Category: Brian Wilson

Album review: The Beach Boys' 'That's Why God Made the Radio'

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One of the more difficult tasks for a critic is to assess an anticipated new work by a legendary act, one beloved by generations not only for its transcendent sounds but the ways in which it helped define an entire region at a key moment in its history.

To wit, the Beach Boys' “That's Why God Made the Radio,” the band's first new album in 16 years and one that celebrates the archetypal Southern California group's 50th anniversary. With 12 songs about life, love and the passage of time delivered through themes that the group has returned to repeatedly over the years — summer fun, perfect moments in the sun and co-founder Brian Wilson's odes to loneliness — the release is a Beach Boys album through and through. 

And though uneven, the group's 29th studio work (including 2011's “The Smile Sessions”) contains a number of elegant, shockingly beautiful moments that not only do justice to and expand on the sound of Southern California in the 1960s but serve as a bittersweet and at times heartbreakingly brilliant coda to five decades in music.

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Beach Boys with Glen Campbell at Grammys--wouldn't it be nice?

Beach Boys with Glen Campbell at Grammys--wouldn't it be nice?The Grammy Awards telecast prides itself on creating unexpected or historic collaborations among performers, a tradition that’s led to some of the most memorable moments in Grammy night history (Eminem and Elton John singing “Stan” in 2001) and some we’re happy to forget (Paul McCartney, Jay-Z and Linkin Park on “Yesterday/Numb/Encore” in 2006).

This year’s show continues that practice with the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary reunion performance, during which the venerable sun and surf outfit will team up with the relative whippersnappers in Foster the People and Maroon 5.

Elsewhere on the show, country-pop singer and guitarist Glen Campbell will be joined by the Band Perry and Blake Shelton for a segment celebrating the Lifetime Achievement Award being given to Campbell, who has seen an outpouring of affection and support from fans since he announced last year that he is living with Alzheimer’s disease and has embarked on a series of live shows that is being billed as his farewell tour.

PHOTOS: Grammy Awards: 10 burning questions

Given the players involved, it’s hard not to yearn for a spot that would put Campbell together with the Beach Boys one more, and one last time.

Longtime Beach Boys and Campbell watchers know that Campbell played on many of the group’s studio recordings and actually became a Beach Boy for a time, taking over on bass for Brian Wilson when he decided to abandon touring to focus on his increasingly sophisticated ideas about the group’s records, which he produced and arranged as well as wrote or co-wrote and sang on.

Wilson has been making a steady comeback for more than a decade from a couple of nervous breakdowns, drug abuse and other issues that interrupted his once-brilliant career, and now Campbell is gracefully—and bravely—closing out a career that’s had many ups and a few downs.

Bringing these two battle-scarred, ‘60s survivors together would be more than sweet nostalgia. It could yield a powerful testimonial to perseverance against extraordinary odds, the kind of once-in-a-lifetime musical moment millions of viewers would be able to cherish.

How moving would it be to see Wilson and Campbell, with a lot of help from Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks, harmonize on the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” or maybe Campbell’s 1969 hit “Try a Little Kindness”—and let Campbell flex those still nimble fingers on an electric guitar solo, as he did so confidently Monday night at the Grammy Museum?

The odds are against it—with so many moving parts, it’s unlikely Grammy show coordinators would be able to toss another variable into the mix.

But, as someone once sang, wouldn’t it be nice?

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Fading with grace

He can't suppress a 'Smile'

Official version of Beach Boys' 'Smile' is released

--Randy Lewis

Photo of Carl Wilson, left, and Glen Campbell on tour with the Beach Boys in 1964. Credit: Unknown.

Surviving Beach Boys will reunite for Grammy Awards performance

The Beach Boys will reunite for 2012 Grammy Awards show
The surviving members of the Beach Boys will reunite for their first public performance in more than two decades Sunday at the 54th Grammy Awards ceremony at Staples Center.

Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks, who previously announced plans for a 2012 reunion tour to mark the Southern California group’s 50th anniversary, are slated to be joined by nominees Foster the People and Maroon 5 during the performance segment.

The Beach Boys have never won a Grammy, although Wilson picked up the rock instrumenal award in 2004 for the track “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” from “Brian Wilson Presents Smile,” his latter-day completion of the Beach Boys project that was shelved in 1967.

Grammy show producers had hoped to trumpet the Beach Boys’ performance in November when nominations were announced, but details had not been finalized at that point.

