Post by Kapitan on Oct 11, 2019 14:22:43 GMT
If I were in my 30s in mid-late 1988, I can imagine being absolutely thrilled at the release of Brian Wilson. If that were the case, maybe I'd have been a young teen at the end of the golden era, a teen through the early 70s stuff, and a disappointed young adult from the late 70s through the 80s. I might have seen the continued relevance of Paul McCartney, the successful returns of George Harrison and Roy Orbison, mainstream hits from Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, and Starship (fka Jefferson Airplane)--not to mention the Beach Boys' hit "Kokomo"--and thought, "this is FINALLY the moment!"
After all, Brian Wilson must have seemed like Wilson's turn, which would have been special because it would be not only the return of an aging legacy artist, but one whose struggles were famous. And this album probably felt both ambitious and successful.
But I was not in my 30s in mid-late 1988. I had just turned 12. And I didn't realize Brian Wilson (or Brian Wilson, for that matter) existed. Ten years later when I was digging into the man and his old band, I did get this album. My opinions were, and are, mixed.
The material is superior to the lackluster-to-bad track list from the most recent Beach Boys albums. Wilson's singing is better, too; nowhere near his prime, but certainly above his nadir. The arrangements are somewhat ambitious. But what has always bothered me is the instrumentation/production. The album is so of the time (or even slightly behind them), it stands out to me upon every listen ... and not in a good way. I know that's a standard complaint, so I'm nothing special. But I truly can't get over it. Songs that might be an 8 or 9 instead are a 6 or 7, and so on down the line. The programming and synthesizers make the whole thing feel very rigid, the exact opposite of Wilson's brilliant organic productions of decades past. (The same curse afflicted the previous Beach Boys album, only more so due to the worse material.)
To me, "Melt Away" and "There's So Many" rank among the best ballads of Wilson's solo career. "Walkin the Line," "Little Children," "Meet Me In My Dreams Tonight," are nothing special, but they're nice little tunes. "Love and Mercy" obviously has become the classic, though I'm no fan of this version. And "Rio Grande," well, no thanks.
Anyway, for its flaws, this was obviously better than the previous decade of Wilson's (and the Beach Boys') work, even if it didn't necessarily catapult him back into mainstream success in the way his fans must have hoped it might.