Brian Wilson Basks in the Warmth of the California Sun this month
with Several Special Events and Concerts around the Release of
his new “That Lucky Old Sun” DVD.
I have been writing about Brian Wilson and his own undeniable brand of melodic magic for just about as long as I have been listening to his music. Which, I’d easily wager, has been longer than some of you reading have been alive. And throughout those four-decades-plus, I have managed to somehow separate not only the good and the bad – and I’m not just speaking musically – but the hype from the hope as well. Whenever that was possible, of course.
That said, I take no particular pride, nor shame, in adding myself to the untold tens of thousands worldwide who have been reading the myriad press releases from Brian Wilson’s various labels and PR folk over the years, routinely promising us another Pet Sounds …only to lead us way down near Kokomo instead, more often that not.
So then it was in 2008, as in 1998 (the Imagination album and concerts), 1988 (Brian’s eponymous solo debut), and clear back to at least 1976 (remember that good ol’ mega-media “Brian is Back!” campaign?) we faithfully turned earbuds up, only to be shut clear down by one false note after another. Save for the odd bootlegged “rough” mix or overlooked soundtrack gem – compare, for example, the pure rustic SoCal charm of the unvarnished “Orange Crate Art,” performed by just Brian and his longtime partner-in-pop Van Dyke Parks in the I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times film, against the wholly overwrought version eventually released on the pair’s album – following Brian Wilson’s career on record has been, well, dicey to say the least.
Last May the latest Press Release came our way, boasting…
…One of popular music’s most deeply revered figures, a legendary writer, producer, arranger and performer of some of the most cherished music in rock history… one of the most gifted and influential pop composers of the last fifty years… announces his return to Capitol Records / EMI, his original label home. Wilson’s new studio recording, That Lucky Old Sun, will be released on CD, CD/DVD, limited edition vinyl and digitally on September 2.
This indeed piqued, once more, the interest of Wilson faithful the world over. In fact, as the man himself said, “I’m thrilled to be back home with Capitol, and I’m looking forward to sharing That Lucky Old Sun with everyone. This music is really special to me.”
Inspired by Louis Armstrong’s 1949 classic of the same name, Brian and band not only returned to Capitol, but to the actual Capitol Studios right there at Hollywood and Vine (which, legend has it, our hero has boycotted in favor of superior rooms and engineers ever since 1963’s Surfin’ USA sessions) to produce his latest forty-minute song cycle, drenched in deep high harmonies, melodic twists only he seems capable of conjuring, and for good measure some linking “vibrant spoken narratives” courtesy of the above-mentioned V.D. Parks.
But another SMiLE, Pet Sounds, Beach Boys Today (vinyl side two) or even Beach Boys Love You Brian’s latest most definitely is not. While certain key passages can undoubtedly warm the hearts of even the most cynical-by-now Wilsonite, and the production overall thankfully veers as far as possible from some of the man’s prior slapdash synth-heavy arrangements, That Lucky Old Sun is, as no less an authority as Carl Wilson would say, a bunt instead of a grand slam.
However, should we honestly expect new works of wonder from an admittedly troubled sixty-six-year-old man at this point in his, not to mention our, lives? For those still finding a contemporary McCartney or Stones release reason for excitement or even edification, a new Brian Wilson album can never ever fail to bring comparable pleasures at least. But those who like our music to grow with us as opposed to despite us should always take refuge instead in the relatively modern times of Dylan or Neil Young. Or bask instead even in li’l brother Dennis’ available-again Pacific Ocean Blue, “a whiskey and coke-fueled classic with great Seventies production values” as it was quite rightfully hailed over there at mog.com last summer.
And today, deep in the depths of yet another seemingly endless winter comes this latest digital dispatch:
A companion to Wilson’s critically-acclaimed That Lucky Old Sun album, the DVD features more than two and a half hours of content. In addition to the new “Going Home” documentary, the DVD includes a full-length performance of his latest album, filmed live at Capitol Studios on May 19, 2008 in 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo audio. Bonus features include track-by-track audio commentary for the live Capitol Studios performance by Wilson and his That Lucky Old Sun lyricist and band member, Scott Bennett, behind-the-scenes footage from the album’s recording sessions, and Wilson’s recent interviews and performances for Yahoo! Music, MySpace and “Black Cab Sessions.”
The dawning of a new California morning for Brian Wilson, That Lucky Old Sun continues the awe-inspiring concept album journey that he first began four decades ago. Lyrically and in Wilson’s incomparably lush, evocative arrangements, That Lucky Old Sun adds a new chapter to Wilson’s conceptual presentations.
That may very well be. But to be on the safest side at this extremely late stage in the Beach Boy game, I defer instead to the spot-on-as-always savant simplicity of the perpetually grounded Master Himself:
“You don’t have to climb the Capitol Tower,
or play the Hollywood Bowl,
if there’s a roll in your heart,
and a rock in your soul…”
For more information, visit www.ThatLuckyOldSun.net
Gary Pig Gold