Two members of the band's original lineup -- drummer Dennis Wilson and singer-guitarist Carl Wilson -- died in 1983 and 1998, respectively. Johnston joined the band in 1965 after Brian Wilson opted out of touring to focus on overseeing the group's recordings.

Before Johnston came on board, Wilson had been replaced briefly on tour by a recording session guitarist who had worked on some of their recordings: Glen Campbell, who will appear Sunday to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy. Campbell is scheduled for his own performance with nominated country acts Blake Shelton and the Band Perry.

Other performers who have been added to Sunday’s show include the alt-country duo Civil Wars, jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall, funk musician Maceo Parker and rock singer-guitarist Joe Walsh. Previously announced performers include Adele, Paul McCartney, Rihanna, Tony Bennett, Bruce Spingsteen & the E Street Band, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift.

The show will air from 8 to 11:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS-TV.

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Grammys: Is a Beach Boys reunion in the works?

Official version of Beach Boys' 'Smile' is released

The Beach Boys announce 50th anniversary reunion

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of the Beach Boys in 1963, from left: Dennis Wilson, David Marks, Carl Wilson, Mike Love and Brian Wilson. Credit: Pendleton Woolen Mills 1963.

She & Him's holiday nod to the Beach Boys

She & Him She & Him

This is the 15th year I’ve sorted through the annual deluge of holiday releases to assemble The Times' roundup of the new and most noteworthy additions to the ever-expanding universe of yuletide music. Among the most refreshing to my ears is “A Very She & Him Christmas,” the duo with singer-actress Zooey Deschanel and guitarist-singer-songwriter M. Ward.

Their new album is sweetly down to earth, sounding as if they recorded it in someone’s living room or basement, and the tracks are primarily seasonal classics, including “Sleigh Ride,” “Silver Bells,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Blue Christmas” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

One act that’s represented more than once is the Beach Boys, from which Deschanel and Ward drew “Little Saint Nick” and the less-frequently covered “Christmas Day,” both from “The Beach Boys Christmas Album” originally released in 1964.

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The Beach Boys announce 50th anniversary reunion

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For years, there have been the Beach Boys, and there has been Brian Wilson, and the two rarely intersected. The pioneering SoCal pop group was so influential to pop that it was, and is, widely regarded as America's answer to the Beatles. But Wilson's involvement with the band waxed and waned over the decades, and more recently his role has been nonexistent while he resurrected such long-delayed projects as "Smile" (which the Beach Boys also revisited this year with the well received box set, "The Smile Sessions) and a solo album "That Lucky Old Sun."

Until now. The band confirmed speculation that all surviving members of the Beach Boys' mid-'60s lineup -- Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks -- will reunite for the band's 50th anniversary with a world tour and a new album on Capitol in 2012.

Wilson is producing the new album of originals, which is still being recorded. It will top a retrospective series that includes a new greatest-hits collection and a career-spanning box set, while the 50-date world tour (with dates to be announced) begins in April and includes a stop at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The Beach Boys remain the bestselling American band in the history of Neilsen/Soundscan for albums and singles. 

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Official version of the Beach Boys' "Smile" is released

Grammys: Is a Beach Boys reunion in the works?

Album review: The Beach Boys' "The Smile Sessions"

 

-- August Brown

 

Photo: Brian Wilson performs the world premiere of "Smile," the lost Beach Boys album from 1966-67, at the Royal Festival Hall, on London's South Bank, Feb. 20, 2004. Credit: Graham Barclay / For the Los Angeles Times

 

 

Grammys: Is a Beach Boys reunion in the works?

The Beach Boys in 1966

The Grammy nomination show had a notable void — where was the promised announcement of a legendary band's reunion?

CBS and the Recording Academy had publicized that Wednesday's broadcast would have the name of a historically significant band that would reunite for the February award show, but it never came. Producers were mum but sources close to the show said that talks with the band — reportedly the Beach Boys — fell apart in the 48 hours leading up to the nomination show.

There's hope, however, that the Beach Boys will still be available for the Feb. 12 Grammy Awards.

Here is what the Recording Academy promised in its press releases leading up to the nomination concert: "In addition to unveiling nominations for the 54th GRAMMY Awards, 'The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!!' will feature a special live announcement from a truly iconic group regarding their historic band reunion set to take place on the GRAMMY stage on Feb. 12, 2012."

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They story behind the release of the official version of Beach Boys' 'Smile' 

— Geoff Boucher

Photo: The Beach Boys in 1966. From left are Al Jardine, Mike Love, Dennis Wilson, Brian Wilson and Carl Wilson. Credit: Associated Press.

