Ten years after its initial digital release this album’s most historic moment resides in “Don’t Fight The Sea,” a recording that reunites The Beach Boys (sans Dennis Wilson). But that’s just one aspect of what makes A Postcard From California special; it’s one man’s musical journey through the history of The Beach Boys and how he was affected by the myriad of life experiences that career path brought him. And, because he’s a Beach Boy, the collection is replete with colorful California visions.
Broad swooping strokes of musical and American history are the foundation, and like a great painting, the music here creates feelings and interpretations from the variations of colors and images. There are great moments of depth, strokes of expression, and ageless vision that could only come from a “Jardine musical canvas.” Although this collection isn’t purely autobiographical; it masterfully captures the transient lifestyle of his biological family as well as the musical consciousness of The Beach Boys.
The album captures the amalgam of Al’s musical path with older material re-recorded and mixed with a settling earthiness: “California Feelin’,” “Looking Down The Coast,” “Don’t Fight The Sea,” “Campfire Scene,” “A California Saga,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Honkin’ Down The Highway” and “And I Always Will” all originated during Al’s Beach Boys years. “San Simeon” borrows a bit of its melody from “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Drivin’” borrows a bit from The Moody Blues’ “Tuesday Afternoon,” but the artistic strokes that Al makes on these recordings are exactly what I’ve always envisioned him doing … standing at the edge of Pfeiffer Beach with his paintbrush in hand working on a painting that he started over 30 years ago. The painting is aged, the paint dried and the canvass is weathered and cracked. Now, he’s finishing it. It’s everything you could hope for from a Beach Boy album project; a full Americana visualization.
The album features a multitude of guest stars: Brian Wilson, David Marks, Glen Campbell, David Crosby, Neil Young, Steve Miller, Gerry Beckley & Dewey Bunnell (America), actor Alec Baldwin and Flea (The Red Hot Chili Peppers).
As eclectically impressive as this group of musicians and performers is, the real highlight for Beach Boys fans is the aforementioned “Don’t Fight the Sea,” a song that had its inception in the late 1970s (with Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston on the chorus). It took Jardine 10-plus years to get Brian on the song (in the late eighties), another 10 years to add Carl to the bridge, and another decade to add Mike Love. It’s a shifting mélange of the irrepressible essence of The Beach Boys sound that fits perfectly into Al’s ecological vernacular, and the group’s worldly concerns with the environment. It really is one of the best Beach Boys songs never released by The Beach Boys.
Whether it’s the poignant title track about Jardine’s family’s migration and nomadic lifestyle, the sincere examination of the California coastline on “Looking Down the Coast,” the fun but pointed lyrics of “Drivin’,” the Beach Boys’ Party! album vibe on “Help Me Rhonda,” or the poetic shift of “Tidepool Interlude” (as recited by Alec Baldwin), this is a song cycle that illustrates the culmination of Al’s personal and musical life in the best sense. Yet, as steady as this collection feels, the standout recording for me is the pop-friendly “San Simeon,” featuring Matt and Adam Jardine on background vocals. The Jardine boys make this song – as well as every track they sing on – Beach Boys beautiful.
The bonus tracks on the physical CD released in 2012 include:
“Waves Of Love” — another (almost) Beach Boys era song that briefly includes Carl Wilson.
“Sloop John B (A Pirate’s Tale)” — a nice collector’s recording if you don’t have the out of print children’s book … the track is so great, I wish Al would release this recording without the vocals.
While hard-core fans will be familiar with most of the material on this album, Al brings new life and vigor to the well-known chestnuts and completely recaptures his environmental sensibilities while providing the listener with an organically-produced experience: Simple and complex.
Visit Aljardine.com and Al’s Facebook and Twitter pages for upcoming release news.
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