Sunday, November 11, 2007

Review #24 (Part Two): Brian Wilson- The Bonus Tracks

By 1999, Brian Wilson got back on his feet and began to tour. It started simple: he’d just go out and do his Beach Boys and solo songs. A few from Brian Wilson and a few from 1998’s Imagination. Then, he started performing Pet Sounds in its entirety. Next, in 2004, he unveiled SMiLE to the world, and now he’s touring Europe with That Lucky Old Sun. At that point, though, Brian Wilson was not available anymore on the market and Rhino, a subsidiary of Warner, reissued it in 2000 for the world to either take a second look at it, or look at it for the first time. This release includes a whopping 14 bonus tracks, plus one unlisted. So, with the album proper previously reviewed in part one, here’s “Part Two: The Bonus Tracks”!

The large load of tracks is bookended by excerpts from a promotional interview done for the album. It kicks off with Brian on “Love And Mercy”. Backed by a piano solo version of the song and then the album track, Brian explains his thoughts on the seminal track of the album. It’s kind of interesting to hear Brian’s thoughts in 1988 and I love his notion that it’s about the giving, not the receiving of awards. The track ends with a full-fledged solo piano version, albeit too short.
The songs kick off with He Couldn’t Get His Poor Old Body To Move. It was co-produced with Lindsey Buckingham, of all people. The track could have fit on the album and was issued as the B-Side to “Love And Mercy”. The track is nothing really amazing, but the lyrics are rather humorous, especially if you know about the stories of Brian’s constant eating and gigantic weight gain during the seventies.
Being With The One You Love was the B-Side to “Night Time” and is a much better song, to tell you the truth. It is just another track that proves how essential the actual Beach Boys harmonies were to Brian. His deep, low vocals are nothing compared to how Mike could have done it and the responses during the verses would be perfect slots for Carl, Al and Dennis.
Let’s Go To Heaven In My Car and Too Much Sugar were the sides of a single issued a year prior to the LP. “Let’s Go To Heaven…,” co-written with Gary Usher, was on the soundtrack of a movie. The song is sort of a nice throwback to the tracks found on Little Deuce Coup. The lyrics are rather odd (“I only know it’s time for body contact…”) and the searing guitar solos sound as out of place on a Beach Boy record as the solo in “Bluebirds Over The Mountain” did. The female backing vocals are absolutely hilarious. I can just see Brian in a studio leading all these girls! "Too Much Sugar" wasn’t in the movie and is another health-conscious song, with a hilarious Love You style sound. The chorus is just way over the top-funny, with a line like “Move it all around just like Jane Fonda, now/It’ll be a brand new you!”
“Too Much Sugar” concludes the previously released non-album tracks, and the alternate versions begin with There’s So Many (Demo). There are a couple of lyrical differences, but other than that, it’s just a stripped down version of the album track, with just Brian, a keyboard, and some overdubbed vocals. Walkin’ The Line (Demo) is next. It is just like the last demo, featuring just Brian, a keyboard, and an overdubbed drum machine. There are no backing vocals on this track, though and the lyrical differences really are at a minimum.
Next is Melt Away (Early Version – Alternate Vocal). This version is nowhere near as good as the album track, and thankfully the song would go through some significant changes to get to what it is on the album.
After that is the most useless bonus track here: Night Time (Instrumental Track). I don’t know if Rhino put this here because Capitol had been doing it so much with the early Beach Boys tracks, but it is just as annoying as the version with the vocals. They couldn’t even strip off the backing vocals and it just gives me more evidence on how awful the song is.
Next, the disc goes back to a final couple of demos, Little Children (Demo) and Night Bloomin’ Jasmine (Demo). The demo of “Little Children” features just Brian, a piano and overdubbed keyboards. It’s a cut version, but removes the humor of the album version, because he doesn’t use his daughters’ names! “Night Bloomin’ Jasmine” is a full length version of a bit used in the album version of “Rio Grande”. The chorus survives in the song and the upbeat verses were cut. I feel like Brian just got this melody in his head and he needed to add some words to put it to record. Amazingly, this version was recorded in 1979, nearly a full decade before the album was recorded!
The songs conclude with Rio Grande (Early Version – Compiled Rough Mixes). A largely instrumental track, it is sort of like listening to those “Various Sessions” tracks on The Pet Sounds Sessions box set. About 2:50 into the track, there is some unused backing vocal and instrumental part and at 4:20, there’s another unused part, but for the most part, it’s just random takes of all the section of the album version.
The disc concludes with two more excerpts of the interview, Brian on “Rio Grande” and Brian on “The Source”. His take on “Rio Grande” begins with a solo piano performance and then he starts discussing the “cowboy feel,” behind some excerpts of the album track. “The Source” discussion is just about how people feel love from an album and that it is an infinite art. After that, there is a quick untitled track that combines two radio spots he recorded. The first is a Christmas message, backed by a brand new performance of “Little Saint Nick” and he promises that “You’ll be hearing from me in ’88!” The second section is a “Join The Human Race” bit that finally ends the disc.
The disc is packaged in the standard jewel case, with a booklet that exactly reproduces the LP cover (including the UPC!). The booklet is 23 pages long, with a huge David Leaf essay that ignores discussing Brinan’s state of mind (in fact Landy’s name is only name is only in the booklet once: he’s given credit as “Executive Producer”) and just talks about the music and how Brian is coming back into the public’s mind. There’s also lyrics and an extensive credits list, spread over the final two pages and lists every musician on the album.
In conclusion, the album is miles and miles above what The Beach Boys were doing at the time. The Beach Boys ’85 sounds more dated than this album does and the seven new songs on Still Crusin’ left much to be desired. On the latter is “In My Car”, a track that is similar to the work on this album, but a disappointing outtake. Clearly, Brian was holding his (and Landy’s) better songs back for Brian Wilson and it definitely shows. “Love And Mercy”, “Melt Away”, “Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long” and “Meet Me In My Dreams Tonight”, with standard Beach Boys vocals would have strengthened the songs and they would have strengthened a Beach Boys album, had they been on one. Unfortunately, band squabbling made that all hard and it is really unfortunate that it all caused the best songs to not be available.
The bonus tracks, though, don’t add anything to the magnificent album. The released non-LP songs are pretty good and provide a nice chuckle, but understandably weren’t on the otherwise serious album. Brian Wilson is a necessity for any Beach Boy fan to have and is an album you can appreciate, even if you aren’t the biggest BB nut.
Album: 8/10
Bonus Tracks: 6/10

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