Buddy Holly all-star tribute concert to premiere on PBS on Dec. 3

Chris Isaak and Michelle Branch perform a Buddy Holly number at a tribute to the 1950s rock 'n' roller at the Music Box in Hollywood on Sept. 7.

This post has been updated. See below for details.

PBS will premiere “Buddy Holly: Listen To Me/The Ultimate Buddy Party” on Dec. 3 with performances of his songs by Stevie Nicks, Chris Isaak, Lyle Lovett, Graham Nash, Raul Malo, Paul Anka, Boz Scaggs and several others at a 75th birthday concert staged last month in Hollywood.

The 60-minute special captures 17 of Holly’s best-known songs along with a couple of obscurities from the Sept. 7 show at the Music Box in Hollywood, where Cobra Starship, Patrick Stump, Shawn Colvin and emcee-singer Peter Asher also gathered to celebrate Holly’s music. Others in attendance included Holly’s widow, Maria Elena Holly, and Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers, who with his brother, Don, toured with Holly before his death at age 22 in a 1959 plane crash. He would have turned 75 on Sept. 7.

The event also incorporated taped messages from other high-profile Holly fans, including Ringo Starr, Keith Richards, Brian Wilson, Jackson Browne and Monty Python alumnus Eric Idle.

Nicks sang “Not Fade Away” and “It’s So Easy”; Isaak and Michelle Branch dueted on “Heartbeat”; Nash, Scaggs and Asher teamed up for “Rave On”; Stump sang “Oh, Boy!”; and Malo handled the ballad “True Love Ways.” An all-star ensemble, also including guitarists James Burton and Albert Lee and a cameo vocal by Everly, finished the show with “That’ll Be the Day.”

A DVD from the concert will be available as a thank-you gift to PBS subscribers who pledge at a prescribed amount during the December fundraising drive. The concert was staged conjunction with the release of the second of two Holly tribute albums this year: "Listen to Me: Buddy Holly," which featured most of the same performers at the Music Box show. The other album, "Rave On Buddy Holly,"  featured another batch of Holly devotees, including Paul McCartney, Nick Lowe, Lou Reed, She & Him, Patti Smith and Cee Lo Green, offering new takes on his music.

Update, 5:05 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said a DVD of the concert would be issued next year. The DVD will be offered during pledge drive as a thank you to subscribers. 

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-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Michelle Branch and Chris Isaak sing Buddy Holly's "Heartbeat" at the Music Box in Hollywood in September. Credit: Lester Cohen / WireImage.

Brian Wilson discusses his new 'In the Key of Disney'

Brian Wilson Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson’s music has consistently acknowledged his inner child, sometimes to the extent of obscuring his outer adult. So there’s a certain logic to the former Beach Boy putting his spin on songs from the Disney archives with his latest album, “In the Key of Disney,” which came out Tuesday.

“The album has humor in it, it has sweetness in it and a little uptempo music in it,” Wilson, 69, said while seated on a sofa in the living room of his Beverly Hills home last week. “All the Disney lyrics are good; every single one of those lyrics is good.”

It’s the sound of the other shoe dropping on the two-album deal he signed with the Disney Pearl label, the first of which, “Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin,” surfaced last year, and included his completion of two song fragments George Gershwin left behind when he died in 1937 at age 38.

Wilson didn’t have to finish any uncompleted work this time, but he applied his signature arranging, orchestration and vocal harmonies to a dozen songs from recent-vintage Disney films including “Toy Story 3” (“We Belong Together”) and “The Lion King” (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight”) back to such quintessential movies as “Dumbo” (“Baby Mine”) and “Pinocchio” (“When You Wish Upon a Star”).

The latter song was the first thing that sprang to mind for Wilson when Disney Pearl execs broached the idea of him singing an album’s worth of Disney songs.

“I knew right away I wanted to do that one,” Wilson said, “because I’d heard Rosemary Clooney sing it. It’s a wonderful tune.” To illustrate the point, he started humming the opening of the song a cappella, adding, “It’s got beautiful ascending and descending lines.”

Another facet of the appeal of that song, he said, is that it originated with his favorite Disney film.  “'Pinocchio’ is the one I like the most. That’s my very favorite Disney character.”

