By David Beard
For this review, I want to strictly write about the new recordings because the demos aren’t representative of Brian’s return to the recording studio. There are many demos from Brian’s career available now on BrianWilson.com. (When you click on the link, scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll be in for a treat.) If you’re interested in learning more about the demos and Brian’s work with Andy Paley, then I strongly recommend you purchase the Winter 2015 edition of ESQ (Issue #112), which features an extensive interview with Andy Paley about his work with Brian, and the Winter 2018 (Issue #124) edition, which celebrates the 30th anniversary of Brian’s first self-titled 1988 solo album.
Although this soundtrack was released digitally on Friday. Nov. 26, 2021, with little to no promotion the sentiment among fans seemed to be that they wanted a physical copy. Finally, over half a year later, the CD form will be released on Friday, June 17.
Soundtrack/new recordings personnel:
- Brian Wilson – vocals
- Blondie Chaplin – guitar and vocals
- Jim James – vocals
- Darian Sahanaja – keyboard and vocals
- Nick Walusko – guitar and vocals
- Mike D’Amico – drums
- Probyn Gregory – bass, guitar, and vocals
- Paul Von Mertens – sax, flute, and clarinet
- Gary Griffin – keyboard and vocals
- Rob Bonfiglio – bass, guitar, and vocals
- Jim Laspesa – percussion and vocals
Right Where I Belong (Jim James/Brian Wilson)
I love listening to this song from the standpoint of the track because it’s lush with ‘archetypical’ Wilson-esque pop-infused motifs of swirling chord changes unique to Brian’s ‘vibe.’ The opening’s dirge-like pace is alien to my ears, so much so that I feel as though I’m being pulled by Brian’s voice, but I’m not sure where. The drumbeat opposite the tambourine provides the needed heartbeat pulse visual that acts as energy running through the song. Jim James of My Morning Jacket sings the falsetto lead, which has touches of Pet Sounds ‘feels.’
As the opening – used as a bridge throughout the song – segues and the strings come in, Brian’s voice opens the room with its expected off-the-cuff delivery, which takes you seamlessly through the verses. The lyrics, written by Jim James, were taken from various Brian quotes as journaled by Jason Fine in his various Rolling Stone articles about Brian. And it works. The song sonically flickers like an old candle … a shadow of Brian’s work on Pet Sounds, and because James developed the lyrics using Brian’s own words, the song is remarkably personal. If you think “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” and “Here Today,” you will get the energy. In other words, this song could have just as easily been written by Brian and his Pet Sounds co-star Tony Asher.
As the song progresses, the choruses – sung by James – harken back to Brian and Carnie Wilson’s recording of “Fantasy Is Reality/Bells Of Madness” – a song written by Sam Phillips, Rob Wasserman, and Brian – from Wasserman’s 1994 Trios album.
By the second verse, the song structure builds with the addition of an acoustic guitar shimmering atop strings. Once that’s coupled with the lyrical intonation of Brian’s aged voice, everything crystallizes, and the drum/tambourine combo returns to the track. And there’s no getting around the joy I feel when Brian sings “To be the greatest ever center fielder the Yankees ever seen, was my ambition but I got sidetracked into the music biz.” It’s so ‘spot-on.’ Brian really did want to play for the Yankees, and the words, ‘my ambition’ could have easily been the title of this song. Ultimately, once I dialed into the ‘feels,’ I was immersed in the recording.
It’s O.K. (Brian Wilson/Mike Love)
Hopefully, you already know this song from The Beach Boys’ 15 Big Ones album. If not, check it out! Brian’s cousin, Mike Love, covered this song in 2018 with the group Hanson, and like that version, this recording is ‘fun.’ Here, Brian’s weathered vocals serve as the perfect counterpart to the high-octane pace of the overall track and band energy. The best part? Like all the new recordings, this was recorded ‘live’ in the studio, and much of the footage is included in the new documentary.
Rock & Roll Has Got A Hold On Me (Brian Wilson)
If you happen to be a longtime fan of Brian’s, then you might hear the commonality between the verse melody and 1991’s “Country Feelin’,” which first appeared in the Disney collection For Our Children, a compilation to benefit the Pediatric Aids Foundation. Here, that melody serves as the verse music. The chorus – handled by Brian’s band – shifts into a steady early 1960s style doo-wop vamp. It’s fun, and I think that’s the point. But, for me, the best part of the song is the bridge when Brian does his own vamp. Overall, this type of song from Brian is a nice surprise, but (because it was recorded live) I can see this being developed and worked on a bit more for a future project.
The Night Was So Young (Brian Wilson)
I love this recording because I loved the original from 1977’s Love You album. This song has always been a favorite of mine, so it’s nice to see it revisited. The track and vocals are astounding.
Honeycomb (Bob Merrill)
This song is far and away the most fun of the new bunch of recordings. Couple that with the video footage of the session used in the documentary, and you get the gist. I’m totally cool with Brian doing an album of recordings like this if that’s where his head is at. I mean, it’s like ‘music to the rescue,’ so it’s not at all that surprising that Brian comes to life on these songs.
Long Promised Road (Carl Wilson/Jack Rieley)
Somber, as it should be, it softly saunters in as Blondie Chaplin begins to sing the first verse. The dramatic shift between verse and chorus pulls the song into the perfect sustain and shifts back into verse two. This time Jim James takes the lead. James’ voice is not Wilson-esque, but it structurally works here. This song could easily be covered by My Morning Jacket.
Throughout the recording, Brian’s band knocks the vocals out of the park. Spot on! Particularly when Rob Bonfiglio’s voice knifes through on the “down, down, down” as the chorus fades. As the second chorus transitions into the bridge, Brian takes the lead as the song builds around him. Blondie’s guitar work is also stellar. This really is a beautiful tribute to Carl Wilson, and a more than a fitting name for Brian’s new documentary.
You can order the CD HERE (among other places). NOTE: There are rumors that a vinyl version of the soundtrack is in the works, but nothing has been confirmed at this time.
©2022 David M. Beard/All Rights Reserved