Review: The Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made The Radio

Up to this point, all my in depth reviews have been on Southern Gospel albums, though I’ve occasionally mentioned other music, and even did a mini-review of a Brian Wilson album.  That streak ends here, though this is likely to be an aberration instead of the start of a trend.  My love for the Beach Boys is no secret on this blog, so if I were ever to make an exception to my SG only reviews, it should come as no surprise that it would be for the new album from the surviving Beach Boys, including Brian Wilson, on their 50th anniversary.  On this album are Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks, though Marks is credited solely with guitar work and no vocals, with long time Beach Boys and Brian Wilson sideman Jeffrey Foskett providing falsetto vocals.  Wilson produced the album, while Mike Love served as executive producer.

Tracks:

  1. Think About The Days – This is a wordless opening to the track composed by Brian Wilson and Joe Thomas featuring acappella vocals from The Beach Boys (plus Foskett) with some light piano and french horn added.  Hearkening back to the “Our Prayer” that was to open the Smile album before resurfacing on 20/20, it sets a touch of a melancholy mood for the album with its minor key, but the vocal harmonies are stunningly beautiful.  Even after 50 years, the group can still create effortless harmonies that shimmer. 9.5/10
  2. That’s Why God Made The Radio – The first new single from the Beach Boys in roughly 20 years also serves as the title track to the album.  Written by Brian Wilson, Jim Peterik, Larry Millas, and Joe Thomas, it is a midtempo tune with a bit of a doo-wop feel.  Wilson has the lead on the verses, with Al Jardine taking the last two lines of each verse with full on group harmonies on the chorus.  There’s a bridge that has a bit of a harder edge to start out with some incredible harmony on the phrase “a whole new generation” that is repeated leading to a tag that has the round like vocals that you find on classics like “California Girls” or “God Only Knows.”  It’s better than anyone realistically could have expected from the group, but the best is yet to come… 9/10
  3. Isn’t It Time – This is an infectious midtempo number that my 5 year old daughter has immediately latched on to as her favorite song.  Written by Wilson, Love, Peterik, Millas, and Thomas, it’s got a bouncy rhythm that is driven by a ukulele of all instruments, and features Brian Wilson on the first verse with some duet lines by either Al Jardine or Bruce Johnston, it’s a little hard to tell.  The chorus features Foskett, Johnston, and Jardine to my ears. There’s a nice little vocal lead in to the second verse, performed by Mike Love.  The bridge features Foskett and Love with some gorgeous background harmonies.  The chorus is repeated with Love taking the first two lines an octave down from where it had previously been sung.  I think this is probably the most radio friendly song on the disc.  It’s incredibly catchy and will have you singing along.  9.5/10
  4. Spring Vacation – This is a mid to uptempo pop tune written by Mike Love, Brian Wilson, and Joe Thomas.  Love takes the lead on the verse with Bruce Johnston taking a line or two from him.  Brian Wilson takes the melody on the chorus.  This song is a quintessential Beach Boys “fun in the sun” type song, and would be right behind “Isn’t It Time” as a radio ready song.  There’s a really nice chord progression in the verses.  The harmony on the bridge is outstanding.  When you think of The Beach Boys, this is the sound that comes to mind.  9/10
  5. The Private Life Of Bill And Sue – Written by Brian Wilson and Joe Thomas, this is a tropical flavored song that is a commentary on the reality TV phenomenon.  There’s more than a slight resemblance to “South American” from Wilson’s Imagination solo album.  Wilson has the melody through the entire song with some great harmony behind him on the chorus and some nice falsetto work from Jeffrey Foskett.  The radio narration at the end of the song is hilarious if you can catch it.  It’s a fun little song, but easily the weakest song on the disc.  6.5/10
  6. Shelter – Again from the pen of Wilson and Thomas, this is a midtempo ballad style song that again features Wilson’s vocals on the verses.  Jeffrey Foskett and Mike Love share the melody on the choruses.  This song is quite reminiscent of what you heard on Brian’s eponymous 1988 solo album, minus the 80s production.  Again, there are gorgeous backing harmonies throughout the song.  It’s a pretty solid song.  7.5/10
  7. Daybreak Over The Ocean – This Mike Love composition, according to what I’ve seen online, is an outtake from a never released Mike Love solo album.  The credits bear this out, as the primary vocalists are Mike, Christian, and Hayleigh Love along with Adrian Baker.  The other Beach Boys are credited with “Additional Vocals.”  This is a slower tropical flavored tune that seems to hearken back to the best elements of Love’s “Sumahama” from The Beach Boys’ L.A. (Light Album).  There are simply thrilling harmonies behind Love’s lead vocal, and this is one of Love’s best vocal performances in recent memory.  The “bring back” section has been compared elsewhere to the end section of the late 60s single “Breakaway”, and it’s a valid comparison.  I happen to like this song a lot, it has beautiful harmony.  8.5/10
  8. Beaches In Mind – The “fun in the sun” style returns on this song penned by Love, Wilson, and Thomas.  Brian Wilson takes the melody on the chorus, with Love taking the melody on the verses.  There are some really nice lead guitar licks that I’m guessing are provided by David Marks.  This is another solid Beach Boys-esque tune.  7.5/10
  9. Strange World – Written by Brian Wilson and Joe Thomas, this is another ballad style tune.  Wilson takes the lead on this song and turns in a really nice performance.  The “bum-bum” from the tympani adds a dramatic flair to the chorus.  This song is very hard to describe, but there are some really nice vocals and neat chords.  It’s a song that seems to build in intensity throughout.  That said, it is a really nice tune.  8.5/10
  10. From There To Back Again – From this point the forward, the album really shines.  The next three songs may be the best the Beach Boys have put to record since Pet Sounds.  Wilson and Thomas penned this tune, and for the first half or so of the song, Al Jardine performs what may be his best ever vocal as a Beach Boy.  His voice sounds just as strong and clear as it did in 1965.  The harmony behind Jardine’s vocals is absolutely glistening.  About halfway through, some of the Wilson composing magic rears it’s head, as there are pauses, tempo and rhythm changes that are on par with the experimentation he did in the Pet Sounds days.  Simply amazing.  10/10
  11. Pacific Coast Highway – Again from Wilson and Love, this is a short tune that starts with some beautiful acappella oohs from the group.  Brian takes the lead on the song, it’s a message of goodbye that is 1 minute 47 seconds of sheer beauty.  The full harmony on the final word “goodbye” is beautiful and poignant.  10/10
  12. Summer’s Gone – This song was written to be the last Beach Boys song ever recorded.  Composed by Brian Wilson, Joe Thomas, and Jon Bon Jovi (!), this is a beautiful, wistful ballad.  Wilson has the melody surounded by lush, thick harmonies from the rest of the group.  It’s a lyric of farewell with shimmering vibes and percussion.  It’s as gorgeous as anything Wilson has ever composed.  It concludes the album with a very melancholy feel, not totally unlike the way “Caroline, No” ended Pet Sounds.  It’s a fitting end to what very well may be the final Beach Boys album.  As you hear the sound of waves receding with light chimes as the song concludes, you can’t help but think that this is how The Beach Boys should bid farewell.  Wow.  10/10