“In the Key of Disney” includes a pair of songs written by one of Wilson’s contemporaries and another of the most gifted composer-arrangers in all of pop music: Randy Newman. Along with “We Belong Together,” Wilson opens the album with the theme song from the first entry in the  “Toy Story” franchise, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

Newman’s trove of work aside from his film scoring over the last 30 years didn’t escape Wilson’s notice.

“I bought ‘Sail Away’ in 1972, listened to it and it blew my brains, it really did,” Wilson said. “He’s a helluva music guy. ‘I Love L.A.,’ that was great one too.”

The man who once sang “columnated ruins domino” in “Surf’s  Up,” for which he collaborated with lyricist Van Dyke Parks, said he chose to take on the ballad “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas” because “It’s a very interesting lyric, to tell you the truth. I can’t describe it — it’s just a really crazy lyric; really crazy lyric.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer saved perhaps his greatest praise, however, for “Stay Awake,” the lullaby from “Mary Poppins,” a film that came out the same year Wilson and the Beach Boys were flying high on the pop charts with hits including “Fun, Fun Fun” and “I Get Around.”

“Stay Awake” never attracted as much attention as that film’s upbeat numbers “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Chim Chim Cheree” and “A Spoonful of Sugar.” But to Wilson, composer of heart-rending ballads such as “God Only Knows” and “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Stay Awake” is “the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard."

"I love that song, I love it,” he said. “It’s just the prettiest song I’ve ever heard. I don’t know what it is about it. Even ‘Strangers in the Night’: Well, that’s a pretty tune. But ‘Stay Awake’ is even prettier.”

His exploration of songs spanning more than half a century of pop songwriting reinforced his feeling that “Songwriting has evolved a little bit. I think it reached its peak in the '60s. There were some [good songs] in the '70s also, but I think it all wound up in the '60s as the renaissance.”

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Brian Wilson waxes rhapsodic on Gershwin

Brian Wilson on Gershwin's music

He can't suppress a 'Smile'

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Brian Wilson samples the Disney catalog on his new album. Credit:  Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times.

“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,”

Beach Boys' lost 'Smile' recordings to be released Nov. 1

Smile 1
 The Beach Boys’ long-ago shelved “Smile” sessions will finally see the light of day in official form on Nov. 1, when Capitol Records releases a double album set nearly 45 years after the material was recorded and seven years after group leader Brian Wilson completed and re-recorded his own version of the fabled “lost” album.

“Smile” was planned as the follow-up to “Pet Sounds,” now widely hailed as one of the greatest albums of the rock era, and one that famously was an inspiration for the Beatles to record “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in order to top their stateside competitors.

Capitol will release “The Smile Sessions” material in several configurations, including a 40-track, two-CD set, a vinyl two-LP edition and an expanded box set with five CDs plus the vinyl double album, two 7-inch singles and a digital copy.

In 1966 and 1967, Wilson recorded extensively, working to bring “Smile” together. But between dissension over his adventuresome musical direction from both other members of the group and Capitol executives as well as the group's efforts to launch its own label, Brother Records, the "Smile" album, originally titled "Dumb Angel" and described by Wilson as "a teenage symphony to God," was shelved. Wilson suffered a nervous breakdown, the deterioration of his mental health exacerbated by drug abuse.

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Cameron Crowe's Elton John-Leon Russell doc, 'The Union,' to premiere tonight at Tribeca Film Festival

Elton John-Hollywood Palladium 11-2010 Luis Sinco

Leon Russell-Hollywood Palladium 11-2010 Luis Sinco

New York's Tribeca Film Festival kicks off tonight with the world premiere of "The Union," Cameron Crowe's documentary in which the director immerses himself in his first love: rock music.

It's a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the album of the same name that brought Elton John back together after nearly four decades with his own musical hero, Leon Russell. It yielded the duo a Grammy nomination and helped usher Russell into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month.

Music producer T Bone Burnett let Crowe bring cameras into the recording sessions early last year at The Village recording studio in West Los Angeles while they came up with the new songs for the album and recorded them under Burnett's guidance, everything transpiring as Russell was recuperating from brain surgery he’d undergone shortly before the sessions got underway.

Rock music has played a central role in Crowe's feature films, including "Almost Famous" and "Jerry Maguire," a reflection of his background as a rock journalist long before he became a film director. In addition to capturing the main participants, the film also includes segments with the album's guest artists, including Neil Young and Brian Wilson. John will follow tonight's free outdoor screening with a performance.

-- Randy Lewis

Photos: Elton John and Leon Russell at the Hollywood Palladium in November during their tour for "The Union." Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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