Half Year Full, Half Year Empty

June 30th, 2016

Trios Halfway through 2016, it’s easy to see the glass half  empty – and the litany of entertainers we have lost in this period was increased by the passing of Rob Wasserman -best known to Brian Wilson fans for Fantasy Is Reality/Bells Of Madness. The world seems a bit angrier, less kind and crazier than six months ago.

But there some water in the wilderness -from Colombia to the fantastic new music from the Explorers Club, and of course, Brian Wilson touring his greatest work 50 years on. We trust and hope the glass will get fuller in the second half of the year.

 

It Really Is Time To Get Together

June 24th, 2016

The Explorers Club's profile photoIt’s already a cliche to say it’s been a tough year with more bad news than good -yet there have been a few shards of great joy. Brian Wilson performing his greatest work 50 years after it’s release is one; Leicester City winning the English Premier League is another. And now you can add to the list the release today of The Explorers Club third album, Together.

Readers of this blog will know my love of their first two albums, Freedom Wind and Grand Hotel. The quality of these two records certainly made the release of Together a much awaited event, and I am very glad to report that it doesn’t disappoint. While the record remains firmly faithful to the Brian Wilson sound, there is a harmonic quality to the album that takes it well past the realms of simply copying the California to something that is both transcendent and much needed in these disharmonious times. A reference point may be the Beach Boys album Sunflower, and this is to the extent that this record is very much the equal of the 1970 Beach Boys fan favorite album.

One can see the love and care that has been put it into all eleven of the main tracks of the album, but some of the standouts include California’s Callin’ Ya, simply one of the great tunes of this decade and with that ethereal quality similar to From There To Back Again, and Before I’m Gone,  with it’s fabulous ending. Quietly and Don’t Waste Her Time are timeless pop singles, while the title track will rightfully get you singing along in your head, even if it isn’t playing.

This year, including today’s events, we have heard a lot about a world that seems to be drifting apart. So now, more than ever, it really is time to get Together.

When I’m 74

June 20th, 2016

Both Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney are now 10 years older than the mythical age from the Beatles classic When I’m 64. Of course, both are going strong and there is much to celebrate as Brian takes a short break during his tour showcasing his greatest work. Happy birthday, Brian..and thanks!

Pet Sounds Day

June 17th, 2016

As the Brian Wilson roadshow rolls on, despite lingering European jetlag, to bring light into a world seemingly consumed by darkness, the City of Boston seem to have got it right, proclaiming today Pet Sounds day.

More Light In The Darkness

June 12th, 2016

On the day of an unspeakable tragedy in Florida, it’s worth reminding readers about some more light in the darkness…the upcoming album Together from the Explorer’s Club, and the fantastic already released single, California’ Callin’ Ya. Have a look at the video, to remind you of the sunshine and good side of America. And buy the single, to support a fantastic band (and get a nifty B-side which would have fitted well on Friends. )

Bringing Light To The Darkness

June 11th, 2016

The European/Middle East section of the Pet Sounds 50 tour is now complete, after final shows in Israel and Portugal. There was some poignancy to the Tel Aviv show, with the show taking place on the same night as the tragic shooting there, but as this review suggests, Brian’s music brought some sun into the darkness.

Brian Wilson pictures

June 8th, 2016

I’ve posted some Brian Wilson concert pictures from the two shows that I attended in Birmingham (17 May) and London (22 May), the full album is on this site’s Facebook page, but I’ve put two tasters below.

Back From The USSR

June 2nd, 2016

I’ve been travelling a bit -not only to the UK to see some of the Pet Sounds 50 shows, but also to Russia for a conference and a bit of tourism. I’m still catching up with things, and remembering the Moscow restaurant that played 3 Beach Boys songs in an evening (including God Only Knows). Last night also marked the end of Brian’s UK tour – one which seemed to have started with mixed reviews, and ended with a sense that Brian has a lot more to give.

Joy in the streets of London, joy in the streets of Birmingham

May 23rd, 2016

I had the privilege to attend two of the recent Brian Wilson shows in England- the Birmingham show which was the first after the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds, and the last London show at the Palladium. I have been lucky enough to see Brian solo a few times around the world, as well as at the Beach Boys 50 shows, and again it was very special to see the shows marking the 50th anniversary of the most acclaimed album of the world.

It is true that this is not the Brian even from the 2012 reunion shows , let alone from 1966. But to judge the shows purely on the charisma of the lead performer is always missing the point – this is the creator of some of the greatest music of all time, and he is still willing to share it all with us. Even if he is restricted to more lower parts, it is still his show, supported wonderfully by the whole band, including Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin, who were both an integral part of the evenings.

These may be the last Brian shows I go to. They were also the first shows I went to with my partner, and it was very special to share this great music. Brian is still here and still able to make musical dreams come true.

Setlist

 

Part 1

Our Prayer

Heroes And Villains

California Girls

Dance Dance Dance

I Get Around

Shut Down

Little Deuce Coupe

Little Honda

Please Let Me Wonder (London only)

In My Room

Surfer Girl

Don’t Worry Baby

Wake The World

Then I Kissed Her (Birmingham only)

Add Some Music

Cottonfields USA (London only)

Do It Again

One Kind Of Love

Wild Honey

Funky Pretty

Sail On Sailor

 

Part 2

Pet Sounds album

(Encore)

Good Vibrations

All Summer Long

Help Me Rhonda

Barbara Ann

Surfin’ USA

Fun Fun Fun

Love And Mercy

The Big 50th For Pet Sounds

May 16th, 2016

In the greater scheme of the universe, 50 years is the blinking of an eye; but for most people on the planet in 2016, 50 years is another world away. We can certainly idealize the world of 1966, but in many respects it was also a divided, sometimes fearful place then…Vietnam, the Cold War, apartheid, fears of nuclear war.  It wasn’t necessarily a better place, just a different place. Certainly, the arrival of a new Beach Boys album wouldn’t have been greeted with tweets and Facebook posts, and be instantly dissected online on fan forums.

But no doubt, the arrival of a new album by one of the top groups in the UK and USA would have been discussed by fans. No doubt some may have found it surprisingly downbeat from a group that was churning out “surf and turf” hits two years ago. A few may have noted some continuity from the production values from the Today album, a year before that. No doubt, they would have heard some sounds that they wouldn’t expect on a rock-and-roll record. Some may have listened to the lyrics, and felt an immediate connection with their own lives.

It didn’t burn up the charts -at least in the USA. But gradually, it would appear that the critical consensus was that Brian Wilson’s genius was an even more indisputable fact, and that the Beach Boys were leading the production race against the Beatles. Pet Sounds was reputation was born, and grew over the 50 years, to the extent that it has become statistically the most acclaimed album of all time.

And what is the reason for all the acclaim? Maybe it comes down to what the NME stated in 1993 “proof that swooning emotions, pearling harmonies and lines about missing your girl are still valid.” It certainly runs the gamut of emotions from joy to despair, doing that through music that is innovative, melodic, harmonic and simply beautiful. There is surely not a life on earth who cannot identify with the hope of Wouldn’t It Be Nice, the romantic ideal of Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) and the disappointment of Caroline, No. 2016 has certainly provided the world with plenty of disappointments, and some hopes. No doubt 1966 was the same for those around on the day Pet Sounds was released. Over the 50 years, it has been the soundtrack for many people to give a voice to their hopes, and to share and sometimes even heal those painful moments.

So happy big 50th birthday Pet Sounds. You’re not getting older, just more relevant. And you were made for these times.