Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

July 21, 2012

Beach Boys ~ That's Why God Made The Radio

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: pop rock
Label: Capital
Year: 2012
Home: n/a

Members: Al Jardine – vocals/whistle
Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston ~ vocals
David Marks ~ guitar

Additional: Jeffrey Foskett ~ b. vocals/snaps
Adrian Baker, Christian Love, Hayleigh Love, Skip Masters ~ b. vocals
Jeff Baxter, Tom Bukovac, Jim Riley, Nick Rowe, Scott Totten, Nick Walusko, Jeffrey Foskett ~ guitar
Probyn Gregory ~ guitar/banjo/french horn
Cliff Hugo, Larry Millas, Michael Rhodes, Brett Simons ~ bass
Jim Peterik ~ ukulele/percussion
Scott Bennett ~ keyboards/vibes
Paul Fauerso ~ keyboards/percussion
John Hobbs ~ keyboards
Joe Thomas ~ keyboards/snaps
Gary Griffin ~ accordian
Joel Deroulin, Sharon Jackson, Peter Kent, Songa Lee, Julie Rogers, John Wittenberg ~ violin
Alisha Bauer, Vanessa Freebarin-Smith ~ cello
David Stone ~ double bass
Paul Mertens ~ flute/sax
Chris Bleth ~ oboe
Jessica Bish ~ snaps
Eddie Bayers, Curt Bisquera, Chad Cromwell, Nelson Bragg ~ drums
John Cowsill ~ snaps/drums

Once upon a time there was a world of feel good music. Literally - feel good music, about beaches, girls, sun & not having a care in the world. There wasn't a hint of sadness or dismal problems & even broken hearts weren't so bad because they never lasted. That world is gone. It's been gone for a long time. Thus, listening to the new reunion album by the remaining BB - excluding the ill Glen Campbell who originally replaced Brian Wilson on tour & played on Pet Sounds - is a strange experience. It is music out of time that sounds like it's 1962 all over again & the last few decades of anything-but-feel-good music has never happened, let alone Wilson never got ill & vanished for decades. But, at the same time it's strange hearing a band that sounds like this, because time has moved on & nobody expects a band of senior citizens to sound the same & sing the same feel good songs in the same way. 71 year old don't sit at the beach or cruise down the highway. Yet, I can't think of another band that has returned after so long & turned in an album that so masterfully feels like so much of a flashback its scary. Wilson proves his amazing ear yet again, not that it was ever tarnished, as primary songwriter & producer. He's crafted a timeless, or out of time, lyrical walk through joyful emotions about the pleasures of love, God, music, beaches & just a general celebration of life. Yet, at times it feels emotionally forced & too light. The music might be lush but I've always believed that darker emotions come across more realistically, because nobody wants to feel angry so it's an emotion you struggle with as it cuts deep, while happiness you just let happen & float across ones life. But, yet, really, its hard to say if this honestly is a happy album, however it sounds. It may sound lush but the BB have never been a sad sounding band so Wilson isn't going to let them become that now. Maybe on one hand all the songs are nothing but joyful, maybe a bit too much at times, a bit too shallow, but yet its hard not to hear under the surface this as a dance with mortality for a band that many thought had died a long time ago & has seen the passing of some of its members. The final three songs form a masterpiece suite that puts all the negativity & sadness right up front. Wilson is going to let us enjoy this party for the most part & not weigh us down with worry. But, he knows the score & plays the game fair at the end. When he is going to be nostalgic it's going to be a tear-jerking farewell all the way. The album opens with "Think About The Days", a piano instrumental with some trademarked BB chorus vocalizations, that might be one of the saddest openings an album has ever had. This is Lou Reed Berlin sadness. It makes one tense for what is going to follow, for what one expects. The fact that what follows is a complete throwback belays that Wilson knew what the expectations would be & he is not going to dwell on his mortality just to meet those expectations. He ends the project with that mortality, exactly where it should come in the progression of the album. Obviously, musically, there is no doubt this is a Brian Wilson project. There's the multi-layered instruments & surprise arrangements of the Pet Sounds era, that only Wilson can create, not the sparse pop songs of earlier days or the radio friendly rock of the "Kokomo" era. With Pet Sounds Wilson made the instrumentation as important as the trademarkable "Help Me Rhonda" vocal arrangements had once been. In awhile it would have been nice to hear the pop early 60's pop band again. Pet Sounds might be Wilson's masterpiece, but a majority of hits come from the sparser sounding early days. In some ways, this sounds like Wilson picked right up where he left off with Smile. Perhaps the recent reworking of this lost project brought him back to where he was decades earlier, versus the sound that marked the solo albums after his return to performing. Wilson could never have constructed this album years ago. He may still be the performance shy stiff musician, but his voice is much looser & his comfort level has grown, though really, he's never going to be a great singer & remains a bit of a weight to listen to & watch. Really, he should stick to producing & not performing. One wonders if when Wilson started his return to music if he could have even have composed songs as cheerful as these? He had to purge his demons first & he surely has & now he can go back in time. Actually, it's amazing how vocally accurate & timeless the album is. Yes, there might low tones sung more often than there once was, but this feels like the BB in every way. So many musicians, like Rod Stewart & Heart, have released albums where the age in their voice was obvious & it was painful to hear them fall, but not here. But, its still really hard to listen to. It's so strange & alien sounding. The ear isn't used to music like this. Nobody even listens to the radio anymore, like they used to. But, then, when the BB debuted they were something different, Pet Sounds was the album that inspired Sgt Pepper & the BB have always been different. The trend continues. The songs here are short & to the point like songs haven't been in decades, sans guitar solos or anything that is seemingly part of modern music. Instrumental sections are like an orchestra not a rock band. How will Wilson follow this up? Surely there will not be another BB album, even though the band is now on tour. Wilson has released the complete Smile tapes, let alone re-recording the album. He's done everything musicians never do. He's recreated the past. Now that he brought the past back where does he go from here? There's another question that also lingers ... will folks listen to this album down the road or will it be forgotten? The fact that its getting the best reviews a BB album has gotten since 1977's Love You says a lot ... but, people don't listen to albums like they used to. It's now a world of singles not cohesive units. It's also now a place where music is accumulated faster than ever & albums quickly forgotten. There's really no place for a Smile or Pet Sounds anymore. People don't even listen to sounds & layers like they used to, just the rush they get off an initial listen. Is there a place for the BB anymore for the under 30 crowd who didn't grow up with them? Even their last hit "Kokomo" is a few generations past. The answer to these questions will show why God made the radio. Hopefully the DJ's will play it over & over as that's what it takes. It's not a hard album to enjoy, it's just hard to come to terms to. A few historic highlights of this album, the BB's twenty-ninth coinciding with their 50th anniversary, deserves mention. It's the first album to feature original material since 1992's Summer In Paradise & the first to be made since the 1998 death of Carl Wilson. It's also the first to feature guitarist David Marks since Little Deuce Coupe in 1963, who was 13 when he originally played with the BB moving over their first four albums. The title track reached number three on the Billboard charts & is their highest charting song since 1965, placing them second with longest span of top ten albums, beating the the Beatles by two years with Sinatra at fifty-two years of top ten albums & the Rolling Stones fourth place with forty-five years. It was also the first top ten studio album since 1976 & the highest studio album since 1971 in England.

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