Overall:  9.5  Maybe it’s just the fan in me.  Maybe it’s because of the sheer vastness of the amount of time since The Beach Boys recorded a new studio album, much less one with an engaged and in control Brian Wilson.  Whatever the reason, I really love this album.  Is it perfect?  No.  “Bill and Sue” is pretty much a throwaway, filler track.  “Shelter” is OK, but not great.  I’d have liked to have heard more from Johnston (who is almost invisible outside of the harmony stack on the album), Marks, and Jardine.  The album from the title track to “Strange World” is a bit of a mix of mostly good songs, with a few really good ones mixed in.  However, the final three tracks on this album rate with some of the best music The Beach Boys have ever put to record.

While they may not have a sure-fire radio hit on the album (though I think there are some good contenders, especially with what you hear on secular radio today!), the album already debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts, and is far above what any realistic fan of the group should have expected from them.  The lead vocals are all well done, the instrumental tracks are great, the vocal harmonies are still without par, and it’s a great way for The Beach Boys to celebrate their 50th anniversary and ride off into the Southern California sunset.  If you like harmony, and like pop music, do yourself a favor and pick up a piece of history in this monumental album.  You’ll be glad you did.

The Beach Boys Preview New Single

Most of you who are long time readers know that I am also a big fan of The Beach Boys.  A couple of tidbits have come out in the past couple of days relating to the group and their current 50th anniversary reunion celebration.  First, the new album, reportedly titled That’s Why God Made The Radio, is due to be released June 5.  Second, the group has released a promo video previewing the first single from the album, the title song.  This is the first single from the group as a whole since 1996, and the first of new material in 20 years.  Check it out below, I’m (im)patiently awaiting the release of the album!

The Beach Boys Are Reuniting

The past couple of years have seen several reunions we never thought were possible.  In the Southern Gospel world, we’ve seen the 1980s Gold City supergroup reunite, with another reunion coming up in a few weeks, as well as the Downings, the Hinsons, and the Michael English era Singing Americans.  In the secular world, another reunion was just announced that was even more unlikely.

The Beach Boys are reuniting for their 50th anniversary next year.

All 5 surviving members are involved: Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine, David Marks (who replaced Jardine for a couple of the earliest albums), and…..Brian Wilson.  After all of the public bickering, lawsuits, and general bad relations between the band members, they’ve managed to leave all of that behind and reunite focusing on the thing that made them all rich and famous: music.  The group is planning a 50 concert tour next year, starting with a performance on the Grammy Awards telecast in February, there has been mention of a new boxed set of Beach Boys material, and they are also working on a new album, with both Beach Boys classics and new material from Brian.  Brian Wilson is serving as producer for the album, with Mike Love serving as executive producer.  Below is a YouTube video for the group’s new version of their 1968 hit, “Do It Again.”

