Post by Kapitan on Oct 15, 2019 0:18:06 GMT
This album is where I get let my contrarian flag fly against the prevailing winds of BeachBoysland: Pacific Ocean Blue is a good album. A good album, not a great one. And Dennis Wilson was a talented second-fiddle kind of songwriter, not anything resembling a potential star as a solo artist, much less a genius.
Half a dozen or so of these songs are really good. It's better than all but one of the albums the Beach Boys released from its August 1977 release date forward (with the superior Beach Boys album not released for another 35 years). But were it rated alongside the Beach Boys canon, it certainly wouldn't crack my top five ... or probably top ten. (It would be right in that territory, though: probably in the 8-12 range.)
My critique is well worn by this time: what other people seem to hear as emotion sounds to me like overblown melodrama, and those ballads just never go anywhere. I'm more partial to the songs with some momentum to them: "What's Wrong," for example, as basic as the music is, it's funky and it feels like something is happening (even if that "something" is usually just a short journey from the I chord tot he V chord). "The River Song," "Rainbows," and "Pacific Ocean Blue" are others I really enjoy quite a bit.
But there's such a sameness to Wilson's material. For all his attitude and instincts--and even some arrangement ideas--he lacks both the harmonic and melodic inventiveness one would hope for. As I listen to this album again, the same thought occurs to me as has come up recently in our Queen and KISS discussions: the beauty of having a band of songwriters is that you can (at least in theory) pick the best songs from among them. Wilson absolutely would have landed his fair share had he contributed them all to the band's projects (and had the band's projects not gone over the deep end with the covers-heavy 15 Big Ones and the insanity-heavy Love You). A hypothetical band that kept the spirit of the early '70s, of Holland, would have found use for this material, not to mention added some welcome voices on harmonies, and both they and it would have been better for it.
It's fair to call this album underrated generally because most people haven't ever heard of it, much less heard and rated it. But I stand by my opinion that among serious fans, it might be the most overrated album of Beach Boys-related material there is.
Note: this is only about Pacific Ocean Blue itself. I'm not discussing the Bambu material that's been released on the deluxe reissue, which I think deserves its own thread (someday).