Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Beach Boys 1974 Tour by Billy Hinsche

1974 — On The Road With The Beach Boys

Documentary by Billy Hinsche

By David M. Beard

Hard to describe how cool this really is. Having the opportunity to do special themed editions of ESQ through the years, this DVD is really my kind of bag. No matter how many interviews you can do, there is no substitute for being there, and thankfully, Billy Hinsche was.

This was a true labor of love for Billy, so much in fact, that he had very real concerns about sharing his very first video project with the public, particularly one that is so near and dear to his heart.

In a sense, Hinsche tested the waters over the last several years with his "One In A Million" tribute recording and video of Dennis Wilson from this footage, and the very enjoyable "The Match" (both appearing on Billy's "The Road Well Traveled" DVD). Both gave us brief insight into the 1974 tour, but hardly scratched the surface. The quality, because of the age and equipment used, suffers at times, but the insight and testimonials given by Jim Guercio, Ed Carter, Bobby Figueroa, Ricky Fataar, Carli Munoz, road manager Rick Nelson, Steve Moffitt, and Billy add the needed depth to this documentary, making it a priceless treasure.

Billy closes the set with an in-depth explanation of the type of video he used in 1974, and several nice touches are included that add very nice historical nuances. Hinsche's video project is an invaluable resource, as well as true keepsake for any Beach Boys fan. Watching the Beach Boys on tour during a time when they were rediscovering themselves and slowly gaining recognition from a second generation of fans allows for a fascinating look into a otherwise forgotten era, and it's great to see Dennis and Carl Wilson in this vintage footage. One amusing and poignant moment is when Al Jardine is sharing TM practices with Dennis on the group's airplane in an effort to help him deal with things that are bothering him.

This is a DVD that we'll be talking about for the rest of our lives, and for generations to come.

Mike Love Appears on JRDF's Hope For The Holidays

Hope For The Holidays
Various Artists
By David M. Beard

This collection is one of the most inspired Christmas collections of artists to be released in decades simply because of the variety of artists and their individual takes on otherwise over recorded Christmas standards. One example, Axton’s recording of “Joy To The World,” begins traditionally and then vamps to the version made famous by Three Dog Night… Very cool. Beach Boys’ fans will find this collection interesting for a few reasons: 1) Mike & Christian Love sing on two new tracks, “Closing of the Year” and “Peace and Love”; 2) Beach Boys band member Randell Kirsch offers the beautiful “California Love”; 3) John Cowsill and family offer "Christmastime," and; 4) Mike’s 2006 resurrection of the “Kokomo” theme with the smaltzy “Santa’s Goin’ To Kokomo” by “The Beach Boys" all appear here. In 2006, when I first heard, “Santa’s Goin’ To Kokomo” I cringed, but in this format — a children's cause — the song fits extremely well.

The Beach Boys — Christmas Harmonies

Christmas Harmonies
Capitol Records
By David M. Beard

For the Beach Boys completist who must have everything, this Beach Boys Christmas collection comes highly recommended, if not for any other reason than the interior packaging and the previously unearthed images of the Beach Boys with Brian dressed up as Santa Clause inside the CD booklet. Musically speaking there’s nothing new here with the exception of which the songs appear. This release compiles the very best of the two combined holiday albums that were initially packaged together in 1998 as Ultimate Christmas.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

20 Years Ago Still Cruisin' Stalled

Still Cruisin'
Capitol Records
By David M. Beard

This hodgepodge of an album still bemuses me after 20 years, because, as good as Side 1 is, Side 2 falls flat. Most longtime Beach Boy fans simply dismiss this album, which is a mistake. If this album had been released in 1991 it would have faired much better (with the addition of "Problem Child" and "Crocodile Rock"). The inclusion of "I Get Around" (mono), "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "California Girls" (stereo) on the tail end of side 2 watered the album down to such an extent that it's almost unlistenable. A consistency missing from this album: An individual track contribution from Bruce Johnston.

Side 1 had the group being compared by some critics to Fleetwood Mac and U2; not exactly bad company. I won't be reviewing "Wipe Out," as it is a dismissive recording.

"Still Cruisin'" (T. Melcher/M. Love): Mike Love is in prime Beach Boys Adult-Contemporary form with the album's title track; a sort of "Do It Again" for the "Kokomo" generation. Not exactly a song that I would choose to play while watching Mel Gibson's trailer get shot up on the beach in Lethal Weapon 2… But what do I know? It was the only "beach" scene in the movie, so I guess they had to squeeze it in somewhere.

"Somewhere Near Japan" (Phillips/Melcher/Love/Johnston): This song, along with the music video, features the Beach Boys at their Adult-Contemporary best. The vocal structuring is top drawer and enables each member an intertwining moment seamlessly bouncing off of one another. Great mix, and great execution, and a true group effort.

