Monday, August 25, 2008

Album of the Day #37 & Review #34: THAT LUCKY OLD SUN - Brian Wilson

Title: That Lucky Old Sun
Artist: Brian Wilson
Label: Capitol/EMI
Year: 2008
Songs: That Lucky Old Sun*/Morning Beat**/Room With A View***/Good Kind Of Love#/Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl**/Venice Beach***/Live Let Live***/That Luck Old Sun (Reprise)*/Mexican Girl**/Cinco De Mayo***/California Role**/That Lucky Old Sun (Reprise)*/Between Pictures***/Oxygen To The Brain**/Can’t Wait Too Long#/Midnight’s Another Day**/That Lucky Old Sun (Reprise)*/Going Home**/Southern California**
Written by: *Beasley Smith & Haven Gillespie, **Brian Wilson & Scott Bennett, ***Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks and #Brian Wilson
Produced and Arranged by: Brian Wilson
In 2007, it was announced that Brian Wilson would debut a new song cycle in Britain and we Americans anxiously waited for him to come over and perform it here. That still hasn’t happened yet, but he did record it to make it his first proper album since 2004’s completed Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE. The album came out on vinyl last week and is set to come out on CD on September 2nd.
Most of the tracks were written by Brian's touring band-member, Scott Bennett, with SMiLE contributor Van Dyke Parks adding narratives that help add to the painting of southern California that the album gives us.
The album kicks off with an old song from the forties, That Lucky Old Sun, which acts as the album’s overall theme. It melts quickly into Morning Beat. The song is a great rocker and a true positive opening to the whole affair. The first narrative, Room With A View follows, with Brian calling us in to get into the mood of L.A. Following that is Good Kind Of Love, an upbeat throwback to a sort of girl-group song, which supposedly Carole King contributed to. It certainly sounds like a song she could have written! Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl features Brian attempting to hit a high-falsetto and probably features some of his best vocals in ages.
Another narrative, Venice Beach follows. These really add to the effect of getting across a California feeling, especially for those, like me, who’ve never been there. Live Let Live is a really cool, tongue-and-cheek song, co-written with Van Dyke. The track features lyrical word play anyone would expect from Van Dyke. An orchestral sequence takes us to Mexican Girl, a true festive track. The song is really fun…I guess it shows the unique relationship that California and the southwest has with Mexico. Obviously, it would flow into a narrative titled Cinco De Mayo!
California Role is a slow, humorous track that makes fun of the idea that people go to California just to get famous. The message is, of course, that even though you might not become famous, you’ll still find a part in California. The side ends with a reprise of That Lucky Old Sun, combined with the wonderful closing of “California Role”.
A narrative actually opens side two, titled appropriately enough, Between Pictures. Oxygen To The Brain is a cool, childish song that easily fits into the pantheon of Brian’s healthy songs. I love the energetic chorus! Then, comes in Can’t Wait Too Long, which has waited far too long to take a part in a fully realized piece by Brian, considering it was first written in 1967.
The album’s opus is clearly Midnight’s Another Day. If you thought “Love and Mercy” was great…you haven’t heard anything yet. It really is that awesome. The obvious “’Til I Die” quote isn’t too obvious, so you can forgive him for that (I just don’t like artists quoting themselves). Another That Lucky Old Sun reprise quickly follows before the awesomeness that is Going Home. This is really a great track and I love the harmonica on it. It’s really a better version of “Back Home” and sort of takes that concept to the extreme. Southern California, a track mostly written by Scott Bennett, is a fitting closer that really ties up everything that preceded it. The album ends with the great crescendo and some silence before a final reprise of That Lucky Old Sun.
The packaging design is a little iffy…I mean, the album revolves around a sun, but there’s oranges on the cover. I like the shot of Brian on the back that proves that he still can look cool at 66! Inside the gatefold is an odd collage of orange, green, yellow and blue. The inner bag has the lyrics and credits spread over both sides. I think it works to give you that sunny and positive look that fits the music inside. Still…I’d like to see that lucky old sun.
Overall, the album is great, but it gives me the feeling that there should be some more music. It is short lasting under forty minutes, which is pretty short these days! Still, what you get is nice. If you don’t have a turntable and are stuck waiting until September 2nd, I have to feel sorry for you because it’s awesome and you have no idea what you’re missing!
Rating: 9/10

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