Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pacific Ocean Blue: Legacy Edition

For fifteen years, Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue sat out of print. Now, it’s back out in a deluxe Legacy Edition package. I previously reviewed the album itself (see #30), so this isn’t going to be part of the numbering system and sort of acts as a ‘Part Two’ to that review. So, here we go!

On Disc One, you get Pacific Ocean Blue in all its’ sonic glory and four bonus tracks from the sessions. The album itself sounds beautiful. I had only previously heard the album through MP3s generously sent to me, and, honestly, those sounded like crap. These twelve tracks have finally gotten the treatment they deserve and it is truly beautiful what has become of them. Dennis used a true ‘Wall Of Sound’ production on the album that sometimes feels bigger than (the over-issued) Pet Sounds.

The bonus tracks kick off with Tug Of Love. Originally slated to be on the album, it is a ridiculous song, filled with impressive backing vocals nowhere to be found on the album proper. It is a slow, moody track that more resembles the Bambu material than Pacific Ocean Blue itself. I don’t know how someone could decide to leave this off the album, but it was, unfortunately. Next is Only With You, a re-make of a song he and Mike Love wrote for the Beach Boy LP Holland. Dennis’s performance of his own song is just as moving as his younger brother’s performance of it on that album. Why Dennis did this is a bit of a mystery to me, as he doesn’t perform it in a way that is strikingly different than the BB version, save for Carl’s sweet, angelic vocals being replaced by Dennis’s own rough, torn vocals. Holy Man and Mexico close out the disc. These are two instrumental backing tracks that Dennis abandoned and after hearing them, vocals would not have worked on them. They are two beautiful movements, akin to “Let’s Go Away For Awhile” on Pet Sounds. “Mexico” is so amazing. I don’t know if Dennis ever wrote lyrics, but I’m almost happy he decided not to record any. As the longest track in the whole set (in still only lasts 5:13), it is a true tear-jerker in every sense of the hyphenated word.

The Bambu (The Caribou Sessions) disc starts with the Carli Munoz composition Under The Moonlight. The punchy rocker is a fun track; with great sax parts and funny lyrics (“the young girls go into a rage”) are just great. Dennis’s growls really show how he must have enjoyed this particular song. Carl makes a surprise appearance on It’s Not Too Late, another Munoz track. It is sort of an emotional song, hearing both Wilson brothers who are not with us anymore on the same track. The other Munoz songs, Constant Companion and All Alone (which previously appeared on Endless Harmony) are easily some of the best on the disc and show up later. “Constant Companion” is a fun track and probably the best on the disc. “All Alone” is a tearful, sort of autobiographical tune, incredibly sequenced to close the Bambu tracks. (Personally, my favorite part is the sax solo.)

After “It’s Not Too Late”, we’re taken back to the sessions with Gregg Jakobson with the lovely School Girl. The track is highlighted by a wonderful extended fade-out with a great bongo beat sitting behind the mix. Love Remember Me feels a bit childish and Dennis’s vocals are truly ripped to shreds on the song. Although the “Love keeps tumblin’ down on you/Love comes gently down on you” part is just amazing. Next is Love Surrounds Me, which became one of the stand-out tracks on the mediocre Beach Boy album L.A. (Light Album). The differences appear to be minimal and might just be that the backing vocals are missing. Wild Situation is a really awesome track, highlighted by a great guitar riff and a harmonica part. (For those familiar with bootlegs, Dennis, in the late ‘70s, was the one that wanted the humorous ending chopped off, not the censors at Sony in 2008.)

Following that sequence is Common, a solo Dennis composition that feels truly unfinished, in fact, there is no vocal for it! This one should have had vocals, although it is a nice backing track. Are You Real follows in the same vein of “Common”, “Love Remember Me” and “Love Surrounds Me”. Still, the drumming is incredible and the lead guitar part is fantastic. However, this is another obviously unfinished track. Only the first half has vocals and in the second half, the ballad aspect of the song is quickly erased as it dissolves into a short funk jam session. He’s A Bum is a great, funky, even wonky track. The track sums up Dennis’s wild and crazy lifestyle at the time very nicely, including his clear philosophy that everything will be o.k. Cocktails is another, slow, dreary number, with Dennis backed by a solo piano and some synthesizers and strings. I Love You is a short, two-minute track, which again features Dennis professing his love. My favorite bit is the guitar riff in the first minute of the song. Following “Constant Companion” (man, I can’t say how much I love that song…) is Time For Bed, which features a great sax part and some nice slide guitar parts. The lyrics are a little freaky, with Dennis clearly professing how he just wants drugs and beer and could care less what his parents think, plus he might steal a car. The wonderfully titled Album Tag Song follows. It has a great intro, but then flows into ballad mode again, before coming back to this great melody established in the intro, which fades out to give way to “All Alone”.

My one main criticism of the collection is the placing of Piano Variations On Thoughts Of You at the end of the Bambu disc. This is a lovely piano exercise captured on tape, and most of it developed into “Thoughts Of You” on Pacific Ocean Blue. My qualm is that it should have been placed on the first disc, considering that it most likely was recorded during the album’s sessions. Nevertheless, it is an amazing piece and I am very glad that we get to hear it.

The entire collection closes with Holy Man (Taylor Hawkins Version). Hawkins, the drummer for The Foo Fighters, performs the vocals in a way Dennis would have done it. He really would have loved it. Dennis never recorded a vocal and Hawkins’s version features the same backing track heard on disc one. It is a wonderful tribute and a great closer.

The packaging is just as impressive as the music it contains. Another gripe though is that the book is glued to the package, plus the lyrics are tiny and near impossible to read. Still, you get the complete original package (which is why the lyrics are hard to read; you get a copy of both sides of the inner bag in the book), two great essays (plus another as a PDF file on the first disc), a copy of a note from Dennis, plus incredible photographs. (The discs also reproduce the labels on the record as well.)

This really is an album that no one should live without. The Bambu tracks feel unfinished, but that is because they are. Remember, none of those songs were released and most likely some of them would not have appeared on the album. Pacific Ocean Blue, itself, is a true masterpiece and the reason to buy the set. My mentioned gripes are not to be taken seriously. I am happy that this album was finally released period. Buy it while you still can…so fifteen years from now we won’t have the same problem we had in the past fifteen.


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