Historical notes: Co-written by the late "Papa" John Phillips, this song was purportedly written about his daughter Mackenzie during her drug addiction to heroin. The lyric, "Now she's trippin' on some Chinese junk…" was sung by Al Jardine, who upon the discovery of the lyric's meaning (post recording) stated he wouldn't have sung it if he had known what the song was about. The alternate radio edit version omitted the gong sound effect beginning.

"Island Girl" (Alan Jardine): Opening with the stellar trio blend of Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson and Al Jardine, this recording does not let up for one second, and is, for my money, Al Jardine's finest moment as a composer and writer of an original Beach Boys recording. This track also features seamless cross-vocal mixing. Carl's wonderful vamp vocal, "Every now and then I get this silly grin when I'm out in her company… " Not exactly the best lyrics, but it's still worth repeated listens.

"In My Car" (Wilson/Landy/Morgan): Primarily a recording overseen by Landy and his crew, Brian brought this song to the table to fill out the album. His vocals with younger brother Carl are excellent, but this would have been a far better recording with vocals from Al, Mike and Bruce complimenting the overall sound.

"Kokomo" (Phillips/Melcher/Love/McKenzie): Beach Boys fans of old dismiss this song without blinking, but the truth is this is a very good song. In fact, if not for "Kokomo," "Papa" John Phillips would not have enjoyed post Mama & Papas hit success. Perhaps the problem lies in the reality that this song outsold Brian's beautiful "Love & Mercy." In a perfect world Brian would have been a Beach Boy at the time, and both recordings would have had the Beach Boys name on it. Either way, the summer of 1988 was a great time for Beach Boys and Brian Wilson fans.

"Make It Big" (Melcher/House/Love): The track features some interesting breaks, and the lyrical message is nice, but that's about it. Considering Troop Beverly Hills is a children's film, the song fits… One of the nicer moments is the break where Mike Love aptly sings: "Baby you're a superstar, lookin' like you're goin' far… Do what ya' wanna. C'mon and do what you wanna… Be my little beauty queen up there on the Silver Screen, c'mon and do what you wanna… "

Here's a stronger lineup for a 14-track Still Cruisin' (combining the idea of soundtrack recordings with new material, released from 1984-1991):
SIDE 1: Soundtrack recordings
"Still Cruisin'" (T. Melcher/M. Love) — Lethal Weapon 2
"Kokomo" (Phillips/Melcher/Love/McKenzie) — Cocktail
"Chasin' The Sky" (Randy Bishop) — Up The Creek
"Make It Big" (Melcher/House/Love) — Troop Beverly Hills
"Problem Child" (Melcher) — Problem Child
"Wipe Out" (The Surfaris) — The Fat Boys (with the Beach Boys)
"Happy Endings" (Johnston/Melcher) — (with Little Richard) — The Telephone

SIDE 2: Other songs
"Crocodile Rock" (Elton John/Bernie Taupin)
"Somewhere Near Japan" (Phillips/Melcher/Love/Johnston)
"Island Girl" (Alan Jardine)
"Lady Liberty" (Alan Jardine/Ron Altbach)
"In My Car" (Wilson/Landy/Morgan)
"Rock n Roll To The Rescue" (Love/Melcher)
"California Dreamin'" (Phillips/Gilliam)

Bonus cuts:
"Kokomo" [Spanish Version]

Among the really cool releases that hasn't happened yet, outside of a few other mythically dangling projects, is a true "Beach Boys At The Movies" compilation. This is something that I've researched in detail (to the point of submitting a complete lineup to EMI in 2008). I'll write more on this in a future blog.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bruce Johnston's Pet Project

Symphonic Sounds — Music Of The Beach Boys
By David M. Beard

In 1998 Bruce went into the Abbey Road studios and produced "Symphonic Sounds: Music of the Beach Boys," creating a vastly overlooked collection. Mike Love is joined by Terry Melcher on "Kokomo," and Johnston succinctly recreates all the dynamic and subtle nuances of his 1971 classic, "Disney Girls." This collection also includes the debut of Matt Jardine on "Darlin'," and Adrian Baker's performance on "Warmth of the Sun."

The album's most endearing and enduring moments are the opening four-minute overture and the beautiful "The Water Planet Suite"; consisting of "Heroes And Villains," "Help Me Rhonda," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "God Only Knows," "Surfer Girl," "In My Room," "The Warmth Of The Sun," "All Summer Long," "You Still Believe In Me," "Caroline, No" and "Good Vibrations." Both pieces speak directly to Johnston's love of Classical music. If you don't own this, buy it. If you own it, get it back out and revisit it today!

Acoustic Vibrations

Acoustic Vibrations
By David M. Beard

Drummer David Logeman and fellow Surf City Allstar, keyboardist Gary Griffin (known throughout the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean community for his work with everyone and everything), took an idea that began several years ago, and pursued it through to fruition.

