US - California - Full Moon 147 - 09/15/08
That Lucky Old Sun
Old man Wilson is still smiling, still being a happy man, still composing pop songs from his sunny California. In a year which have unveiled his late brother Dennis' long 'lost' (hard to get) 1977 classic Pacific Ocean Blue, the Wilson brothers and the Beach Boys are still, uh, surfin' steady.
That Lucky Old Sun sees Wilson teaming up with writing buddy Van Dyke Parks, plus Scott Bennett (of That Luck Old Band), on most of the songs through this 40 minute voyage around LA. This is the Wilson/Parks/Bennett view upon LA from sunrise to sunset, and it has some moments of comfort and pleasure, but also some over-heated and unpleasant twists and turns. A mixture of too slow, too quick, sort of sloppily done. But, please don't get me wrong: the band and orchestration are of course extremely tight and well performed. It's just lacking something... stamina.
I get this feeling of listening to old men's pop/rock, dear I say fat-bottomed and ridiculous of sorts. Yes, there are of course some nice melodies here, with vintage Wilsonesque, trademark harmonies. But. The songs are sun-bleached, weary and not convincing, yes, almost superficial, and sometimes he's recycling/repeating himself with his trademark melody lines.
Maybe it's just me being grumpy. Me and my aching, troublesome back. Me, forced to let the romantic trip to Rome pass. Or me, seeing the summer exiting, the sun fading around these shores. Sorry, Brian. This isn't my cup of sunny beach long drink.
What if Robert Schneider (of Apples in Stereo) was given the producer's chair...
Copyright © 2008 Håvard Oppøyen
That Lucky Old Sun
Brian, the long line survivor, is back, again! The album is a sort of thematic one about a day in contemporary Los Angeles with a couple of trips down the nostalgic memory lane. Although he teams up with his fantastic band of recent years and old Smile-collaborator Van Dyke Parks, That Lucky Old Sun is not another musical masterpiece. The words seem, to some extent, more important than the music. And the music is mostly built on old formulas.
My only problem with the album is really that Brian is too happy. Now, hardly anyone in the American music biz deserves to be happy more than him. As he explains himself about the bad old days in "Oxygen To The Brain": 'I cried a million tears, I wasted a lot of years, Life was so dead'. But, Brian's songs seldom reach the eternal skies unless they are filled with doubt and melancholy. Brian the tunesmith and occasional lyric writer is at his very best when he is vulnerable. Now he states that a goddess of a girl from the summer of 1961 'forever will be my surfer girl'. Back in 1963 he wasn't that confident when he carefully asked: 'Do you love me, do you, surfer girl?' Check out the better half of the Don Was produced documentary and accompanying album I Just Wasn't Made For These Times with re-recordings of some of his greatest fragile masterpieces from Pet Sounds onwards, and you'll hopefully understand what I mean.
That said, That Lucky Old Sun includes a few gems towards the end. "Midnight's Another Day" and "Southern California" are great melancholic songs. Not quite up there with "You Still Believe in Me", "God Only Knows", "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times", "Caroline No", "Wonderful", "Surf's Up", "The Warmth Of The Sun", "'Til I Die" etc., but not that far behind. And there is a won-won-won-wonderful short gem, an exquisite excerpt of "Can't Wait Too Long", 53 seconds of vocal and wall-to-wall instrumental heaven that could've fit nicely into the Smile-project with no reservations whatsoever. That alone makes Brian's album a lot more worthwhile than the re-release of late brother Dennis' overrated (at least this summer), overproduced and over-orchestrated album Pacific Ocean Blue. The producer of the latter could've learned a lot by listening to the vocal harmonies and orchestral arrangements of That Lucky Old Sun, not least in "Live Let Live", the very best uplifting song here.
Copyright © 2008 JP (whose back is fit and happy as Brian and a lark at the moment...)