If you’ve read my blog for very long, you’ll know that I am a huge Beach Boys fan.  To date, SG albums have been all that I’ve reviewed on this blog, with a “mini-review” of Brian Wilson’s That Lucky Old Sun as the lone exception, but I do believe I will be making another exception and doing a full review of the new Beach Boys album.  (I can’t believe I just typed those words….)  To quote J.D. Sumner: “I Can’t Wait!!!”

The Album That Almost Was, But Wasn’t, But Still Might Be

Of course I’m talking about Gold City’s still unreleased Somebody’s Coming which saw two of the tracks recorded by the Josh Cobb/Bruce Taliaferro lineup leaked via YouTube last week.  The two songs are “I Stand Redeemed”, featuring Cobb, and a new Jim Brady-penned tune called “Lord Of Life” featuring Taliaferro.  If these two songs are an indication of the CD’s strength, this was (is?) going to be a great one!  I’m anxious to hear Craig West tear into “Lord Of Life.”

(Ed. note:  The following paragraphs are written with tongue planted firmly in cheek!)

Most of you know that I am a huge fan of the Beach Boys.  In 1966/1967, the Beach Boys began working on an album that was to be called Smile.  This album was going to be their response to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, and was going to turn the world of rock music upside down.  A ton of hype built up around the album.  Tracks were recorded and re-recorded.  More tracks were added and some deleted.  It never happened.  Brian Wilson, the mastermind behind the album, finally re-recorded and released a version of Smile in 2004 to much critical acclaim, and even won a Grammy.  37 years later.  A CD box set of the Beach Boys original recordings called The Smile Sessions has been promised this year by Capitol Records.  44 years later.  Better late than never, I guess…

Am I the only one starting to see similarities to Gold City’s Somebody’s Coming?  Tracks have been recorded.  Tracks have been re-recorded.  Songs have been cut (“I Stand Redeemed”).  Songs (yet unknown) have been/will be added.  Hype has built up (the report of M. English saying it would be better than the last GVB album, the leak of the aforementioned tracks).  I really hope Somebody’s Coming doesn’t become Southern Gospel’s version of Smile.

Getting back to more serious business, a quick Google search for the album displays some interesting results.  A Yahoo Music result promises to be able to hear the album.  There are multiple outlets that are showing the CD available for order, with multiple release dates.  Most are late last year, but christianbook.com shows a realistic date of 08/09/11.  Then there is books-a-million.com, that has a release date of January 1, 2037!  I sincerely hope Danny and the rest of Gold City are able to get it released before then….though I guess that would fit with the whole Smile comparison.  🙂

 

Wilson, Jardine Reunite With Beach Boys

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know that in addition to Southern Gospel, I am a huge fan of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.  According to this news story at FoxNews.com, Brian Wilson and Al Jardine are reuniting with the current Beach Boys (Mike Love and Bruce Johnston) for a 50th Anniversary tour next year.  I can only hope that there is a DVD and/or CD made of this.  It’s good to see them back together again, even after all the bad blood and lawsuits.

Brian Wilson’s “Lucky Old Sun” Live Performance Available On NPR.org

NPR has made available the audio from a live performance by Brian Wilson of his newest album, “That Lucky Old Sun”, which was named one of the year’s top 50 albums by Rolling Stone.  You can find it here.  Pardon the obvious pun, but, ahem, “wouldn’t it be nice” if SG did this too?  The closest I have seen is SGN making entire studio recordings available via their site mp3 player, which is great, don’t get me wrong.  But how incredible would it be to see the Singing News make a live recording of the Kingsmen performing When God Ran, or see SolidGospel.com have a link to a live performance of Life Goes On by The Talley Trio?  Alas, one can wish….

Brian Wilson’s “Lucky Old Sun”

I won’t do a full review, I’ll leave that for the Southern Gospel music CDs, but I still want to make mention of the new release from Brian Wilson.  I got this CD last night as a birthday present, and have listened to it several times between the drive to work and since I’ve been here today.  This is a VERY good CD.  Wilson still has a pretty decent voice for his age.  I’m not too hot on the narrations, but the songs themselves are very good, and still contain Wilson’s trademark lush arrangements, both vocal and instrumental.  Standout songs are “Morning Beat”, “Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl”, “Live Let Live”, “Midnight’s Another Day”, and “Southern California”.  These songs are all very strong, and “Midnight’s” is incredible.  I definitely recommend this CD to anyone who is/was a fan of Brian or the Beach Boys, or a fan of the soft rock/pop style in general.  This is a very enjoyable disc.

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