By David Wills
There have been a number of tribute albums to Brian Wilson and/or The Beach Boys over the years but American Daydream by musician Jeremy Warmsley ranks as the most unique by far. It’s a concept album telling the story of Brian Wilson to (presumably) Brian Wilson himself since the lyrics are mostly sung in the second person. On one hand, you could think of it as the most elaborate fan letter anyone has ever received, but Warmsley is also using Brian’s story to explore his own ideas about fatherhood, family, and mental illness. He does all of this while recreating the musical aesthetic Brian was using when he experienced the events Warmsley is singing about. For example, the song “On Top of the World” is about Brian’s mental breakdown in December of 1964 which genuinely sounds like a lost Beach Boys hit from that year.
Favorite cuts on the album include “California Boys” which skirts perilously close to sounding like a Wikipedia entry on The Beach Boys (the group members are literally name-checked in the chorus …including Bruce) but is so guileless and melodic that it’s effortlessly charming. Other standouts are – the son of “Let’s-Go-Away-For-a-While” – “Daydream Together” and “Brother Sound,” a song about how Carl and Dennis picked up the slack and began writing and producing music themselves as Brian gradually relinquished his control over The Beach Boys. It sounds like an outtake from the 20/20 album, so the point is well made.
The track “Fathers and Sons (Part 2)” is one of the better homages to the SMiLE album I’ve heard … and believe me I’ve heard a lot!
Although Brian Wilson’s band stalwarts Probyn Gregory and Paul Von Mertens contribute to the album, this sounds more like Warmsley pulling a Brian himself and orchestrating everything on his own. The whole is more labor of love than slavish pastiche. I finished listening to the album, enjoyed it thoroughly but was disappointed that it didn’t take Brian’s story even further along in the timeline. Perhaps a song in the style of Brian Wilson ‘88? Or the Joe Thomas years?
The best thing about a daydream is that there’s always another day to dream right around the corner.
Order the album HERE
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