The idea: Take selective Beach Boys classics, break them down, and reconstruct them in an acoustic setting using completely different arrangements. Along the way, Logeman and Griffin reached out to founding Beach Boys Al Jardine & David Marks, and Jan & Dean's Dean Torrence -- the trio tour together as the Legends Of Surf Music -- to incorporate their classic individual styles into this formulaic approach. The end result is quite astonishing. To provide more insight into this new collection, and the arrangements therein, I asked David & Gary to share their thoughts on the background of these recordings.

David Logeman: The inspiration for this CD came from the original production of "God Only Knows" that I did with my wife, Shannon Beaty, for one of her projects. I took that idea and expanded it to the full Acoustic Vibrations concept. Gary Griffin and I had so much fun coming up with new arrangements that would honor the great melodies and lyrics of these fantastic Brian Wilson and Mike Love compositions. Having Al Jardine, David Marks, and Dean Torrence use their significant talents on this CD was such a plus. I have never had so much fun and fulfillment recording before. The highlight of the Acoustic Vibrations record was being able to see this CD grow from my initial concept to working hands-on and experiencing everyone’s incredible talents, especially Gary Griffin’s, all the way through to the artwork and packaging.

Gary Griffin: The genesis of Acoustic Vibrations came from an arrangement of “God Only Knows,” which David Logeman and his wife, Shannon, had created a few years back. From that, the idea was born to do a complete Surf City Allstars CD of “scaled down” acoustic arrangements of the repertoire we had done for so many years.

Our version of “Caroline No” opens with the sound of a duduk, a Turkish double reed instrument, which sounds a bit like a cross between an English horn and a drunken clarinet. Phil Bardowell did great on this vocal and sang all the background’s, too. “Don’t Worry Baby” opens with acappella voices and percussion, features Matt singing in the vocal range where he totally rules. Phil played a very cool mandolin solo on this. The arrangement “Sloop John B” came about a few years back when we were rehearsing for our I Get Surround DVD. We sort of tipped our cap to the song as it existed in its original state; a simple folk song. But we added a very cool bridge section (“I wanna go home.....”). I’m not sure whose idea it was, probably Phil’s or Randell Kirsch’s, but it adds a real dramatic element to the story. Phil sings the first verse, Don the second, and I did the third verse. Matt’s vocal sounds very child-like and innocent on “In My Room”; he sounds rather vulnerable which is perfect for the lyrics. We used some chord changes and harmonies that are a bit unsettling which I think helps give the song a little tension, a little angst.

We kept “The Warmth of the Sun” pretty faithful to Brian’s original vocal arrangement. It’s such an incredibly beautiful melody and once again, Matt nails it. Al sings a really cool vocal on “California Girls” which features xylophone and ukulele. The intro is a sort of abbreviated obtuse take on Brian’s original guitar intro with cello, English horn and harp.
*For the rest of this review read the Winter 2009 edition of Endless Summer Quarterly

Endless Sky DVD series

Be sure and visit the Endless Sky blog and pick up our exclusive video interviews with the Wondermints, Dean Torrence and Van Dyke Parks. Each volume was filmed on location with the artist and offers incredible insight into their respective histories and backgrounds.
By David M. Beard

Wondermints DVD: When I interviewed Nick Walusko and Darian Sahanaja on location at Mark Linett's house, the pair took each other through memory lane, recounting their discovery of Brian Wilson and his music, joining Brian's band, and Darian helping Brian finish SMiLE.

Dean O. Torrence DVD: Filmed on location in Dean's home, Dean discusses his graphic arts career and the formation of Kittyhawk Graphics, as well as his extremely successful teaming with Jan Berry.

Van Dyke Parks DVD: Filmed on location in Van Dyke's home, he takes us down memory lane sharing his modest musical beginnings, and performing the classic "Orange Crate Art" at his piano.

Dennis Diken with Bell Sound

Late Music
Cryptovision records
By David M. Beard

Accompanied by Probyn Gregory, Andy Paley, Nick “Wonder” Walusko on much of this collection (with cameos from the Honeys, Nelson Bragg and Andrew Sandoval) this album spans just about every 1960s genre imaginable… And it’s good. Very good. Endless Summer Quarterly subscribers were introduced to the Diken/DiBella songwriting team back in early 2004 on the first Dennis Wilson tribute CD, One In A Million, where they debuted “Fall Into Your Arms.” If you took a blender and threw the Monkees, Dave Clark 5, Procul Harem, the Beatles, and the Beach Boys and turned it on you’d end up with Late Music. Pick it up and discover it for yourself.

Taylor Mills Goes "Under The Surface"

Under The Surface
By David M. Beard

Upon hearing Taylor Mills’ new release, Under The Surface, it is apparent that she is ready to reveal more than what we — as Brian Wilson followers — would imagine. Returning to the studio with husband Todd Sucherman and Brian Wilson lyricist Scott Bennett (who wrote all but one song), Mills sounds her edgy best when she lets her vocals soar and is less restrained is trying to complete a lyric. Her best here are the quieting “Sparks Will Fly,” the love letter-stylized “Kiss My Soul” and the vividly colorful “Living Room.” Her rich and lush vocals are among the best being recorded today.