They’re playing to raving crowds all over America at this moment and I’m really really looking forward to when I get to see them in Berlin.
Only just over two months before that day rolls around and just over two weeks before the hotly anticipated Beach Boys 50th anniversary reunion album, That’s Why God Made the Radio, gets released to the general UK public on 4 June 2012.
Count our blessings
We shouldn’t be so blessed. Brian Wilson has been through so much in his career and battled against schizophrenia, obesity, and drugs, and yet today, he’s enjoying a new lease of life. He’s reconciled with his daughters Carnie and Wendy (of Wilson Phillips fame) and he has four children from his marriage to Melinda Wilson.
In 2011, some rumours started circulating that the Beach Boys were going to get back together again. After being disappointed over the years about the prospect of a Beach Boys reunion, I daren’t believe it was true until it was 100% confirmed. After all, they were hinting at a reunion after the travesty that was Summer in Paradise and again after the (even worse) Stars and Stripes album.
I was so stoked when this reunion turned out to be true. And even better, that they were going on a worldwide tour and the album was going to be released in June! Unfortunately, their world tour doesn’t look like it’ll pass through the UK – but at least they’re playing in Europe. I’ve entered into a prize draw done by Amazon UK to win tickets for the Beach Boys concert in Rome and it will be truly wonderful if I win that. If I don’t though, life will still go on and I’ve been sufficiently blessed over the years already.
Now, on to my impressions of the (sample) tracks on the new album, That’s Why God Made The Radio
No, I did not get blessed with an early advance copy. What I’m doing is giving my impressions of the album, based solely on the 30 second (or less) snippets that Amazon UK allows me to hear when I preview the album. First, the track listing according to Amazon.
- Think About The Days
- That’s Why God Made The Radio
- Isn’t It Time
- Spring Vacation
- The Private Life of Bill and Sue
- Daybreak Over The Ocean
- Beaches In Mind
- Strange World
- From There And Back Again
- Pacific Coast Highway
- Summer’s Gone
That’s Why God Made The Radio is the first single off the new album and while it hasn’t cracked the Top 100 Mp3 songs list yet, at time of writing it’s #7 in MP3 Downloads > MP3 Songs > Rock.
Think About The Days
The opening harmonies from this track, though there’s only less than 30 seconds of it, is a clear indicator that none of the Boys have lost their ear for harmony. Soft yet soaring oooohs envelop this track padded by gentle do dos. You can also hear a lovely little piano piece playing just before the song fades out.
I have high hopes for this song and envision it as a gentler version of Brian Wilson’s One For The Boys, an a capella track off his self-titled 1988 album that Brian dedicated to the Beach Boys. In the liner notes that came with the reissued of that album:
Brian had originally titled this (much more subtly) as “There We Were.” “It was meant for The Beach Boys,” he explains. The title, but not the notes, was changed in what became his emotional a cappella tribute to his old band. It’s possible that Brian’s greatest love might be to write, arrange, and sing background vocals, and this track is an example of the relative ease with which he can create multipart harmonies.
That’s Why God Made The Radio
I’ve already written my impressions of it in a previous blog post. But if I was to base my impressions on a 30 second snippet, I’d say it was a classic Beach Boys-type mix with the soaring falsettos (likely provided by Brian Wilson’s bandmate, Jeff Foskett) and ultra-tight harmonies we’ve come to expect from them.
Isn’t It Time
After the seminal highs of the first two tracks, things seem to take a backward step here in a track that doesn’t sound like it would be out of place on one of the latter day Beach Boys album like The Beach Boys or Still Crusin’ (or dare I say it, Summer in Paradise). I guess I blame the simple easy rhythm of the song and the simple way it’s sung run down to the background do be dos by Mike. Maybe if I hear a more complete version of the song I might change my mind.
An improvement over Isn’t It Time, the track features signature layered background vocals and an organ that pads out the song nicely. Subtle background falsettos and a thumping drum beat fill out the rest of the song. There is one small corny moment when the Boys sing, “Spring vacation, Good vibration”, to continue a trend of name checking one of their previous songs in each recent album they do.
The Private Life of Bill and Sue
A slightly corny song now (but well in keeping with Brian’s old love for humour in his music) and this one’s a beaut. The chorus lines are full of traditional Beach Boys harmonies that will remind listeners of all the surf music they used to produce during the early periods of their career. Well, I say periods, but their surfing music focus actually only lasted three albums and two years before Brian moved on another passion, cars. Till this day, it’s astounding to see how much musical progress Brian made from their first album, Surfin Safari, in 1961, to Pet Sounds, in 1966.
A nice little feel-good number that starts out simple but works towards a big pay off once you reach the chorus when everything goes to familiar Beach Boys territory.
Daybreak Over The Ocean
Mike Love makes his presence felt in this song as the background vocals sit back to give him space to shine. Even the chorus bit keeps the backing vocals muted in order to keep the close, neighbourly feeling of the song. It certainly wouldn’t feel out of place at a beach party when things are winding down and the early morning light of dawn starts to break.
Beach In Mind
While it’s strange to hear the nearly geriatric Beach Boys sing “We can drive on for miles ’til we’re finally free. It’ll just be you and me”, this song is one of the best on the album. It showcases the Boys tight harmonies and sense of fun. It’s a great little track that’s also greatly reminiscent of the good ol’ days when the Beach Boys were at the top of the music world. I predict this would be the next single off the album.
For me, this track brings back memories of Mike Love’s lovely smooth bass from songs like Cherry, Cherry Coupe and Noble Surfer that made me so inspired to try to emulate his bass vocals throughout all my life (hmmm time to add him on my Pinterest of voice acting/talent inspirations). There’s also a small stereo effect applied to this song – listen for it at towards the end of the preview clip.
From There And Back Again
The Beach Boys slow things down with this number filled with soft oohs. It’s a pity that the lead vocals (by Mike?) sound quite electronically altered but then again, some concessions need to be made when you’re pushing 70 years of age…
Pacific Coast Highway
A whimsical song that features Brian on lead vocals. “Sometimes I realise it’s time to move along and I wanna go home”, he sings and in it you can almost hear confirmation that his journey of healing is at an end and that he’s successfully battled all his demons. There’s a real sad quality to the song. I don’t know if it’s because of his age but I feel it has a tone of finality to it, as if he knows his life will soon end as he gets older with each passing year – “Sunlight’s facing and there’s no much left to say”.
Beautiful. A stupendously beautiful blend of instruments and the human voice. I could listen to this track all day and all night. Listen for the tightly controlled drums and the subtle sounds provided by all the studio instruments. Each instrument has its place and it’s time to shine or to add to the music, nothing is left to waste because Brian won’t allow it to happen. Hear it and you could even imagine Brian in the studio controlling each musician with perfect timing and precision. I only have 30 seconds of this track and I can’t wait for the full song to come out. It’s astounding that Brian can still produce gems like this.
Well, that’s the end of my impressions of the preview clips for That’s Why God Made The Radio. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite ever Beach Boys songs, Catch A Wave.
- Beach Boys preview 1st new song in 2 decades (wnd.com)
- That’s Why God Made The Radio – The Beach Boys New Album and Single (musicofourheart.me)
- The Beach Boys Bring California Dreamin’ To NYC On Reunion Tour (kymx.radio.com)