Had To Phone Ya
15. Caroline No

REVIEW: Brian Gari pays reverent homage to Brian Wilson in this intelligent, well-chosen collection of songs.  Picking some of the best and brightest of the Beach Boys catalog, Mr. Gari faithfully recreates the arrangements from the original songs, and essentially recasts them with his vocals; this CD is the very definition of a vanity project.  The strengths of this approach are obvious: the songs stand up very well -- "Break Away," "The One You Can't Have," "Guess I'm Dumb," "Good Time" and many others reveal Mr. Gari as a died-in-the-wool Brian Wilson nut who's scoured his record collection for his favorite songs.  His arrangements echo the originals very closely, and the songs he's chosen will undoubtedly be a revelation to people who only know the hits.  But with his approach being so faithful, it begs the question: "Why bother?"  Who would want to pay money for music that is basically Brian Gari doing Beach Boys karaoke? (albeit some rare and hard to find karaoke).  Beach Boys fans will undoubtedly already have heard most of these songs in their original version, and Mr. Gari does little to reshape them in any significant, revelatory form.  The main difference then, in the bulk of these numbers is the presence of Mr. Gari's very nasal voice, which honestly, doesn't do a thing for me. . .  just my personal preference; but this CD will definitely appeal to fans who are looking for a new way to hear these old, wonderful songs, and maybe make some new discoveries as well. 



Making God Smile: An Artists' Tribute to the Songs of Beach Boy Brian Wilson
Silent Planet Records SPR0904-2 [CD Only];
Released June 20, 2002

Making God
                                                    Smile
1. Your Imagination - Tom Prasada-Rao & Amilia k Spicer
2. Good Vibrations - Phil Keaggy
3. I Just Wasn't Made For These Times - Sixpence None The Richer
4. I Know There's An Answer/Hang On To Your Ego - Aaron Sprinkle
5. Love and Mercy - Randy Stonehill
6. Help Me Rhonda - Kevin Max & Jimmy A
7. Heroes and Villains - Phil Madeira
8. Add Some Music To Your Day - Kate Campbell
9. 'Til I Die - Doug Powell
10. In My Room - Jason Harrod
11. This Whole World - Dolour
12. Vegetables - Terry Taylor
13. Don't Worry Baby - Derrick Harris
14. Wouldn't It Be Nice - Jan Krist
15. Pet Sounds - Brooks Williams
16. Lay Down Burden - Jane Kelly Williams
17. Surf's Up - Rick Altizer

REVIEW: Without a doubt the BEST Brian WIlson/Beach Boys tribute album yet, this is an excellent crop of covers, performed by mostly little-known artists, I was really pleased with what I heard on this album.  It's stuffed with fully-produced, sparkly arrangements with just a bit of bite to them that makes each song really come alive.  The focus of the producers was to show off Brian's innate spirituality that he's often expressed in his favorite songs, and the artists here succeed brilliantly.  For example, the trippy piano part that introduces Aaron Sprinkle's take on "I Know There's An Answer/Hang Onto Your Ego" is perfect -- bright and shiny.  And Sixpence None the Richer (the only artist here I've heard of) turns in a fab take on "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times."  There's a grand finish at the end of Phil Keaggy's "Good Vibrations," and the harmonies on Randy Stonehill's "Love And Mercy" is breathtaking!  Worth buying for just that track.  Kevin Max & Jimmy A sound like they're channeling U2 in their clever re-imagining of "Help Me Rhonda" (and yes, that's a compliment), and there is a lazy, summer-days (and summer nights) feel to Phil Madeira's instrumental "Heroes and Villains."  Kate Campbell uses chiming guitars and a gentle country swing to "Add Some Music To Your Day," and Doug Powell creates a drenching guitar-and-vocal power-pop wall of sound for "'Til I Die."  There's more, and all of it good or at least interesting.  The songs sound brand-new, instead of decades old, and that's a great tribute to Brian and to these artists. The fat color booklet includes each artists' impressions of the songs they've chosen and of Brian Wilson. Included as a bonus for those who purchase this set from the Silent Planet website is a second disc of nine additional tracks which won't be available in stores and which includes a couple of alternate mixes, additional songs, and one new song by Harrod & Funck called "Brian Wilson's Room" which is a reverent folk-tinged song, a perfect closer to a near-perfect album. 


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